Democrats will be watching the Republican contests closely, hoping for additional upsets by tea party-backed candidates. Democrats hope the Republicans will be saddled with unelectable candidates. Republicans are looking to ride a wave of voter anger over the sputtering economy and politics-as-usual to regain control of Congress.
The competition between traditional Republicans and their tea party counterparts is particularly strong in Delaware, New Hampshire, and New York.
Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Maryland also hold primaries Tuesday.
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In Massachusetts, there are several closely watched congressional contests, including the race to fill the state’s only open seat – the 10th Congressional District office currently held by Democratic Rep. William Delahunt, who is not seeking re-election.
Vying for the Republican nomination are state Rep. Jeffrey Perry of Sandwich; former state Treasurer Joseph Malone; Cohasset accountant Ray Kasperowicz; and Robert Hayden, a lawyer with the Department of Public Utilities.
Norfolk District Attorney William Keating and state Sen. Robert O’Leary of Barnstable are the Democratic candidates.
The GOP is also keeping a close eye on the 5th Congressional District seat held by incumbent Niki Tsongas. The Lowell Democrat is seen as vulnerable partly because the district is one of the state’s more conservative.
In the state’s 9th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Stephen Lynch is fending off a challenge from Mac D’Alessandro, who is irked at Lynch for not supporting the Obama administration’s health care overhaul.
Photojournalist Keith Lepor of Boston and computer technician Vernon Harrison of Braintree are fighting for the Republican nomination.
Rep. Barney Frank is facing a crowded field in the 4th Congressional District.
The incumbent Democrat is fielding a challenge from 29-year-old Rachel Brown in his party’s primary. Barney famously compared talking with her to “arguing with a dining room table” during a town hall meeting last year. Brookline businessman and Marine Sean Bielat and Norfolk businessman Earl Sholley are vying for the GOP nomination.
2. New York
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is unchallenged for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
But Republican primary voters are choosing between former Rep. Rick Lazio, backed by GOP officials, and Carl Paladino, a wealthy developer who campaigned with support from tea party activists.
After a nasty summer campaign between Lazio and Paladino – bringing national headlines for both Republicans’ opposition to a proposed mosque a couple blocks from ground zero – the race is now a dead heat, according to a Siena College poll released Saturday.
Polls leading to that point show Paladino riding the momentum just as he’s unleashed hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV and radio ads that Lazio’s underfunded campaign can’t match.
3. Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, Providence Mayor David Cicilline, who is openly gay, campaigned in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination to run for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Patrick Kennedy.
Kennedy announced in February he would not seek a ninth term to represent the 1st Congressional District.
The best known and best financed of the candidates is Mayor Cicilline, who has raised more than $1.3 million, about three times the amount of his nearest Democratic rival moneywise, businessman Anthony Gemma.
Former Democratic Party Chairman Bill Lynch and state Rep. David Segal round out the field.
On the Republican side, the biggest race is between John Robitaille and Victor Moffitt, who are trying to keep the governor’s office in Republican hands, where it has sat for 16 years. Current Gov. Don Carcieri is prevented by term limits from running again.
Wisconsin Republicans are choosing among three candidates to pick a challenger for Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.
Businessman Ron Johnson is widely viewed as the prohibitive GOP favorite in Tuesday’s primary.
Johnson, who made a fortune with his Oshkosh plastics company, has poured $4.5 million into the race. That made him a prohibitive favorite against Dave Westlake, a small-business man and West Point graduate who ran a shoestring campaign on a budget of less than $100,000 and ran only one radio ad.
Both Johnson and Westlake are political neophytes. It was Johnson’s wealth, and his willingness to spend it against Sen. Feingold, that helped him win the GOP’s endorsement just six days after he entered the race.
A third Republican candidate, Milwaukee plumber Stephen Finn, has been largely invisible.
In the Maryland governor’s race, former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich faces a primary challenge from Brian Murphy, a business investor who was virtually unknown before winning Sarah Palin’s endorsement last month.
But former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona says Ehrlich has his support in Maryland’s Republican primary for governor.
Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who ousted Ehrlich from office in 2006, faces minor opposition for the nomination to compete for a new term.
6. New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes is unopposed for the Senate nomination.
But Republicans are settling a multi-candidate race.
The front-runner, former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, campaigned with the support of the Republican party establishment and Sarah Palin. But Ovide Lamontagne claimed backing from tea party activists.
Bill Binnie and Jim Bender campaigned on the strength of their records as businessmen.
Republicans have spent more than $9.5 million trying to retain the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg –believing the winner of the primary will have an edge in November.
Ayotte has spent $2 million to push a conservative anti-Democrat, anti-federal spending agenda.
Multimillionaire businessman Bill Binnie has spent more than $6 million – including more than $5 million out of his own pocket – but political analysts believe Binnie hurt himself with television ads criticizing Ayotte too early. Ayotte may have hurt herself by responding.
In Delaware, veteran Rep. Mike Castle, a moderate, vies with Christine O’Donnell for the nomination for a Senate seat.
As reported yesterday, O’Donnell has surged ahead of nine-term Congressional incumbent Mike Castle in Delaware’s Republican Senate primary, much to the distress of the party’s leadership.
O’Donnell has the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as well as tea party activists.
New Castle County Executive Chris Coons has no opposition for the Democratic nomination.