In Primaries, Thom Tillis Wins in Establishment Victory, Walter Jones Beats Challenge from the Right, and Boehner Wins Easily
THE ESTABLISHMENT WINS: Thom Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House, has won the GOP primary for Senate avoiding a July run-off, according to the Associated Press. Tillis, the establishment Republican choice who had backing from Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney in recent days, beat out the Tea Party candidate, Greg Brannon, as well as the social conservative choice Mark Harris. With 54 percent of precincts reporting, Tillis captured 45 percent of the vote, while Brannon had 27 percent and Harris had 17. The results in North Carolina were the first sign that the establishment may have beaten down the Tea Party rebellion in its effort to re-take the Senate, but in a series of primaries over the next six weeks it will continue to be tested. The primary was somewhat of a proxy 2016 war with Bush not only backing Tillis, but Sen. Rand Paul backing Brannon and even campaigning with him Monday, calling him a "dragon slayer" and the candidate and physician returning the favor by calling the Kentucky Senator "President Paul." Mike Huckabee, who was the 2008 Iowa caucuses victor, backed Harris, also a preacher. Huckabee recorded a robo-call on behalf of Harris that went out to 300,000 registered Republicans between Saturday to Monday. Tillis' victory allows Republicans to focus squarely on the Democrat, vulnerable incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, instead of being mired down in a prolonged primary. Tillis had to reach over 40 percent to avoid the run-off. Hagan's campaign has been acting as though the frontrunner Tillis has been their opponent for months, with their fire targeted directly at him, even today sending out a memo highlighting some of the more divisive things Tillis has said over the campaign. In a statement after Tillis' victory, Hagan said, "This election is a simple choice between two very different records. Thom Tillis has spent his time in Raleigh pushing a special interest agenda that has rigged the system against middle class families." "North Carolinians know that I am the only candidate in this race who will put our state's needs ahead of what the special interests want," Hagan said. Tillis and Hagan will face each other in November and it will be one of the tightest and closely watched races this cycle.
DEFEATING A CHALLENGE FROM THE RIGHT: Rep. Walter Jones won his primary for North Carolina's third congressional district Tuesday evening, beating a serious challenge from the right from GOP consultant and former aide to President George W. Bush and the McCain campaign, Taylor Griffin, according to the Associated Press. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Jones bested Griffin with 52 percent of the vote to 44 percent. Jones has represented his district for 20 years, but the intra-party battle was a serious one with Griffin challenging the man who will be the second most senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, focusing on his foreign policy views. Jones is most widely known for voting for the Iraq War and then becoming one of the most vocal members of his party against the war famously saying just last year, "Lyndon Johnson's probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney." Griffin was also a former aide to Sarah Palin and she endorsed him in the primary fight. He was able to fundraise as much as Jones and the longtime congressman became one of the most vulnerable Republicans this year, but in the end he was successful in his effort to paint Griffin as a "Washington insider."
THE SPEAKER WINS: House Speaker John Boehner easily won his primary tonight for his 13 th term in Congress, beating out two tea party challengers, according to the Associated Press. He faced Eric Gurr, a computer consultant, and J.D. Winteregg, a high school French teacher. With only early votes reporting, Boehner clobbered his opponents with 69 percent and Winteregg, his closest opponent, at 22 percent. It was quite a colorful race and despite being heavily favored to win and never facing serious opposition he did run two rounds of television ads in Ohio's eighth district for the first time in four years. Boehner faced some outside money being thrown at him, as well as Winteregg releasing an online parody video in the same style as the drug Cialis. It was a not-so-subtle spin on the speaker's first name and it claimed Winteregg offers the remedy for "electile dysfunction" personified by Boehner and it warns the 12-term congressman "shouldn't count his chickens before they hatch." Winteregg may have gotten some publicity, but he ended up getting tossed from an adjunct teaching position at Cedarville University, a Christian college, after the suggestive video aired. The Tea Party Leadership Fund, based in Virginia, spent about $325,000 on behalf of Winteregg and against Boehner, according to their group's treasurer Dan Backer, trying to portray Boehner as the ultimate "Washington insider." Backer said they also raised another $66,000 for Winteregg. In an interview before voting began, Backer said his group had "done everything we could to help."