American voters watched closely on Tuesday as Republican dissidents and Tea Party-backed candidates Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino took victories in the last major round of primary runoffs. O’Donnell’s Senate nomination in Delaware and Paladino’s sweeping win of the gubernatorial nomination in New York were not just seen as startling upsets, but as litmus tests of anti-establishment sentiment within the GOP and the Tea Party movement’s ability to motivate voters and oust moderates.
The anti-incumbent trend did not encourage liberals in Massachusetts, however, where incumbent Democrat Rep. Stephen Lynch of Boston defeated Mac D’Alessandro, a former political director with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), according to The Associated Press.
Lynch has some lost labor support and upset progressives by voting against the Obama administration’s health care overhaul and supporting wars overseas.
The results of another GOP Tea Party test in a New Hampshire Senate primary between establishment state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and Tea Party favorite Ovide Lamontagne remained too close to call this morning, according to the Concord Monitor. Ayotte, who is backed by Sarah Palin, held a slight lead around 10:00 AM
Meanwhile, progressives in New Hampshire are cheering Ann McLane Kuster’s victory over Katrina Swett, a Blue Dog who co-chaired Joe Lieberman’s presidential campaign, in the Democratic primary for the second Congressional district. Kuster received support from big progressive activist groups and pro-choice groups that did not trust Swett, according to the Mother Jones’s blog.
The O’Donnell Insurgency
Tea Party favorite O’Donnell defeated the politically sturdy Rep. Mike Castle for the Delaware GOP nomination for the open Senate seat formerly held by Vice President Joe Biden.
Castle is a former governor and party favorite, but O’Donnell rode the anti-establishment wave to victory after winning support from Sarah Palin and outspoken conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina).
Initial results showed that O’Donnell defeated Castle 54 to 46 percent. She will go on to face progressive Democrat Chris Coons, a county executive.
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Exit polls indicated that a majority of Delaware voters are not happy with O’Donnell, and some Republican votes could be lost to Coons.
O’Donnell has long been viewed as a fringe player. Before entering electoral politics, she traveled the country promoting “chastity” and opposing gay rights, abortion, pornography, premarital sex and masturbation.
O’Donnell got a boost from out-of-state Tea Party activists to defeat Castle despite the efforts of the broader Republican Party to fend off the ultra-conservative. In a televised speech to her supporters, O’Donnell called for party unity during the rest of her campaign.
Coons quickly moved on O’Donnell’s polarizing reputation. “The results tonight make one thing perfectly clear – the Republican party is purging itself of moderate voices and embracing the radical,” Coons told local media after the polls closed. “I thank Mike Castle for his years of service to the people of Delaware and ask that his supporters embrace my campaign as a way to continue Delaware’s tradition of electing moderate, independent voices to the United States Senate.”
New York Republicans Are “Mad as Hell”
Paladino, a millionaire developer and scrappy political newcomer, stirred up enough controversy and anti-government rage in New York to win a landslide victory over former Republican Congressman Rick Lazio for the GOP nomination for governor.
Paladino surprised New Yorkers by winning with a whopping 67 percent of the vote, according to The Associated Press. Paladino trailed behind Lazio in the polls for weeks prior to the election, but on Monday he received a boost from a poll by the Siena Research Institute showing the race was too close to call.
His nomination and affiliation with the Tea Party is seen as another testament to the growing anti-establishment sentiment amongst grassroots Republicans. He will face off against New York’s Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in the election.
Paladino promises to cut government offices, lower taxes and fight insider politics attracted Republican voters living in a state with some of the nation’s highest taxes and spending, according to his campaign web site.
Paladino’s loudmouth “I’m mad as hell” campaign, based in the struggling city of Buffalo, garnished considerable media attention and caught the eyes of upstate New Yorkers sick of being ignored by the power base in the New York City area.
He did not escape controversy, however, and in April, The Huffington Post obtained several racist and pornographic emails Paladino sent to friends and co-workers, including one doctored photo of Barack and Michelle Obama dressed as a pimp and prostitute.