GOP primaries

GOP primaries

GOP House primaries in Michigan remain too close to call

The Republican primary races in Michigan's 1st and 2nd congressional districts remained too close to call on Wednesday morning.

A handful of votes separate the GOP front-runners in the 1st district, while several hundred votes separate the top challengers in the 2nd.

Republican physician Dan Benishek leads state Sen. Jason Allen (R) by a total of 12 votes, virtually ensuring a recount.

Meanwhile, in the 2nd district, 660 votes separate former state Rep. Bill Huizenga and former football player Jay Riemersma.

Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) retirement from his 1st district seat in April gave Republicans hope of picking up his long-held seat.

But, in the end, the crowded field trailed Benishek and Allen. Benishek raised over $440,000, much of it during the healthcare debate that featured Stupak front and center. Stupak announced his retirement after supporting the landmark reform legislation.

In the GOP primary, Allen perceived Benishek was vulnerable for his support of the Fair Tax and spent the last week of the campaign hitting him on the proposal as well as on social issues.

Don Hopper, meanwhile, bled into Benishek’s support from the Tea Party groups. The winner faces state Rep. Gary McDowell (D), who ran unopposed on the Democratic side. It’s expected to be a difficult race for both parties.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra's (R-Mich.) campaign for governor prompted a run of conservative candidates into the 2nd district primary. Riemersma, a former NFL and University of Michigan tight end, was considered the front-runner during the primary.

State Sen. Wayne Kuipers (R), Huizenga (R) and businessman Bill Cooper (R) rounded out the top of the field. But Riemersma considerably outraised his opponents in addition to dropping more than $200,000 of his own fortune into his campaign.

On the Democratic side, it was a two-way race between college Professor Fred Johnson and Lake County Commissioner Nicolete McClure.

The GOP campaign turned heated when Huizenga filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging Riemersma illegally coordinated strategy with a federally regulated political action committee (PAC) run by former GOP national committeeman Charles Yob and his son, political operative John Yob.

The PAC paid for radio ads attacking Huizenga and Kuipers, according to the complaint.

Riemersma denied the charge.

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Tuesday Night Special

The Ballot Box will be following returns from Tuesday’s highly competitive House and Senate primaries.

Voting is still under way but polls are getting set to close.
 
In Michigan and Missouri polls are open until 8 p.m. In Kansas, polls close at 9 p.m. (all times Eastern).

Check back later for results from the states' top nominating contests.

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Simmons restarts Senate campaign

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) took steps Wednesday to revive his Senate primary campaign against  former WWE CEO Linda McMahon. 

The New London (Conn.) Day reported that Simmons plans to air television ads asking voters to “look at the issues” before voting in the Aug. 10 primary election.

The ad will start airing statewide on broadcast and cable by the end of the week. The buy runs about $350,000 according to a Simmons spokesman. 

Simmons, a Vietnam War veteran, suspended his campaign in May, citing the ability of McMahon, who is partly self-funding her campaign, to outspend him. McMahon had previously won the nomination of the Connecticut Republican Party.

By suspending his campaign, Simmons left open the possibility of returning to the trail. His name would remain in the primary ballot regardless. 

After he decided to suspend his campaign, observers questioned whether or not Simmons would re-enter the race. After dropping out, he cast doubt on McMahon’s ability to win the race against Democratic nominee Richard Blumenthal. Both candidates had polled behind Blumenthal.

“Rob Simmons has said many times he’s a man of his word, and we take him at his word,” McMahon spokesman Ed Patru said. “Should he decide to officially un-curtail his campaign, we’re prepared for that, as we have been since September 2009.”

His press release, the Day said, claims that he will spend part of his remaining war chest on television ads.

“For the past two months, I have been traveling the state supporting my fellow Republican candidates,” Simmons said. “Everywhere I go people ask me if I am still running for the U.S. Senate. My response has been ‘I’m still on the ballot.’”

—Updated 4:52 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

--Shane D'Aprile contributed to this post.

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Palin backs Sen. Murkowski's primary opponent

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) endorsed a Republican primary challenger to incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Wednesday.

Palin said she is backing attorney Joe Miller in his GOP primary effort to unseat Murkowski, a member of the Senate Republican leadership.

{mosads}"I’m proud to join so many other long-time Alaskans in supporting Joe Miller in the upcoming Alaska Republican Primary," the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate wrote in a Facebook post.

"Unfortunately, Lisa Murkowski and much of the political establishment have recently evolved into being a bigger part of the big government problem in Washington, and they’ve strayed from the principles upon which they had espoused," Palin later added.

Palin's endorsement is arguably the most high-profile challenge she's made to establishment Republicans in Washington, where Murkowski serves as vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Palin and the Murkowski family, an Alaska political dynasty, have suffered from legendarily frosty relations. Palin challenged Murkowski's father, incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), in a 2006 Republican primary that led to Palin eventually winning the general election.

Since then, Murkowski has openly warned Palin against backing a GOP challenger to her reelection, and blasted the governor when she resigned from office last year.

"I am deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded," Murkowski said last year.

While Palin had stayed on the sidelines until now in the race, her husband, Todd Palin, had openly been backing Miller's candidacy.

The primary is August 24.

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Gingrich: Bennett not perceived as enough of a fighter

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Sunday that even though he had endorsed Sen. Robert Bennett, his ousting last weekend at Utah's GOP convention was a "sign of anger of the American people."

"Bennett is a very reasonable person," Gingrich said. "I think they wanted someone to come and fight."

The speaker said on "Fox News Sunday" that he expected the voter anger to carry through into the fall.

"I think voters are very upset and should be," he said, predicting that Republican Meg Whitman would win the governor's seat in California.

Gingrich also commented on the race between Democrats Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, with an aside to former GOP Specter.

"I did one of his last Republican fundraisers for him and always wished he returned the money," he said.

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Hatch not taking sides in race to replace Bennett

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) Tuesday would not say which candidate he supports to replace his ousted colleague, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah).

Delegates at the state GOP convention this weekend did not select the three-term senator to appear on the primary ballot, meaning that political newcomers Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater will vie for the party's nomination.

Observers say Bennett's stunning defeat is a further sign incumbents will be in trouble this fall.

"Either one of them would be a good senator and I have to go by what the population says," Hatch said on MSNBC.

The senior senator said that he too would have trouble winning reelection in this political climate.

"If I would have been up this year, it would be difficult for anybody," he said.

Hatch lamented the loss of his colleague, saying he "felt very badly for Sen. Bennett."

Cross-posted to the Briefing Room

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