Focus on Tuesday's Primaries

Monday, 04 Aug 2014 06:43 AM

By John Gizzi

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On Tuesday, four states will select nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives and other offices: Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington state. Kansas and Michigan will also choose nominees for U.S. Senate seats.

There are no "must-watch" races in Missouri, but in the other three states, here are some of the key contests to watch.

Kansas: Betting is strong that veteran Sen. Pat Roberts will survive the opponent many once characterized as among the most potent of "tea party" contenders: Milton Wolf, physician, first-time candidate, and, believe it or not, a distant cousin of President Barack Obama.

Wolf was gaining ground with his spirited attacks on Roberts, 78, as a politician who lost touch with his state. The son of a onetime Republican National chairman, Roberts was top aide to a congressman in the 1970s, then went to the House himself in 1980 and the Senate in '96.

With money raised nationwide, Wolf, 43, repeatedly underscored Roberts renting a room in Kansas and having his main residence in Northern Virginia.

But betting is strong the senator will survive on Tuesday, in part because of revelations in the Topeka Capital Journal in February that Wolf posted X-ray pictures of gunshot victims on his Facebook pages with grisly comments. As a result, only one national conservative group, the Senate Conservatives Fund, has launched on independent effort on Wolf's behalf.

The only contested U.S. House primary is in the Wichita-based 4th District, where two-term GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo faces a challenge from his predecessor Todd Tiahrt, who left the House in 2010 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate.

Michigan: Nominees for the "big two" races in the state are already set: former Secretary of State and Republican Terri Lynn Land will square off against Democratic Rep. Gary Peters for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin. In a state that last elected a Republican senator 20 years ago, this is considered prime territory for a GOP net gain.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, a hero to conservatives and villain to organized labor for signing right-to-work into law in 2012, will face Democratic former Rep. Mark Schauer.

In the two House districts where Republican Reps. Mike Rogers and Dave Camp are retiring, there are classic primary battles for succession between "establishment" and “insurgent” Republicans. In the 8th District (Lansing) vacated by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rogers, state Sen. Mike Bishop, son of revered former state Sen. Don Bishop, is strongly favored over former state Rep. Tom McMillan, a key operative in Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign.

In the 4th District, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp and his predecessor in Congress, present State Attorney General Bill Schuette, have given their blessings to state Sen. John Moolenaar. With the backing of the Midland business community, which is centered around Dow Chemical, Moolenaar is favored over millionaire businessman Paul Mitchell.

But Mitchell’s use of his own largess to fund a media blitz styling himself as an anti-politician is similar to that which Georgia’s David Perdue used to upset Rep. Jack Kingston in that state’s GOP Senate primary.

A bizarre situation is going on in the Oakland County-based 11th District. Freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, a political newcomer who became the GOP nominee in ’12 after then-Rep. Thad McCotter’s nominating petitions were ruled invalid, is now the underdog to attorney David Trott.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business and Industry PAC, and Mitt Romney have all weighed in for longtime local GOP leader Trott. An interesting side to the race is that Bentivolio, considered a tea party favorite when elected, voted to lift the debt ceiling last year. Trott said he would not vote to do so "unless the lifting was accompanied by the appropriate spending cuts."

The only Democratic House Member is John Dingell — after almost 60 years, the longest serving Member of Congress in U.S. history. Wife Debbie Dingell is expected to coast to the Democratic nomination in the 12th District (Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti). If she defeats Republican Terry Bowman in the fall, she will be the first female House member in history to succeed her husband while he was alive.

Washington state:
The only true site for action is the Republican primary in the 4th District vacated by 10-term GOP Rep. Doc Hastings. Under the Evergreen State’s French-style voting system, the top two vote-getters Tuesday regardless of party will compete in a November run-off.

Just about everyone expects Clint Didier, one-time Washington Redskins tight end and Pasco farmer, to make the runoff. A favorite of tea partiers and Ron Paul supporters, Didier has campaigned on a hard line against illegal immigration and vowed to shoot down drones if they fly over his farm.

Recently, he drew publicity when Hillary Clinton called the name of his old football team "insensitive" and Didier shot back that the former secretary of state was far more insensitive when she said after the Benghazi tragedy: "What difference does it make?"

In the heavily Republican 4th, Didier will likely face either Dan Newhouse, former state agriculture director and son of a longtime state legislator, or state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, who became the youngest female state senator in state history when she was elected in 2006 at age 31. Both are considered conservatives.

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