Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oregon & Pennsylvania Primary/Special Election Preview

Maybe we can’t quite call it the “Super Tuesday” of congressional primary days, but based on the gravity of some of the races that will be decided this week, it wouldn’t be far off the mark. Two Democratic incumbent Senators are embroiled in stiff primary fights, and the outcome of both party primaries in Kentucky’s Senate race will weigh heavily on the competitiveness of that seat in November. All told, there are 28 elections worth watching today (by our count), with the promise of run-offs in Arkansas on June 8 if no candidate achieves a majority of the vote in their respective races. Also on tap for the weekend is the special election to replace Dem Rep. Neil Abercrombie in Hawaii’s 1st District, which is shaping up to be a disaster of Abercrombie’s making.


  • AR-Sen (D): Polling seems to indicate that the odds of Bill Halter coming out ahead of two-term incumbent Blanche Lincoln as falling somewhere between slim and none, but the presence of Paulist weirdo D.C. Morrison on the Democratic ticket may draw enough votes away from Lincoln to force a runoff in June. Outside groups have already spent millions on this race; labor has lined solidly behind Halter while Chamber of Commerce-types have funneled significant resources behind Lincoln, telling you everything you need to know about the ideological fault lines of this primary battle. If a runoff becomes a reality, expect this race to find yet another gear.
  • AR-Sen (R): Again, first place isn’t at all in question here. GOP Rep. John Boozman’s superior name recognition has given him a big edge on the other seven dwarves of the GOP field. What is at stake, though, is whether or not Boozman (like Lincoln) can avoid a resource-draining runoff, and if not, which Republican contender will advance to the next round along with him. Boozman has stayed close to the 50% mark in recent polling, with ex-state Sen. Jim Holt (the GOP’s ’04 nominee against Lincoln) and state Sen. Gilbert Baker clawing for second place.
  • AR-01 (D): With Marion Berry hitting the exits, four Dems have lined up to replace him, making a runoff a safe bet. Ex-state Sen. Tim Wooldridge, a pretty conservative dude who lost a runoff for Lt. Governor in 2006 to Bill Halter, is seen as the front-runner — a notion confirmed by the lone poll we’ve seen of this race. However, Berry’s ex-Chief of Staff, Chad Causey, leads the money race, and state Sen. Steve Bryles has raised six figures, too. State Rep. David Cook, who is probably the most liberal choice in this race (he favors the public option, according to his campaign site) is also the least well-funded, pulling in just $54,000 through the end of April.
  • AR-01 (R): Republicans made a lot of noise about stealing Berry’s seat after he announced his retirement decision, but that sense of optimism didn’t result in an upgrade in terms of candidate recruitment. Radio broadcaster Rick Crawford started his race off slowly, but has begun to pick up the pace after Berry hit the exits, and that may be enough to make this a very competitive contest in November. The only candidate to join him the Republican primary is Princella Smith, a former aide to future ex-Rep. Joe Cao. Smith has proven to be something of a dud, only raising $67K for her primary against Crawford.
  • AR-02 (D): The primary to replace retiring Rep. Rick Snyder is a pretty interesting one, with state House Speaker Robbie Wills seemingly leading the way in terms of November electability and insider connections, and state Sen. Joyce Elliott enjoying the support of the district’s liberal base. Snyder’s former Chief of Staff, David Boling, is also in the race and has raised nearly as much as Wills, so his presence can’t be overlooked, either. The Dem field is rounded out by former Clinton School of Public Service programming director Patrick Kennedy and assistant Attorney General John Adams, both of whom have not raised much money are not expected to win a significant share of the vote.
  • AR-02 (R): Rove acolyte and ex-US Attorney Tim Griffin is expected to win this primary pretty easily, seeing as how he’s been out-raising Little Rock restaurateur Scott Wallace by a 6-to-1 margin. Wallace, however, tied Griffin at 20-20 in an early April poll of the race, and enjoys the backing of Mike Huckabee.
  • AR-03 (R): Good luck sorting through this orgy of teabaggery. A whopping eight Republicans are duking it out for the right to succeed John Boozman in the House, pretty much guaranteeing that this sucker is going to a runoff in June. That early April Talk Business poll suggested that we’re looking at a three-way race between state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, Rogers Mayor Steve Womack, and the aptly-named ex-state Sen. Gunner DeLay, but ex-DEA official Steve Lowry, businessman Kurt Maddox, and ex-state Rep. Doug Matayo could also compete.


