Not-So-Friendly Fire Marks Primary Season

Monday, 01 Feb 2010 08:26 AM

 

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'Tis the season when Democrats and Republicans eat their own.

Eight months of primaries for party nominations get under way next week in House, Senate, gubernatorial and legislative races. The outcomes will set the stage for the first midterm elections of Barack Obama's presidency.

Political siblings square off in these family feuds. Personalities and campaign organizations take on outsized importance, while differences on issues typically take a back seat.

Republican incumbents and Republicans hand-picked by party leaders are facing spirited challenges from candidates supported by the grass roots. No race epitomizes the battle for the GOP's future more than the Florida Senate primary between Gov. Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio, a former state House speaker backed by anti-establishment "tea party" activists.

Democrats have their own internal battles. Among most notable are Senate primaries that drew challengers even though Mr. Obama endorsed the incumbents, Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Michael Bennet in Colorado.

The Illinois primary is Tuesday, when voters choose candidates for the Senate seat Mr. Obama once held and nominees to seek a full term to replace the disgraced former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Among the races to watch between now and September:

Governors

Republicans:

Texas is home to the hottest Republican primary race. Rick Perry, the state's longest-serving governor, is trying to fend off Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, an indisputable Washington insider. The race is pitting the public's anger at Washington against its anti-incumbent fervor.

California's ultra-expensive race features former eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman, a billionaire, against Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a multimillionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Both have spent millions of their own money. The winner is all but certain to face Democrat Jerry Brown, 71 and a former governor who unsuccessfully ran for president. He is currently California's attorney general.

Democrats:

In a race tinged by scandal and turning nasty, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is in danger of losing Tuesday because of his association with Mr. Blagojevich, who was expelled from office. Mr. Quinn, who twice ran as lieutenant governor on the same ticket as Blagojevich, is up against state Comptroller Dan Hynes.

New York also may have a Democratic primary. Gov. David A, Paterson rejected White House overtures to step aside amid dismal poll numbers. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo may challenge him.

Senate

Republicans:

Mr. Crist, who was on Arizona Sen. John McCain's 2008 list of possible vice presidential running mates, had been the Florida front-runner for the Senate. But Mr. Rubio has pulled even in polls, propelled by grass-roots anger against Mr Crist. The governor isn't pure enough to some Republicans, who are outraged by his support for the federal economic stimulus package and his literal hug of Mr. Obama.

Mr. McCain is facing primary challenges from the right in Arizona for the seat he's held since 1986. Opponents are former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a conservative radio talk-show host, and Minuteman Civil Defense Corps co-founder Chris Simcox. Mr. McCain's 2008 running mate, Sarah Palin, will campaign for Mr. McCain to validate his right-flank credentials.

In Nevada, nearly a dozen Republicans none favored by Republican leaders in Washington are seeking the chance to take on Harry Reid, who's seen as vulnerable. Almost as many Republicans in Arkansas have lined up for the opportunity to face Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Democrats:

Mr. Specter ditched the GOP last year to avoid a primary only to become a Democrat, get endorsed by Mr. Obama and find himself in a race against Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak. Mr. Specter will have more money and the establishment's backing. But Mr. Sestak has grabbed the outsider role at a time when voters hate insiders.

Colorado's Mr. Bennet was appointed to the seat to replace Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Mr. Obama came out early for the nonelected incumbent who has never run statewide. But that didn't scare off Andrew Romanoff, a Denver lawyer and former speaker of the state House who tells people he's the homegrown candidate not a White House favorite.

In New York, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is filling the remainder of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's term, has the primary to herself for now. Former Tennessee Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. is flirting with a candidacy, even though the White House has made clear it's fully behind Mrs. Gillibrand. She's never run statewide.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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