Mourdock, a tea party favorite who has moved to the right over the last few years, will now face off against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) in November. Donnelly, a moderate Democrat, will make the case that he is better positioned to capture the independent vote in a lean Republican state and will likely attract significant resources for his campaign. With the defeat of Lugar, there are now 11 open U.S. Senate seats (6 Democrat, 4 Republican and 1 Independent).
With the defeat of Lugar, that creates an open U.S. Senate seat with a very conservative Republican candidate, an open gubernatorial seat with a very conservative Republican candidate, and recognizing that Obama (D) carried Indiana in 2008, don’t be surprised to see a significant effort by national Democrats be competitive in Indiana. Also, look for the election results to be closer than many would anticipate even though Republicans will be favored in each of these three contests.
The most competitive race of the night was in the 5th district of Indiana, where three strong candidates competed in a strong Republican district. In the end, former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks was able to hold off former U.S. Representative David McIntosh and the highly regarded Dr. John McGoff who nearly defeated Rep. Dan Burton in a previous attempt by a 30% to 29% to 23% count. Brooks ran strongest in Marion County (Indianapolis) and captured 3,706 more votes than McIntosh in this part of the district. The final difference district-wide was just over 850 votes. Brooks will be the heavy favorite to win in November over state representative Scott Reske (D).
While the tea party had huge success with Mourdock, Rep. Larry Bucshon (R) was able to easily hold off tea party candidate Kristi Risk (R) in the 8th district by a 58% to 42% margin. Former state representative and radio personality Dave Crooks (D) easily won his primary and now sets the stage for a competitive Bucshon vs. Crooks general election contest. Former state representatives Jackie Walorski (R) and Luke Messer (R) also won their primaries in open seat contests. Walorski will be a slight favorite to win while Messer is a strong favorite to replace Rep. Mike Pence who is running for Governor.
Like Indiana, North Carolina has an open gubernatorial contest, three open congressional seats, voted for Obama in 2008, and are the two most likely states to flip and vote Republican in 2012 for president.
In January, popular North Carolina Governor Perdue (D) announced that she was not running for re-election and thus set the stage for what could be one of the couple most competitive gubernatorial races in the country this year. Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R) won an uncompetitive six-way primary with over 83% of the vote. McCrory lost to Perdue in 2008. Lt. Governor Walter Dalton (D) won a competitive primary over former seven-term congressman Bob Etheridge (D) by a 46% to 38% margin. Fundraising often shows support and Dalton was able to out raise Etheridge by a $1.4 million to $312 thousand advantage while McCrory has raised $3 million.
After nine terms, Rep. Sue Myrick (R) is retiring and sees eleven candidates vying for the GOP nomination in the 9th district. The two highest vote getters, at 32% and 25%, where former state senator Robert Pittenger (R) and Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) Sheriff Jim Pendergraph (R). However, since no candidate received the necessary 40% needed, a runoff election will be held July 17. Pendergraph had won the endorsement of the Charlotte Observer, but it was then rescinded after he made comments regarding President Obama’s birth certificate.
With redistricting significantly altering the ideological makeup of the 11th district, Rep. Heath Shuler (D) is retiring. Shuler’s former chief of staff, Hayden Rogers (D), easily won a three way primary with over 55% of the vote. In the GOP primary, businessman Mark Meadows (R) was the leading vote getter with 38% to Vance Patterson’s (R) 24%. Meadows and Patterson will face each other in a July 17 runoff and the winner will be favored in November.
Another district that was dramatically changed as a result of redistricting and greatly improved: Republicans’ chances of switching party control of a seat is in the 13th district. Rep. Brad Miller (D) is retiring and the two Democratic candidates have yet to file campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission. On the Republican side, former U.S. attorney George Holding (R) was the favorite going into the primary and was able to top the 40% mark with 43.5%. Holding will be the favorite in the fall. Holding defeated former Raleigh mayor Paul Coble (R) holding off charges that Holding used his position of U.S. attorney to pursue the prosecution of failed presidential candidate John Edwards over improperly using donor money.
Republicans improved their opportunities to flip party control of seats in North Carolina more so than in any other state, and the 7th district is another example where incumbent Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) now runs in a district where John McCain (R) won 58% in 2008. His challenger will be state senator David Rouzer (R), the choice of the GOP establishment over 2010 candidate, Iraq veteran and former Goldman Sachs worker Ilario Pantano (R). Rouzer won by a 48.5% to 44.5% margin. This district is clearly a top pick up target for the GOP.
Like McIntyre, Rep. Larry Kissell (D) faces a much tougher district in 2012. McCain won this newly drawn district with 57% in 2008. Kissell will have to wait until a July 17 runoff to find out if his November opponent is Richard Hudson (R) or Scott Keadle (R). Hudson received 32% and was backed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) while Keadle, a tea party supported candidate, received 22% and had the backing of the conservative Club for Growth.
In West Virginia, little was at issue in the primaries for Governor, U.S. Senate or the three congressional districts. Looking to the fall, incumbent Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) will face businessman Bill Maloney (R) in a rematch. Popular U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D) will face businessman John Raese. Each of these incumbents plus the three congressional incumbents will be favored in the fall with an outside chance that Republicans can create a competitive race against Rep. Nick Rahall (D) in the 3rd district.
You know it is a slow night in a state when the most interesting story was that a federal prisoner received 41% of the vote against an incumbent president in a primary. Strange? Yes. Does it mean anything in November? No.
The Wisconsin Recall election of Governor Scott Walker (R) is now set. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) defeated Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk (D) 54% to 38%. The Democrat party establishment largely supported Barrett while most labor union groups backed Falk. Walker defeated Barrett in 2010. From now until the June 5 general election, you can expect this race to be as expensive and ugly as any race we will see this year.