Primary voters challenge status quo

May 19, 2010 at 8:26 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 19 (UPI) -- Many Americans are not satisfied with the status quo in Washington, if the outcomes of primary elections Tuesday were any indication.

Voters in Pennsylvania decided they'd had enough of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who switched from the Republican Party to the Democrats last year and lost his bid for a fifth term despite the support of President Barack Obama and Gov. Ed Rendell.

The president's coattails also were insufficient to pull enough Arkansas voters into Sen. Blanche Lincoln's camp to avoid putting her into a runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Voters also showed signs of being anti-establishment Republican, results in Kentucky indicated. There, voters gave the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate to Rand Paul, the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, whose opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, had the backing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Kentucky GOP leaders.

There was no sign of anti-incumbent sentiment in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, where Democrat Mark Critz beat Republican Tim Burns in a special election to fill the seat held by the late Rep. John Murtha. Critz goes to Congress now but he and Burns will square off in November for a full term.

Specter was beaten by Joe Sestak, a two-term congressman who still wrapped the mantle of political outsider tightly around his shoulders.

"This is what democracy looks like," The Washington Post quoted Sestak telling his supporters after his victory. "A win for the people, over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C."

Paul grabbed the Tea Party standard and declared: "I have a message, a message from the Tea Party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We've come to take our government back."

Lincoln couldn't muster 50 percent of the vote in Arkansas and will continue her battle against Halter in a June 8 runoff to face Republican Rep. John Boozman in November. Where Lincoln had Obama in her corner, Halter had the unions.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, sounded the clarion call for change: "Working families all over the state of Arkansas have sent a clear message: they will not stand up for those who fail to stand for them. What Senator Lincoln learned tonight and what elected leaders all around this country should note is that the days of 'business as usual' are over."

Lincoln vowed to continue her fight for re-election. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette quoted her as saying her slim plurality over Halter "proved ... we cannot be written off and we won't be."

There also was a primary in Oregon Tuesday where Democrats and Republicans picked their candidates for governor. Democrat Ted Kulongoski cannot run again because of term limits.

The Democrats went with a battle-tested warhorse, John Kitzhaber, 63, who wants to be the first person to serve three terms as Oregon's chief executive. The Republicans went with a younger political novice, Chris Dudley, 45, who honed his competitive skills on the basketball courts for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Kitzhaber says his strategy is to be straightforward with voters, The (Portland) Oregonian reported.

"I haven't told people what they wanted to hear," he said, "I told them what they needed to hear. And we're going to keep that up until November, tell people the truth about the hard choices we face."

Dudley says the choice voters face "could not be more clear."

"Our future or our past, a comeback or a rerun," he said.

In Oregon's U.S. Senate race, The Oregonian said incumbent Ron Wyden won the Democratic primary and will face Jim Huffman, who it said won the GOP primary. Wyden snatched up 90 percent of the vote to just 7 percent for Loren Hooker and 3 percent for Pavel Goberman. Huffman had 40 percent, with six other Republicans trailing.

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