California women triumph; incumbent Lincoln wins in Arkansas

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 9, 2010; 9:06 AM

Sen. Blanche Lincoln survived a bitter Democratic runoff Tuesday in Arkansas, fending off a strong challenge from labor-backed Lt. Gov. Bill Halter to avoid becoming the third senator this year to lose a bid for reelection.

In a year of voter anger that has put incumbents in both parties on the defensive, Lincoln battled back against organized labor and progressive groups that had targeted her for defeat, salvaging her nomination for a third term. She was one of several women from both political parties to emerge victorious on a "Super Duper Tuesday" of primaries that included gains by "tea party" candidates in some states but also survival of incumbents in others, and that overall did not provide a uniform storyline about the nation's political mood.

On the busiest election day so far this year, 12 states -- including Virginia-- held primaries, with major contests in Arkansas, California, Nevada and South Carolina.

In California, two businesswomen who built their campaigns around their personal fortunes and strong conservative credentials won hard-fought GOP nomination contests for governor and a U.S. Senate seat. In the gubernatorial primary, former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman easily defeated state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner after spending nearly $80 million, much of it her own money. She will face state Attorney General Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr., who served two terms as governor three decades ago, in what is expected to be one of the costliest and most competitive contests this fall.

California Republicans also nominated former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina to take on Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), whose lackluster poll ratings have made her appear vulnerable in November. Fiorina defeated former congressman Tom Campbell and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

In Nevada, where Republicans were picking a challenger to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D), former state assemblywoman and tea party favorite Sharron Angle defeated former assemblywoman Sue Lowden. Reid is the Republicans' top target in Senate races this year.

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R), whose tenure has been marred by personal scandal and a nasty divorce and who became an outcast in his party, lost to former U.S. district judge Brian Sandoval. He is the first governor in the state's history to be denied renomination and the first sitting governor to lose in a primary since Sarah Palin defeated Frank Murkowski in Alaska in 2006. Democrats nominated Rory Reid, chairman of the Clark County Commission and the son of Harry Reid, to challenge Sandoval.

In Virginia, results in five GOP Congressional primaries showed that several candidates backed by the party establishment performed well against those supported by tea party activists.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, state Rep. Nikki Haley ran far ahead of her three male rivals for the Republican gubernatorial nomination with 49 percent of the vote. But she fell just short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a June 22 runoff. She will face Rep. J. Gresham Barrett, who captured about 22 percent, in the runoff.

The gubernatorial primary stamped the Palmetto State once again as ground zero for dirty politics. Haley was the subject of unsubstantiated allegations of marital infidelity and a racial slur -- all after she began rising in the polls. She denied the allegations and gathered strength in the campaign's final days.

The winner of the South Carolina runoff will face state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

One race Tuesday, in Georgia, produced a new member of Congress: Former state representative Tom Graves (R) easily defeated former state senator Lee Hawkins (R) in a special House election to fill the former seat of Nathan Deal, who resigned to run for governor.

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