A Super Tuesday for Lincoln Chafee
It's not easy being a Republican senator in Rhode Island. Lincoln Chafee knows that from first-hand experience. Before his father and predecessor, the late John Chafee, was first elected to the Senate in 1976, no Republican had managed to pull off that feat since some fellow named Jesse Metcalf in 1930. To survive in heavily Democratic Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee has (to put it delicately) not exactly followed the GOP line.
He was the only Senate Republican to vote against going to war in Iraq, the only Senate Republican to vote against the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, and he is a regular vote against the Bush tax cuts. He opposes the administration on the environment. And last week, he was responsible for putting off a vote on the nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
And how did the White House express its displeasure with Chafee? By enthusiastically endorsing him, by supplying him with money and campaign ads, and by promising that if his conservative opponent in the primary, Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, were to win on Sept. 12, Laffey wouldn't get a dime from the national Senatorial campaign committee.
Welcome to Realpolitik 2006, where President Bush, Karl Rove and Co. know that while ideology is important, it's even more crucial that the Republican Party emerges from the elections on Nov. 7 with at least 50 Senate seats. Far better to hold your nose and hope Chafee wins another term, than to watch Steve Laffey go down to defeat against former Democratic state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse. Which is what would have happened if Laffey had defeated Chafee on Tuesday.
This is not to say Chafee is home free for November. Far from it; Whitehouse is probably no worse than an even bet to win the seat. It may be easier for Democrats to rally behind Whitehouse, whatever his views may be, than for Republicans to be enthusiastic about Chafee. But right now this race is a tossup.
The GOP establishment's practical argument for backing Chafee over Laffey -- electability over ideology -- was not duplicated in Arizona's 8th Congressional District. Tuesday's primary saw former state Rep. Randy Graf, a conservative and strong foe of illegal immigration, win despite strong opposition by the retiring GOP incumbent, Jim Kolbe, as well as national party leaders. Kolbe argued that Graf -- who won 43 percent of the vote when he challenged Kolbe for renomination two years ago -- was too conservative to win in November. Instead, Kolbe backed a former aide, state Rep. Steve Huffman, who was also endorsed by national party leaders from Washington.
But another moderate candidate in the race, ex-GOP state chair Mike Hellon, refused to drop out of the contest, and Graf benefited from a split opposition. He defeated Huffman by a 43-37 percent margin (Hellon got 12 percent), and heads into the November general election against former state Sen. Gabrielle Giffords (D). In a statement shortly after the GOP results were announced, Kolbe said he "would not be true to my own principles" if he endorsed Graf for the general.
Other Primary Results:
ARIZONA: Len Munsil, a strong Christian conservative activist, won a GOP primary against a field that included Don Goldwater, the nephew of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater. Munsil faces Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) in November. No primaries were needed to set up the Senate contest between two-term GOP incumbent Jon Kyl and former Democratic state chair Jim Pederson.
DELAWARE: Sen. Tom Carper (D) is a prohibitive favorite to win a second term over law professor and first-time candidate Jan Ting (R).
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Adrian Fenty, a member of the city council, defeated a Democratic field that included council chair Linda Cropp, and is all but assured of becoming Washington's next mayor. Anthony Williams (D) is retiring after two terms.
MARYLAND: Rep. Ben Cardin topped an 18-candidate Democratic field for the seat being vacated by five-term Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D). Cardin bested Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and NAACP head, by about eight percentage points. Cardin heads into the general election to face Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, an African-American whom Republicans are very high on.
The Democratic nominee for Cardin's 3rd CD House seat is attorney John Sarbanes, son of the retiring senator. Young Sarbanes is the clear favorite in November against Republican businessman John White.
Both Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) and his Democratic challenger, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, were unopposed in the primary. Democratic state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a former governor and Baltimore mayor whose controversial statements often got him into hot water, finished third in his bid for another term.
And here's a follow-up to a feature in the March 23 column about a state senator who applied the Heimlich maneuver on someone who turned out to be his opponent: The incumbent, John Giannetti, was defeated in the primary by the apparent choking victim, Jim Rosapepe. Rosapepe is a former state legislator who was President Clinton's ambassador to Romania.
MINNESOTA: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and Mike Hatch (D), the state attorney general, easily won their respective gubernatorial primaries and will oppose each other in November.
