U.S. Sen. Graham defeats 6 GOP challengers, avoids runoff

Associated PressJune 10, 2014 

— U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has won South Carolina’s Republican party outright, defeating six challengers and avoiding a runoff.

The 58-year-old Graham had about 59 percent of the vote in early returns Tuesday, far more than what was needed to avoid the runoff.

Graham’s challengers had argued he was not conservative enough. But Graham, who has been in office since 2002, had a hefty fundraising advantage. He has raised more than $12 million since his last re-election bid in 2008, while none of his opponents passed the $1 million mark.

Graham faces Democratic State Sen. Brad Hutto, as well as Libertarian Victor Kocher, in the November general election.

Meanwhile, Graham’s fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott won his primary by a wide margin, setting the stage for South Carolina to elect a black person to the U.S. Senate for the first time.

Scott was appointed to the seat in 2012 after Jim DeMint stepped down, and the general election winner will serve the remainder of DeMint’s term.

As for Graham, the senator has raised more than $7 million for his campaign, far more than any of his opponents. But with polls showing his support hovering around 50 percent, he may not get more than half the vote, which he needs to win outright. If he gets less than 50 percent, he’ll face the second-place finisher in a runoff June 24.

Those arrayed against Graham include state Sen. Lee Bright, Columbia pastor Det Bowers, Upstate businessman Richard Cash and Charleston-area businesswoman Nancy Mace, the first female cadet graduate from The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college. Orangeburg County attorney Bill Connor and Columbia lawyer Benjamin Dunn were also seeking the nomination.

The challengers have hammered away at Graham, saying he’s not conservative enough for South Carolina.

That didn’t matter to Ben Lister, a 48-year-old financial planner from Greenville who voted for the senator.

“I know that some people are saying he should be more conservative, but what does that mean?” Lister asked. “I want a politician who actually thinks about the issues instead of going along with the crowd.”

The Democrats had two primaries of their own, though it’s widely expected that the Senate seats will remain in the GOP’s hands.

State Sen. Brad Hutto won the nomination for Graham’s seat, while Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson was nominated to face Scott. Dickerson is black, making this South Carolina’s first-ever U.S. Senate general election between two black candidates.

Emily Cain wins Democratic nomination for Maine House seat

The race to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in Maine’s vast rural north illustrates the deep divisions among Republicans and Democrats alike.

Tea party favorite Bruce Poliquin is competing against Kevin Raye, a former state Senate president and a favorite of establishment-minded Republicans.

Poliquin, who campaigned on a pledge to never raise taxes and his deep Catholic faith, unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010 and for the Senate in 2012. He has made his opposition to abortion rights a central issue in the race.

Raye campaigned largely on fiscal issues, promoting his role in dramatically cutting state income taxes. But social conservatives distrust Raye because he supports abortion rights and because he was a chief of staff to former Sen. Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican.

State Sen. Emily Cain won the Democratic nomination, campaigning as a dealmaker who would work with Republicans. She defeated Troy Jackson, a logger who campaigned as a champion for the working class.

Sen. Tim Scott wins GOP primary in South Carolina

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott easily won the Republican primary in South Carolina on Tuesday, setting up a general election that could make him the state’s first elected black senator.

Early returns Tuesday showed Scott, 48, with about 90 percent of the vote over challenger Randall Young. Scott also is the heavy favorite to win in November in this heavily Republican state.

Scott, who was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley after Jim DeMint resigned from the Senate, took office in 2013 and had yet to face a statewide election. He previously served one term in the U.S. House and gained instant attention as one of only two black U.S. senators and the only black Republican in that chamber.

Young, 69, did no campaigning after filing as a candidate.

Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson won the Democratic nomination to face Scott. Both Dickerson and Moore are black, setting the stage for November to be South Carolina’s first-ever U.S. Senate general election between two black candidates.

American Party candidate Jill Bossi is also competing in the November election.

GOP runoff clouds Arkansas Medicaid plan’s future

The Arkansas “private option” expansion of Medicaid again faces an uncertain future after one of its key architects was defeated Tuesday in a state Senate race cast as a referendum on the program.

Assisted living facility owner Scott Flippo defeated state Rep. John Burris in Tuesday’s Republican runoff for a north Arkansas state Senate seat that had focused on Flippo’s opposition to the state’s plan to use federal Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for the poor.

The defeat is a setback for the program that Burris helped craft as a conservative alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law. The plan, approved last year, enjoys unanimous support from Democrats but has sharply divided Republicans who have made major gains in Arkansas by criticizing President Barack Obama’s health law. More than 170,000 people have signed up for coverage under the private option, the first of its kind approved by the federal government.

With mailers that accused Burris of choosing Obama over his district, Flippo and his supporters weren’t shy about portraying a former House leader who frequently railed against “Obamacare” as one of the law’s biggest cheerleaders.

“Medicaid expansion is indeed a pillar of Obamacare, and so I feel that where Obamacare is the key, John Burris gave him the ignition with the private option,” Flippo said last week.

The private option had already been in a precarious position, narrowly winning reauthorization in March after several failed votes in the House.

Voters delivered a mixed verdict in the May 20 primary in several races that similarly focused on the private option. Supporters of the program who were handed defeats include state Sen. Bruce Holland, who was beaten by state Rep. Terry Rice. But Sen. Bill Sample, a Hot Springs Republican who voted for the law, survived a primary challenge from a rival who vowed to repeal the program.

