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U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R) joins Co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative Sam Nunn as they listen at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium at the National Defense University in Washington, December 3, 2012.         REUTERS/Larry Downing  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) - RTR3B6F3
Former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), one of seven unlucky senators to lose their primary since 1994
For the most part, incumbent representatives, senators and governors who seek renomination get it. It's not hard to see why: To start with, most challengers have difficulty competing with the incumbent for name recognition, money and critical endorsements. Most incumbents have a good understanding of their party's primary electorate and are careful not to alienate them.

Even incumbents who may be vulnerable to a primary often prevail. While some southern states force the top two vote-getters into a runoff if no one receives more than 50 percent in the first round, most states do not use this system. If too many challengers enter the race, they can split the anti-incumbent vote, allowing the unpopular office-holder to clinch renomination with a plurality.

However, every so often, an incumbent is unseated in a primary. Since 1994 a sitting member of the House has lost renomination to a challenger 31 times. This may sound like a high number, but it's important to note that during this period primary voters across the nation have re-nominated their Congressman or Congresswoman numerous times. In 2010 alone, of the over 390 representatives who sought renomination, only four were denied it. Among senators during the 1994-2012 period only seven have been denied renomination; of governors, only six were defeated. These primary losers are a rare breed, as they fell despite the seemingly sky-high odds to win.

What follows is an analysis of the members of the House members, senators and governors who lost renomination during this time. I've omitted representatives who lost renomination to another sitting representative since the dynamics of those races were different. I've also omitted the few incumbents who lost a general election to a member of the same party (In 2012, California Democratic Reps. Pete Stark and Joe Baca were defeated in a general election because of California's new top-two electoral law). In those general elections, the electorate was far larger than it would be in a primary and included members of the other party and independents who would otherwise have been barred from voting in a party primary, or chosen not to vote.

Head over the fold for a look at the unlucky incumbents.

To start out, here is a look at the House members who were deposed in 1994-2012 primaries:

House defeats

In 1992, 14 incumbent representatives were jettisoned in their primaries. A combination of the House banking scandal, redistricting, and a general anti-incumbent mood made 1992 the high-water mark for primary defeats. (For more information on 1992, please see an earlier diary on House primary losses). However, things have largely settled down afterwards. While 1994 brought great change to Congress as Newt Gingrich led the Republicans to their first House majority in 40 years, successful primary challenges plummeted as only four incumbent Congressmen lost their primaries.

The years 1996 and 1998 were also dry periods, with only three House members being unseated by their electorate. Things picked up a bit in the next decade: From 2000 to 2012, 24 representatives were felled in primaries (Georgia's Cynthia McKinney lost twice, in 2002 and 2006. She is counted twice in this diary for the sake of consistency). Still, no year ever came close to equaling 1992; the closest was 2012, when five House members lost.

Taken together, the House members unseated from 1994 to 2012 generally lost for at least one of three reasons: redistricting, ethics or ideology. Of the 31 primary losers, 28 of their defeats can be explained at least in part by one of these three factors. Here is a closer analysis of each one:


While governors and senators don’t need to worry about their seats being redrawn from out from under them, members of the House do. Nationwide redistricting took effect in 2002 and 2012. In addition, Texas Republicans redrew their state's lines for 2004, while Georgia Republicans followed suit for 2006. Of the House primary defeats in this period, eight of them are partially explained by redistricting. The good news for most incumbent House members is that they won't need to worry about this again until 2022.


This is a very broad category that encompasses 13 of these representatives. It's worth breaking it down a bit more.

Convicted while running for reelection: It's bad enough to be suspected or even indicted of wrongdoing, but three representatives were outright found guilty in court, yet chose to run anyway. Unsurprisingly Craig Anthony Washington, Jay Kim and Merrill Cook all lost by double-digits. Additionally, while Earl Hilliard was not found guilty, it was well known that he had illegally failed to pay his taxes.