  • HI-01 (Special): There’s not a whole lot that need be said about this crazy-ass jungle election, where Republican Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou looks poised to steal this seat. He of course faces off against state Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa and ex-Rep. Ed Case, who used to represent the state’s other CD. The one final point I do want to make is that I blame this all on Neil Abercrombie. Had he not resigned unexpectedly, we’d never have wound up on this situation. I can appreciate that campaigning for the governorship of Hawaii when you are needed in D.C. can be quite a tiring task, especially for a septuagenarian. But Abercrombie knew he wanted to run long ago. He should either have stuck out his term, or not have stood for re-election in 2008. (DavidNYC)


  • KY-Sen (D): The Big One. While the tradmed seems to neglect this race in favor of seemingly shinier objects like Arlen Specter’s primary in Pennsylvania or Rand Paul’s surprising strength among Kentucky Republicans, the Democratic primary is the true race to watch out of Kentucky tonight. 2004 nominee and current Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo had enjoyed a consistent and seemingly impenetrable lead against state AG Jack Conway, the candidate with less baggage to exploit in the general election. However, recent polls have suggested that Conway is coming on strong in the home stretch of this campaign, perhaps making the race a dead heat. Research 2000 had Conway pulling within three points while SUSA only had Conway down by one. This one should be tight.
  • KY-Sen (R): This one shouldn’t be tight. You know things are bad when Trey Grayson is whining like a DUMBocrat about Fox News’ apparent preferential treatment of Rand Paul. Despite the best efforts of Mitch McConnell and Dick Cheney, it looks like the teabaggers are poised to make a major victory tonight, as Paul leads by 18 points in the latest poll of this race. A Paul win today will make this a fascinating race in the fall — one that could potentially yield some major GOP headaches.
  • KY-03 (R): Republicans are truly leaving no stone unturned in their quest to take back the House, and have a couple of warm bodies to take on two-term Dem Rep. John Yarmuth. Jeffrey Reetz, some guy who owns 25 Pizza Hut franchises, is facing off against Air Force vet Todd Lally. Both of these guys have raised six figures for their campaigns.
  • KY-06 (R): After rocking his GOP opponent by 30 points in 2008, Ben Chandler has attracted a pack of mouth-breathers this time around, two of whom are somewhat well-funded. Attorney Andy Barr has been in the race the longest, and has raised over $400K. Retired coal executive Mike Templeman is his chief competition, while four other Republicans have only managed to raise chump change for the primary and are expected to be non-factors tonight.


  • OR-Gov (D): The main story on May 18 in Oregon may be the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, as there’s been little activity that would qualify as volcanic in either party’s open seat gubernatorial primary. The Democratic primary has been a low-key and civil contest between two long-time friends, former Governor John Kitzhaber (termed out after two terms in 2002, but angling for a return) and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Bradbury has big endorsers in his corner (Al Gore, Howard Dean) and gotten local progressives revved up by running to Kitzhaber’s left, but polling gives a wide edge to Kitz. (Crisitunity)
  • OR-Gov (R): After bigger names like Greg Walden and Jason Atkinson passed, the question in the GOP primary was whether anybody other than Allen Alley, a former high-tech CEO who lost the 2008 Treasurer race, was going to show up at all. Eventually Chris Dudley, a former Portland Trail Blazers center from the 1990s, showed up and immediately assumed front-runner status simply by virtue of name rec and money. Most polling has given a lead to Dudley, but Alley seems to be closing in on him, thanks in part to Dudley’s (very large) empty-suit-ishness. Both are from the moderate end of the GOP; the more conservative options, ex-state Sen. John Lim and anti-tax initiative grifter Bill Sizemore, are there mostly to provide comic relief. (C)
  • OR-01 (R): Sports industry consultant Rob Cornilles seems to have piqued the NRCC’s interest, as they’ve touted him as the man to take down Democratic Rep. David Wu in this D+8 suburban district. Before he can tackle Wu, though, he has to survive the GOP primary. Stephan Brodhead attracted some attention with his large bankroll, but SurveyUSA‘s poll of the primary indicates the main rival to Cornilles is teabagging mortgage broker John Kuzmanich. (C)
  • OR-05 (R): Similarly, the NRCC has its favorite pony in the 5th: state Rep. Scott Bruun, a moderate from the wealthy suburban portion of this somewhat rural district. There was some brief hubbub that Bruun was vulnerable to a challenge from Tea Party-aligned retired businessman Fred Thompson (no, not that Fred Thompson), but SurveyUSA recently found that Bruun is on track to nail down the nomination. (C)


