- Incumbent Wisconsin Governor (R) Scott Walker wins Recall Election
- Democrats claim victory, break tie to gain control of Wisconsin State Senate
- Former President Clinton’s candidate (Rep. Pascrell) beats President Obama’s candidate (Rep. Rothman) in New Jersey
- Son wins in New Jersey, poised to take father’s seat (Donald Payne, Jr.)
- “Top Two” system in California gets first test with two incumbent vs. incumbent fights, and I do mean fights
- U.S. Senate contests in Montana and New Mexico are now set
- All 64 House incumbents on the ballot advance to General Election
Just one hour after the polls closed, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) was declared the victor is an expensive, bitter recall effort where a reported $80 million was spent. Six months ago, 88% of Wisconsin voters stated they already had made up their minds on which candidate they were going to vote for. Translated, that means there was an average of about $35 spent per undecided voter. The night was a clean sweep for Republicans. The GOP also won the recall effort in the Lt. Governor’s race avoiding an awkward split party Executive Branch. In the four Recall Elections for State Senate (including one vacant seat) Democrats were able to win one seat. As a result, the Wisconsin State Senate moves from a 16-16 tie to a 17-16 Democrat majority and accomplishing a major goal for Democrats. However, the victory is symbolic only since the state legislature is adjourned until after the November election and the redistricting changes will favor Republican regaining control. This gives the GOP control of 30 state senate chambers to 19 for the Democrats with 1 tied (Alaska).
The hype leading up the Wisconsin Recall Election and the hyperbole following the decision would lead one to believe that the presidential contest would be settled based on the outcome of the Walker vs. Tom Barrett (D) contest and that the next 150+ days would be meaningless. While the Wisconsin race was interesting and an important contest, it in no way means that Wisconsin is automatically a tossup state between President Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R) in the fall. This Recall Election was about state issues, not national issues. Democrats campaigned to “Recall Walker” not to “Elect Barrett.” If this had been a “Yes” or “No” campaign to recall Walker (as it would be in several other states), the outcome might have been different.
The primary process changed in California from the traditional system used in 47 states to a “Top Two” open primary system where there is just one ballot listing all the candidates and the two candidates, regardless of party, with the most votes advance to the General Election. In addition to the state changing its redistricting process being conducted by a redistricting commission and no the state legislature, California will finally have some turnover in its congressional delegation. With 9 open seats, a minimum of 9 freshman (and more likely 11-12) will join the next Congress in January. Even with this turnover, it appears all 46 incumbents on the ballot advanced to the General Election (Rep. Gary Miller (R) was in a close contest in CA-31).
Two contests will feature incumbent vs. incumbent battles in the General Election. In CA-30, incumbent Reps. Howard Berman (D) and Brad Sherman (D) will face each other after Sherman captured the most primary votes by a 40% to 33% margin. In CA-44, incumbent Reps. Janice Hahn (D) and Laura Richardson (D) go to round 2 after Hahn easily outpaced Richardson by a 60% to 40% difference.
In CA-15, challenger candidate Eric Swallwell (D) ran a strong primary and is poised for a competitive General Election contest against vulnerable 20 term incumbent Rep. Pete Stark (D). Stark is one of at least four Democrat incumbents who will face another Democrat candidate in the fall (in addition to the two incumbent vs. incumbent situations).
Longtime state legislator Joe Kyrillos (R), who was endorsed by popular Gov. Chris Christie (R), easily won his primary and will challenge incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez (D), who is seeking a second term. Although Menendez has a huge money advantage, his polling numbers are not as strong as they should be for an incumbent at this stage of the election in a Democrat state. Menendez is favored in the fall, but put this race on your “super sleeper” list of races to watch.
Due to reapportionment, New Jersey lost one congressional seat and this resulted in a rather nasty incumbent vs. incumbent contest between two former close colleagues. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) defeated Rep. Steve Rothman (D) by a lopsided 61% to 39%. Pascrell was endorsed by former President Clinton while Rothman showed up walking with President Obama at the White House last week. The primary may have pitted the two presidents against each other on one day, but showing that this meant zip, the two were raising money together a few days later.
Rep. Donald Payne, Sr. (D) passed away in March. The Special Election to fill out the remainder of his term will be held in conjunction with the General Election to serve in the next Congress. His successor will likely be his son, Donald Payne, Jr. (D), who won a six way primary with 60% of the vote.
In an open seat contest for U.S. Senate, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) won a competitive primary over state auditor Hector Balderas (D) by a 59% to 41% margin. Heinrich received a significant number of teacher and labor union endorsements. Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) won the GOP nomination with 70% over Tea Party candidate Greg Sowards (R). At this early stage, Wilson has nearly doubled Heinrich in fundraising. With New Mexico being one of 15 states in play for the presidential contest, look for this race to be a competitive battle.
In one of the bigger “oops” moments of the cycle, IA-2 Republican candidate Dan Dolan had an unforgettable scheduling snafu when he delivered his stump speech to a local Democrat party convention. He had the right venue, the right day, but the wrong time. Oops! Dolan lost his primary to John Deere attorney John Archer (R), who will now face incumbent Rep. Dave Loebsack (D).
One of the five incumbent vs. incumbent battles in the General Election will take place in IA-3, where Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) and Rep. Tom Latham (R) will face off in what will be one of the more high profile races in the country in November. IA-4 will feature a competitive battle between incumbent Rep. Steve King (R) and Christie Vilsack (D).
Notable items from the June 5 Primary Elections:
- 8 of 9 U.S. Senate incumbents have won their primary in 2012.
- 192 of 195 (98.5%) U.S. House incumbents have advanced to the General Election (not counting the incumbent vs. incumbent contests).
- SD – Rep. Kristi Noem (R at large) ran unopposed and will face Matt Varilek (D) in the General Election.
- MT – Sen. Jon Tester (D) ran unopposed in the Democrat primary. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) won the Republican primary with 76%. This will be one of the most watched U.S. Senate contest and will be high on the GOP target list.
- CA – At least 3 non-major party candidates made it through the top two primary and will face incumbents: CA-13 (D-Lee), CA-23 (R-McCarthy) and CA-33 (D-Waxman).
- California has 21,993 precincts. South Dakota has 710 precincts.