Suspected wrong-doing: Often a representative does not need to be found guilty of anything, merely suspected of it. Five members lost re-election with this ethical cloud lingering. Reps. Lucien Blackwell, Barbara-Rose Collins, Alan Mollohan, Cliff Stearns and Jean Schmidt were never found guilty of their alleged illegal activity, but still lost. Mollohan was even cleared by the House Ethics Committee before the primary, but it wasn't enough to save him from a double-digit loss.      

Sex scandals: Surprisingly, no one lost for simply having an extramarital affair: There needed to be an additional and ugly detail involved. California's Gary Condit had an affair with intern Chandra Levy and was accused of being a part of her murder. Long after Condit's defeat, the full details of Levy's death came to light and Condit was not involved.

Other: Three defeated representatives do not easily fit into any of these categories. Georgia's Cynthia McKinney stabbed a police officer with her cell-phone in 2006; while legally the case ended quickly, the event played a major role in costing her another term. Michigan's Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick was not personally accused of wrongdoing. However, her defense for her disgraced and imprisoned son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, was enough to taint her. In 2012 Silvestre Reyes lost his primary in part due to campaign payments to family members. While there was nothing illegal about this, it was still viewed by many as unseemly.

Ideological Differences

Representatives often lose because the primary electorate saw them as being on the wrong side on at least one key issue. For the most part, Democratic voters ousted their representative for being too conservative (Matthew Martinez, Thomas Sawyer, Al Wynn and Tim Holden) while Republicans threw their members out for being perceived as too moderate or liberal on at least one key issue (David Levy, Joe Schwarz, Wayne Gilchrest, Chris Cannon, Bob Inglis and Jean Schmidt). The exception is Oklahoma Democrat Mike Synar. A longtime liberal in a conservative Democratic district, Synar was targeted by conservative special interests and defeated.

Failed Party Switch: This is a subset of ideological differences. Every so often, a member of Congress feels they can benefit from switching parties. Sometimes their new party accepts them, but often the new electorate distrusts the incumbent. Democrat-turned-Republican Reps. Greg Laughlin and Parker Griffith and Republican-turned-Democrat Michael Forbes found out the hard way that primary voters very often aren't willing to vote for the very people they recently tried to defeat.

Other defeated House members

Three representatives don't really fit into any of these three broad categories. Georgia Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney's 2002 defeat can be attributed to her controversial remarks after the September 11 attacks. Oklahoma Republican Rep. John Sullivan had long struggled with alcoholism, and his 2012 challenger Jim Bridenstine tied it to Sullivan's missed votes. Tennessee Republican freshman David Davis was always vulnerable after only winning his 2006 primary with a tiny 22 percent of the vote. Davis was hit by his challenger, Phil Roe, for taking money from oil companies at a time when gas prices were high, contributing to Davis' surprise 2008 loss.

Defeated Senators

Only seven sitting senators lost primaries from 1994 to 2012. Unlike members of the House, senators don't need to worry about redistricting. However, in each of these cases the senators' ideology played a major role in their defeats.

On the Democratic side, Connecticut Joe Lieberman's continued support for the Iraq War infuriated his party. On the Republican side, appointed Kansas Sen. Shelia Frahm lost her bid for election due to conservative voters. Frahm identified with the then-powerful moderate wing of the Kansas Republican Party, and was defeated by the conservative faction's Sam Brownback. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's reputation for moderation cost her renomination. Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar's bipartisan temperament was a liability among Tea Party voters in his home state, and the fact that Lugar had not resided in Indiana in decades did not help things. Utah's Bob Bennett was not particularly moderate, but was willing to work with Democrats at times. Conservative delegates used Utah's unique convention system to unseat Bennett: The incumbent failed to receive enough support from delegates to advance to the primary.

Two other senators saw a party switch blow up in their face. Longtime Pennsylvania moderate Republican Arlen Specter realized he had little chance at renomination and became a Democrat. However, his long Republican past was too much for primary voters in the end. New Hampshire Republican Bob Smith left his party to run for president as an independent; after his bid went nowhere, he rejoined the Republicans, but voters held his departure against him.

