Tuesday was a day for the ladies. Four women won high-profile nominations—two in California, one each in Arkansas and Nevada, with a fifth in a good position to win her South Carolina gubernatorial runoff election in two weeks. Elsewhere, Georgia sent a new member (a man) to the U.S. House of Representatives, while Republicans tapped nominees in a handful of targeted congressional races.
In the day's biggest surprise, incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas dashed to the finish line ahead of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the state's Senate primary runoff. She earned 52 percent of the vote to Halter's 48 percent. The result shocked political insiders who saw Lincoln trailing in recent polls.
Lincoln finished narrowly ahead of Halter in the state's May 18 primary, but well short of the requisite majority to win outright, leading to Tuesday's runoff. She used the three-week campaign to position herself as a political outsider. Pointing to the millions of dollars Halter received from national special interest groups such as organized labor and MoveOn.org, Lincoln turned Halter's "Washington is broken" campaign on its head. She also capitalized on her support from President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, a fellow Arkansan.
Lincoln's comeback is only the first step in her effort to hold on to her Senate seat. According to Real Clear Politics's average of polls, Republican nominee Rep. John Boozman leads her by 25 points.
In Nevada, Tea Party favorite and former state assemblywoman Sharron Angle won an easy victory in Tuesday's GOP primary for the chance to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November. Reid's campaign has said they are happy the very conservative Angle won, believing that what they describe as her far-right, religiously-motivated views on everything from legislating morality to deregulating the oil and gas industry will make her an easy target. "She's a female Rand Paul," one Reid aide told Politico in May. Republicans pushed back. Warning that Reid shouldn't be "giddy or popping champagne corks," National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas told ABC News that "Nevada voters are going to have a referendum on Harry Reid." Recent polling suggests November's race is a toss up.
And in California, a pair of female CEOs won the state's most important primaries. Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina nabbed the Republican nomination for Senate and former eBay chief Meg Whitman defeated seven other candidates for the Republican nod for governor.
Fiorina, a harsh critic of incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, runs failedsenator.com, a website dedicated to "documenting how Barbara Boxer has failed Californians for 30 years," referring to Boxer's career in both the House and the Senate. Fiorina's Sarah Palin-endorsed campaign has focused from the start on ousting Boxer and criticizing what she sees as an out-of-touch, out-of-control, too-large government. In a victory statement thanking her supporters, Fiorina called Boxer a "bitter partisan" who "gets an 'A' for politics and an 'F' for achievement." Real Clear Politics's average of polls gives the senator a nearly 7-point lead over her Republican opponent.
Whitman spent $80 million ($71 million from her own pockets) to win what has been dubbed the most expensive primary in the state's history. She'll face California's attorney general, former Gov. Edmund "Jerry" Brown.
A fifth woman may join the female fab four within a couple of weeks. State Rep. Nikki Haley fell just short of the majority required to win the GOP nod for governor. She won almost 49 percent of the vote and will face U.S. Rep. J. Gresham Barrett, who won almost 22 percent, in the June 22 runoff. The conservative Haley, another Palin endorsee, recently faced charges of extramarital affairs. Denying the accusations, Haley promised that if proof of the alleged infidelities surfaced after she is elected, she would resign. If Haley defeats Barrett in two weeks, she will face state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, in November.
The only race that actually produced a new public official Tuesday came in Georgia. Former state Rep. Tom Graves, another Tea Party favorite, defeated former state Sen. Lee Hawkins in a special election runoff to replace Rep. Nathan Deal, who had resigned from the House in order to run for governor. The two Republicans led the original special election on May 11 when Graves garnered 35 percent of the vote and Hawkins 23 percent. Neither earned the necessary majority in May, necessitating Tuesday's runoff. Graves' campaign expects that he will be sworn in as the newest House member from Georgia early next week.
The GOP also selected their nominees in lower profile, but still important, races in swing congressional districts around the country. In California's 11th Congressional District, attorney and businessman David Harmer won the Republican nomination to compete with incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney in November. In New Jersey's Third Congressional District, Republicans tapped former NFL offensive tackle Jon Runyan to face incumbent Democratic Rep. John Adler. And Virginia Republicans settled on a pair of nominees in contested races. In the Second Congressional District they selected auto dealer E. Scott Rigell to run against Democratic Rep. Glenn Nye. In the Fifth District nominee, attorney and state Sen. Robert Hurt will face Democrat Tom Perriello, who is seeking his second term.