Hatch, a six-term senator, ran what many GOP strategists considered a strong campaign against a tea-party-backed opponent, providing a possible road map for other Republican incumbents facing similar primary challenges in the coming years. The race was another example of an ideological divide that has framed the debate about the future of the GOP for much of the past year.
Rangel, a 42-year member of the House and former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was tripped up by ethics rules that were stricter in recent years than when he began his career in Congress, and colleagues rebuked him on the House floor 18 months ago. It was the chamber’s first censure of a member in nearly three decades.
Hatch entered Tuesday in a stronger position and was quickly declared the winner as early returns showed him leading by nearly 40 percentage points. With more 80 percent of the precincts reporting, Rangel led his closest rival, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, 47 percent to 38 percent, with three other candidates splitting the remaining votes.
Rangel, the dean of the New York congressional delegation and one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, also was threatened by redistricting and related demographic shifts.
Sometimes referred to as the “congressman from Harlem,” Rangel has been an influential voice on issues important to black voters everywhere. But a majority of the voters in his newly drawn district are Hispanic. Rangel spent his final days of the primary campaign targeting Puerto Rican voters in his bid for a 22nd term. He faced a strong challenge from Espaillat, 57, who would have been the first Dominican American in Congress.
“Am I too old to run for reelection?” Rangel, 82, who missed two months of work in the winter after a virus left him unable to walk, asked reporters rhetorically after casting his vote. He did a slight dance move as supporters chanted his name, predicting that “we’re going to win this one.”
Both Hatch and Rangel — the former a devout Mormon from deeply red Utah and the latter raised by a single mother during Harlem’s heyday of influence on African American culture — are known for their ideological verve but also have long histories of bipartisan deal-making in a broad range of areas, including health-care legislation and international trade deals. Both are virtually guaranteed to win in the November general election.
Unlike in the not-so-distant past, when longtime lawmakers of their stature would have cruised through their parties’ primaries, Hatch and Rangel joined the ranks of a growing number of incumbents who were forced into battles against up-and-coming opponents and outside interest groups dedicated to upending the establishment in both parties.