A defeat for Burris, who was House minority leader in the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions, complicates private option’s prospects even further since keeping it alive will require three-fourths support in the House and Senate next year. There’s no Democrat running for Senate seat in the fall, so Flippo will be in the legislature.

Burris, who is on leave as political director for U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton’s Senate campaign, seemed an unlikely target to be portrayed as an ally of the president or his policies. Burris, 28, had once blocked the state Insurance Department’s budget in an effort to prevent the state from setting up its insurance marketplace under the same law.

In arguing for the private option last year, Burris pitched the program as a way to implement conservative reforms to the state’s Medicaid program.

“This is about as far away from Medicaid expansion as you could possibly get,” he told House members last year.

The race had turned into a proxy fight between the same legislators who had debated over the program just months earlier, with lawmakers on both sides stumping throughout the state Senate district. An outside group that lobbied against the private option, Conduit for Action, had also sent out mailers attacking Burris for supporting the program.

Flippo, 34, echoed the complaints other opponents of the program have made, saying the state won’t be able to afford the program once it eventually has to pay part of the cost and insisting that the state doesn’t have as much control over the program as supporters say it does. The push against the private option is despite supporters pointing to signs that it is working, including a reported drop in the number of uninsured patients at many Arkansas hospitals.

North Dakota winners: Earlier ballot deadline, Walaker, Klug

North Dakota voters moved up the deadline to put initiated measures on the ballot Tuesday in a primary election dominated by local contests, including mayoral races where they re-elected a longtime incumbent in Fargo and chose a Williston native over a newcomer to the oil boomtown.

Measure 1, which was the only state ballot issue, changes the deadline for submitting petitions to put measures on the ballot to 120 days before an election, up from the current 90 days.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger pushed for the new petition deadline to give his office more time to review signature petitions for accuracy and to allow the state Supreme Court an extended period to consider challenges. Opponents called it a solution to a problem than doesn’t exist.

North Dakota did impose a deadline for submitting petitions at 120 days from 1919 to 1978, when it was changed to 90 days. The state currently has the second-fewest number of days among the states to file petitions before an election, behind Oklahoma’s deadline of 60 days.

Voters in the state’s largest city decided Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker deserved a third term and chose the 73-year-old over challenger Brad Wimmer.

Walaker is a former city public works director who guided Fargo residents through several major floods. Some voters said they’re worried about future flooding and want him at the helm.

In the booming oil patch hub of Williston, Mayor Ward Koeser, who stepped down after holding the post for two decades, became emotional Tuesday evening during his final City Commission meeting.

He’ll be replaced by City Commissioner Howard Klug, who defeated two relative newcomers to the city, Marcus Jundt and Jim Purkey.

Klug rose from a dishwasher at the El Rancho Motel in high school to part owner now. He said he wants to continue on the path to development and welcomes newcomers but has a less grandiose vision than his opponents.

Gov. Brian Sandoval rolls in Nevada primary

Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval steamrolled to victory Tuesday in the swing state primary where GOP incumbents up and down the ticket were trying to fend off tea party challengers.

The state’s first Hispanic governor captured more than 90 percent of the first 65,000 votes counted Tuesday night, with 5 percent of the precincts statewide reporting.

“I am honored that Republicans from across Nevada have nominated me to lead our ticket into the general election,” Sandoval said in a statement Tuesday night.

The former federal judge running for his second and term also hoped to carry to victory his pick for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Mark Hutchison.

Hutchison was in a hotly contested race against former U.S. Senate hopeful Sue Lowden, who lost the 2010 GOP primary to tea party darling Sharron Angle.

The Republican pick for lieutenant governor will face Democrat Lucy Flores, a two-term assemblywoman from Las Vegas who also easily won her primary. Flores has U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s support to become Nevada’s first black lieutenant governor.

The GOP’s 4th District congressional primary was up for grabs in a bid for the nomination to try to unseat Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who two years ago became Nevada’s first black member of Congress and coasted to victory in Tuesday’s primary.

Undecided was the Democratic gubernatorial primary, where eight relative unknowns raised less than $100,000 combined in a long-shot attempt to unseat Sandoval this fall. The popular incumbent already has $3 million in his campaign chest.

The lieutenant governor primary was in the spotlight because many GOP faithful want Sandoval to leave midterm to run in 2016 against Reid.

Sandoval also is mentioned on lists of those speculating about future vice presidential candidates and Cabinet posts.

Up next

Voters in Colorado, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Utah and the District of Columbia vote on June 24. Voters in Mississippi also cast ballots that day in the GOP runoff between Sen. Thad Cochran and tea party challenger Chris McDaniel. If Graham fails to win 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, he, too, will have a runoff on June 24.

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Associated Press writers David Pace and Erica Werner in Washington and Larry O’Dell, Steve Szkotak and Michael Felberbaum in Richmond contributed to this report. Andrew DeMillo reported from Arkansas. Espo reported from Washington. Scott Sonner reported from Nevada. James MacPherson and Blake Nicholson reported from Bismarck, N.D. Josh Wood in Williston, N.D., and Dave Kolpack in Fargo, N.D., contributed to this report.

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