  • PA-Sen (D): The big kahuna. For a long time, a lot of observers (myself included) wondered when – or even if – Rep. Joe Sestak would go on the attack against the party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter. Well, Sestak’s certainly proved all the doubters very wrong. Polls are as tight as can be, and while he may not pull it off in the end, Sestak seems to have timed things perfectly. This should be quite the barnburner. (D)
  • PA-Gov (D): A funny thing happened on the way to the primary: After a year of desultory polling showing pretty much all candidates in the teens and single digits, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato completely pulled away from the pack. According to Pollster’s trendlines, Jack Wagner, Anthony Williams, and Joe Hoeffel are all still mired in nowheresville, so unless a lot of polling is very wrong, Onorato will be the Dem gubernatorial nominee. (D)
  • PA-03 (R): There’s a crowded field to take on freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, but only two dudes have shown serious scratch – and both because they’re self-funders: retired businessman Paul Huber, who raised $200K and loaned himself another $300K, and auto dealer and ex-city councilman Mike Kelly, who lent himself $165K on top of $80K in individual contributions. Other wannabes include Cochranton insurance agent Steven Fisher, teabagger Clayton Grabb, physician Martha Moore, and Some Dude Ed Franz, who have all raised about $30K or less. Both Huber and Kelly have been on the air with TV advertisements. A big question is whether Huber’s fundraising edge will outweigh the fact that he was a registered Democrat for 33 years – and only switched parties in 2008. (D)
  • PA-04 (R): When Bush-era US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan (one of the names that kept cropping up in the US Attorney firings scandal) got into the race, Beltway pundits seemed to think the GOP primary would be a mere formality for her before posing a strong challenge to Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire in this R+6 district in Pittsburgh’s suburbs. They didn’t count on one thing: Buchanan’s apparent ineptitude at jumping from legal practice to electoral politics. We don’t have any polls to go by, but her anti-establishment opponent, attorney Keith Rothfus has outraised her and is certainly making fewer unforced errors. (C)
  • PA-06 (D): This race pits an SSP fave, physician and veteran Manan Trivedi, against someone we simply aren’t very fond of, newspaper publisher Doug Pike. But putting aside our personal preferences, what’s going to happen here? It’s hard to say, especially since we haven’t seen any polls. Pike, thanks to massive donations from himself totaling more than a million dollars, has a big money edge. He’s also gotten his share of labor endorsements, though Trivedi has scored some of his own, as well as the backing of some key county committees. I’m rooting for Trivedi, to be sure, but I think he has an uphill fight against Pike’s bucks. (D)
  • PA-10 (R): Here’s another district where the GOP thought a former US Attorney would be just what the doctor ordered, and they didn’t quite get what they thought. Tom Marino was their hyped pick for the race, but questions about Marino’s relationship with sketchy developer Louis DeNaples have loomed large over his campaign. Marino’s fundraising has been subpar as well; what is likely to help him pull it out in the primary is that his anti-establishment opposition is split, with Snyder Co. Commissioner Malcolm Derk his most prominent foe. (C)
  • PA-11 (D): Even though there’s a long-long-time Democratic incumbent here, Rep. Paul Kanjorski, the primary is on the Democratic side, rather than for the GOP (where 2008 opponent Lou Barletta is on tap for a rematch). Up-and-coming Lackawanna Co. Commissioner Corey O’Brien is taking on Kanjorski. While he has only a fraction of Kanjorski’s money, he’s trying to outhustle the crusty Kanjorski on the ground, and also making electability arguments about the incumbent, who barely beat Barletta in the much-more favorable 2008. Without any polling, it’s hard to guess whether we’re looking at a WV-01-style unplanned retirement for Kanjorski. (C)
  • PA-12 (Special): This, by rights, should be the main event tonight, as it’s the only Democrat vs. Republican matchup anywhere. It has all the makings of a dead heat, not only in terms of polling (most recently a 1-point lead for Republican Tim Burns over Democrat Mark Critz, according to PPP), but also the lay of the land. It’s an historically Democratic district with a huge registration advantage, but it’s trending in the Republican direction as district’s aged population gets its marching orders from Fox News instead of the union hall now. Much has been made of how this R+1 district was the nation’s only one to go from backing Kerry in 2004 to McCain in 2008. Critz’s close ties to John Murtha, and the fact that the special coincides with the hotly contested Democratic Senate primary, may help Dems win the day, though. (C)
  • PA-12 (D/R): The regularly scheduled primary elections in the 12th for November are also on the same day as the special. While it’s likely that, whatever the special election outcome, Mark Critz and Tim Burns will be facing each other again in the general, that’s not guaranteed. Critz is likely to beat Ryan Bucchanieri on the Dem side, but Burns is facing a tough challenge from Bill Russell and leading only narrowly according to a recent Susquehanna poll. Russell, who was passed over by the state party for the nomination, was the 2008 candidate; he’s best known as frontman for direct-mail scammers BaseConnect, and as such, has had enough money for TV ads. Could we see a Neil Abercrombie-type result where Burns wins a special and loses a primary on the same day? (C)
  • PA-17 (D/R): Most observers expect November to be a matchup of long-time incumbent Democratic Rep. Tim Holden, and top-tier-ish GOP recruit state Sen. David Argall. Both, however, have primaries to get through first. Holden faces Democratic activist Sheila Dow-Ford, who’s attacking him over his anti-HCR vote. Meanwhile, Argall (vulnerable over the issue of legislative pay raises) is barely keeping his head above water against fractured opposition, led by veteran Frank Ryan, who’s had some surprising fundraising success. (C)
  • PA-19 (R): This has the potential to be a surprise: Rep. Todd Platts is an unusually moderate Republican given the R+12 lean of this rural district, and he’s also painted a target on his own back by publicly expressing interest on getting out of that job and moving over to head the Government Accountability Office instead. Opponent Mike Smeltzer is hoping to use that as a basis for giving Platts a good teabagging. (C)

