Today's Primaries Feature Challenges To Mack (Arizona) And Murk (Alaska)

McCain and Murkowski buttons

Two GOP senators facing challenges from the right in today's primaries. hide caption

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Four states hold primaries today, with the main events coming in Republican contests in Arizona and Alaska — though both have lost their luster in recent weeks and months.

There are also Senate (D) and gubernatorial (R) primaries to watch in Florida.

And in Vermont, five Democrats are competing for the right to succeed a retiring Republican governor.

There are also two GOP runoffs in Oklahoma for a pair of House seats.

I'm going to focus on Arizona.

Senate:  For the longest time, there was a sense that Sen. John McCain was ripe for a defeat in this year's Republican primary.  Never wildly popular with the party's conservative wing, the feeling that McCain was vulnerable became more pronounced with the rise of the Tea Party and a general anti-establishment sentiment around the country.  And when former Rep. J.D. Hayworth announced he would mount a primary challenge, many wondered if McCain's 24-year Senate career would come to an end.

That wondering stopped long ago.  McCain, realizing the threat from the outset, protected his right flank by casting off many previous positions on hot-button issues, such as illegal immigration.  He also poured in some $20 million on his campaign and went after Hayworth, less on ideology and more on, well, Hayworth himself; in one famous ad, McCain called his opponent "J.D. Huckster," with footage of the ex-congressman in an ill-advised informercial.

As it was, Hayworth may not have been the perfect vehicle for McCain's many opponents.  Unseated in 2006 after six terms following reports he received contributions from since-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Hayworth has always been seen as a bombastic, supremely confident larger-than-life character with a solid conservative voting record.  But his attempt at outmaneuvering McCain on illegal immigration failed once the senator shed his "maverick" ways and seemed to out-Hayworth Hayworth on the issue.  McCain, long known for his efforts to ease people here illegally into the workplace, was now campaigning on completing the "danged fence" between the Arizona-Mexico border.

Also in the GOP contest:  businessman Jim Deakin, a conservative who has focused his campaign from the start against McCain.

Rodney Glassman, the former vice mayor of Tucson, is favored to win the Democratic nomination, but it will be interesting to see how strong Randy Parraz finishes.  Parraz, a political activist and attorney, is the only Latino canididate in the Senate race and is thought to be running very strong with Hispanic voters.  Also: investigative journalist John Dougherty and former state Rep. Cathy Eden.

GovernorJan Brewer (R) became governor last year when Janet Napolitano (D) left to join the Obama Cabinet.  Brewer was originally expected to face multiple candidates in the Republican primary, but her signing of Arizona's controversial immigration law, popular in the GOP, scared away all serious intra-party challengers.  Her Democratic opponent will be state Attorney General Terry Goddard, son of a former governor who himself ran for governor once before.

House:  Most attention has been on the open 3rd CD, vacated by John Shadegg (R).  Among those running in the GOP primary is a first-time candidate by the name of Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle.  There are also Republican contests in three districts where Democratic incumbents are thought to be in some degree of difficulty:  1st CD (Ann Kirkpatrick), 5th CD (Harry Mitchell) and 8th CD (Gabrielle Giffords).

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