House Primaries: Democrats Continue to Struggle to Get Their Candidates

June 13, 2012 · 11:44 AM EDT

Democrats’ path ahead in targeted House races got even more difficult Tuesday night, as the party’s preferred candidates failed to advance to the general election in South Carolina and Arkansas.

In the Palmetto State, former Georgia (yes, Georgia) state Rep. Gloria Tinubu appeared to win the Democratic nomination outright, but the ghost of former top recruits just wouldn’t go away. While Tinubu finished first in the four-way field, questions remain as to whether she cleared the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a runoff.

Finishing second was attorney Preston Brittain, who received the state’s Democratic establishment support after the one-time frontrunner, state Rep. Ted Vick, was stopped for drunk driving with a college co-ed and an unregistered handgun. The South Carolina Board of Elections has initially decided not to count Vick’s votes, thereby lowering the total number of votes cast and giving Tinubu 52 percent to Brittain’s 39 percent.

But Democrats are likely to challenge that outcome, arguing that Vick’s votes are part of the total tally, and that because of that Tinubu did not receive a majority of all votes cast.

Republicans will have to wait another two weeks to finalize their nominee, with former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice finishing atop the nine-way field, with 32 percent and 29 percent respectively. The pair will now begin what is likely to be a spirited runoff, and state observers expect the contest, which had been relatively tame on the GOP side, to become nasty, as is the state’s political tradition.

While Bauer finished first Tuesday, few Palmetto State Republicans expect the same result on June 26, and several are privately worried about their party’s chances if Bauer, who has had controversial antics and statements in the past, becomes the GOP standard-bearer. But those worries would be moot if Tinubu is the Democratic nominee. The DCCC had reserved ad time in the Myrtle Beach-Florence media market.

After falling short in last month’s primaries, Democrats’ preferred recruits in Arkansas failed to win their runoffs, effectively tabling any hope the party had of playing in the Razorback State, already an uphill challenge with Obama atop the ballot.

In the 1st C.D., state Rep. Clark Hall, who had been endorsed by the Blue Dogs, lost to attorney Scott Ellington. Similarly in the open 4th District race, Democrats failed to get their preferred candidate, attorney Q. Byrum Hurst, who lost handily to state Sen. Gene Jeffress, 61 percent to 39 percent. None of the Arkansas districts are regarded as in play for the fall.

In North Dakota’s At-Large congressional district, Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer prevailed in the GOP primary over his fellow commissioner Brian Kalk. Cramer won, 55 percent to 45 percent, despite losing at the state Republican convention to Kalk. Cramer had sought the nod last year, which went to eventual winner and now-Senate candidate Rick Berg, and in this contest he had received the support of the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. Cramer is the favorite in November in this conservative state, although Democrats have a good recruit in former state Rep. Pam Gulleson, who was unopposed in her primary.

And in the GOP contest for Nevada’s new 4th District, former UNLV basketball standout and 2010 Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian prevailed in the nine-candidate field with 32 percent over state Sen. Barbara Cegavske. Democrats still have the edge here in the fall, and their candidate, state Sen. Majority Leader Steven Horsford, was unopposed in the primary. Obama won the district with 58 percent in 2008. The district still leans to the Democrats.