    51 thoughts on “Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oregon & Pennsylvania Primary/Special Election Preview”

    1. It sill seems odd to me that Djou can win in Hawaii even with 2 Dems splitting the vote.  Isn’t Hawaii a pretty dominant Dem state.  I mean Akaka and Inouye usually win with HUGE margins.  I’d think Djou would be capped around 35% to be honest, which to me would still leave a decent opportunity for one of the Dems to win.

      Just seems odd that Djou has polled in the 40’s in some polls.  Wouldn’t seem like Hawaii would have a lot of anti-incumbent sentiment.  But I dont live there.  Just seems like either Dem should have a chance to win.  Must be some of the Djou votes are in fact anti-incumbent (party) votes.

    2. He has been undermining the party for years, through his voting record and his challenge to incumbents.  Now, he runs in a district that wasn’t even the one he represented in congress.

    3. Really, the big primaries today are news enough for even the most obsessive campaign junkie like myself.  Blumenthal and Souder are an overdose, I need an ambulance.

    4. N Abercrombie knows especially well the procedure for special elections in HI-01 because he was a protagonist the last time in 1986.

      But I think N Abercrombie take the correct way for let not run to L Lingle for an open seat in the House, following M Castle, until a senate seat get open.

      N Abercrombie is not responsible of other person’s mistakes. He give the chance to democratic candidates of run without L Lingle. If still they are not able of win the seat against a city councilman, N Abercrombie can not make more.

      I critizice N Abercrombie cause of run not for governor in 2002, but now I think he work right.

    5. But I get the feeling that Hanabusa is going to steal the day tonight. I think the polls have shown Case ahead because of name ID, but I don’t think that tells the whole story. I think a lot of people are going to actually go to the polls, realize that they’re about to pull the trigger on a Republican, and change their minds and vote Hanabusa.

