Lincoln Bucks Tide; Business Leaders Win in California
By JEFF ZELENY and ADAM NAGOURNEY
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: June 8, 2010
WASHINGTON — Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas survived a tough challenge from her party’s left wing on Tuesday to capture the Democratic nomination in a runoff primary election, resisting the anti-incumbent wave that has defined the midterm election year.
Mrs. Lincoln withstood a multi-million-dollar campaign against her from organized labor, environmental groups and liberal advocacy organizations from outside Arkansas as she prevailed over Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. She faces a difficult contest in the fall, but her victory challenges the suggestion that voters are poised to oust all officeholders.
“We proved that this senator’s vote is not for sale and neither is yours,” Mrs. Lincoln said. “We took on the outside groups seeking to manipulate our votes.”
In California, Republican primary voters chose female business executives to run for Senate and for governor after both crushed their opponents.
Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, beat Tom Campbell, a former congressman, and Chuck DeVore, whose candidacy drew the backing of many Tea Party activists. She will face the incumbent senator, Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, in the fall.
Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay and a billionaire, had invested a small share of her personal fortune to prevail in the governor’s race over Steve Poizner, the state insurance commissioner, who put $24 million of his own money into his primary campaign. She will challenge Jerry Brown, the state’s Democratic attorney general, who was first elected governor of California three decades ago.
In Nevada, Sharron Angle, a candidate backed by the Tea Party, defeated two establishment Republicans — including Sue Lowden, a former state party chairwoman — to win the nomination to challenge Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, this fall. Mr. Reid is widely viewed as one of the most endangered Democrats, facing a strong tide of disapproval from Nevada voters.
The nomination of Ms. Angle could provide a boost to Mr. Reid’s hopes, and Mr. Reid’s aides said they were preparing to seize on positions she has taken to try to portray her as out of touch with most Nevada voters. For example, she has called for the privatization of Social Security, the elimination of the Department of Energy, and cutting back regulation on Wall Street, all positions that could give Mr. Reid’s well-financed campaign ammunition to use in television advertisements against her. She also does not have the organization or financial resources that Mr. Reid is bringing to the race.
In South Carolina, Nikki Haley moved closer to becoming the first female governor of South Carolina as she strongly outpaced three Republican primary rivals in one of the most divisive contests in a series of primaries in 11 states across the country that will further shape the contours of the midterm election season.
It was the busiest primary day so far this year, a coast-to-coast series of contests that amplified many of the existing themes that have crystallized as the parties select their nominees for governor, the House and the Senate against a backdrop of high unemployment and a sullen economy. But the results also underscored the individuality of the midterm campaign and the unpredictability of the next five months.
California voters approved a proposition revamping the way local, state and some federal candidates are chosen in primaries, effectively eliminating closed one-party nominating contests in favor of open primaries. Under the system, primaries — not including presidential ones — are open to all candidates, regardless of party. The two top vote-drawers go on to face each other in a general election
The proposal, its backers said, is intended to try to break a pattern where candidates are encouraged to appeal to the most partisan members of their party in order to win primaries.
The victory by Mrs. Lincoln produced the biggest surprise — even to some of her supporters — and a significant blow to a coalition of left-leaning groups, which had spent the day arranging interviews to explain how they had toppled a two-term senator.
Her triumph may have been seen by some incumbents, who have been viewing the coming general election with growing fear, as a glimmer of hope on an otherwise bleak horizon. But she won after a personal intervention by one of Arkansas’ favorite sons — former President Bill Clinton, who campaigned aggressively on her behalf.
And for all the support that Mr. Halter drew, he was still in a position where he was trying to win an election in a relatively conservative state while running with the backing of some of the most liberal groups in the country, including MoveOn.org and labor unions.
In South Carolina, Ms. Haley overcame accusations of infidelity and benefited from the endorsement of Sarah Palin in a contest that lived up to the state’s reputation for anything-goes politics. But she fell short of claiming an outright majority, setting up a runoff against Representative J. Gresham Barrett, a four-term congressman. They were part of a four-way Republican field seeking to succeed Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, who confessed to an affair with an Argentine woman last year and was restricted from seeking re-election by term limits.
“We had the kitchen sink thrown at us,” Ms. Haley said in an interview on Tuesday. “We are a state of great people. We are a state of dirty politics.”
In recent weeks, Ms. Haley, 38, had been twice accused of infidelity, which she fiercely denied. She rose in the polls by promising to break an entrenched network that has dominated state politics in South Carolina for decades and she portrayed the unsubstantiated charges of sexual affairs as retaliation for taking on special interests.
Ms. Haley, an Indian-American, would also become the first racial minority to be elected governor of South Carolina. Democrats nominated Vincent Sheheen on Tuesday, but Republican candidates in South Carolina hold a considerable advantage in the fall.
Last month, Ms. Haley took a sharp leap in the polls after endorsements and campaign visits from Ms. Palin and Jenny Sanford, the popular former first lady. Ms. Haley had trailed far behind her three Republican rivals in fund-raising and visibility. After she voted Tuesday, she was asked whether she wanted to be seen as a barrier-breaker politician.
“These stereotypes of South Carolina are very different from what South Carolina actually is,” she said. “If I win, I want it to be historic in the nature that South Carolina is moving forward for reform.”
In Nevada, Jim Gibbons, the state’s embattled Republican governor, lost a nomination for a second term to Brian Sandoval, a former state assemblyman. Mr. Gibbons, whose term has been marked by a series of scandals, a very public divorce and a financial crisis, became the first governor in the history of Nevada to lose his seat in a party primary.
In Iowa, Republicans nominated Terry Branstad, who served as the state’s governor from 1983 to 1999, to run again. He prevailed in a three-way primary and will face Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, in the fall.
In another South Carolina race, Representative Bob Inglis, a Republican who has occasionally broken with his party on national security and social issues, was forced into a runoff against Trey Gowdy.
In the only contest of the night that will send a new lawmaker to Congress, voters in the northwest corner of Georgia elected a former State House member, Tom Graves, to fill a House vacancy created when Representative Nathan Deal left to run for governor. It was a low-turnout election and is expected to be the last special Congressional election before November, meaning that any new vacancies will be filled on Nov. 2.
In Virginia, Robert Hurt, a state senator, easily won a contested Republican primary to challenge Representative Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat, in November. Mr. Perriello is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents because of his votes for both the Democratic health care bill and climate change measures.
Robbie Brown contributed reporting from Lexington, S.C.., and Shaila Dewan from Little Rock, Ark.