- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2010

With voters across the country embracing “outsiders” — from “tea party” candidate Rand Paul in Kentucky on the right to Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak on the left — incumbents in both parties face a long, hot summer of trying to save their jobs.

From Sen. John McCain of Arizona to Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, high-profile lawmakers in both parties are girding to fend off the anti-establishment anger voters displayed in Tuesday’s hotly contested primaries.

Mr. McCain is polling comfortably ahead of GOP primary opponent J.D. Hayworth, but Mr. McCain’s staff shake-ups and some rightward policy shifts on issues including immigration indicate unease nonetheless.

Mr. Hayworth, a former congressman, said Wednesday that his campaign’s tea party supporters will help him close the gap before the Aug. 24 primary, citing Mr. Paul’s surprisingly large margin of victory in Kentucky as a sign of the movement’s power.

In New York, Rep. Charles B. Rangel — dogged by charges of corruption — is entangled with serious Democratic primary challengers, including the campaign of a former aide looking to replace the 40-year House veteran.

Other incumbents expected to be in major fights include:

• Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who voted against the military surge in Iraq. He faces four opponents in the GOP primary on June 8.

• Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California. Like Mr. Inglis and Mr. McCain, she is facing a GOP primary opponent who has cast himself as “the real conservative” in the race.

• Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, a five-term Democrat. He voted against President Obama’s health care reform bill, prompting a challenge for the June 22 primary in conservative Utah.

• Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, a Democrat appointed to the seat 15 months ago, is being challenged by a former state House speaker.

Earlier this primary season, voters fired Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, and Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, West Virginia Democrat — and on Tuesday sent Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania packing.

“People just aren’t very happy,” Ira Robbins, 61, said in Allentown, Pa.

Several political analysts dubbed the special election for the seat long held by the now-deceased Democratic firebrand John P. Murtha in Pennsylvania an exception to the theme, and Democrats seized on it as an indicator that the projections of a Republican “wave” in November’s midterm elections are overstated.

“The Republican Party’s failure to take a seat that they themselves said was tailor-made for them to win is a significant blow and shows that while conventional wisdom holds that this will be a tough year for Democrats, the final chapter of this year’s elections is far from written,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said Wednesday.

But Mark Critz, the Democrat who won the contest, ran a distinctly anti-Washington campaign himself, saying he opposed Mr. Obama’s health care reform law — though he stopped short of supporting a repeal.

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