There were some interesting winners and losers last night…let’s examine the trends in the Republican Congressional Primaries….
Tea-Party Candidates can win Congressional races…but only in the “right” parts of Florida – namely the more rural or conservative bastions of the state farther from larger cities. Fundraising also plays a role.
In Congressional District 3, long term incumbent Congressman Cliff Stearns went mostly after State Senator Steve Oelrich. But it was Ted Yoho, unknown in Florida political circles until now, who won. Yoho has lived in North Central Florida for more than 3 decades. He ran an aggressive campaign against Stearns, including a TV ad showing men in suits feeding from a pig trough. Yoho said he had grown increasingly disillusioned with leaders in Washington who were afraid to take on big challenges, such as shoring up Social Security and fixing the immigration system. ”I stand 100 percent behind the tenets of the tea party.” he said in an interview. This is a rural area of Florida. Yoho should win the general election. The precincts in this district voted 59-39 in favor of McCain in 2008.
In a seven-way primary in District 6, Ron DeSantis, another political newcomer, won. DeSantis trounced his six GOP opponents. The attorney beat second-place Fred Costello, a state representative; St. Johns County School Board member Bev Slough; former steakhouse executive Craig Miller; and Jacksonville City Councilman Richard Clark. DeSantis, who could not be reached for comment, had a wide money lead and was the only candidate able to run a districtwide race. Other candidates fought for regional votes in St. Johns and Volusia counties. He was able to ride a wave of national support — and money — after receiving national endorsements from former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, FreedomWorks, and Club for Growth, who congratulated DeSantis after his victory became official. Ron served as a JAG prosecutor, and deployed to Iraq as an advisor for a U.S. Navy SEAL commander in support of the SEAL counterinsurgency mission. You could say this was a tea-party win. DeSantis should be a shoe-in for the general election. Read more here. The precincts in this district voted 53-45 in favor of McCain in 2008.
Trey Radel, a former Southwest Florida television and radio personality, was the surprise winner in Tuesday’s District 19 Congressional race, buoyed by an endorsement from outgoing Rep. Connie Mack. Chauncey Goss came in second in the district with about 21.5 percent. Goss, 46, of Sanibel Island, was endorsed by Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who is Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president. Ryan was in Southwest Florida two weeks ago stumping for Goss. It should be noted that Radel also had a large money advantage. While this wouldn’t qualify as a rural area of the state, it does qualify as one of the most conservative districts. Read more here. Radel should be a shoe-in for the general election. The precincts in this district voted 57-42 for McCain.
The running theme in the above primaries is that they are the most conservative districts in the state. The winning candidates were well-funded comparatively. They were all running in races with former elected officials. None of the former electeds one. This is a sign of tea party strength…at the Congressional level, in these most conservative districts in the state.
Now let’s head to the less conservative districts surrounding bigger cities. Apparently, the more suburban and urban Republicans voting in primaries in these areas don’t have a lot of love for the tea party.
In District 7, which is made up of areas around Orlando, John Mica trounced Tea-Party darling Sandy Adams 61-38. Mica had a distinct fundraising advantage and longer ties to the area. The endorsements of Sarah Palin and Allen West didn’t seem to do much for Sandy Adams. McCain barely beat Obama in this district 49.9-49.1. Mica should win it quite easily. Perhaps Congressman Mica came to the same conclusion we did when he decided not to run in District 6. Knowing his district, he probably saw the writing on the wall and knew that he would face Tea-Party opponents in areas where they could win. His move to run in District 7 now seems awfully smart.
In District 13, which is made up of Pinellas county, C.W. Bill Young cruised to an easy victory. There were no viable challengers to the long term incumbent. This district voted narrowly 51-47 for Obama in 2008. But the fact that no tea-party challengers arose is indicative of the mood of the electorate. This might also fall into the “no viable alternative category” of primaries.
In the new District 9, which With all precincts reporting, Todd Long won 47.3 percent of the vote, besting attorney Osceola CountyCommission Chairman John Quiñones’ 28.3 percent, Osceola School Board Vice Chairman Julius Melendez’s 15 percent and Polk County businessman Mark Oxner’s 9.5 percent. The third time was the charm for Long, who lost Republican primaries in the 8th District in 2008 and 2010. In the 9th, Quiñones had been the favorite of the Republican Party establishment, and as chairman of the Osceola County Commission, had high name recognition. And Melendez has spent four years on the Osceola County School Board. But in the end, Long didn’t have trouble with either one. He credited the strength of his volunteer base — many of them tea partiers — with spreading his message. But some anti-Quinones advertising by Alan Grayson, the Democratic nominee for this district, may have helped Long over the top. Read more here. Obama beat McCain in this district 60-38. Registered voters are 43.4 percent Democratic and just 28.2 percent Republican in this district, so it looks like it might mark the unfortunate return of Alan Grayson.
Our theory runs into problems here. Though this district has lots of rural areas, it is also heavily Hispanic. More than 41 percent of the voting-age population is Hispanic. While the most “tea-party” candidate won, the ethnicity of the candidates versus the ethnicity of the Republican primary voters may have come into play – with assistance from Grayson.
Now onto the remaining races…they fall into two categories:
No viable alternative primaries.
With late entries or underfunded challengers, these races were over before they began…with the incumbents winning.
District 4 – Ander Crenshaw easily won reelection in a district that will most assuredly elect him in November.
District 13 – see above for C.W. Bill Young.
District 18. Allen West, who had $10.8 million to his opponent’s $75,000, easily won the primary.
And then there are the win-to-lose primaries.
District 14 – Evelio “EJ” Otero won. He raised $100,000. His opponent: $0. His opponent still claimed almost 40% of the primary vote. This district voted 65-34 for Obama in 2008. Kathy Castor will be easily reelected.
District 23 – Karen Harrington won a crowded primary to be the eventual loser to Debbie Wasserman Schultz. This district voted 62-37 in favor of Obama. We predicted Ms. Harrington to be the winner, and we predict her to lose to Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the November election.