The Left Faltered In Primary Races
Results from the busiest primary day of the midterm elections – with elections in 12 states – show that progressive challengers fell short while Tea Party challengers were much more successful.
In two high profile races, the incumbent beat progressive challengers.
Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln pulled out a surprising runoff victory over challenger Bill Halter for the US Senate seat. Lincoln, who won 52 percent of the vote, had the support of President Bill Clinton and the Democratic establishment while Halter was backed by labor unions and progressives.
At her victory party Tuesday evening, she said, “Your message is loud and clear. Washington needs to work for us.”
Progressives realized another defeat Tuesday night. Anti-war candidate Marcy Winograd garnered just 41 percent of the vote against incumbent Representative Jane Harman in California’s 36th district.
Meanwhile, conservative challengers, some with Tea Party backing, were more successful.
The biggest win came from Nevada where Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle won the nomination in a crowded field to challenge US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.
– In Georgia, conservative Tom Graves won the nomination over the Republican Party backed candidate Lee Hawkins for a seat in Georgia’s 9th District for the US House of Representatives.
— In Maine, Paul LePage, who ran on a Tea Party platform for the Governor’s race, won a decisive victory.
– In South Carolina, conservative Trey Gowdy forced 6 term incumbent Bob Inglis into a runoff in which Inglis is expected to lose.
Sarah Palin backed candidates were also successful. Nikki Haley will likely win a run off for the Republican nomination for South Carolina’s governor.
Isaac Wood, House Race Editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, said conservative voters are looking for ideologically “pure” candidates.
“The Tea Party seems to be a more potent force right now in Republican primaries than liberals are in Democratic primaries,” Wood said.
Tea Party-like candidates did not win every race. They lost two races in Virginia and all races they challenged in California and New Jersey.
“Certainly there were some Tea Party victories to point to. But I think the more important story line is that there weren’t any liberal victories,” Wood said.
Progressives point to a victory in Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago in which progressive backed Joe Sestak beat incumbent Arlen Specter for the US Senate seat as proof that they have not lost all races.
Levana Layendecker, Communications Director of Democracy for America, a grassroots group that works to elect progressives to office, said the left should not be compared to the right. She said both political parties are forgetting about their base.
“Washington, DC establishment has lost touch with where most people are really at, especially the most deeply supportive people of the political parties,” Lavendecker said.
Some observes say while each race is different, the right has more momentum.
“In general there’s more energy on the right than on the left which is hardly surprising given that the right is out of power,” said Peter Beinart, Fellow at the New America Foundation, said
The flip side is that electing ideological primary candidates could make it more difficult to win in the general election.
CORRECTION: An earlier version said Winograd received 38% of the vote.
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