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Midterm Morsels: House

A Commentary by Isaac T. Wood

Friday, June 25, 2010

While this week's House primaries and runoffs could not match the June 8th contests in sheer number, they made up for it in drama, intrigue, and good old fashioned controversy. Here are five quick takes from the most interesting of those races that were on the ballot Tuesday.

SC-1: Oh the times, they are a-changing. After state legislator Tim Scott captured 31% of the vote in a nine-way primary, he handily defeated Paul Thurmond (the son of former segregationist presidential candidate and long-time Senator Strom Thurmond) in a runoff, winning over two-thirds of the vote. Scott should cruise to victory in this open seat race against Democratic nominee Ben Frasier, which would make Scott the only African-American on the Republican side of the aisle in Congress, and the first black GOP congressman since 2003. Democrats claim that this district is trending their way, pointing to a close 52%-48% race in 2008, but this is simply not their year nor their preferred candidate.

SC-4: The latest incumbent to lose his primary bid for re-nomination is Bob Inglis, who was done in by prosecutor Trey Gowdy, losing the runoff 71%-29% in an embarrassing rejection of a sitting member of Congress. The GOP is still almost certain to hold the seat, which is the second-most Republican district in deep-Red South Carolina. Before you start crowing about how Inglis’ loss underscores the anti-incumbent year this is becoming, note that he is just the fifth congressional incumbent, and only the third sitting House member, to lose a primary so far this year. Conversely, the number who have been re-nominated now stands at 240. A winning percentage of 98% isn’t so bad!

NC-8: On Tuesday night, Republicans dodged a bullet from a machine gun enthusiast. Despite coming in first during the initial primary balloting, controversial candidate Tim D’Annunzio decisively lost the runoff to former sportscaster Harold Johnson. D’Annunzio garnered national headlines, none of them good, for holding a “machine gun social” fundraising event, claiming to have found the Ark of the Covenant, hiding a myriad of past legal run-ins, and telling a radio host, “There’s a special place in hell for people like you.” The state GOP rallied behind Johnson, fearing an excellent takeover opportunity would be lost if D’Annunzio prevailed. Instead, Johnson moves on to face freshman Democrat Larry Kissell in a battleground district. At the moment, the election leans Democrats’ way, but with Johnson bearing the Republican mantle a pick-up here is certainly a possibility.

NC-13: Move over Joe Barton, someone else has some ideas about the BP oil spill they would like to take to Washington. Insurance agent William Randall won the GOP primary runoff despite suggesting that the BP oil spill was an intentional conspiracy between Obama and BP. This seat was never really in play, as Democratic Rep. Brad Miller is well-liked in a reasonably Democratic district, but these sorts of whacky ideas never reflect well on the party a candidate is representing. Randall, who is African-American, will not be the first black GOP candidate with controversial viewpoints to challenge Miller. In the 2006 election, Miller’s opponent Vernon Robinson ran ads which included the memorable lines, “Brad Miller pays for sex, but not for body armor for our troops,” and “If Miller had his way, America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals.” Miller won with two-thirds of the vote against Robinson and seems headed for a similar fate against Randall in 2010, in this safe Democratic race.

UT-2: In a primary liberals were looking at as one of their last chances to knock of a conservative Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jim Matheson prevailed easily with almost 70% of the vote despite having been forced into the primary because of a weak showing at the party convention. His opponent, retired teacher Claudia Wright would have been a likely general election loser as a liberal, openly gay candidate in a very conservative and heavily Republican district. Democrats decided, however, to stick with Matheson, a five-term incumbent, to face former state legislator Morgan Philpot, the Republican nominee, in what starts as a safe Democratic race.

Isaac T. Woods is the House Race Editor for Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia.

See Other Political Commentary

See Other Commentaries By Isaac T. Wood

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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