Rep. Matheson's progressive challenge

The results of Tuesday's Democratic primary in Utah's 2nd congressional district should offer a window into the limits of this cycle's anti-incumbent fervor.  

The Democrat running to the left of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) in Tuesday's primary has no real organization or money to speak of. Candidate Claudia Wright's campaign manager told the Ballot Box she couldn't even afford to conduct a poll, so the campaign had no real idea where it stood heading into Tuesday.

Wright's bio has grabbed some attention in the race. She is a former member of the Mormon church, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, and she is openly gay. 

It's worth watching to see just how much of the vote Wright can win Tuesday. If a candidate with absolutely no money or political experience to speak of can have a solid showing against an incumbent like Matheson in a district like Utah's 2nd, it could mean Democrats have an even larger problem among their base than they already fear.

Wright got into the race after responding to a Craigslist ad seeking a primary challenger for Matheson, whose vote against healthcare has angered some on the left.   

Matheson, the five-term incumbent, is at least taking Wright seriously. His campaign has received a financial boost from some fellow Blue Dogs and is backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.        

Progressive primary challengers have had mixed results this cycle. Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter came up just short in his bid against Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a tough loss for liberal interests that spent close to $10 million to oust her. But progressives point to Rep. Joe Sestak's primary win in Pennsylvania over Sen. Arlen Specter as the cycle's major victory. 

In House races, progressive challenges to sitting Democrats have fallen flat. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) easily survived a challenge from Marcy Winograd, and North Carolina Reps. Health Shuler (D) and Larry Kissell (D) both managed more than 60 percent of the vote against underfunded progressive primary challengers.   


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