The Fix: anti-incumbent

Oklahoma Rep. John Sullivan loses primary

Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) became the latest incumbent to lose a primary on Tuesday, falling to tea party-backed Jim Bridenstine.

Sullivan survived a 2010 primary after taking time away from Congress, citing his “addiction to alcohol.” On Tuesday, he lost narrowly amidst a spirited — if under-funded — challenge from Bridenstine, a Navy pilot who raised less than $300,000 for the race.

With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Bridenstine led Sullivan 54 percent to 46 percent. AP has called the race for Bridenstine.
Tea party candidate Jim Bridenstine speaks during a news conference in Tulsa, Okla. Bridenstine defeated Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) in a primary Tuesday. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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Incumbent primary losses begin to mount, may approach record

We may see a record number of congressional incumbents lose their primaries this year. If we do, it’s likely to have more to do with redistricting than a wave of so-called “anti-incumbent” sentiment.

The highest number of incumbents who have lost their primaries over the past 50 years is the 20 who fell in a post-redistricting cycle in 1992. That included 19 House members and one senator.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence until 2011. He lost his primary Tuesday. (Kevin Clark/The Washington Post)

With Rep. Silvestre Reyes’s (D-Tex.) loss Tuesday, we are now guaranteed to see 15 incumbents lose primaries in this post-redistricting cycle. Four have lost to non-incumbent challengers, and 11 more face or have faced primary matchups with other incumbents, assuring that one incumbent will fall.

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2012 is definitely an anti-incumbent year

No House incumbents lost their primaries on Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean their colleagues should rest easy.

In fact, the results of Tuesday’s primaries suggest that incumbents face an environment even tougher than they did in 2010, when four House members lost their primaries and three senators lost re-nomination.

If Tuesday is any indication, that number could rise significantly this year — particularly in the House.

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