The DC’s cheat sheet to today’s primaries

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Today is Election Day in 12 states. Here’s what you should know about the hottest contests:

Sex in South Carolina: Will voters buy Will Folks’s claim of an extramarital affair with Nikki Haley?

Sex and South Carolina politics have become almost synonymous. This is where rumors swirled in 2000 that John McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child, and where Gov. Mark Sanford embarrassed himself by disappearing to South America for a tryst with his Argentine soul mate.

So in the race for Sanford’s open governor’s seat, sex returned to the headlines after two political operatives claimed to have had illicit affairs with Haley. She’s denied any infidelity, and even Sarah Palin has come to her defense, saying the claims are the result of Haley taking the lead in the polls.

A Washington Post story noted Monday that the alleged affairs are the talk among the state’s voters leading up to the election, but it doesn’t appear to be hurting Haley very much. In fact, the charges seem to have made her a figure of sympathy to many voters.

A poll from this weekend shows Haley leading the pack of GOP rivals with 43 percent of the vote. Gresham Barrett had 23 percent, Henry McMaster 16 percent and Lt. Governor Andre Bauer just 12 percent. If no one gets more than half of the vote, the top two candidates will proceed to a June 22 runoff. The Republican nominee will face one of three Democrats vying for the seat in November.

Unions in Arkansas: If Blanche Lincoln prevails in the Democratic primary runoff, will this be proof that unions have lost their sting?

Lincoln, first elected to the U.S. Senate from Arkansas in 1998, did not support a public option in President Obama’s health-care bill this year and opposed pro-union legislation, like the Employee Free Choice Act. So labor unions have spent more than $10 million against her since she bested Lt. Gov. Bill Halter by two points in the May primary. Polls show today’s contest a nail biter.

Though Lincoln in the first primary prevailed against Halter, who is unquestionably more liberal than Lincoln in this generally conservative state, recent polls now show him slightly ahead. A DailyKos/research poll from this weekend shows Halter leading Lincoln 49 percent to 45 percent.

If Halter wins and another incumbent is shown the door, analysts will point to the anti-Washington mood of the electorate. But if Lincoln is able to pull out a win against the union money, many will question the political power of the AFL-CIO and the SEIU.

Regardless of who wins, both Democrats are polling behind the likely Republican candidate in the fall, Rep. John Boozman.

Also in Arkansas, we may see the power of a Palin endorsement in Arkansas’s 3rd district race. “Mama grizzly” state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, endorsed by the former Alaska governor, is in a GOP run-off with Steve Womack, the mayor of Rogers.

Taking Harry down in Nevada: Is Sharron Angle the best bet for Republicans to defeat Harry Reid?

Polls suggest Angle, who has the backing of the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth, is the one to beat in the GOP primary. Angle is unapologetic about her conservative beliefs: her campaign website says she’s for abolishing the Department of Education and withdrawing from the United Nations. She’s been linked by her opponents to Scientology.

Her primary rivals, Danny Tarkanian and Sue Lowden, have attempted to make the electability case, arguing that Angle will be defined as extreme, and she will be the reason the GOP fails to unseat Reid.

Tarkanian’s campaign blasted out a poll to reporters showing him beating Reid by seven points in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, with Lowden losing to Reid and Angle within the margin of error. “Danny is the only Republican candidate who is decisively beating Harry Reid,” his campaign said.

A recent Daily Kos poll has Angle at 34 percent, followed by Lowden’s 25 percent and Tarkanian’s 24 percent.

If Angle wins, look for her conservative beliefs to be scrutinized by the media just like Kentucky Republican Rand Paul was after he won his primary.

Money in California: Can Carly Fiorina’s Hewlett-Packard money win her the GOP nod to run against Barbara Boxer? Can Meg Whitman’s eBay money win her the chance to take on Democrat Jerry Brown for Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger’s open seat?

Whitman, who used to run eBay, spent $71 million of her own money on the gubernatorial campaign, while her opponent, Steve Poizner, spent about $25 million of his. The big spending has paid off for Whitman, who is polling at 51 percent to Poizner’s 25 percent. But the question remains: will a big spender be able to help solve California’s budget woes?

The winner of the race will face former Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

Big money is also flowing in the race to take on Sen. Barbara Boxer. Since January, according to Politics Daily, Fiorina has spent $6.7 million compared to Chuck Devore’s $2 million and Tom Campbell’s $1.6 million.

Fiorina was also boosted by a Palin endorsement and is polling at 37 percent, while Campbell polls at 22 percent and Devore at 19 percent.

And the others: Don’t forget about elections going down in Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Maine and Iowa.

— In Georgia, the only contest today is the special election runoff for Rep. