Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico primaries: What to Watch For
Voters are voting in Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico today!
Since polls don't close in Alabama and Mississippi until 8 pm eastern -- and in New Mexico at 9 pm eastern -- you'll need some of that good political stuff to chew on between now and then.
Without further ado, we give you five story lines to keep an eye on in today's voting.
* Artur Davis tries to make history: Alabama Rep. Artur Davis' (D) resume is not unlike that of another famous African American politician. He, like President Barack Obama attended Harvard Law School. And, like Obama, Davis -- in 2000 -- challenged a longtime black Member of Congress in a majority-minority district and lost. Two years later Davis came back and won the 7th district and now, eight years later, he is trying to become the first African American governor in Alabama history.
What once looked like a primary cakewalk for Davis, however, has turned into a real race as the Congressman has moved to the middle -- casting a vote against the President's health care bill -- while also choosing to bypass the courtship of traditional centers of African American political power in the state.
Davis' decision not to seek the support of groups like the Alabama Democratic Conference and the New South Coalition -- he has long been at odds with the leaders of those organizations -- led them to throw their endorsements behind state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is white, in the primary. (And, yes, the office Sparks is vacating is the one that Dale "don't give a rip" Peterson is seeking today.)
Davis' primary math is largely dependent on the fact that roughly six in ten voters are expected to be black and he will win a large swath of them. But, the divide between Davis and the unelected black leaders in the state complicate that calculus. Keep an eye on counties like Barbour, Bullock and Macon -- all of which are heavily African American -- to see how Davis is performing with this critical voting bloc.
* Can Parker Griffith do what Arlen Specter couldn't?: There were two party-switchers last year, and both earned themselves difficult primaries because of it. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (R to D) lost his intraparty fight two weeks ago to Rep. Joe Sestak and now it looks like Rep. Parker Griffith (D to R) might be forced into a runoff today if he can't clear the 50 percent barrier in the primary.
The likeliest runoff opponent for Griffith is Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, who was endorsed by 2008 GOP 5th district nominee Wayne Parker. Les Phillip, who has been endorsed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is also in the race and recently made a splash with an ad suggesting he, as a black man, would be a more effective critic of President Obama.
A July 13 runoff could be a dangerous thing for Griffith as it would almost certainly be cast as a referendum on his Republican bona fides. While the national party would go all out to save Griffith, it's not clear whether that sort of intervention would help.
* TARP (again): Reps. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), both of whom supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), face nominal GOP challengers whom they are expected to beat.
The question is whether they are held to around 60 percent of the vote -- as some other bailout-supporting Republicans have. TARP is not AT ALL popular with the GOP base and any number of Republicans (Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Utah Sen. Bob Bennett to name two) have seen their political ambitions stifled by their late 2008 votes to bail out Wall Street.
(Another TARP-related casualty could well come next week when Rep. Gresham Barrett who has spent most of his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in South Carolina defending his vote for the program is on the ballot.)
Bachus and Bonner have faced next-to-no opposition since winning their heavily Republican seats in 1992 and 2002, respectively. And, regardless of what percentage they take tonight -- assuming it's over 50 percent, of course -- both will be safe this fall as John McCain won 77 percent in Bachus' 6th district and 61 percent in Bonner's 1st.
* In the New Mexico Republican gubernatorial primary, Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez seems headed to a win over former state GOP chairman Allen Weh with the main drama now in how big her margin will be.
For the answer to that question, keep an eye on Bernalillo County (home to Albuquerque), which is expected to deliver about one-third of the vote in today's primary.
Bernalillo is also likely to be a central battleground in the fall between Martinez and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish who faces no challenge in the Democratic primary today.
It is located within the 1st congressional district -- for years one of the most competitive House seats in the country. Although President Obama won it with 60 percent in 2008, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) carried it by less than 9,000 votes in 2004 and then Vice President Al Gore won it by less than 3,000 votes four years before that.
Other counties to keep an eye on tonight -- with an eye toward a Martinez-Denish race this fall -- include the "Little Texas" counties (Chaves, Curry, De Baca, Eddy, Lea, and Roosevelt) in the eastern part of the state.
* Establishment in Trouble?: One week removed from Iraq war veteran Vaughn Ward's loss in a Republican primary in Idaho's 1st district, two other GOP candidates who have been touted by the national party face their own political fates today.
In the southern Alabama's 2nd district, Montgomery City Councilman Martha Roby is the handpicked candidate of the National Republican Congressional Committee. She hasn't wowed on the fundraising front -- $178,000 on hand through May 12 -- but faces far less well-financed primary challengers including tea party activist Rick Barber.
Meanwhile, two hundred miles to the west in Mississippi's 1st district, state Sen. Alan Nunnelee faces a primary fight from -- among others -- former Fox News Channel commentator Angela McGlowan.
National Republicans have made clear they believe Nunnelee, who hails from Tupelo, is their best chance at beating Rep. Travis Childers (D) who won the northern Mississippi district in a May 2008 special election.
Neither Roby nor Nunnelee have run nearly as poor a campaign as Ward did -- few candidates can lay claim to that sort of disastrous performance -- and both are favored to win today. But, a loss -- or even a close win -- will raise further doubts about the power of the national party to pick their preferred candidates in an electoral environment of anger and volatility.
With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez
June 1, 2010; 11:51 AM ET
Categories: Governors , House
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