Two weeks after Republican Dave Brat came out of nowhere to upset House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia primary, GOP leaders in three states Tuesday beat down insurgent conservatives.
Mississippi's six-term Sen. Thad Cochran, who ran second to tea-party-backed opponent and state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the initial primary last month, eked out a narrow run-off win by 6,680 votes out of more than 360,000 cast. Cochran, 76, heavily outspent McDaniel and benefited from a crossover vote of many historically Democratic voters.
In New York's 22nd District, two-term Rep. Richard Hanna defeated a challenge from conservative State Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent. One of the few GOP lawmakers who refuses to sign the anti-tax pledge of Americans for Tax Reform, two-termer Hanna has backed federal funding for NPR and Planned Parenthood and supports same-sex marriage.
In defeating Tenney, whose voting record with the New York State Conservative Party is 96 percent, the incumbent benefited from a recent seven-figure media broadside funded in part by same-sex marriage advocate Paul Singer attacking Tenney as less than conservative.
"Tonight's win for incumbent Richard Hanna resulted from a $1 million avalanche of misleading pro-Hanna SuperPAC ads," said Cornell University law professor William A. Jacobson, editor of the blog Legal Insurrection, "They portrayed Hanna as the more conservative candidate, when in fact Claudia Tenney was the tea party-backed true conservative. Hanna is the third most liberal Republican in Congress. The voters chose conservatism and smaller government, but not the candidate who truly represented those values."
Colorado's primary for governor was somewhat different. There, one could almost hear the collective sighs of relief among Colorado Republicans as Bob Beauprez was declared the winner of their four-man primary for governor.
In defeating highly controversial runner-up and former Rep. Tom Tancredo by a margin of 31 percent to 26 percent, Beauprez, also a former congressman and a past state GOP chairman, earned the right to face Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Beauprez is considered a strong conservative himself and had as much backing among tea party groups as Tancredo.
But more than a few Republicans were simply relieved not to have Tancredo leading their statewide ticket in what appears to be a very winnable race for them.
After overseeing a tax increase and signing a highly unpopular gun control measure into law, Hickenlooper is considered highly vulnerable in 2014. In addition, the governor led his state into the Medicaid exchange and is a strong defender of Obamacare.
During his decade in Congress and in a brief presidential bid in 2008, Tancredo became one of the nation's best-known opponents of illegal immigration. Many Republicans feared that some of his controversial statements on the issue would drive away Hispanic-American voters who might otherwise be tempted to support the GOP nominee against Hickenlooper.
In addition, Tancredo was a proud supporter of the Centennial State's decriminalization of marijuana.
"Colorado Republicans could have been saddled with a divisive and reckless candidate for governor who would have become an unwelcome diversion for Republicans in other competitive races," former State GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams told Newsmax. "Instead, they nominated a strong challenger to failed Gov. John Hickenlooper. Bob Beauprez won this race by setting forth clear differences with a governor who can't make a decision. All Republicans can rally around Bob Beauprez."
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