Christine O'Donnell upsets Mike Castle in Delaware Senate primary
Marketing consultant Christine O'Donnell upset Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware's GOP Senate primary, handing the tea party movement a major victory and giving Democrats an unexpected chance to hold the First State seat.
O'Donnell, who is making her third run for the Senate in as many elections, relied heavily on national surrogates -- from the Tea Party Express to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- to fuel a shoestring campaign against the iconic Castle who had held elected office in the state for more than four decades.
"The people of Delaware have spoken," said O'Donnell in her victory speech. "No more politics as usual."
The O'Donnell victory, which was considered a political impossibility as recently as a month ago, is a major boost for Democratic hopes of holding the seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden. New Castle County Executive Chris Coons was unchallenged for the Democratic Senate nomination.
"I'm sad to say the Delaware primary results tonight are straight out of Harry Reid's dream journal," said prominent Republican strategist Mike Murphy of the O'Donnell win.
While the Delaware race was the marquee contest of the night, it was far from the only one on the ledger as seven states and the District of Columbia voted in the final major primaries of the 2010 election.
In New Hampshire, former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte held a narrow lead over attorney Ovide Lamontagne in the battle for the Republican Senate nomination. The winner will take on Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in the race to replace retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R).
In New York, embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel cruised to victory in a crowded Democratic primary field in the 15th district while Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) easily beat back a primary challenge from businesswoman Reshma Saujani in the 14th.
Also in the Empire State, tea party favorite Carl Paladino crushed former Rep. Rick Lazio in the fight for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Paladino will be a major underdog this fall against state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is heavily favored in the fall.
But, there is little doubt that O'Donnell's victory is what will dominate headlines tomorrow.
In the wake of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R) primary defeat late last month, Castle went harshly negative against O'Donnell in hopes of using his financial advantage to define her in the eyes of likely voters.
But, tonight's result suggests it was too little, too late for Castle whose political career, which began when he was elected to the Delaware state House in 1966, ends in a shocking defeat.
"This shows that conservative energy at the grassroots is at tidal wave levels," said Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman and GOP lobbyist. "It may well cost us the Delaware Senate seat, but the same phenomenon will help Republicans, particularly in House races in November."
State and national Republicans have made no secret of the fact that O'Donnell's questionable personal finances and public misstatements -- she once said she carried two out of the state's three counties in her 2008 race against Biden but she didn't -- made her close to unelectable.
"We congratulate Christine O'Donnell for her nomination this evening after a hard-fought primary campaign in Delaware," said National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Rob Jesmer in a terse statement released after the race was called.
The Delaware result is also a major blow to Republicans' hopes of winning back the Senate majority this fall. To do so, the GOP needs a net gain of 10 seats, which, with Delaware now likely to favor Democrats, means that Republicans need to close to a clean sweep in states like California, Wisconsin and Washington.
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| September 15, 2010; 1:03 AM ET
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