      …or maybe that was a dream I had last night. Either way, it would be awesome.

    6. Lincoln either just over or under 50 percent.

      Mongiardo, Burns and Sestak with very narrow wins.

      Paul hits 60 percent.

    7. AR-SEN

      Lincoln 46%

      Halter 45%

      Morrison 9%


      Mongiardo 45%

      Conway 55%


      Specter 48%

      Sestak 52%

      PA-12 SPECIAL

      Burns 49%

      Critz 50%

    8. Rick Snyder is a Republican candidate for Michigan gov (“tough nerd” or whatever). Vic Snyder is the congressman.

    9. Heard that turnout is SO low in PA12 it might actually help Critz because of the registration advantage/ancesteral stuff. On the other hand, if that’s true in other non-Philly areas in PA, it might be bad news for Sestak.

    10. Is there any evidence (aside from being a member of the “Main Street Partnership”) that Platts has shown any deviations from the party line? He’s not one of the Republicans I think of as showing any independent thought, but of course, he’s such a back-bencher I couldn’t tell you anything about him.

    11. usually win with HUGE margins because they usually run against nobody. When Akaka had a substantial opponent in 2006 he won by not so large 61-37, despite the fact that the opponent was a replacement candidate, and, because of very late Hawaii primary date, literally had 1 month to assemble some sort of campaign. Republicans have at least some base in the state as obvious from 3 campaigns for Governor by Lingle, Bush percentage in 2004 and so on. So, Democrats, while surely a majority party in the state, doesn’t always have an overwhelming majority as Obama had in 2008. Republican, especially such as Djou, who began to campaign somewhere right after 2006 elections, can surely get at least 40% of vote. That will be enough this time. And, because of this year climate and usual “love” the state shows to it’s incumbents – may be enough even in November…

    12. That would leave 65% for the two Democrats to split.  If split evenly, they’d both have 32.5%.  You also have to figure that there may be other parties eating into the remaining 65%, so the two Democrats would be splitting less than 65%.

    13. … not overwhelmingly so. Home stater Obama skewed the results in 2008 but in 2004 Kerry won the 1st CD by only 53-47. The district leans dem but not enough to overcome a split of the dem vote.

    14. Well that’s good to know.  I dont see them doing anything close to their winning in November.

    15. is that Akaka has been in the Senate for nearly 20 years and has barely anything to show for it except for a string of party-line votes and a couple of bills to rename post offices. The guy’s an ineffectual backbencher, which is why so much of his support is soft. The 2006 result was less Republicans being viable under normal circumstances and more Akaka being a weak incumbent who has been saved more by the partisan leaning of his state than by any actual accomplishments. Run the same guy against Inouye and he’d get creamed.  

    16. per http://www.swingstateproject.c

      the ’86 special had other candidates – it was also a 3-way split of major candidates. Minor candidates took 10% of the vote.

      My prediction on HI-01:

      Djou: 40%

      Case: 30%

      Hanabusa: 20%

      Others: 10%

      It will look worse early in the count. History in OR and WA mail-in elections suggest that Ds return their votes later in the process. That seems consistent with the Ward research poll of about a week ago.

      Apparently, turnout is already pretty high, ref… , 35% as of 5 days ago.

      If HI announces its votes as they count them (after 6pm Hawaii time), then –wild guess– if either of the 2 Ds are within 5% with say 50% counted, there will still be hope of stopping Djou.

    17. But only if Djou will have very moderate record. At least as moderate as Saiki or Lingle.

    18. Who really had no substantive reason to do so doesn’t seem deserving of elected office.

      The fact that this guy was also a Blue Dog is really reason enough.

    19. Ed Case is the Joe Lieberman of Hawaiian politics, and, if I’m not mistaken, he jumped into the race AFTER Abercrombie left to run for Governor. Sure, Abercrombie miscalculated (mainly by underestimating Case’s ego and willingness to screw his own party), but if Case hadn’t decided to throw his turgid ego into the race to begin with, Hanabusa would paste Djou easily.

      I also blame Hawaii for having a stupid jungle primary this long after even Louisiana realized that the system didn’t work and replaced it with a normal election. If it were still 2002 or even 2004 I could understand it, but in 2010 everyone involved in making decisions about election format really should know better.

