One of the most interesting – and toughest – primary elections in the country is nearing an end in Pennsylvania. Party-switcher Arlen Specter, supported by the White House and most heavyweight D’s, is trying to hold off Rep. Joe Sestak and preserve a chance to win his sixth term in the U.S. Senate.
Sestak has put up one of the most effective ads I’ve seen in a while reminding Democratic primary votes in Pennsylvania that Specter was a Republican until two years ago. Sestak, a retired three-star Navy Admiral, has now taken a tiny lead in the race. While Snarlin’ Arlen tries to hold on against charges that he is a conniving opportunist, Sestak is fighting off demands that he release his Navy records against a backdrop that includes the allegation that he was relieved of his command forcing his retirement.
The race shows how tough a primary election can become when candidate are scrapping over the base voters in a party.
The Republican primary races in Idaho’s First District has taken on a similar tone as Vaughn Ward, a Marine Corps reserve major and the favorite of many establishment Republicans, tries to hold off the challenge of very conservative state legislator Raul Labrador. The race could turn in the final days and makes the Tuesday head-on-head debate on Idaho Public Television really important.
Both candidates have roots in the southern part of the huge district making populous Canyon County the battleground and both candidates are clearly trying to out appeal the other with the Tea Party crowd.
Last week, Labrador gained the endorsement and help of long-time conservative activist Dennis Mansfield who claims the momentum in the race is moving Labrador’s direction. Labrador also picked up endorsements in Canyon County. Again, like the Pennsylvania race, the GOP primary battle in the First District reflects the fault lines in the increasingly conservative Republican Party.
Expect some tough shots in the final days. These guys, like Specter and Sestak back east, are battling for the heart and soul of their party and it’s winner take all.
The winner in Idaho goes against first term Democrat Walt Minnick who has had the luxury of not facing a primary challenge allowing him to build his ample war chest for the fall.