Busy Night Brings Few Surprises

Primary elections in six states Tuesday proved again that money is one of the best predictors of politics.

Caption:LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 20: U.S. Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his wife Elaine Chao arrive for a victory celebration following the early results of the state Republican primary May 20, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. McConnell defeated Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin in today's primary and will likely face a close race in the fall against Democratic candidate, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes.
National Journal
Jack Fitzpatrick, Karyn Bruggeman and Andrea Drusch
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Jack Fitzpatrick and Karyn Bruggeman and Andrea Drusch
May 20, 2014, 7:22 p.m.

Primary elec­tions in six states Tues­day proved again that money is one of the best pre­dict­ors of polit­ics, with self-fun­ded can­did­ates ad­van­cing in Geor­gia and Pennsylvania and the well-heeled Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment help­ing Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell crush a tea-party new­comer in Ken­tucky.

Mc­Con­nell de­feated busi­ness­man Matt Bev­in by nearly a 2-1 mar­gin; the As­so­ci­ated Press called the race minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m. The 72-year-old Sen­ate vet­er­an will now battle for his sixth term against Ken­tucky Sec­ret­ary of State Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes, who hand­ily won the Demo­crat­ic primary.

The stages also were set Tues­day for two oth­er Sen­ate races ex­pec­ted to be closely con­tested, in Arkan­sas and Ore­gon. Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Pry­or and GOP Rep. Tom Cot­ton both were un­con­tested in their primar­ies and are headed for a Novem­ber show­down in Arkan­sas. In Ore­gon, Demo­crat­ic Sen. Jeff Merkley was re­nom­in­ated and will face Re­pub­lic­an neurosur­geon Mon­ica We­hby in the fall after her primary win.

An­oth­er heated Sen­ate race — for an open seat in Geor­gia — saw the field nar­rowed Tues­day, but the Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate won’t be de­term­ined un­til a Ju­ly 22 run­off is held between busi­ness­man Dav­id Per­due and Rep. Jack King­ston. Per­due was de­clared the top vote-get­ter Tues­day night with about 30 per­cent, while King­ston and former Sec­ret­ary of State Kar­en Han­del were neck-and-neck for second place and the right to move in­to the run­off un­til late in the night. Reps. Phil Gin­grey and Paul Broun were far be­hind and are out of the run­off along with three oth­er GOP can­did­ates.

In Pennsylvania, York busi­ness­man Tom Wolf eas­ily cap­tured the nom­in­a­tion for gov­ernor in Tues­day’s Demo­crat­ic primary, launch­ing a high-stakes con­test against Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Tom Corbett, who is widely con­sidered to be the most vul­ner­able in­cum­bent GOP gov­ernor up for reelec­tion this year.

Wolf, who briefly served as state rev­en­ue sec­ret­ary un­der former Demo­crat­ic Gov. Ed Rendell, had the sup­port of 54 per­cent of voters, an even high­er mar­gin than pub­lic polls pre­dicted, when the As­so­ci­ated Press called the race just after 9 p.m. with 13 per­cent of pre­cincts re­port­ing.

Long­time Phil­adelphia-area Demo­crat­ic Rep. Allyson Schwartz had 23 per­cent of the vote, fol­lowed by state Treas­urer Rob Mc­Cord with 15 per­cent and former state En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Sec­ret­ary Katie Mc­Ginty with 7 per­cent.

Schwartz will now leave Con­gress in Janu­ary after five terms, and her suc­cessor is likely to be state Rep. Brendan Boyle, who won the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion in Pennsylvania’s 13th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict on Tues­day. Boyle bested Clin­ton in-law and former Rep. Mar­jor­ie Mar­gol­ies in the primary, 58-22 per­cent.

