WASHINGTON – Two-term Sen. Sam Brownback sailed to the GOP nomination in Kansas' gubernatorial race Tuesday while Democrat Robin Carnahan — a member of a famed Missouri political family — and seven-term GOP Rep. Roy Blunt secured spots on the November ballot in the state's Senate race.
The outcomes were expected in what otherwise has been a primary season filled with unanticipated results as tea party hopefuls shook up races across the country and voters spurned candidates aligned with the Washington establishment and political parties.
Another longtime politician — GOP Rep. Jerry Moran — was leading a fellow congressman, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, in the race for the party's Senate nomination in Kansas.
Seven-term Michigan Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick was poised to buck Tuesday night's trend. State Sen. Hansen Clarke led Kilpatrick, 48-37 percent with 34 percent of precincts reporting. Clarke has stressed the legal problems of her son, Kwame Kilpatrick, who resigned as Detroit mayor in 2008 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.
If Kilpatrick stumbled, she'd be the sixth incumbent lawmaker — the fourth from the House — to lose this year.
Voters had no shortage of options in choosing party nominees as they focused on successors to Republican senators in Kansas and Missouri and term-limited Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Five Republicans and two Democrats were vying to succeed Granholm in Michigan, a state reeling from the economic downturn. Three Democrats and nine Republicans were running in Missouri's Senate race, and four Republicans and five Democrats were competing for their party's Senate nominations in Kansas.
Ballots were even more crowded — with up to as many as nine candidates in some cases — in House races in all three states.
Despite the numerous candidates, some outcomes were all but certain.
In Kansas, Brownback easily won the GOP gubernatorial nomination over a single opponent and already was considered the front-runner for the general election. He is giving up a Senate seat he's held since 1997. A conservative favorite, he made a brief run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination before dropping out.
State Sen. Tom Holland is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. They will square off to succeed Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson, who was finishing out the remainder of Kathleen Sebelius' term. She left office last year to become President Barack Obama's Health and Human Services Secretary.
The GOP primary for Brownback's Senate seat featured Moran, Tiahrt and two other candidates; five Democrats were seeking the Democratic nomination. Victory in the GOP primary was tantamount to getting elected. Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932.
In Missouri, Carnahan, the daughter of a former governor and a former senator, easily dispatched two challengers. Her Senate bid comes 10 years after the death of her father and one of her brothers. They died in an October 2000 plane crash while Mel Carnahan was campaigning for the Senate.
Robin Carnahan, the two-term secretary of state, will face Blunt, who has served in the House since 1996 and whose son is a former governor. He beat eight opponents for the GOP nomination, including tea party favorite state Sen. Chuck Purgason. Four-term Sen. Kit Bond is retiring.
In Michigan, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero beat House Speaker Andy Dillon in the Democratic race. Attorney General Mike Cox, businessman Rick Snyder, Rep. Pete Hoekstra and two other candidates were locked in a close GOP race. The fall race was certain to focus on the economy; the ailing state has the nation's second-highest unemployment rate — at 13.2 percent — and scores of foreclosures. Granholm, a Democrat, must leave office after two terms.
Missouri also becomes the first state to test the popularity of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law. Voters will weigh in on a statewide ballot proposal on whether to reject the law's core mandate that most Americans have health insurance.
The legal effect is questionable, because federal laws generally supersede those in states. But its expected passage could send an ominous political message to Obama and the Democrats.
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