      Blaming Abercrombie for a mess that was primarily created by Case and the Hawaii SoS is like blaming Paul Hodes for (probably) losing NH-02 to Charlie Bass because NH Dems took leave of their senses and nominated born-loser Katrina Swett as his replacement. Unless we’re to punish all decent progressives who want to move up, it seems a ridiculous argument to me.  

    20. Abercrombie certainly. Case and Hanabusa for not sorting it out between them. The DCCC and Inouye and Akaka too. Frankly, though I’ll take a Critz win given the choice.

    21. Is sad, but seems some people take the same way than in 1986 without learn nothing.

      P Saiki (R) win in 1986 the 59.20% of the vote.

    22. Abercrombie couldn’t have known that the DCCC was going to screw the pooch as massively as they did by backing Case instead of the obvious candidate who already had all of the support, thus starting a major backlash against mainland intervention in favor of the unpopular candidate that could well have pushed a lot of fence-sitters to vote for Djou.

    23. It made no difference since they split the vote whatever. Not that they ever actually endorsed him. The DCCC does deserve criticism for a piss poor anti-Djou ad strategy.

    24. AR-Sen: Lincoln at just over 50%, Boozman at maybe 55%, both avoiding runoffs.

      KY-Sen: Conway in a squeaker. Paul wins going away.

      PA-12: Critz pulls it out

      (and I don’t have to start looking for Chicken Little tapes to emulate)

      PA-Sen: Sestak wins by over 5%

      OR-Gov: Kitzhaber over Bradbury, 60:30. Alley over Dudley 40:30 –remainder to minor candidates.

      HI-01: 40/30/20 Djou/Case/Hanabusa

    25. I think Sestak wins Conway goes to a recount and eeks it out, and Halter keeps blanche under 50% forcing a runoff.


      Sestak 52%

      Specter 48%

      Critz wins by 51 to 49


      Conway 49%

      Mongiardo 49%


      Halter 45%

      Blanche 49%

    26. AR-Sen:

      Blanche Lincoln – 50%

      Bill Halter – 42%

      D.C. Morrison – 8%

      KY-Sen (D):

      Dan Mongiardo – 50%

      Jack Conway – 46%

      KY-Sen (R):

      Rand Paul – 56%

      Trey Grayson – 42%


      Arlen Specter – 51%

      Joe Sestak – 49%


      Tim Burns – 52%

      Mark Critz – 48%

    27. I too.

      Well, I need an ambulance since a week or more. These fight in primaries between democrats shock me.

      It was difficult, but Souder (I think over Blumenthal) give us the biggest scandal of the day, leaving his office.

      I hope SSP give Souder his own article for we can give to Souder his tribute. He deserve :).

    28. Overly optimistic, I mean Conway and Mongiardo seem to be in a dead heat, what makes you think that Conway will win by 10 points?

    29. Sestak has the momentum, Conway and Mongiardo are pretty much tied in the polling, Critz also has momentum in that PA-12 race, and Blanche has a lot of negatives as well as screw ups, and probably won’t beat a runoff see:


    30. Unfortunately, since except for Sestak I’m not fond of any of the candidates we are predicting to win. (and I have mixed feelings about Sestak, to be honest).

      Wierdly, the one I hope I’m most wrong is Kentucky, not the Penn special election. I would gladly trade a Burns win for a Conaway win.  

    31. And even there Critz was gaining. It is so tight anything is possible. Wouldn’t surprise me to see it under a thousand votes either way.

    32. Does that mean Sestak is looking for more turnout in western PA?

      (probably reading too much into it)

    33. Nice weather + campaign ads blanketing the area for over a month + a close race – kind of makes you wonder what it takes to get people to the polls.

    34. That we should look more at 2000 for a fair baseline since Bush was boosted in 2004 by the incumbancy factor Hawaiians seem to love. Obviously that helps Djou but 55-39 looks about right to me.

    35. Lincoln doesn’t like wearing makeup either. Though I support Halter in the primary, I can sympathize with Lincoln. I don’t like wearing makeup either unless it’s a very very very special occasion.

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