Utah holds its state and presidential GOP primary today, while New York, Colorado and Oklahoma hold state and congressional contests. Of these primaries, there are two big contests to keep an eye on; the Utah Republican Senate primary between six-term incumbent Orrin Hatch and Tea Party-challenger Dan Liljenquist, and the Democratic primary in New York’s 13th Congressional District, where longtime incumbent Charlie Rangel faces a tough primary challenge.
In Utah, senior Sen. Orrin Hatch looks to be well-positioned to win his party’s nomination and, given the strong Republican leaning of the state, reclaim his seat in the fall. Nevertheless, Hatch, 78, has faced something he hasn’t had to endure in more than 30 years: a primary challenge. Hatch is being challenged by former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, who, at age 37, was just 1 year old when the longtime Congress member was first elected to represent the people of Utah in the Senate. Polling shows Hatch with a strong lead going into today.
In New York, Charlie Rangel, the third longest-serving member of Congress, faces an in-party challenge as well, from state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, along with several others. Rangel has had his share of problems in recent years; the congressman who has served in the House for 42 years was found guilty on 11 out of 12 ethics violations in 2010 and was censured by the House of Representatives. He was forced to step down from a leadership position on the Ways and Means committee, where he had previously served as chairman.
Rangel, 82, was also slowed down recently after undergoing back surgery in the spring.
But the ethics issues surrounding the congressman were known during his last re-election campaign in 2010 as well (though he had not yet been found guilty and censured) and ultimately, most political observers agree, they won’t be his downfall. Rangel faces a new constituency as a result of redistricting in this election and his new district expands to several Hispanic areas of the Bronx, which boosts the Dominican-American Espaillat, who is viewed as Rangel’s strongest challenger.
Rangel has a large cash advantage over Espaillat, raising $1 million to Espaillat’s $300,000. There are several other challengers in the field as well, including Clyde Williams, a former Democratic National Committee staffer.
Rangel is expected to survive, but the outcome is far from certain.