Because the sample size of defeated senators is so small, it's difficult to pick up on broader trends. However, it appears more senators are losing their primaries in recent years than before. From 1994 to 2004, only two were unseated. From 2006 to 2012 five lost, with three going down in 2010 alone. It remains to be seen whether or not senators are becoming more vulnerable to primary defeats.

Defeated Governors

Only six lost renomination during this time period. Unlike representatives and senators, many governors are term-limited and even the ones who are not rarely occupy their office for decades. A potential primary challenger may decide to just wait for them to leave rather than risk a bruising defeat. Still, a few governors saw their careers go down in flames.

Of these six, two were lieutenant governors who had been elevated to the governorship after it became vacant. South Dakota's Walter Dale Miller and Utah's Olene Walker had little time to establish themselves, taking office less than a year before they would face a primary. Former Gov. Bill Janklow, who likely was better known than Miller, defeated the incumbent. Walker was generally well liked but ran into problems when she opposed vouchers. Like Sen. Bennett six years later, Walker never made it past the convention to the primary.

While no representatives or senators seem to have been punished in the primary because of the state's economic problems, three governors were. Rhode Island's Democratic Gov. Bruce Sundlun inherited a massive financial crisis and was unable to fix it (Sundlun's uncensored personal style probably hurt him as well, but the state economy did him in). Missouri Democrat Bob Holden and Nevada Republican Jim Gibbons both were saddled with economic difficulties, but both suffered for other reasons. Holden's expensive inauguration started his governorship on the wrong foot and cast a dark cloud over the rest of his tenure. Jim Gibbons was accused of sexual assault and underwent a very long and messy divorce.

The final governor on the list, Alaska Republican Frank Murkowski, also lost due to his personal style. Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa (who would lose a primary of her own years later) to his seat, leading to charges of nepotism. Murkowski also ran into controversy over many of his policies, and for purchasing a plane for private use. Once a popular senator, Murkowski came in third in his 2006 primary, losing to a former mayor named Sarah Palin.

Other General Trends

Both parties ousted an equal number of incumbents: Of the 44 representatives, senators and governors to lose their primaries, 22 were Democrats and 22 were Republicans. Republicans were more likely to throw out their governors and senators, with nine Republicans losing to five Democrats. But Democrats threw out 18 of their representatives, compared to 13 Republicans.

The losing incumbent's party usually held their seat: Of these 44 cases, the party that unseated its incumbent kept the seat 33 times. The other party picked up the seat nine times. In these nine cases, six Democratic seats flipped while three Republican seats fell. In two other cases, the defeated incumbent was able to win in the general: Sen. Joseph Lieberman formed a third party after his primary defeat, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski ran a successful write-in campaign. Both senators continued to caucus with their original party (with Murkowski continuing to identify as a Republican).

The runoff helped defeat only a few incumbents: Of the 44 defeated incumbents, 12 hailed from southern states that required a runoff if no one cleared 50 percent in the first round of the primary. In theory this should make it easier to beat an incumbent, as it will prevent the anti-incumbent vote from being split too much. For instance, in Indiana's 6th District in 2010, Republican Rep. Dan Burton only won 30 percent in his primary. However, the other 70 percent of the vote was split between six other candidates, allowing Burton to narrowly prevail. If Indiana had a runoff system, it's a good bet Burton's nearest opponent (now-Rep. Luke Messer) would have consolidated the other candidates voters and easily beaten Burton.

However, there aren't many southern House members (and no governors and senators) who won a plurality in the primary but then lost the runoff. Seven were defeated outright in the primary (Craig Washington, Cynthia McKinney in 2002, Chris Bell, Ciro Rodriguez, Parker Griffith, John Sullivan and Silvestre Reyes). An eighth, Bob Inglis, placed second in his primary and proceeded to get clobbered in the runoff. Only four representatives won a plurality in the initial round of the primary, but then lost the runoff: Mike Synar, Greg Laughlin, Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney in 2006. If their states operated under a first-past-the-post system, those House members would have survived for at least one more term, but it didn't matter for the other eight.

