Primaries take place today in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, and Vermont along with a primary runoff in Oklahoma. The biggest races of the day are both in Florida — the Democratic primary for Senate and the Republican primary for Governor.
Governor – The Republican primary is a battle between establishment-backed Attorney General Bill McCollum and billionaire political novice Rick Scott. Scott is best known for making his fortune in the hospital business and for creating and funding Conservatives for Patients’ Rights. This was an anti-health care reform group which ran a large television campaign featuring Scott. In the gubernatorial race, Scott has been using his own fortune to run a large media campaign in what has turned into a brutal battle hurting both candidates’ favorable numbers. Even the Repulican Governors’ Association has stepped in to refute a Scott ad that went too far. The latest polling has been all over the map, but it looks like McCollum should be the favorite.
Senate – In this Democratic primary, the role of seasoned establishment-backed politician is played by Rep. Kendrick Meek and the self-funded billionaire political novice is Jeff Greene. With a large media campaign, Greene was able to take an early lead in the polls against Meek, who was not well-known statewide. Now, as the election draws closer and more voters focus on the race, Meek has surged significantly ahead of Greene in the polls. Jeff Greene has, to put it politely, had an extremely interesting personal life. There are a number of stories involving Greene’s rather awesome yacht, but these probably haven’t helped his campaign. Winning this nomination might not be the greatest prize, though. Polling shows both Meek and Greene significantly trailing both Republican Marco Rubio and Independent Charlie Crist by double digits.
FL-02 – Incumbent Allen Boyd is being challenged from the left by Al Lawson. Lawson, who is African American, might benefit from the roughly 22% African American makeup of the district. Indications are that this is shaping up to be another case of a Blue Dog Democrat being challenged by a fairly serious challenger from the left, but will probably end up with the Blue Dog winning with a decently large margin. It is a pattern we have seen frequently this cycle.
FL-08 – There are several Republicans vying for the chance to take on freshman Alan Grayson. Daniel Webster, who has some big endorsements from politicians like Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee, is probably the front runner. The race also features Bruce O’Donoghue who is the best funded candidate, radio host Todd Long and State Rep. Kurt Kelly.
FL-17 – Kendrick Meek’s retirement from this deep blue district has created a contested Democratic primary featuring nine candidates. Rudy Moise is by far the best funded, with more money than all the other candidates combined. In a weird and unfortunate “any press is good press” moment, Haitian community activist Marleine Bastien has recently received headlines as a result of being robbed at gunpoint this weekend.
FL-24 – The thinking is that freshman Democrat Suzanne Kosmas is vulnerable, and several Republicans are in a fight for the chance to try to unseat her this November. Former Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig Miller, State Rep. Sandy Adams, and Winter Park Vice Mayor Karen Diebel are the top candidates in the race.
Senate – Incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski is being challenged by Joe Miller. Miller has the endorsement of Sarah Palin but what little polling (PDF) I can find in the race gives the clear lead to Murkowski.
Senate – Incumbent Republican John McCain is being challenged by former Rep. JD Hayworth. McCain took the challenge seriously. He tacked strongly to the right while hitting Hayworth early and hard. The strategy paid off and all polling shows McCain with a strong lead.
AZ-01 – In this Republican-leaning district, Ann Kirkpatrick is possibly vulnerable in the current climate. There officially eight Republicans running in the primary, including Sydney Hay, whom Kirkpatrick beat by a wide margin in 2008. By far the best financed is dentist Paul Gosar, who also has many of the big name endorsements.
AZ-03 – Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, dreams of becoming a member of Congress in this open seat created by John Shadegg’s retirement. Things seemed to be going well for Quayle until it was reported that he had connections to the precursor to thedirty.com and sent out misleading campaign mailers. His bizarre new ad probably did not help either. There are a total of ten Republicans in the primary, of which five have reasonably large campaign war chests. While Quayle is the best funded, Steve Moak is close behind.
AZ-05 – Democrat Harry Mitchell represents a slightly red district and could be vulnerable in this environment. Republican David Schweikert has taken the bold step of effectively declaring victory ahead of time, saying he was cutting his primary campaign ad budget, but then reversed himself and bought more campaign ads for the primary. We will see if the bold prediction pays off. Schweikert is facing several candidates, including Jim Ward and Chris Salvino.
AZ-08 – Just like Mitchell and Kirkpatrick (notice a pattern here?), incumbent Democrat Gabrielle Giffords represents a slightly red district, so several Republicans think they could beat her this November. Establishment choice Jonathan Paton is the best-funded Republican, but he faces a strong potential challenge from Jesse Kelly for the party’s nomination.
Governor – Republican Lt. Gov. Brain Dubie will be his party’s choice to replace Republican governor Jim Douglas. On the Democratic side, it is a highly contested five-way race featuring Susan Bartlett, Matt Dunne, Deb Markowitz, Doug Racine and Peter Shumlin. All five Democrats have a long history of political involvement in the state and all but Bartlett have run for statewide office before. The race is fairly close, so don’t be surprised if the winner gets less than a third of the vote. Given the small size of Vermont, that could mean only about 15,000 votes for the winner.
OK-02 – Charles Thompson will be facing Daniel Edmonds again to see who will face incumbent Democrat Dan Boren. In the first round, Thompson received 33.65 percent of the votes and Dan Edmonds had 28.32 percent.
OK-05 – Republican Mary Fallin will be leaving this deep red seat to run for governor. The winner of the Republican primary runoff tonight is almost assured to win the general. That race is between James Lankford, who got 33.58 percent in the first round and Kevin Calvey who was close behind with 32.48 percent. Expect a very low turnout for both of these runoff races.