Rep. Bachus survives tough primary contest

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) survived a hazardous Republican primary challenge Tuesday, besting his top opponent, state Sen. Scott Beason, by more than 30 points.

By topping 50 percent of the vote, Bachus also averted a potential runoff in April to determine the party’s nominee. Bachus took 59 percent to Beason’s 27 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Two other GOP candidates each garnered less than 15 percent. Bachus is favored to win the general election in the GOP-leaning district.

Bachus ran unopposed in 2010 for his 10th term in the House, where he chairs the House Financial Services Committee. That year he topped his GOP primary opponent by more than 50 points. But for the first time in years, Bachus found himself in dangerous territory, with ethics allegations and anti-incumbency fervor nipping at his heels.

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The Birmingham, Ala., congressman was one of a handful of prominent House members accused of improperly using inside information to his advantage on the stock market, and in addition to being singled out in a “60 Minutes” report, is also under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics. Bachus has said he expects to be cleared.

Bachus also found himself in the sights of the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a new group aiming to pick off incumbents it argues have hung around the Capitol too long. The group lost its bet on Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who lost his Super Tuesday primary fight with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).

But they scored a win that same day when Brad Wenstrup, a political newcomer the group backed, defeated Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) in the GOP primary and made her the first primary victim of the 2012 cycle.

The group spent almost $170,000 in the race to unseat Bachus, who spent about $1.5 million to win the primary and has even more stored up for the general election. Bachus fought back in television ads and polling showed him with a sizable, but Schmidt’s defeat one week earlier caught Republicans off guard and left them unsure of what effect anti-incumbent campaign could have.

Beason, a champion of the state’s controversial immigration crackdown, struggled to raise the cash needed to mount a serious challenge, raising less than $55,000 for his fight against Bachus.

Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) was also targeted by the group, but escaped defeat on Tuesday, handily defeating Dean Young.

— Updated at 1:10 p.m.