The one caveat is Utah, where the state's unique nominating convention appears to make it relatively easy to oust incumbents. If one candidate wins at least 60 percent of delegates at the convention, he or she wins the nomination. If no one does this, the top-two candidates advance to the primary. During this time period Gov. Olene Walker and Sen. Bob Bennett failed to advance past the convention, while Reps. Merrill Cook and Chris Cannon soon lost their primaries by double digits. Utah is only second to Texas among states that ousted an incumbent.

When incumbents lose, they lose big: Of the 31 House members to lose, 24 of them lost by at least six points. Nineteen lost by at least 10 points, and 13 lost by at least 15 points. The largest loss during this period was Bob Inglis in 2010, who fell by a massive 70-30 margin. Among the seven senators, four lost by at least six points and one more never made it past the nominating convention. Among the six governors, all of them lost by at least six (with one losing in the convention). It appears that if an incumbent is about to lose, they go down with a thud.

Few defeated incumbents return to elected office afterwards: Losing a primary usually means the end of an elected official's career. The vast majority of the defeated incumbents never ran for office again (or at least have yet to).

There are some exceptions ,though. The aforementioned Sens. Lieberman and Murkowski ran in the general elections immediately after losing their primaries and won. After her 2002 loss, Cynthia McKinney ran for her seat two years later and won it back for a term. Texas Rep. Ciro Rodriguez was able to return to Congress in a different seat two years later (albeit after unsuccessfully trying to take back his old seat that year) and held it for two terms. Additionally, Michigan Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins later served for years on the Detroit City Council, while Ohio Rep. Thomas Sawyer won a seat in the Ohio Senate and continues to hold it.

However, others have seen their comeback bids collapse. New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith ran for the U.S. Senate in Florida but dropped out when his campaign failed to gain traction. Smith is currently running for his old seat in New Hampshire, but he is considered the clear underdog in the primary. Former Utah Rep. Merrill Cook has become a perennial candidate, running for office several times since his 2000 loss and never getting far. Texas Rep. Chris Bell was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee two years after his 2004 defeat, but lost by nine points, and his 2008 bid for state Senate was also unsuccessful. After her 2006 loss, Cynthia McKinney unsuccessfully ran for president and for her old seat as a member of the Green Party. Finally, Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith tried primarying the man who beat him in 2012 and failed. Griffith has since rejoined the Democratic party and is running for governor, but has a very tough hill to climb. There are clearly some success stories, but very few defeated incumbents ever regain elected office, much less their old jobs.

Conclusions: After reading about 44 different people who lost their primaries (well, 43 with McKinney counted twice), it would be easy to lose track of how relatively rare this phenomena is. While these 44 lost, literally thousands have been renominated, often without any problem. For all their faults, elected officials are usually very good at finding ways at staying in office and keeping their base happy. The threat of a primary may be enough to prevent a challenge; by appealing to the most ideological voters in their constituencies, elected officials can often prevent a serious primary challenger, or at least have the upper hand if one comes along.

To defeat a House member, it almost always takes at least one of three things: redistricting substantially changing the district, the incumbent committing a perceived ethical lapse (often suspicion is enough; they don't even necessarily need to have done anything illegal to lose), or the incumbent being seen as ideologically out of touch with the primary electorate. The latter category is not even always as obvious as it seems. For example, despite representing reliably Democratic districts while holding conservative records, Reps. Dan Lipinski and Stephen Lynch have had little trouble winning renomination election after election. Unseating a senator or governor is even more difficult. It almost always requires an ideological wedge issue or issues, or the incumbent to make a critical mistake.

