The messages from Tuesday’s primary elections weren’t as clear as some previous primaries, other than the fact that a Y chromosome wasn’t a very useful attribute this week.
Women dominated in the primary victories from South Carolina to California. Incumbents and insiders were still the big losers.
The most notable exception was Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who won her Democratic runoff election against Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who was endorsed by labor unions and liberal groups from around the country. Lincoln is a centrist Democrat, and she was attacked for failing to support all of President Barack Obama’s policies. But she wore her independence from party leadership as a campaign badge, and still managed to get former President Bill Clinton to campaign on her behalf.
A pair of powerful businesswomen entered the California political scene, and both won their Republican primary elections. Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is the GOP nominee to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Barbara Boxer, and Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay is the Republican candidate for governor of California. She will face Democrat and former Gov. Jerry Brown in November.
Perhaps none of the women savored victory as much as state Rep. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who may still face a runoff election, but came out on top of several other candidates in the race for the Republican nomination for governor. This occurred after several weeks during which she endured claims that she had sexual affairs with two different political operatives, although neither offered evidence to back up his claims. Haley had the backing of tea party types and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
In Nevada, another woman with tea party backing, Sharron Angle, defeated the former head of the Nevada Republican Party, Sue Lowden, for the chance to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November. Reid backers wanted Angle to win, because they believe Reid has a better chance of defeating her. But polls earlier this week showed he trailed all of the Republican candidates. Also, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons lost his GOP primary to a former federal judge, Brian Sandoval.
It still doesn’t look like a good year to be a politician with close ties to the political establishment, regardless of party affiliation.