From South Carolina to California on Tuesday
candidates won high-profile congressional and gubernatorial primary races that will help shape the November election ballot.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln
of Arkansas gave hope to incumbents and the political establishment, winning a runoff against progressive favorite Lt. Gov. Bill Halter for the Democratic Senate nomination.
In the race for California's Republican nomination for governor, former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman
easily beat state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in a battle of billionaires. Whitman sunk $70 million of her fortune into the campaign and Poizner invested $25 million of his own. On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jerry Brown faced no serious opposition in his quest to win back his old job. Brown served two terms as California's governor from 1975-1983.
Another former chief executive, Republican Carly Fiorina
, also won big in California. The ex-chief executive of Hewlett-Packard bested former Rep. Tom Campbell and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore for the chance to take on the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Barbara Boxer. Fiorina, who got the backing of Sarah Palin, spent more than $5.5 million of her own money on the primary race.
In a closely watched contest in South Carolina, state Rep. Nikki Haley weathered
attacks on her virtue
and a scurrilous ethnic slur
to sail to a strong lead in the Republican gubernatorial primary, but fell just short of the required 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. Haley, who had the backing of conservative Tea Party activists and an endorsement by Palin, will face the second place finisher, Rep. Gresham Barrett, on June 22.
And in Nevada, state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, also a Tea Party candidate, beat casino owner Sue Lowden in the GOP Senate primary to determine who will face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.
The marquee race was the Lincoln-Halter matchup. Halter ran from the left to give Lincoln, a centrist with the White House and Bill Clinton in her corner, a bruising fight. Neither candidate secured 50 percent of the vote in a May 18 primary, but this time the two-term senator managed to persuade voters to go with the name they know.
Had Lincoln lost, it might have further fueled anti-incumbent fires and sent a signal to the Democratic establishment about the power and influence of unions and liberal groups, which spent heavily to back her opponent. Lincoln now goes on to face Republican Rep. John Boozman in the fall.
But another incumbent, Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina, will have to continue to battle to hang onto his seat for a seventh term. He faces a runoff in two weeks with GOP challenger Trey Gowdy, who gained traction by targeting the congressman's support of the 2008 financial bailout bill.
Another incumbent, Gov. Jim Gibbons of Nevada, a Republican, was defeated by GOP challenger Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge and state attorney general. Gibbons, who saw his image tarnished after allegations of marital infidelity and a bitter divorce, is the first sitting governor to fail to be renominated this year. In November, Sandoval will face Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, the son of Harry Reid.
More Election Coverage
- Tuesday's Real Winners and Losers
- 'Comeback Kid' Lincoln Survives
- Nikki Haley Heads for Runoff in S.C.
- Tea Partier Will Face Reid in Nevada
- Army Vet Alvin Greene to Face DeMint
- Reid, Angle Vulnerable to Ridicule
- California's GOP 'Thelma & Louise'
- The Power of Palin Endorsements
- Is Tea Party Losing Its Strength?
- So Much for Conventional Wisdom
- The Right Wins, the Left Loses
- Elections Boost Tea Party, Women
Rep. Jane Harman of California, a Democrat, was another incumbent who survived, holding an early lead and going on to defeat teacher and peace activist Marcy Winograd.
Races were called early in Virginia congressional districts, where Republicans chose auto dealer Scott Rigell to challenge Democratic Rep. Glenn Nye. State Sen. Robert Hurt, a Republican, will take on Democrat Rep. Tom Perriello and businessman Keith Fimian will go up against freshman Democrat Gerry Connolly.
In Georgia, Tea Party support gave GOP candidate Tom Graves a victory over fellow Republican Lee Hawkins, a former state legislator, in a special election to serve the final few months of former Rep. Nathan Deal's term. Deal, a Republican, stepped aside to run for governor.
Primaries were also held Tuesday in Iowa, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, New Jersey, and South Dakota.