W. Virginia race is set; Vitter cruises in Louisiana

By Aaron Blake
Sunday, August 29, 2010

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin won the Democratic nomination Saturday and will face GOP primary winner John Raese in a special election to fill the open Senate seat held for 51 years by Robert C. Byrd.

In the other state holding a primary Saturday, scandal-tainted Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) easily defeated former state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor to win their party's nomination.

Vitter will face Rep. Charlie Melancon, who won the Democratic primary. Vitter's prospects in the race had been a matter of much debate since he admitted to a "very serious sin" with a prostitute in 2007.

But Traylor's bid was weakened by his own personal problems, and he could not compete with the incumbent financially. Vitter led Traylor 87 percent to 8 percent with 37 percent of precincts reporting.

Even so, Democrats say they consider Vitter to be vulnerable in November because of the scandal.

In West Virginia, Manchin easily defeated a field that included 95-year-old former state secretary of state Ken Hechler. Manchin is a popular governor, but Raese - who ran away win the Republican nomination - is wealthy and could contribute large sums to his campaign.

Byrd died two months ago, and Manchin appointed Sen. Carte Goodwin (D) to hold his seat until a special election could be held. Republicans had hoped to recruit Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) into the race, but she ultimately declined to run.

State Rep. Cedric Richmond easily won the Democratic primary to face the most vulnerable Republican in the House, freshman Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.). And in the race to succeed Melancon, businessman Jeff Landry led the all-important Republican primary 50 percent to 36 percent over former state House Speaker Hunt Downer, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. The AP has not projected a winner, but whoever emerges will face attorney Ravi Sangisetty, who was unopposed on the Democratic side.

Cao's and Melancon's seats are considered two of the five seats in Congress that are most likely to flip control.

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