It is easy to think of elected officials who should be vulnerable to primary challenges, but actually pulling one off is very difficult. Still, as we approach the 2014 primaries, these 44 are a grim reminder to incumbents that renomination is not certain.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 01:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Lieberman (23+ / 0-)

    He may have pulled off a win in 2006, when Karl Rove and the whole Republican machine backed him. He wasn't going to win in 2012. That's why he retired. And, in general, a significant portion of those who retire are ones who think they can't win re-election.

    Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    by Land of Enchantment on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 01:40:12 PM PDT

  •  Very interesting (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darth Jeff, MichaelNY, Matt Z

    the woman who is easily irritated

    by chicago minx on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 01:44:10 PM PDT

  •  The good news re: your picture of Richard Lugar(R) (12+ / 0-)

    The idiot Tea Bagger Mourdock), who unseated the Senior Senator from Indiana in the last election cycle was soundly d in the November General Election, making a gain of one Democratic seat for the Senate.  Although Donnelly may not be the strongest Democrat, he's a million times better than his Tea Bagger opponent.

  •  Regarding Mike Synar (17+ / 0-)

    The idea of a Democrat being primaried out for being too liberal sounds crazy these days, but it definitely happened in the past as former New Deal strongholds in the South became Dixiecrat legacy areas, and then eventually conservative bastions.

    Senator Donald Stewart (D-AL) won a special election in 1978, but was attacked as "too liberal" for the increasingly Republican state, and unseated in the primary by conservative Democrat Jim Folsom Jr. (Folsom lost the general election).

    Senator Ralph Yarborough (D-TX) was another one of the solidly liberal Democrats the South used to send to DC, before being unseated by the more moderate Democrat Lloyd Bentsen in 1970 who ran a blatant liberal-shaming campaign.

    Other liberal southern Dems like Al Gore Sr. also faced difficult primary challenges from conservative Democrats in decades past as their states shifted from under their feet.

    Eventually, even those conservative Democrats would see their influence wane in the 1994 and 2010 wipeouts, as most of their voters had joined the GOP and the states became solidly Republican.

    •  That's a very good point (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Skaje, MichaelNY, paulex

      Synar was the last victim of this (at least in the House) so he does stick out as an anomaly but it definitely happened a bit before the 90s.  

      Contributing Editor, Daily Kos Elections. 24, male, CA-18 (home and voting there), LA-02 (resident).

      by Jeff Singer on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 02:04:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  in comparison (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wishingwell, MichaelNY

      how many Republicans have lost primaries for being too conservative?

      The first man who, having enclosed a piece of land, took it into his head to say, "This is mine," and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. - Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality Among Men

      by James Allen on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 02:34:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Can only really happen in one-party states. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        There haven't been one-party Republican states in a very long time.

        21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (school)
        Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal, not progressive. For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.
        UC Berkeley; I think I'm in the conservative half of this city.

        by jncca on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 02:57:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Michael Dukakis (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      was (incredibly) defeated in a primary for re-election in 1978  because he was too liberal. In Massachusetts. 51-42 with a third left wing candidate getting 7%. In a Democratic primary. In a state that George McGovern had six years earlier 54-45 in a general election.

      Strange things can happen in low turnout primaries.

      •  Who defeated him? nt (0+ / 0-)

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 03:52:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Port Authority Director (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, LordMike

          Edward King.  Attacked Dukakis for raising taxes, raised $ from business, and won the primary (and general).  King went on to endorse Reagan in 1984.

          21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (school)

          Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal, not progressive. For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.
          UC Berkeley; I think I'm in the conservative half of this city.

          by jncca on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 04:20:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And for that matter died in 2006 a Republican. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY, LordMike, pademocrat

            21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (school)
            Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal, not progressive. For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.
            UC Berkeley; I think I'm in the conservative half of this city.

            by jncca on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 04:21:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Edward J. King, not Edward F. King (0+ / 0-)

            There were two Edward Kings running for governor that year, both as right wingers. Edward J. King ran as a Democrat, Edward F. King as a Republican. Edward F. King won the Republican convention endorsement but lost the primary to Francis Hatch. I voted for Hatch against Edward J. King in the general election, one of the very, very few times in my life (I think the number is 3) that I've voted for a Republican against a Democrat in a general election. But Edward J. King won nevertheless, 53-47. In a state that George McGovern won easily. Edward F. King went on to be the leader of the Proposition 2 1/2 movement that resulted in massive cuts to property taxes in Massachusetts.