In the up­com­ing gubernat­ori­al race, a poll from Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity in Feb­ru­ary showed Corbett trail­ing Wolf with 33 per­cent to the Demo­crat’s 52 per­cent, an enorm­ous de­fi­cit for an in­cum­bent. No Key­stone State gov­ernor has lost reelec­tion since Pennsylvania altered its state con­sti­tu­tion in 1968 to al­low can­did­ates to seek second terms, but Corbett has an up­hill battle ahead of him to es­cape be­com­ing the first to break that trend. The same Quin­nipi­ac sur­vey showed 55 per­cent of voters don’t be­lieve Corbett de­serves reelec­tion, in­clud­ing 30 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans.

Wolf suc­cess­fully po­si­tioned him­self as an out­sider and proved im­per­vi­ous to rivals’ cri­ti­cism over the $10 mil­lion in per­son­al money he put to­ward his cam­paign, busi­ness deal­ings re­gard­ing his fam­ily-owned kit­chen-cab­in­et com­pany, and his char­ac­ter. Wolf’s per­son­al mil­lions proved es­pe­cially use­ful by en­abling him to wage an early and steady ad cam­paign, buy­ing much-needed name ID in a field of can­did­ates that differed only slightly on the is­sues. All four Demo­crats sup­port abor­tion rights and Obama­care, and each fa­vors rais­ing the min­im­um wage, tax­ing nat­ur­al-gas pro­du­cers, and in­creas­ing spend­ing on edu­ca­tion.

Wo­men’s groups in­clud­ing EMILY’s List and Planned Par­ent­hood had thrown their back­ing, and sig­ni­fic­ant amounts of money, be­hind Schwartz, who they hoped would be­come the Key­stone State’s first fe­male gov­ernor. Out­side Pennsylvania, the party’s best op­por­tun­it­ies in 2014 to add wo­men ex­ec­ut­ives to their ranks now lie in con­tests fur­ther afield in Rhode Is­land and Mas­sachu­setts.

Mar­gol­ies, who served in the House from 1993 to 1994, star­ted the race as an early fa­vor­ite thanks to her ex­per­i­ence and her con­nec­tions to the Clin­tons: Her son, Marc Mezv­in­sky, is mar­ried to Chelsea Clin­ton, and Mar­gol­ies cast a pivotal vote in fa­vor of Bill Clin­ton’s budget in 1993. Mar­gol­ies fea­tured Bill Clin­ton in a TV ad, and Hil­lary Clin­ton hos­ted a fun­draiser for her at Lynn For­est­er de Roth­schild’s home in New York City earli­er this year.

But Mar­gol­ies’s op­pon­ents spent heav­ily to catch up. Boyle, who had the sup­port of a su­per PAC backed by loc­al labor uni­ons, drew a tar­get on his back in the fi­nal weeks of the race, as Mar­gol­ies and oth­er can­did­ates all dir­ec­ted cri­ti­cism at him for sev­er­al al­leged an­ti­abor­tion votes in the Le­gis­lature. EMILY’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice Amer­ica launched a mail ad cam­paign cri­ti­ciz­ing him.

In Ken­tucky, Bev­in was once con­sidered a ser­i­ous chal­lenger to Mc­Con­nell, but a series of polit­ic­al stumbles left him and his cam­paign flail­ing for most of the year. By April, most of the con­ser­vat­ive groups that had once en­thu­si­ast­ic­ally backed his cam­paign had pulled out of the race.

Mc­Con­nell and Grimes have been run­ning neck-and-neck in what’s ex­pec­ted to be one of the closest races this cycle. A Bluegrass Poll re­leased this week showed them ef­fect­ively tied, with Grimes lead­ing 43 per­cent to 42 per­cent.

Both sides have built siz­able war chests for the battle ahead, with Mc­Con­nell sit­ting on about $10 mil­lion and Grimes at just un­der $5 mil­lion at the end of April. They each spent more than they raised in the month of April, but Mc­Con­nell has largely been fo­cused on Bev­in un­til this point. He’s ex­pec­ted to un­leash a flood of ads tar­get­ing Grimes in the com­ing weeks.

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