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Elections held in Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico

By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 2, 2010; A04

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks trounced Rep. Artur Davis in the state's Democratic primary for governor Tuesday night, a shocking result for a national figure once regarded as a heavy favorite to be on the ballot in November.

Davis's insistence on opposing President Obama's agenda -- in a failed attempt to keep himself viable in a general election -- combined with his long-running feud with the state's unelected black leaders to chill his chances.

With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Sparks had 63 percent of the vote, while Davis had 37 percent.

As he conceded the race, Davis acknowledged, "This is not exactly the speech I'd planned to give tonight." The four-term congressman had hoped to become Alabama's first black governor, but the Birmingham News reported that he told his supporters Tuesday night, "A better champion will come along."

Sparks's opponent in November, to decide who will replace term-limited Gov. Bob Riley (R), will be decided in a July 13 runoff. The Republican primary was a remarkably close affair, with former state senator Bradley Byrne, businessman Tim James and state Rep. Robert Bentley all within 2 percentage points of each other.

In a closely watched House primary, Rep. Parker Griffith was on the verge of losing his first race as a Republican, after switching parties last year.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks had a scant majority of the vote. Griffith, with 33 percent, was left to hope that he would close with enough votes to deny Brooks an outright victory and force a runoff.

The northern Alabama 5th Congressional District elected Griffith to the House as a Democrat, but he switched parties last year after receiving promises from House Republican leaders that they would back him.

He struggled, however, to convince Republican primary voters that he was one of them; he was battered over his vote for Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) as House Speaker at the start of the 111th Congress, for example.

In southern Alabama's 2nd District, Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby, the preferred candidate of national Republicans, appeared headed to a runoff with tea party activist Rick Barber. Waiting in the general election is freshman Rep. Bobby Bright.

New Mexico, governor

Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez cruised to a victory in the GOP primary for governor, routing a crowded field that included free-spending former state party chairman Allen Weh.

The Republican Governors Association, who long believed Martinez was its best general-election candidate, helped steer campaign cash to her primary campaign to help her compete with Weh and cinch her victory.

"Susana Martinez's historic nomination is great news for New Mexico," said Republican Governors Association spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Martinez will face Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination, in the fall. Denish is a slight favorite in the general election.

Mississippi, U.S. House

National Republicans got another piece of good news Tuesday night when Mississippi state Sen. Alan Nunnelee won the GOP nomination in the 1st Congressional District without a runoff.

Nunnelee took 52 percent of the vote in the race against former Europa mayor Henry Ross and Fox News Channel commentator Angela McGlowan. McGlowan had received a last-minute endorsement -- via Twitter -- from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, but she ran a distant third.

Nunnelee will face Rep. Travis Childers (D) in the fall. Childers won the north Mississippi seat in a May 2008 special election and claimed a full term that November. But the district gave Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) 62 percent of the vote in 2008, and it ranks as a major GOP pickup target this fall.

Staff writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

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