Today is an exciting day: midterm primary results are coming from three important states, all at once. This means that political nerds will be able to discuss some results — including from everyone's favorite midterm barometer, the Senate race in North Carolina — instead of just endlessly chewing on the same speculation, over and over again.
In Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio, Republican voters will have to choose between two general sets of candidates, those backed by the GOP establishment, and those backed by disparate Tea Party groups. Although that narrative would have us believe that this gives voters a choice between more "moderate," business-friendly establishment people and renegade far-right challengers, the actual spectrum of choice here is a little bit more complicated than that. Here's what's up, state by state:
Indiana is all about incumbent representatives facing challenges from Tea Party candidates. There's just one unopposed sitting congressman from the state in this year's midterms, Pete Visclosky, a Democrat. Today, Susan Brooks in the 5th district faces the state's most talked-about Tea Party primary challenger, David Stockdale. But Stockdale raised only $17,000 for his primary challenge, indicating that he might not be quite as serious as some people thought. Rep. Larry Bucshon of the 8th District will also have to survive a primary challenge from a Tea Party-friendly contender.
Even though Indiana's Republican-controlled legislature just redrew the state's districts to make it a lot harder for a Democrat to pick up a seat, there's one race that some think could end up going Democrat in the general election. Rep. Jackie Walorski, a freshman, will learn which Democrat will challenge her in November today. So why are Democrats excited about this race? Walorski represents a Republican-heavy district but won her first term by the skin of her teeth.
This is the fun one. All sorts of Republicans are vying for the chance to unseat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is seen as vulnerable thanks in part to her support of Obamacare. The establishment has backed the state Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, with heavyweight endorsements (Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney) and lots of money. In other words, he's widely expected to win. However, there are a couple of candidates looking to upset Tillis. First, there's Greg Brannon, a libertarian-style Tea Party guy with the backing of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. Yesterday, Paul called Brannon a "dragon slayer," which is a great nickname. Second, there's Mark Harris, a Baptist pastor who's kind of a throwback to the classic Religious Right model of a conservative candidate. He has the backing of Mike Huckabee.
Brannon and Harris just have to prevent Tillis from getting 40 percent or more of the vote. If he doesn't meet that threshold — even if he takes a plurality of voters — there will be a primary run-off this summer.
You'd think that Tillis's conservative challengers mean that Tillis is a moderate, right? Wrong. The politician just finished leading North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature through a marathon of passing far-right legislation, including massive cuts to benefits and services for the state's low income residents. Today's primaries are also the first time the state's new voting laws — also shepherded by Tillis through the legislature — will be in place at the polls.
There's another challenge from the right to watch in the state, although it's not getting as much press. GOP Rep. Walter Jones will face off against Taylor Griffin, a former George W. Bush aide who has presented himself as a "real conservative."
Oh and also: Reality show singer Clay Aiken is on the ballot for a Democratic primary today. He wants to challenge Republican incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers for her seat.
Here comes the parade of Boehner challengers! The best challenger is definitely J.D. Winteregg, because he made an ad that is a joke about erectile dysfunction. Get it? Because the House Speaker John Boehner's surname is kind of like "boner" (even Boehner himself admits this) Ohio's Boehner isn't working anymore, is the message, and Winteregg is the pill the state needs.
Winteregg isn't going to win, but he suffered for his art: the challenger lost his job at Cedarville University, a Christian college, because of his great Boehner jokes.