NPR logo Delaware Tea Party: What To Look For On Primary Night

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Delaware Tea Party: What To Look For On Primary Night

Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. Rob Carr/Associated Press hide caption

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Rob Carr/Associated Press

Another Tuesday, another cluster of primary elections.

But this one is different than all the others this year because it's the last one before November's mid-term elections.

Primary contests are occurring in seven states and the District of Columbia. And you know it's an unusual year when Delaware becomes the center of the political universe, at least for a night.

Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del.  Matt Slocum/Associated Press hide caption

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Matt Slocum/Associated Press

(No disrespect, Delaware. You get a lot of love from many of us East Coasters for being a relatively painless state to drive through on I-95 compared with New Jersey.)

Delaware is drawing so much attention this year because of the race for the Republican nomination to fill the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Sen. Ted Kaufman.

He filled the vacancy created when his former boss became Vice President Joe Biden but made clear from the start he wouldn't be running for the seat in his own right.

The GOP race pits Rep. Mike Castle, a moderate Republican, against Christine O'Donnell, a marketing consultant, who has the support of the Tea Party and an endorsement from Sarah Palin.

While questions have been raised about her personal finances, they apparently didn't diminish the threat she represented to Castle's political future.

Castle is the choice of the Republican establishment which this year has been a liability in some instances, like primary races in Kentucky, Utah, Nevada and Alaska. Two incumbent Senate Republicans — Robert Smith of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, lost their races.

Meanwhile a candidate in Kentucky backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who represents the same state lost to Rand Paul.

So Delaware becomes a test of whether the Republican establishment will lose another one or turn back the tide.

Democrats didn't see themselves having much of a chance of holding onto the seat facing the affable, moderate Castle, a former governor.

But if O'Donnell wins, then not only is that a big win for her but for Democrat Chris Coons, too.

Coons, the chief executive of New Castle County, was gaining ground in some polls on Castle and a win by O'Donnell would presumably level the playing field.

NPR's Liz Halloran provides more good background on the Delaware race as well as primaries in New York and New Hampshire.

An excerpt on those two states:

The race to watch in the Empire State is the GOP primary for governor, where the Tea Party is also stirring things up.

A new poll shows that millionaire developer Carl Paladino of Buffalo, a 64-year-old Tea Party favorite who has never held elective office, has pulled even with former four-term Rep. Rick Lazio. Lazio, 52, has the support of the state’s GOP establishment.

The winner is expected to face 52-year-old Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the state's attorney general and son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, in the fall.

Embattled Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, who has represented his Harlem district for four decades, faces a tough primary challenge from Adam Clayton Powell IV. Rangel has been weakened by a House ethics investigation that resulted in 13 pending charges against him.


In New Hampshire, another battle involving the Tea Party, the establishment and Palin is playing out in the Republican Senate primary contest for the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Judd Gregg after three decades.

Front-runner Kelly Ayotte, a former state attorney general, has been buoyed by the party’s establishment and a Palin endorsement. But she faces a stiff challenge from Ovide Lamontagne, a former gubernatorial candidate.

Lamontagne has the support of the Tea Party and conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

Also competing closely is wealthy businessman Bill Binnie, a moderate on social issues, including abortion. Long-shot candidate businessman Jim Bender is also on the ballot.

Meanwhile, many people in the nation's capital will be watching the Washington D.C. Democratic primary race for mayor. It's unavoidable since there are so many national journalists working here in the nation's capital.

Incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty is, by many accounts, highly regarded for continuing the economic and development progress the city has made, including its long dysfunctional schools.

But in politics, it's not all about accomplishments and being on the right side of right-track, wrong-track polling. Voters have to like you on some level and many people find Fenty insufferable.

So approaching primary day, city council chairman Vincent Gray had a double-digit lead, according to a recent Washington Post poll. An uphill struggle for an incumbent mayor to say the least.