The Winners (and the losers) from June 1 primaries
It was a VERY late but interesting night at Fix headquarters as Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico voted.
Alabama provided enough spills and thrills for all three states as voters ousted party switching Rep. Parker Griffith and handed Rep. Artur Davis, who entered the day as a clear favorite in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, an upset loss.
New Mexico and Mississippi played out more according to established storylines with national favorite Susana Martinez (R) winning the New Mexico governor's primary and state Sen. Alan Nunnelee (R) emerging victorious in the northern Mississippi 1st district, which will be a major battleground in the fall.
At the Fix though we like to go beyond the headlines -- to explore the winners and the losers you might not have thought of. Riding high on five hours of sleep, we offer our picks below. Have suggestions of your own? The comments section awaits.
* Alabama Democratic Conference/New South Coalition: These two longstanding African-American groups were purposely ignored by Davis during the primary under the theory that their ability to deliver votes was outweighed by the negative attention he would draw in a general election by being viewed as "their candidate". Whoops! Both organizations endorsed state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is white, in the primary. And, while the ADC and New South Coalition shouldn't get all the credit for Sparks performance in predominantly black counties, they clearly played a major role. In Barbour and Bullock -- two African American counties in the eastern reaches of the state -- Sparks took 66 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Machine politics is dead in lots of areas of the country but not in Alabama just yet.
* Travis Childers/Bobby Bright: Both Childers, a Democrat who represents northern Mississippi, and Bright, a Democrat from southern Alabama, were much-mentioned as potential party switchers in the wake of Griffith's move last year. (Both men represent strongly Republican districts.) Neither man jumped and while they will both face serious races in the fall, they are in better shape today than Griffith.
* Gambling: For all of the after-action analysis that has been and will be done regarding Davis' stunning loss, the Sparks campaign chalked his win up to his support for a state lottery to help fund college tuition. "We always thought that we were very lucky in that Ron Sparks started talking about the gaming issue and the education lottery last summer before anybody cared," said campaign manager Rick Dent in an interview with the Fix. Advocacy for a state lottery has long been a winner for Democrats in the South -- more than a decade ago both Don Siegelman (Ala.) and Jim Hodges (S.C.) rode the issue to the statehouse. (Thanks to Politico's Jonathan Martin for his elephantine political memory.)
* Republican Governors Association: The RGA knew it wanted Dona Ana District Attorney Susana Martinez as its nominee in the New Mexico open seat race. They also knew that a Washington-based organization endorsing her might not be a recipe for success in this anti-establishment year. So, they helped steer hundreds of thousands of dollars to her campaign and orchestrated an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Both moves provided Martinez a significant boost and led to her easy win last night that not only gives Republicans a fighting chance in the Democratic-leaning Land of Enchantment but also gives the party a Hispanic female face to push back against the "old, white guy" image the GOP is currently battling.
* "Mo's": The victory of Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks in Alabama's 5th district -- he crushed Griffith in the primary -- is a victory for Mo's everywhere. That list includes Mo(e) Greene, Mo(e) Syzlak, Mo(s) Def and Mo(ses) Malone.
Benedict Arnolds: Party switching is NOT cool with voters these days. (Was it ever?). Griffith's defeat, which came two weeks to the day after Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter lost his first Senate race as a Democrat, made clear that party switching may be dead -- at least for the foreseeable future. The only way to switch parties and preserve some semblance of political capital may well be to follow the Phill Gramm model in Texas. Gramm, first elected as a Democrat to the House in 1978, switched to the GOP side in 1983, resigned and then won a special election to claim his House seat again. A year later he was elected to the Senate.
Political Dynasties: A famous last name -- as we have written recently -- is not what it used to be in politics. Three political heirs fell last night: 1) Pete Domenici Jr., son of legendary Sen. Pete Domenici placed fourth in the New Mexico gubernatorial primary with -- eek! -- seven percent of the vote. 2) Earl Hilliard Jr., son of former Alabama Rep. Earl Hilliard, missed out of the runoff for his father's old 7th district seat. 3) Businessman Tim James, son of former Alabama Gov. Fob James, appears to have narrowly -- 200 votes or so -- missed out on making the Republican runoff for governor.
Viral video: Dale Peterson became an Internet phenomenon thanks to this web video. (Our favorite part? A tie between how other politicians don't "give a rip" about the people of the state and the random appearance of a gun at the end of the clip.) Peterson's web ad spawned a "Funny or Die" imitation as well as stories in a variety of national outlets including the Post. All that attention didn't amount to enough votes, however, as Peterson came in third (out of three) in the Republican primary for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner.
Alabama: One of the Fix's college roommates -- the brilliant and talented Campbell Robertson of the New York Times -- is an Alabama native. So, it is with a heavy heart that we put the Yellowhammer State -- best state nickname? -- in our losers category. But, 90 minutes after the polls closed only ONE PERCENT of the votes were counted in the governor's race. Come on! To quote Dale Peterson: "We are better than that."
June 2, 2010; 5:51 PM ET
Categories: Governors , House , Senate
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