Primary Primer: Races to Watch in Mass. and Hawaii
The race has been a low-key affair to date, as the three candidates have been loathe to attack one another until the final days of the primary. Former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Deval Patrick appears to have surged into a lead over wealthy businessman Chris Gabrieli and state Attorney General Tom Reilly. But it remains to be seen whether and how Healey's decision to launch ads attacking Gabrieli will effect the race.
Aside from the Massachusetts race, the only voting of note today is in Washington, where Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) and former Safeco Insurance executive Mike McGavick (R) have nominal primary opponents.
And don't forget the Hawaii primary this Saturday, where Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is trying to beat back a primary challenge from Rep. Ed Case (D), and a slew of aspiring candidates are running for Case's soon-to-be vacant 2nd District seat.
Here's a quick primary run-down:
Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial Primary
Reilly began the race as the frontrunner only to be surpassed by Gabrieli and his willingness to spend millions of his own dollars on the contest. But in the race's final days it is Patrick who looks like the nominee. A poll released Monday and conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center for the Boston Globe showed Patrick with a 46 percent to 25 percent lead over Gabrieli. Reilly took 18 percent in that poll.
Healey's decision to run ads hitting Gabrieli in the final days of the primary is a tough one to read. Republicans privately have made no secret that Gabrieli, who has considerable personal wealth and no voting record to attack, is the most difficult of the three candidates for Healey to beat on Nov. 7. But does Healey's involvement in the primary make Democrats who are leaning toward Patrick think twice and vote strategically for Gabrieli? In our experience voters tend not to vote strategically, but the Republican's ad certainly complicates the equation in today's primary.
Should Patrick win the primary, Republicans believe he can be easily portrayed as a liberal -- allowing Healey to co-opt the ideological middle, a necessity for a GOPer to win in this strongly Democratic state. Of course, a Patrick win would also draw national headlines as he would be in position to become the state's first black governor and only the second African American governor elected in the nation. (Don't forget the incredible outpouring of positive coverage that followed Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the 2004 Illinois primary.)
Massachusetts Democrats haven't held the governor's mansion since Michael Dukakis left office in 1991, and they are eager to break that 16-year drought. While Healey has run a creditable race, she does not possess the candidate skills of outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney (few do) and will have a hard time convincing Democrats to support her in what looks like a year defined by partisanship.
Hawaii Democratic Senate Primary
While the Connecticut race between Sen. Joe Lieberman and businessman Ned Lamont drew most of the attention from Democratic critics of the Iraq war, the race between Akaka and Case has many of the same dynamics. Akaka voted against the use of force resolution against Iraq in late 2002 while Case, who was not yet in Congress at the time, has said he would have supported the resolution.
Akaka's campaign has focused on the candidates' differences on the Iraq issue, while Case has cast the race as a chance for Hawaii Democrats to begin looking toward the future by electing a younger man to the Senate. Both Akaka and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) are 82, and Case has argued that a state as small as Hawaii needs to begin rebuilding its seniority (The last time Hawaii elected a new senator was in 1990, when Akaka won the right to finish out the term of the late Spark Matsunaga; together, Inouye and Akaka have 60 years of service in the Senate).
Voters don't seem convinced. A poll conducted for the Honolulu Advertiser showed Akaka with a 51 percent to 38 percent lead over Case. Asked what the most important issue was in deciding their vote, 43 percent said the candidates' "stances on issues" while 18 percent said "transition to the next generation."
Whichever Democrat emerges from Saturday's primary, this seat is not in jeopardy for Democrats in the general election. Former prisoner of war Jerry Coffee (R), who was recruited into the race by Gov. Linda Lingle (R), recently dropped out of the contest due to health reasons.
Hawaii's 2nd District
Case's surprising decision to abandon his safe House seat for a run against Akaka created a rare opening in Congress for a number of candidates. The frontrunners are former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono (D) and former state Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa (R) -- both of whom aren't new faces on the political scene.
Hirono, who was elected lieutenant governor in 1994, ran briefly for mayor of Honolulu in 2002 before switching to the governor's race. Though she won the nomination, she lost in the general to Lingle. Kawananakoa was the frontunner for a House seat in 1998 but abruptly left the race citing -- you guessed it -- health problems.
The 2nd District, which encompasses most of the state minus Honolulu and its suburbs, has a decided Democratic tilt, so Hirono would be considered a strong favorite against Kawananakoa.
September 19, 2006; 2:25 PM ET
Categories: Governors , House , Senate
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