Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio (USA) Primaries

In continuing coverage of the state primaries ahead of the 2010 midterm elections in the United States, attention turns now to three states which held their primaries on Tuesday May 4: Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Indiana

Indiana’s Class III Senate seat is up for election this year. Incumbent Senator Evan Bayh, a moderate Blue Dog Democrat and former Governor, has held Indiana’s second senate seat since 1998 and won over 60% of the vote in 1998 and over 65% in his 2004 re-election bid, despite Indiana being a traditionally Republican state. Coming as a surprise to many, Bayh announced his retirement in mid-February, just one day before the filing deadline for the primaries – a move which won lots of hatred for Bayh from liberal Democrats, who have never been fond of the moderate Bayh anyway. Bayh would likely have won a third term in office if he had run for re-election. Because Bayh decided to retire the day before the filing deadline, somewhat of a jerk move, the Indiana Democratic Party will have to choose their nominee, extremely likely to be US Congressman Brad Ellsworth, also a Blue Dog.

On the Republican side, after US Congressman Mike Pence and Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita declined to run for Senate, the uninspiring field narrowed down to former Senator Dan Coats (who held this seat between 1988 and 1998), former US Congressman John Hostettler and State Senator Marlin Stutzman. Coats has weak fundraising and charismatic abilities, and he has very bad relations with the NRA. Hostettler, a 1994 freshman, was defeated by Ellsworth in 2006. Hostettler, a paleoconservative, is far from being friends with the Republican establishment, having voted against the Iraq War in 2002 and having endorsed Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin over McCain 2008. Stutzman, apparently the favourite of the low-taxes crowd (and probably the Tea Partiers, though I’m not sure) was the late peaker in the poorly-staffed primary.

Here are the results:

Dan Coats (R) 39.4%
Marlin Stutzman (R) 29.2%
John Hostettler (R) 22.6%
Dan Bates (R) 4.5%
Richard Behney (R) 4.2%

Hostettler dominated in his former district, IN-08, but only part of it. Stutzman seemingly did best in what I assume is his home turf in northeastern Indiana but also around Indianopolis, one area where I assume the anti-tax rhetoric can work very well.

Looking ahead to November, polls show that Coats is the heavy favourite against Ellsworth, but given that Coats is poor candidate and carries around a lot of baggage, I would think that Ellsworth will at least manage to narrow the gap in polls, which is currently quite large.

In other races, former Congress Mike Sodrel came third in the IN-09 Republican primary, meaning that he won’t win a fifth chance to take on Democratic incumbent Baron Hill, who defeated Sodrel last in 2006 and again in 2008. In IN-03, incumbent Congressman Mark Souder (R) won nearly 48% of the vote against Bob Thomas, who is critical of Souder because Souder broke his pledge to serve six terms (he is currently running for a ninth term), who won 33.6%. In IN-04, Secretary of State Todd Rokita won the primary to succeed retiring Republican Steve Buyer. In IN-08, where Ellsworth is retiring, the Republicans have nominated Larry Buschon over Tea Partier Kristi Risk. Buschon is likely to be the early favourite there.

North Carolina

Incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr is up for re-election a very bloody Senate seat where no incumbent has won re-election since 1968. The Democratic field is rather weak, with three Congressman declining to run for Senate. The three major candidates in the Democratic primary are NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, former State Senator Cal Cunningham and attorney Ken Lewis. Cunningham started out at 5%, but a media blitz and support from the establishment, which sees him as a better November contender than Marshall, boosted him up to the high 20s. Burr faced only token opposition on the Republican side.

Here are the results:

Elaine Marshall (D) 36.4%
Cal Cunningham (D) 27.3%
Ken Lewis (D) 17.0%
Marcus W. Williams (D) 8.4%
Susan Harris (D) 7.0%
Ann Worthy (D) 3.9%

NC state law allows the second-place finisher in a primary where the first-place finisher did not win over 40% of the vote to request a runoff, which Cunningham has obviously done. The key in this runoff will be the overwhelmingly black voters of Ken Lewis and Marcus Williams. Given how well Marshall did with black voters and how white Cunningham’s electorate is, it seems that Marshall is the likely favourite in a runoff, to be held on June 22.

Burr won 80% of the vote in the Republican primary.

There are no major House races to watch in the state this year, except for freshman Democrat Larry Kissell’s 8th district. However, his predecessor in the House, Republican Robin Hayes, declined to run leaving a wide open Republican field with no clear favourite. In the first round, businessman Tim d’Annunzio leads Harold Johnson 37-33. Tim d’Annunzio, quite far to the right and a poor contender for November, will face a hard time in the runoff with Johnson, which the party sees as a better candidate against Kissell, who had a poor fundraising round. Kissell defeated a primary challenger, likely to his left, with nearly 63% of the vote. In NC-11, incumbent Blue Dog Democrat Heath Shuler defeated a primary challenge from Aixa Wilson (probably to his left) with 61% against 39% for Wilson, who won the county containing Asheville.

Ohio

Republican Senator George V. Voinovich is retiring in 2010, leaving an open seat for the Republicans to defend, while the GOP is also trying to defeat incumbent Democratic Governor Ted Strickland in November. On the Democratic side, it was a two-way race between Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Fisher was the establishment’s preferred candidate against Brunner, though polls did show Brunner slightly more competitive in November. On the Republican side, President Bush’s former Director of the Office of Management and Budget Rob Portman was unopposed. In the gubernatorial race, Strickland was unopposed as was John Kasich on the Republican side.

Here are the results:

Lee Fisher (D) 55.6%
Jennifer Brunner (D) 44.3%

Ohio is probably one of the Democrats’ best chance for a pickup in a midterm election shaping up to be unfavourable to them. But to win, Fisher will need to make party unity with his rival Brunner, prove that he’s a good candidate, tie Portman to Bush and to the economic woes in the state and also hope for Strickland to win re-election on the same day – which isn’t proving easy so far.

There is a real three-way nailbitter in OH-18’s Republican primary (the district is held by Democrat Zack Space and CQPolitics rates it as Lean Democrat) between State Senator Bob Gibbs, former state agriculture department director Fred Dailey and laywer Jeanette Moll. Prior to the likely recount, Gibbs has 21% and a 160 vote lead on Dailey, at 20.7% and Moll at 19%. The primaries in OH-01 and 0H-15, two top seats to watch in November, were not very contested on either side.

The overall mood in these three states is generally anti-incumbent, as evidenced by the close wins of many establishment candidates and poor primary results for those incumbents, like Kissell and Shuler in NC, facing primary opposition.

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Posted on May 5, 2010, in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, U.S.A.. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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