    •  That was the election that inflicted Tom Coburn (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      on the country, after Synar was taken out in the primary by a pro-NRA puppet who's not worth Googling.

      "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

      by bartcopfan on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 05:10:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Olene Walker was the most popular governor (9+ / 0-)

    Utah has ever had, with an approval rating of 87% when she left office. (I think she may have hit 90 or above at some points.) Both Democrats and Republicans liked her. My feeling at the time was that she was pushed out because she was not part of the boys' club. Lots of Utahns were angry about it.

  •  Moar primary challenges, plz (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, birdboy2000, Odysseus, Ahianne

    In a healthier democracy, most primary elections would be contested.

    About California's "top two" "primary," the whole state is living in Abel Maldonado's failed fever dream. For example, you can have a situation in which there's a Democratic majority district with four liberal candidates and two conservative candidates, and the liberals split the vote such that the conservatives are the only two in the "general" election.

    Ultimately I believe top two is an attack on freedom of association. Instead of a formalized contest for who represents which party, now the action is in behind-the-scenes wrangling to clear the field.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 02:31:10 PM PDT

    •  Yeah (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the quantity of candidates must now be controlled to avoid such situations.  Top two is pretty dumb.

      •  It's suboptimal but an improvement over (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the previous status quo.

        21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (school)
        Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal, not progressive. For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.
        UC Berkeley; I think I'm in the conservative half of this city.

        by jncca on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 04:21:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I disagree strongly (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Stephen Wolf, Simplify, gabjoh

          it makes a game out of the primary day.  Instead of the important race being the general election, undue attention is paid to how many candidates are running in the top two.  And considering how Democrats have worse turnout on primary day, it's rigging the system slightly for Republicans, allowing shutouts like CA-31 to happen.

          When that doesn't happen, and the general election features one Republican and one Democrat, then everything's okay.  But then what is the point of the top-two then?

          •  The point of the top two (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is to create Dem on Dem or GOP on GOP generals in safe districts.  It has succeeded moderately, including but not limited to Butler-Bloom and Levine in the Assembly and Baca-McLeod, Cook-Imus, and Stark-Swalwell in Congress.  

            21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (school)
            Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal, not progressive. For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.
            UC Berkeley; I think I'm in the conservative half of this city.

            by jncca on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 09:06:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  When it's D on D, or R on R, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Skaje, gabjoh

              that's supposed to be called a primary.

              The ostensible goal is to get moderate politicians elected. But I think that's an illegitimate goal. What's so objectively optimal about moderates that the structure of the electoral system has to skew in their favor?

              It hasn't worked out like that anyway. One study showed that, since top 2, the Democrats have stayed as liberal and the Republicans have gotten more conservative... just like pretty much anywhere else.

              Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

              by Simplify on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 10:39:15 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Most healthy democracies don't have many primaries (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, Skaje, Simplify

      The "healthiest" democracies by almost any metric are those of northern and western Europe, plus a few essentially similar countries like Australia. In parliamentary systems like most of those countries use, candidates are generally selected within the party, and anything resembling a primary is typically not especially competitive. France, which has a semi-presidential system, didn't have a competitive internal election until 2012, and its legislative nominations are rarely seriously contested as well. The prevalence of primaries doesn't seem to correlate with the health of a democracy at all.

  •  It has been decades (4+ / 0-)

    since my Alaska days, but I'm sure the dust of Murkowski/Palin hasn't settled yet. Hope that dust-up will bring Nick Begich's boy home!

  •  PA-02: Fattah/Blackwell (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darth Jeff, MichaelNY

    It was largely a machine v. independents battle, with Mayor Rendell and Council President Street backing Blackwell, and the late St. Sen. Hardy Williams and the organized black clergy behind the ~25 years younger Fattah.

