Matheson survives primary

Rep. Jim Matheson successfully beat back a primary challenge from his left Tuesday in the form of Democrat Claudia Wright.

The Associated Press called the race for Matheson with the incumbent leading 68 percent to 32.

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Wright, a teacher who said she was motivated to enter the race because of Matheson's opposition to President Barack Obama's healthcare plan, waged a campaign that was largely devoid of resources. Wright's campaign manager said before Tuesday's vote that he sensed the race was close, but had no real way of knowing where his candidate stood since the campaign was unable to afford a pollster.

Democrats found Wright after she responded to a Craigslist ad seeking a primary opponent for Matheson. At the state Democratic convention in May, Matheson was unable to win enough delegates to avoid a primary with Wright.

It was Wright's bio that garnered the most attention given the conservative nature of the district. She is a former member of the Mormon church, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young and openly gay.

Despite his opponent's lack of resources, Matheson didn't take anything for granted. Given the anti-incumbent environment that has defined much of the 2010 season so far, Matheson spent some $750,000 over the course of the primary, according to Federal Election Commission reports. He also had the financial backing of several members of the House's Blue Dog Coalition and the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Wright is one of several progressive challengers to have emerged to run against Democratic incumbents this primary season; the challengers have had little success. In California, Rep. Jane Harman easily survived a challenge from Marcy Winograd (D), and North Carolina Reps. Health Shuler and Larry Kissell both emerged unscathed after facing primary challenges from more liberal Democrats.

The National Republican Congressional Committee quickly labeled Matheson politically "damaged" after the primary, accusing him of tacking to the left in order to beat Wright. In a campaign memo, the NRCC said Matheson "has damaged his credibility as a moderate in this largely conservative district."

Matheson will face Republican Morgan Philpot in November.


This post was updated at 12:20 a.m.