By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
In the shadow of the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut, angry voters in three states showed their discontent last night by unseating two incumbents and choosing a candidate who campaigned against his primary opponent's bipartisan past.
The defeat of Georgia's outspoken Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) and Michigan moderate Rep. John J.H. "Joe" Schwarz (R) appeared to confirm the strong headwinds that polls suggest members of Congress will face in November from an angry electorate looking for change.
McKinney lost to former DeKalb County commissioner Hank Johnson in a runoff election. Schwarz was defeated in the Republican primary by a conservative challenger, Tim Walberg.
Meanwhile, Colorado's Ed Perlmutter, who ran as "a Democrat's Democrat," defeated former state representative Peggy Lamm and a third candidate.
"I don't want to read too much into primary results, because by their very nature [primary voters] are different from the broader electorate, but what these races suggest is that, yes, the antiwar, anti-Bush, anti-establishment, anti-Washington message is very effective," said Amy Walter, a House political analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
In suburban Atlanta, voters in the 4th District went to the polls with memories of McKinney's scuffle with a Capitol Police officer still fresh. Controversy has long followed McKinney, who also lost the primary in 2002.
In western Michigan, Schwarz was beaten by Walberg, a former state representative who garnered conservative money and support nationwide with his contention that the freshman lawmaker had been too liberal and compromising for the largely rural 7th District. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Walberg had 53 percent of the votes and Schwarz 47 percent.
In suburban Denver, Perlmutter, a former state senator, emerged as the Democratic candidate in Colorado's 7th District after attacking his main rival, Lamm, for her willingness to forge bipartisan compromises with Republicans. Perlmutter had 53 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Lamm, with 92 percent of precincts reporting.
The six-term lawmaker grabbed national headlines in March for striking a police officer who attempted to stop her as she skirted a metal detector in a House office building. McKinney, who is black, said race was a factor in the officer's stopping her when most members routinely breeze by security monitors.
McKinney also caused a stir in 2002 when she suggested that President Bush may have had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. That year, she lost the Democratic primary to a more moderate black candidate, Denise L. Majette. State Rep. Billy McKinney spelled out the reason for his daughter's political troubles that election night: "J-E-W-S."
When Majette gave up her seat to run for the Senate in 2004, Cynthia McKinney won back the House seat. But the enmity with many Jewish and moderate voters remained. In a three-way primary last month, McKinney finished first with 47 percent of the vote while Johnson, a relative novice, received 44 percent.
But Johnson, who is also black, came on strong in the run-up to yesterday's showdown. McKinney attributed his success to Republicans crossing over to vote against her and financing his campaign. Prominent Georgia Republicans, such as failed gubernatorial candidate Guy Millner and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, have backed Johnson, but so have prominent Democrats, including former governor Roy Barnes.
McKinney's campaign yesterday lashed out at "voting irregularities," citing police harassment, poll workers refusing to hand out Democratic ballots, "insecure" voting machines casting wayward votes, and some ballots missing McKinney's name.
In Michigan, Walberg showed that voters of both parties are in an uncompromising mood. The ordained minister had the support of conservative outside groups, such as the Washington-based Club for Growth, as he attacked Schwarz for his support of abortion rights and legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
Perlmutter will face Republican Rick O'Donnell in November for a seat being vacated by Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), who is running for governor. It promises to be one of the closest, most expensive House races this fall.