From THE HILL:
It was a bittersweet night for Democrats as they won a House special election but saw one senator fall and another incumbent go to a runoff.
Meanwhile Republicans saw their favored Senate candidate lose in Kentucky to a darling of the Tea Party movement.
Most of all, Tuesday’s primaries were another sign of the anti-incumbent mood that has swept the nation and has lawmakers worried about their futures.
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who took down five-term Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), called his victory “a win for the people, over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C.”
The Obama administration’s political operation failed to clear the field in Pennsylvania for Specter, whose three-decade Senate career was ended by Sestak – a candidate many in Washington felt can’t win statewide in the general election.
And many outside of Washington (like me) feel that Sestak has a better chance of winning than Specter would have.
In Arkansas the White House wasn’t able to convince its union allies or progressive groups to back away from supporting Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s (D) challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.). After she failed to win a majority in the primary, Lincoln has to campaign through a June 8 runoff while the GOP nominee, Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.), readies for the general election.
“After a vicious primary battle, incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln’s Democrat party bosses in Washington were unable to drag her across the finish line” John Cornyn (Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement.
John Giant Head Coryn, why don’t you go back to Easter Island where you’ll blend right in?
Halter’s candidacy was backed by Democratic-allied groups such as MoveOn.org and the AFL-CIO who were angered by Lincoln’s perceived rejection of the Obama administration’s agenda.
“Working families all over the state of Arkansas have sent a clear message: they will not stand up for those who fail to stand for them. What Senator Lincoln learned tonight and what elected leaders all around this country should note is that the days of ‘business as usual’ are over,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka vowed to press on and defeat Lincoln in the June 8 runoff.
Still, Democrats are optimistic about their chances of holding the House after winning a hard-fought special election for the late Rep. John Murtha’s Pennsylvania House seat. Former Murtha staffer Mark Critz (D) defeated businessman Tim Burns (R) by almost 10 points despite low approval ratings for President Barack Obama in the district.
Republicans had billed the race as a referendum on national Democrats.
No comment from Giant Head on that race?
“Nancy Pelosi is holding fundraisers for him, the Vice President Joe Biden was here and Bill Clinton is coming to the district so this is extremely important because people know that a vote for Mark Critz is a vote for the Pelosi-Obama agenda,” Burns told Fox News shortly before the vote.
It was a harsh loss for the National Republican Congressional Committee who spent close to $1 million supporting Burns’ campaign.
But the Senate primaries in Arkansas and Pennsylvania show there is discontent among voters with the party’s leadership. The Democratic establishment went firmly for the Specter in Pennsylvania. Obama helped him raise money, appeared in his TV commercials and lent his voice to a robocall. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent money on Specter’s behalf in the weeks leading up to the election.
T.J. Rooney, chairman of the state party, campaigned with the senator in the final days, while Gov. Ed Rendell and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) rallied supporters in and around Philadelphia to get out in support of Specter.
The Republican rank and file sent a similar message of discontent in Kentucky, opting to nominate the Paul ahead of the GOP-establishment backed Trey Grayson.
Grayson, the secretary of state, had the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Dick Cheney while Paul was backed by Tea Party groups and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).