Defying all pollsters’ projections, veteran Sen. Thad Cochran rebounded from his under-performance in the June 3 primary election to win the Mississippi run-off campaign. State Sen. Chris McDaniel came within one-half percent of claiming the Republican nomination in the primary vote, but failed to capitalize on his early momentum.
Virtually all published polling projected the 42-year congressional veteran to be falling significantly behind his Tea Party-backed Republican challenger. Yet, the actual results gave the incumbent a 51-49 percent victory, a margin of 6,373 votes out of the 372,000-plus ballots cast, some 60,000 more than were recorded in the primary. Therefore, the secondary election campaign defied not only the pollsters who almost unanimously predicted a McDaniel win going away, but also voter history that virtually always sees an incumbent lose a run-off election when forced into one. Additionally, this run-off produced more voters than the number participating in the preceding primary. Rarely, if ever, does such a thing happen.
Cochran will now face former Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS-1) in the general election. Childers won a 2008 special and regular election in the state’s northeastern congressional district before the 2010 Republican landslide swept him out of office. He was hoping for a McDaniel victory that would likely have brought the national Democratic Party to his aid. With Sen. Cochran now on the general election ballot, Childers’ chances dim greatly.
With just under 100,000 votes being cast, the final pre-November special election was held last night in the Cape Coral/Ft. Myers district; GOP businessman Curt Clawson won in convincing fashion, 67-29 percent, against public relations executive April Freeman (D). Rep-elect Clawson succeeds resigned-Rep. Trey Radel (R) and will be sworn into office later this week. He now must begin campaigning immediately for a full term. Clawson is unopposed in the Aug. 26 Republican primary, and will again face Ms. Freeman in the fall.
Former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO-7) won the Republican nomination last night, scoring a 30-27-23-20 percent win over former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6), Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, respectively. Beauprez earns the right to challenge Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) this November.
In the congressional races, Weld County District Attorney and 2010 US Senate nominee Ken Buck won the Republican nomination in Rep. Cory Gardner’s (R-CO-4) vacated eastern Colorado seat. Buck defeated state Sen. Scott Renfroe, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and former Cranston, RI mayor Steve Laffey to become the party nominee and earn a ticket to Washington in November. Buck was originally running for the Senate, but when Rep. Gardner made his intention to run statewide known, the former senatorial nominee dropped down to the House race with Gardner’s support and endorsement.
Elsewhere, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) easily won his renomination primary, but incumbent Doug Lamborn (R-CO-5) just got by former General Bentley Rayburn, 53-47 percent, a man he has now beaten for the third time in a Republican congressional primary. Both congressmen are heavy favorites to win their respective general elections.
As expected, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown easily won the Democratic primary (51-24-22 percent) against Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Delegate Heather Mizeur, in a campaign that never became close. Brown began as the early favorite to replace term-limited Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). He will win the state house position in November over perennial Republican nominee Larry Hogan, and become the state’s first African-American governor.
In the Harlem district, veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13) won his quest for a 23rd term in office, an election cycle in which the veteran Democrat says will be his last to engage in a campaign for public office. Rep. Rangel defeated state Sen. Adriano Espaillat 47-44 percent in last night’s Democratic primary. Two years ago, the congressman edged Espaillat by a closer 44-42 percent split. Last night’s vote is the determining factor in this district. The general election will only be a pro forma affair.
Elsewhere in New York, state Sen. Lee Zeldin defeated wealthy attorney George Demos for the opportunity of challenging potentially vulnerable Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1). The congressman had a close call in 2010 (a 48.7-48.4 percent victory over Republican Randy Altschuler), so another tight midterm general election finish against a credible challenger is a distinct possibility.
In the open 4th District, as expected, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice easily won the Democratic congressional primary, topping Nassau County legislator Kevan Abrahams, 56-44 percent. Rice will win the general election against weak Republican competition and replace retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D).
In the North Country seat of retiring Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-21), former White House aide Elise Stefanik defeated 2010 and ’12 congressional nominee Matt Doheny, but the latter’s campaign will not necessarily end. Doheny is the Independence Party nominee, so he has a ballot line in the general election. This means another dangerous three-way election could ensue, the type that has thrown the seat to the Democrats since then-Rep. John McHugh (R-NY-23) resigned in 2009 after becoming US Army Secretary. The Democratic nominee is documentary filmmaker and Brooklyn organic grocery store owner Aaron Woolf. He was unopposed for his party’s nomination.
Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY-22) won a close GOP nomination campaign (53-47 percent) over state Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, but despite her receiving the Conservative Party endorsement, this race will not continue onto the general election. Tenney failed to return the requisite number of valid petitions to secure the Conservative Party ballot line, so the campaign ends with last night’s vote. Neither the Democrats nor the Working Families Party filed a candidate in this district so, in effect, Rep. Hanna has already won his re-election.
Polling had predicted that Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5) would finish first in the open Senate Republican primary followed closely by former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, but that neither would obtain the 50 percent of the vote necessary to clinch the nomination. Just as in Mississippi, the polling was wrong. Lankford’s extremely strong 57-34 percent finish over Shannon means the Oklahoma City congressman will coast to a general election victory in November. As was the case when he came from nowhere to win the 5th District open contest in 2010, Lankford’s robust grassroots support propelled him well past what pollsters could detect from traditional survey research methods.
In Rep. Lankford’s open 5th Congressional District, businessman Steve Russell came from well back to secure the first run-off position. He will face state Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas in an Aug. 26 election that will, in effect, choose the next member of Congress. State Sen. Clark Jolley and state Rep. Mike Turner placed a distant third and fourth. The district’s Republican voting history makes the eventual GOP nominee the prohibitive favorite for November.