Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

A Governor, a Veterinarian and a Congressman …

In House, Senate on August 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Candidate Ted Yoho

What do a former four-term governor, a large animal veterinarian, and a retired congressman who left the House when Ronald Reagan first became president have in common? The members of this unusual group all won primaries for federal office this week.

Republican Tommy Thompson, who four times was elected governor of Wisconsin and then served President George W. Bush in the cabinet as his Health and Human Services Secretary, squeaked through the Badger State US Senate primary on Tuesday, thereby winning the right to oppose Madison Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) in the November election. This will be one of the most important Senate contests in the country and one of a handful that will determine which party claims the majority in the new Congress.

Veterinarian Ted Yoho, who has never run for public office and spent less than $400,000 on his race, upended 24-year Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6) in the new, rural-based, 3rd Congressional District. Stearns represents 65 percent of the new constituency and had over $2 million in the bank at the end of July, but somehow failed to put forth a convincing re-election campaign and fell to Yoho by one percentage point among a field of four candidates, including a state senator and a county clerk of court. Obviously, for the voters of this newly constructed district, previous public service is a major negative.

In perhaps the most unusual political comeback in recent history, former Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN-6), who retired from Congress in 1980, successfully captured the Democratic nomination in the Iron Range 8th District. The seat is heavily Democratic but went Republican for freshman Chip Cravaack in the GOP landslide of 2010. Nolan will be competitive in the fall and, if elected, will mark a return to Congress after a 32-year absence.

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