By Sean J. Miller - 06/21/10 11:18 PM EDT
Two more members of Congress could lose their seats Tuesday, while Utah Republicans will pick who will likely be their next senator.
Reps. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) are fighting off primary challengers in order to stay in the race until November.
Inglis closed the final days of the runoff election by touting his experience. “In times like this, we need experienced leaders,” he said during the final candidates forum Monday at the Poinsett Club in Greenville.
Gowdy, who bested Inglis by some 12 points, has called for change.
“Unless you want more of the same, you have to change leadership,” he said at the midday event, according to WYFF News 4.
Matheson, a Blue Dog Democrat, faces a runoff with retired schoolteacher Claudia Wright, who won a surprising 45 percent at the Utah Democratic Party convention in May.
The five-term incumbent’s first-ever primary is thought to have been sparked by his vote against the health reform bill. Wright got into the race after responding to an ad on Craigslist posted by liberal activist Tim DeChristopher.
Matheson has taken the race seriously, vigorously campaigning and running a series of TV ads.
Three other members of the House have lost in various primaries this cycle.
Meanwhile, Utah Republicans will choose between businessman Tim Bridgewater (R) and attorney Mike Lee (R) for the Senate nomination.
Given Utah’s red-state status, the winner of the nomination is expected to prevail in November and replace Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) in Washington.
A pre-primary poll released over the weekend showed Lee trailing by nine points, but had 25 percent of the 581 likely GOP primary voters surveyed as still undecided. The Deseret News/KSL-TV survey, conducted June 12-17, found that 42 percent planned to support Bridgewater and 33 percent were going for Lee.
Lee’s supporters say the filter the poll used was too broad and that the majority of primary voters who will cast ballots will support him over Bridgewater.
Bridgewater’s campaign has taken some heart from the poll but still plans an aggressive Election Day push.
Bridgewater is appearing at several honk-and-waves around the state Tuesday and his campaign plans to make 50,000 calls to its supporters, according to Tiffany Gunnerson, a spokeswoman for his campaign. “Our focus now is on turnout.”
About 140,000 of the close to 1 million registered voters in the state are expected to vote in the GOP primary.
“Unfortunately, I think that the turnout is going to be fairly low,” Dave Hansen, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, told The Ballot Box. “Some are predicting around 10 percent; some are saying it could go as high as 15. We’re all doing everything we can to encourage everyone to vote. We’ll have to wait and see — the weather will be good.”
The Tea Party Express (TPE) launched a get-out-the-vote effort on behalf of Lee on Monday.
The group, which helped Sharron Angle win the Republican Senate nomination in Nevada, will get its 375,000-strong national membership to call into Utah to encourage Republicans to get to the polls for Lee on Tuesday.
“Our membership is excited about Mike Lee’s candidacy, and we’re working hard to get his supporters to the polls,” Bryan Shroyer, the group’s political director, said in a statement.
The group has also spent “tens of thousands of additional dollars” on radio ads supporting Lee.
Both candidates have been boosted by endorsements. Lee got the backing of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and former Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), in addition to the TPE endorsement, while Bridgewater was endorsed by Bennett; David Kirkham, a Utah Tea Party organizer; the Chamber of Commerce; former Gov. Mike Leavitt (R); and fourth-place GOP convention finisher Cherilyn Eagar (R).
“The fact that he had Bennett endorse him and also Cherilyn Eagar endorse him, that I think helps him a bit, but I don’t think this race is going to be decided on endorsements,” Hansen said. “You have Tea Party people on both sides of this race in Utah. I don’t think you can draw a conclusion that the Tea Party people are supporting one over the other.”
And in North Carolina, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) faces former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) in the Senate primary runoff on Tuesday.
Both have closed by arguing they’re the best contender to take on Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
Cunningham, the Democratic establishment’s pick, has been on a “Beat Burr” tour, where he’s talked up his prospects of unseating the incumbent. Marshall’s camp, meanwhile, released a memo last week stating that she has “avoided the scandals that have plagued other politicians” and therefore is the “strongest candidate.”
Recent polls have shown Burr doing well against either Democrat in the general election.
Miller is a campaign reporter for The Hill. He can be found on The Hill’s Ballot Box, located at thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box.