- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Washington order suffered big losses Tuesday, with establishment-backed candidates losing or facing a fight for their political survival in all three marquee Senate primaries on both the Republican and Democratic sides.

Insurgent candidate Rep. Joe Sestak toppled Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary, Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff in Arkansas’s Democratic primary and newcomer Rand Paul, riding “tea party” momentum, steamrolled to victory in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary.

Democrats did get good news, keeping alive a three-year winning streak in House special elections when congressional aide Mark Critz easily held the Pennsylvania seat left vacant after the death of Rep. John P. Murtha, a towering figure among Washington Democrats. Republicans had tried to turn the race into a referendum on President Obama, but acknowledged that approach came up short in what many saw as a classic swing district.

Still, the message of the night was what Mr. Paul called “a day of reckoning” for those in power on Capitol Hill.

“I have a message - a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We’ve come to take our government back,” Mr. Paul, a 47-year-old ophthalmologist from Bowling Green and the son of Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, said at his victory party after trouncing Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson by 24 percentage points.

Sen. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania Democrat, along with daughter Alex and wife Susan, speaks at a primary night event at the Valley Forge Military Academy & College in Wayne, Pa. He unseated incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter.
Sen. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania Democrat, along with daughter Alex and wife Susan, ... more >

Mr. Rand triumphed despite his opponent’s heavy backing by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, former Vice President Dick Cheney and much of the Kentucky GOP establishment.

In Pennsylvania’s Senate primary, Mr. Sestak, a former Navy rear admiral, won in a decisive manner, topping Mr. Specter by seven percentage points with 85 percent of precincts reporting.

Like Mr. Paul, Mr. Sestak said his campaign was a strike against career politicians who are only trying to protect their jobs.

“Accountability has been missing for far too long, and I want to help bring it back,” he said.

His win sets up a general election contest with former Rep. Pat Toomey, a Republican who narrowly lost a primary to Mr. Specter in 2004 when the incumbent was still a member of the GOP.

Mr. Specter jumped parties last year after he voted for the economic stimulus package and realized it had hurt him so badly among Republican voters that he’d lose a primary rematch with Mr. Toomey. He acknowledged that his only chance at remaining in office was to run as a Democrat.

He immediately won pledges of support from President Obama, who campaigned for him, and from top congressional Democrats. But that wasn’t enough to deter Mr. Sestak, who was strongly backed by the party’s liberal wing.

Mr. Specter wiped away tears as he voted Tuesday, ABC reported. And in the evening he delivered a short concession speech in which he promised to work hard for the rest of his term.

In Arkansas, Mrs. Lincolnclung to a slight lead overLt. Gov. Bill Halter, but the two-term centrist incumbent was not able to top the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff, with a third candidate, DC Morrison, siphoning votes from the two.

With about 43 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, Mrs. Lincoln had 44 percent of the vote to Mr. Halter’s 42 percent.

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