    (Side note: in 2008, after Rep. Blackwell's death, his son Tommy was knocked off the ballot as an incumbent state rep, largely because of forged signatures.)

  •  "luck" had nothing to do with (0+ / 0-)

    Lugar's losing. He had abandoned any connection to the people of the state except to return every 6 years to be "re-in-coronated". His wound was self-inflicted. For such a reputedly "smart" man, he engaged in a long stupid course of conduct of not paying attention to the basics of politics--seeing and being seen by those who can end the gravy train of a Senatorial sinecure. His replacement [a DINO] won't vote much differently from him. Lugar was both evidence and crime of the essentially reactionary nature of Indiana politics which goes back to Albert Beveridge, if not before.

    DailyKos, the popular political site whose goal is to elect "more and better Democrats", has silenced yet another wonderful strong Palestinian voice, Palestinian Israeli blogger Simone Daud (formerly known as palestinian professor).

    by stevelaudig on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 03:26:45 PM PDT

    •  DINO? (7+ / 0-)

      This is completely and demonstrably absurd:

      His replacement [a DINO] won't vote much differently from him.
      Do you think this is theoretical? Examine Senator Donnelly's record. Is it almost the same as Lugar's? Absolute nonsense.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 03:57:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is nonsense (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        People that would be upset about Joe Donnelly's voting record simply are not happy with the agenda brought forward by Harry Reid.  It isn't bold enough in their minds,  People are easily throwing 10-12 Senate Dems under the bus if they really have a problem with Donnelly.  Al Franken, Klobuchar,  Carl Levin, Nark Warner etc. are all too conservative for their states if you follow this logic.  

        IA-2 Born, raised, currently reside.

        by BoswellSupporter on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 02:23:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  T&R'd, but on McKinney, electoral manipulation (0+ / 0-)

    was at work in both defeats. She had good support among African Americans, but then, in nonpresidential years' voting with falloff in black turn-out, a white voting bloc reregistered from Repub to Dem in her district and helped get another black candidate (more conservative but nevertheless a Dem) to run against her to split the black community. Then the party-switching white bloc voted for the conservative Dem to deny McKinney reelection. Twice. 2002 and 2006. Off-year ... when minority Democratic candidates are often vulnerable.

    After the first defeat, in 2004 she ran again and won.

    The two 2002 and 2006 black candidates who split the black community apparently received substantial financial and perhaps logistical support from the manipulative white party-switchers.

    There was a documentary on it.

    Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings. —Nelson Mandela

    by kaliope on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 03:55:16 PM PDT

    •  I'm sure the Democratic primary electorate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kaliope, MichaelNY

      was still majority black, considering the district.

      21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (school)
      Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal, not progressive. For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.
      UC Berkeley; I think I'm in the conservative half of this city.

      by jncca on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 04:22:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know for a fact, but it's also possible. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        In the documentary, McKinney was heavily supported within the black community in 2002, but I am unclear on the facts in the 2004 race.

        Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings. —Nelson Mandela

        by kaliope on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 04:39:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  McKinney lost by huge margins both times (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, kaliope, Ahianne

      I'm sure the white voters in the district were strongly against her, but considering how badly McKinney lost, she had to be losing Black voters too.

      In any case, the man who holds the seat now (Rep. Hank Johnson) is very liberal.  Republicans probably did help beat McKinney, but they didn't get much of an upgrade (from their perspective) out of it.

  •  We Democrats in PA were so used to voting against (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, LordMike, Odysseus, Ahianne

    Specter in the general election for years, it just came naturally to vote against him anytime he appeared on the ballot.  LOL! That was the joke I made to another long time Democratic friend when he lost the primary.
    I said...

