Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) beat back a challenge from Tea Party candidate state Rep. Joe Carr last Thursday, 50% to 41%. There were several other Republicans in the race as well, though none garnered more than 5% of the vote each. Tennessee was the last chance for Tea Party groups to take out an incumbent Senator this cycle, after failing to take down McConnell in Kentucky, Cochran in Mississippi, Graham in South Carolina and Roberts in Kansas. While Carr was a more credible and less controversial candidate than others, such as Milton Wolf, Alexander took his primary challenges seriously and starting rally his base early in the campaign, leaving little money or support left for Carr. While the Tea Party has had some success in 2014, it is clear that taking on incumbents is still an uphill battle. Senator Alexander is safe in the general.
TN-03: Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R) narrowly beat his primary challenger, Weston Wamp, 51% to 49%. Wamp positioned himself as a moderate candidate, trying to win the seat that his dad, Zach Wamp, once held. This primary was not the traditional tea-party/establishment race we have seen this cycle, but it was very close and another example of how hard it is to beat an incumbent, even with a good candidate in a district that isn't ideal for the incumbent. Fleishman has never won a majority in the primary but this was the first time there weren't multiple candidates to split the remaining vote.
TN-04: One Tea Party oriented candidate could find success in Tennessee, Rep. Scott DesJarlais. DesJarlais faced an extremely competitive challenge from state Sen. Jim Tracy, who had the backing of the Tennessee business community, Republican establishment and outraised and outspent DesJarlais. Much of DesJarlais' trouble came from the scandals that plagued him in 2012, however, two years is a long time for voters. Many appeared to have forgiven DesJarlais for his digressions, and were more focused on his conservative policies in the House and his recent disclosure that he has cancer, both helping his re-election bid. DesJarlais is currently ahead by 35 votes, but the race is still under consideration and has not been finalized by the Secretary of State. Some absentee and provisional ballots may remain and Tracy can call for a recount.
The most competitive Democratic Senate primary to take place this cycle is still too close to call. After Saturday's election, Sen. Brian Schatz currently leads Rep. Colleen Hanabusa by 1,635 votes. The special election is for the final two years of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), who passed away in December, 2012. Inouye had requested that Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) appoint Rep. Hanabusa to serve the remainder of his term after he passed, but Abercrombie instead named his lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, setting up the beginnings of the primary challenge. While the Republicans' intraparty fight is playing out in Senate races across the country, the Hawaii race is a microcosm of what is going on within the Democratic Party. It pits Schatz, a young, very liberal Democratic against Hanabusa, a more moderate liberal and senior candidate. Schatz has gained the support of the Democratic establishment, liberal groups and Presidents Obama while Hanabusa has gained the endorsement of Emily's List. Two precincts have not held their elections yet due to Tropical Storm Iselle, and will hold their elections on Friday. Those results could have an impact on the primary. The eventual winner of the primary faces businessman and former state Rep. Cam Cavasso (R), but the seat is likely to stay in Democratic hands.
HI-01: State Rep. Mark Takai easily won the crowded Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Hanabusa, with 45% of the vote. Former Rep. Charles Djou won the Republican nomination. The district leans Democratic but with a competitive Governor's race and a talented candidate on the GOP side in Djou who has held the seat before, this race could be competitive.
There were no competitive primaries in Connecticut.
Businessman Mike McFadden (R) won the GOP primary to take on Sen. Al Franken (D), with 72% of the vote. McFadden was the GOP endorsed candidate going into the primary and was favored to win. Franken, who won in 2008 by only 312 votes, was expected to be one of the Republicans' top targets in 2014. Franken however, has done a good job of winning over his critics and is currently favored to win re-election though Obama has surprisingly low approval ratings in the state and McFadden has the ability to spend substantially on the race through personal funds and has demonstrated a strong ability to raise money. Franken has already spent almost $15 million, more than any other candidate to date, and remains under 50% in polling, a dangerous place for incumbents. Republicans believe Minnesota is the state most likely among the "second tier" states of VA, NH, OR and NM to jump to the highly competitive category as we approach November.
MN-06: Former State Rep. Tom Emmer (R) won the Republican primary with 72% of the vote to succeed retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann (R). Emmer already won the GOP party's endorsement at the August convention and was expected to win the primary over Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah. Emmer was able to bring together a wide base of support, from the Freedom Club to the U.S. Chamber. He faces Sartell mayor Joe Perske, but this is a very Republican seat and Emmer should be safe.
MN-08: The key players in this competitive race have been set for a while, with Rep. Rick Nolan (D) being challenged by Mills Fleet Farm Vice President Stewart Mills, III (R). This northern, rural, iron range district has been getting more and more competitive over the years, and Mills has proved himself a credible candidate. He has working class appeal and his family's farm supply stores are a staple of small towns across the district. Mills, a 42 year old with shoulder length hair has a unique appeal and polling shows this is a tight race.
MN-07: Rep. Collin Peterson (D) is being challenged by state Sen. Torrey Westrom (R), in what is expected to be a competitive race. Peterson, one of the last few Blue Dogs in the House, has been endorsed by the BIPAC Action Fund, several of our Minnesota based business members and NFIB. Peterson is one of the few remaining farmers in Congress and is ranking member on the Agriculture committee having demonstrated a strong tendency to work across the aisle to find consensus on issues. With Peterson and Westrom being on the same side of many policy issues, Westrom's campaign is focusing on the need for change, and linking Peterson to the Obama administration. Right now, Peterson has a small advantage, but this is race to pay attention to.
WI-06: State Sen. Glenn Grothman won the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Petri (R). Grothman received 39% of the vote, while state Sen. Joe Leibham got 29% and state Rep. Duey Stroebel received 29%. Grothman was running to the right of the GOP candidates in the group, while Stroebel labeled himself as an outsider and was able to self-fund. Leibham had a lot of the business community support, including ABC- Wisconsin and the Dairy Business Association. The Democratic nominee is Winnebago county executive Mark Harris, though Grothman has the advantage in this Republican district.