Colorado: Boots on the ground
Appointed Senator Michael Bennet (D) was nominated in his first race with 54%, an early evening declared winner. He beat former state legislative leader Andrew Romanoff. The press enjoyed making this a Clinton-Obama matchup, with the former president backing Romanoff and the current president, who was nominated in Denver, supporting Bennet. In an unusual spin, Romanoff with the political resume suggested he was the outsider against Bennet who had never been elected to anything. The Republican primary confirmed the earlier state convention rejection of Washington favorite Jane Norton, the former lt. governor, by selecting county prosecutor Ken Buck who was a successful grassroots contender throughout the spring caucus process. Norton had Sarah Palin come to her defense, even though Buck was considered more in line with the tea party conservative activists. Attempts to ‘genderize’ this contest failed. I never understood the Norton slogan on campaign signs ‘the buck stops here’ because that sounded favorable to her opponent. The sign was adorned with a high heel which was supposed to signify Buck’s insensitivity. Buck said he didn’t wear heels, he wore boots with Weld County b.s. on them, not DC b.s. It’s that kind of year where earthy authenticity trumps consultant’s cleverness.
Democrats had little controversy in fielding a replacement for retiring one-term Governor Bill Ritter (D). Denver mayor/former restaurant owner John Hickenlooper was chosen at a convention and had no primary. The Republican contest went from bad to worse, after little known Dan Maes surprised establishment choice Scott McInnis at the convention. Maes had first line on the ballot following his convention win, relegating the former House member McInnis to second spot. Clearly, that candidacy was in trouble long before revelations of plagiarism or other stumbles. Maes held a steady but slim lead throughout the night’s ballot counts. The wild card in this contest is the independent candidacy of former Representative Tom Tancredo. He dropped his Republican label and jumped into this race when neither Maes nor McInnis obeyed his order for them to abandon the contest. Best known as an anti-immigration crusader, Tancredo’s issue is back in vogue because of the Arizona state law/suits. The primary, no matter how resolved, won’t be the end of the maneuvering. According to state press reports, the situation has become so bizarre that Republican so-called leaders were plotting to get the eventual primary winner to drop out, allowing the state party to declare a vacancy and select a replacement candidate
Connecticut: Money on the air
In a move similar to the free-for-alls of WWE matches, the out-of-the-ring Rob Simmons semi-jumped back into this contest despite announcing he suspended his Republican Senate bid after a poor showing in the convention. It was only a half-hearted re-entry, and it got him nowhere near Linda McMahon, cofounder and former CEO of WWE, which happens to be a Connecticut employer. McMahon never dodged the bad headlines associated with her business/entertainment venture. Instead, she embraced the image, telling voters what goes on in the ring is fake, but what happens in Washington is real. McMahon won the Republican primary with 49%, to 28% for former Representative Simmons, the national party’s recruit for this contest. McMahon is said to have spent $20 million in this contest, proudly self-funding instead of taking contributions from interest groups. Democrats selected attorney general Richard Blumenthal at a convention. The seat is held by Senator Chris Dodd (D), who is retiring after five terms.
Democrats think they will pick up this governorship now that popular Governor Jodi Rell (R) is retiring. Stamford mayor Dan Malloy won the Democratic primary with 58% over Ned Lamont, the one-time netroots favorite for the Senate in 2006. Malloy has prepped for this office for years, but the perennial wannabe status didn’t affect his approval in this contest. He had more total votes than the top two Republican finishers combined. Former Bush-era ambassador Tom Foley, a controversial business investor, won the Republican nomination with 43% over Lt. Governor Michael Fedele who had 38%. Foley was a generous donor to fund his tv ad campaign following his first place score at the state convention.
Georgia Runoff: Out of the shadows
Counted out and buried following the July 20 primary, former Representative Nathan Deal (R) surged from his 23% in the primary to 50% in the runoff. Secretary of state Karen Handel had 34% in the primary and all the proverbial buzz in her supposed come-from-nowhere first place finish. After the primary, Sarah Palin added to her endorsement by making personal appearances for Handel. Deal rallied social conservatives, questioning Handel’s commitment to pro-life issues and suggesting she supported workplace benefits for gay couples. Sniping at Deal about his Washington connections and alleging family business favoritism, Handel’s team slipped rather than surged. This runs counter to the theme elsewhere this cycle where establishment entitlements are harmful. After midnight with all votes counted but not official, Deal held about a 1500 vote lead on Handel.
Minnesota: Rain on parades
Bad weather in Twin Cities and heat elsewhere may have kept turnout down, but Democrats had the lively romp expected when the candidates ignored efforts to unify behind the convention endorsed candidate. Throughout the night, the endorsee Margaret Anderson Kelliher, speaker of the state legislature, had a narrow lead over former Senator Mark Dayton and two others. Women win, formers lose? But as vote totals climbed over 90% counted, Kelliher fell behind Dayton, who was growing a lead to more than 3800 votes. Dayton’s win, if his lead holds, may revive talk about tax-the-rich as a viable political message. Republicans chose the endorsed candidate Tom Emmer, a state representative who has tried to blend social conservatism with an economic development message. Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) is not running again … at least not for this office.