    We have been voting against Arlen for years, it is just automatic.
    A conservative neighbor said to me.
    I applaud PA Democrats. You did something we could never do, defeat Specter
    Some moderate Democrats are still furious that we progresive Democrats voted for Sestak and not Arlen, a few blame us for Toomey now having that Senate seat.
    I said, No guarantee Arlen could have kept that Senate seat.
    And sadly Arlen Specter passed away not long after so Corbett would have appointed a Republican for that seat anyway at least until the following election.  So we will never know what could have happened.

    Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at

    by wishingwell on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 03:55:28 PM PDT

  •  Regarding Merill Cook (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, Odysseus

    He was always a perennial candidate, from 1984 to 1996 (when he was finally elected to Congress), and afterwards from 2002 to 2012 (he isn't running this year). He just got lucky when he won his election for Congress.

    Cook actually nearly caused a Democratic gubernatorial win in 1988, and faced off against Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson in his 1996 election to Congress.

    Leftist Mormon in Utah, Born in Washington State, live in UT-04 (Matheson).

    by Gygaxian on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 05:39:47 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, wasn't the implosion (0+ / 0-)

      of Enid Greene Waldholtz (possibly the most overrated member of the whole Class of '94) pretty much what sealed the deal for Cook?

      Stuck in PA-3. Let's defeat "Mike" Kelly and Tom Corbett in 2014!

      by JBraden on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 06:34:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  According to Wiki Cook faced a primary (0+ / 0-)

        in his initial election, and won it by 4%, and only won 56-44 against Rocky freaking Anderson (probably the most liberal man in Utah), and then won by only 10% against a teacher who had never run for office before, so I think he was weaker than everyone assumed.

        I guess Cook had the most money and conservative bona fides to be the winner when the dust cleared and Enid Greene imploded.

        Leftist Mormon in Utah, Born in Washington State, live in UT-04 (Matheson).

        by Gygaxian on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 06:42:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  John Sullivan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I do agree that Sullivan's public alcohol battle didn't help and may have cost him some votes, but Bridenstine didn't win because of that.

    Bridenstine had teaparty backing and Sullivan was caught off guard. I saw A LOT of Bridenstine support and not a lot of Sullivan support.  Not a lot of Sullivan campaigning either.

    I think Sullivan lost because

    Bridenstine was an "outsider"
    Bridenstine attacked Obama more
    Bridenstine was more visible
    Bridenstine served his country
    Bridenstine had teaparty support

    Even going into primary night Sullivan was the "favorite" but I fully expected Bridenstine to win.

    And he has given his supporters what they want...a clone of Michelle Bachman.

    The Senate has no guts. The House has no brains.

    by gossamer1234 on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 06:01:14 PM PDT

  •  Ideology motivated primaries (0+ / 0-)

    will, probably, become a rarities in the future - both parties are much more polarized now then 20 (i don't even speak about 40) years ago, when people like McIntyre or Barrow would be considered a "very moderate Southern Democrats" for example. Even more so - among Republicans. So, the primaries in both parties mostly became a competition of ideologically similar people (with minor differences on local issues, which are relevant for inhabitants of this particular district only) and thus - much less interesting.. For example - about 10 Democrats run in CA-33, but even without researching all web-sites i am sure that their positions on main economical and social issues are the same in 95% of cases.

  •  Diff between Senate and House re holding the seat (0+ / 0-)

    Interesting to see that, when it comes to Senators, unseating your incumbent candidate in your primary seems to be much more likely to work out badly in the general election than when it comes to US Representatives.

    The seven times that primary voters defeated an incumbent Senator, it only worked out well for their party in the general elections three times. In two cases the other party picked up the seat and in case of Murkowski and Lieberman, the rejected incumbent went on to win the seat after all with independent campaigns.

    The House list looks very different. There, the party whose voters tossed out the incumbent in the primaries still held the seat in the generals in the overwhelming majority of cases.

    I was sure the blog post itself would point this out, but it just notes more generally that "the losing incumbent's party usually held their seat". I realize that seven (defeated incumbent Senators) is a small sample size, but I still thought the difference between House and Senate in this regard striking.

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