WASHINGTON, June 9, 2010— -- On the biggest primary day of 2010, women emerged victorious in several high-profile races across the country, from California to South Carolina, setting the stage for a November general election that will focus mainly on voters' growing discontent with politics as usual.
Nevada Republicans picked Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle to try to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In California, voters chose two former executives and multimillionaires, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, as GOP candidates for governor and senate.
Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln survived a party runoff to face what is expected to be a fierce Republican challenge to her seat this fall. And, in South Carolina, GOP state Rep. Nikki Haley weathered allegations of marital affairs and an ethnic slur to emerge as her party's leading candidate for governor.
"We were, 'Nikki who?' six weeks ago, then all the sudden had a double-digit lead, and then everything but the kitchen sink thrown at us," Haley said on "Good Morning America" today. "What was proven last night with 49 percent of the vote and 42 of 46 counties is that this is about jobs, the economy, and that elected officials know the value of the dollar."
Haley, who was endorsed by Tea Party groups and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, nabbed a majority of votes but fell just shy of the majority needed to avoid a runoff, according to the Associated Press. She faces a runoff election with her closest competitor, state Rep. Gresham Barrett, in two weeks.
Still, Haley's performance, and that of other relative newcomer candidates to national politics Tuesday, reflects a trend of successful challenges to establishment politics.
In one of the most heavily contested races in Nevada, Tea Party favorite Angle surpassed more than a dozen GOP candidates for the chance to take on the Senate seat that Reid has occupied for more than two decades, and possibly render him the second Democratic party leader to be ousted by the Republicans in six years, after Tom Daschle in 2004.
Angle, an anti-tax crusader who favors abolishing the Departments of Education and Energy, phasing out Social Security and Medicare, and removing the United States from the United Nations, had been neck-and-neck in polls with former state GOP chair Sue Lowden, who was favored by the state's Republican establishment.
Reid's campaign views Angle's non-mainstream platform as one it can easily target in the November midterm election.
Also in Nevada Tuesday, voters denied Gov. Jim Gibbons a chance to run for reelection, making him the first sitting governor to lose a primary reelection bid.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln Survives Runoff Against Halter
Lincoln narrowly avoided becoming the latest casualty in the tidal wave of anti-incumbent sentiment sweeping the country, defeating Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in a hotly contested runoff.
Lincoln had slightly more than 50 percent of the votes, with Halter trailing closely behind, according to the Associated Press.
Lincoln's win is a major blow to labor unions and liberal groups, who poured millions of dollars into Halter's campaign, and a victory for President Obama and former President Bill Clinton, who campaigned for her in the final days of the race.
"The vote of this senator is not for sale and neither is the vote of the people of Arkansas," Lincoln said in her victory speech, rebuking national labor groups.
Lincoln had been blasted by national labor unions for voting for the federal bank bailout and opposing the option of a government-run insurance plan in the health care bill and the Employee Free Choice Act, or card check, a high priority for the labor movement.
She will face an even fiercer fight in November as Republicans take aim at her Senate record and take advantage of the anti-incumbent sentiment that has ended careers of Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.
Other key races Tuesday pitted party members against each other, marking the latest test for ideological movements within both major parties.
Tea Party supporters nabbed a victory in the contested runoff in Georgia, where former state representative Tom Graves defeated former state House member Lee Hawkins in a special election for the U.S. House of Representatives. Graves was backed by the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots and the conservative Club for Growth.
In another key battleground -- Virginia's fifth Congressional district -- the Republican establishment's candidate Robert Hurt flew to an easy victory with 48.4 percent of the votes.
California Republican Senate Primary: Battle of 'Scrappy' Political Women?
Ex-Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina defeated Rep. Tom Campbell and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore in the race to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in November.
Fiorina, as with Haley in South Carolina, received an unexpected endorsement from Palin even though DeVore has been supported by Tea Party groups.
Palin had recorded a telephone message for Fiorina, urging voters to "help get our country back on track" by voting for the former executive.
Fiorina spent a lot of her own personal wealth on the campaign, a point likely to be seized upon by Democrats in the campaign for November. But Fiorina and Republicans are likely to emphasize the nation's anti-incumbent sentiment in their attacks on Boxer, who has served in the Senate for 17 years.
Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman beat state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner for the nomination to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the moderate Republican governor whose tumultuous time in office is coming to an end.
Whitman spent more than $70 million of her money in her campaign to succeed Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican. She will face Democrat Jerry Brown, the state's attorney general who was governor from 1975 to 1983, in the fall.
Also on Tuesday, California voters approved a ballot initiative that could make the completed primary election the last to be held in the state.
Proposition 14 would replace party primaries with a "top-two" election structure for congressional, statewide and state legislative elections. All candidates would be included in a single primary election open to all voters, regardless of party registration. Candidates would have the option to declare a party preference or appear on the ballot with no affiliation.
The two candidates with the highest vote totals in the primary would then advance to a general election. Write-in votes would be ignored. The November ballot thus could feature two members of the same party as the only options.
ABC News' David Chalian, Alex Pepper and Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.