Today has turned into a remarkably eventful May 8th primary. Significant contested elections are currently taking place in Indiana, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
Indiana – Today we may witness the very rare occurrence of a sitting Senator losing a primary. Long time Republican incumbent Dick Lugar appears to be in bad shape heading into today’s primary. The latest polling Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll found State Treasurer Richard Mourdock leading Lugar 48% to 38%. Lugar is being challenged for being insufficiently “conservative” in today’s GOP.
The state has been flooded with outside money, most of it in support of Mourdock. Mourdock has won the strong financial backing of a large number of conservative groups including tea party activists, the Club for Growth, Freedom Works and the NRA. If Mourdock wins it would be a real show of strength for such conservatives groups within the Republican party and a clear warning to other elected Republicans.
North Carolina – The big election issue today in North Carolina is Amendment 1, a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. If approved the amendment won’t just ban gay marriage — it’s already banned by statute — but could also deny legal recognition or rights for any form of domestic partnership, including civil unions for same sex couples.
The polls show that Amendment 1 appears to be on track to win. The final PPP poll has it leading 55% yes to 39% no. Unfortunately, it appears the Amendment could win because voters aren’t properly informed about what it will actually do. Only 46% of voters know that the proposal bans civil unions in addition to gay marriage That’s why the Amendment has majority support despite the fact that 53% of voters support at least allowing civil unions.
The other big contest in North Carolina is the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton has a five point lead over former US. Rep. Bob Etheridge, 34% to 29%. In this race it is not just important who wins but by how much. Under North Carolina law if no candidate gets over 40%, the top two candidates face each other in a run off.
Wisconsin – A special primary is taking place today in Wisconsin to determine which Democrat will get to face Republican Governor Scott Walker in the June 5th recall election. Polling indicates that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in 2010, may get a rematch. The most recent Marquette Law School Poll found Tom Barrett 38% and Kathleen Falk 21%, Doug La Follette 8%, Kathleen Vinehout 6%. Falk has the endorsement of most of the big labor unions, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to close the gap with Barrett. It should be noted that the weird nature of a special primary election likely makes it difficult to predict turnout, so the polling could be off.