State Rep. Keith Ellison won the Democratic nomination for the 5th Congressional District seat that Rep. Martin Olav Sabo (D) is vacating. If he wins in November, as expected, Ellison would become the first Muslim ever elected to Congress. Ellison spent much of the primary campaign forced to explain his relationship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Hoping to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton are Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) and Amy Klobuchar (D). In the 6th CD vacated by Kennedy, state Sen. Michele Bachmann (R) faces Patty Wetterling (D). In the 8th CD, former Sen. Rod Grams (R) is seeking a political comeback, running against entrenched Democratic incumbent James Oberstar.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Neither Gov. John Lynch (D) nor GOP opponent Jim Coburn faced primary opposition.
NEW YORK: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) trounced antiwar activist Jonathan Tasini, who unsuccessfully tried to replicate the David v. Goliath scenario in Connecticut, where Ned Lamont defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary. Clinton got about 80 percent of the vote. Her Republican opponent will be former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, who defeated K.T. McFarland, a Pentagon official during the Reagan administration.
An equally one-sided primary took place in the Democratic contest for governor, where state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer beat Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi. Spitzer is the overwhelming favorite in November against former Assembly minority leader John Faso. (GOP Gov. George Pataki is retiring after three terms.) In the race to succeed Spitzer as AG, former Clinton Cabinet official Andrew Cuomo, who embarrassed himself with a poor gubernatorial campaign four years ago, easily defeated ex-NYC Public Advocate Mark Green. Cuomo faces Jeannine Pirro (R), the former Westchester County district attorney, in November.
In Brooklyn's 11th Congressional District, where Rep. Major Owens (D) is retiring, the Democratic primary went to City Council member Yvette Clarke. Clarke, who is black, narrowly defeated fellow council member David Yassky, who is white, and whom black leaders criticized for moving into the district and running in a primary against a large field of black candidates. Clarke is assured of succeeding Owens in the House. Rep. Ed Towns (D), another African-American incumbent from Brooklyn, whose support for the CAFTA trade bill enraged Democratic officials in Washington, managed to beat back two candidates to win renomination. In the upstate 24th CD seat that is being vacated by 12-term Republican Sherwood Boehlert, state Sen. Ray Meier (R) will face county prosecutor Mike Arcuri (D).
RHODE ISLAND: In a race that has been overshadowed by the Senate contest, Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) faces Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty (D).
VERMONT: The Democratic nomination for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican-turned-Independent Jim Jeffords went to Rep. Bernie Sanders, who wants no part of it. Democrats went through the motions of nominating Sanders only to make sure that no other Democrat would appear on the November ballot as a spoiler candidate. Sanders, a self-styled socialist who is the House's lone independent, will run outside the two-party system against GOP businessman Rich Tarrant. Sanders' House seat will be competed for by state Sen. Peter Welch (D) and former Vermont National Guard head Martha Rainville (R). Republican Gov. Jim Douglas will face ex-state Sen. Scudder Parker (D).
WISCONSIN: No primaries were needed to set up the gubernatorial match-up between Democratic incumbent Jim Doyle and GOP Rep. Mark Green. Green's 8th CD seat will be contested by state Assembly Speaker John Gard (R) and allergist Steve Kagen (D). Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is a prohibitive favorite to win a fourth term over Republican challenger Robert Lorge (R), a farmer and attorney.
Time for some e-mails:
Q: Thanks for quenching the political thirst of so many of us who used to work on the Hill and have now moved on (I am an alumnus of Sens. Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and John Chafee). Regarding your Sept. 6 list of governors who did not make it through their renomination processes, you forgot former Utah Governor Olene Walker -- Utah's first female governor, who succeeded to the job when Gov. Mike Leavitt joined the Bush Cabinet in 2003. Walker ran for her party's nomination in May of 2004 but failed to qualify at the state convention to appear on the GOP primary ballot. In fact, she came in third at the convention, despite being quite popular. Jon Huntsman went on to win the primary and the general election. -- Nicholas Graham, Ashburn, Va.
A: You are absolutely correct. I was wracking my brains trying to think of governors who lost in the primaries but completely forgot about Utah's Walker, who never even made it to a primary.
And as for last week's farewell to Warren Mitofsky, the legendary political surveyor and polling director who recently passed away, there's this note from Susan Buxbaum, a friend and co-worker at ABC News in New York in the 1980s, who left to work for Warren's polling consortium firm:
"One of the best decisions I ever made was to go work for him when VRS was formed in 1990. I got to work for the best boss that I ever had! He was truly unique in my experience. Once he was convinced you were smart, capable, responsible and could do the job he expected (or more), he just let you loose. Other than if he had new thoughts or ideas about how to progress, he really let you go on your own. He was a 'character,' and I'm sorry you never got to work with him. I can just imagine some of the conversations the two of you might have had! He will be sorely missed by so many people."
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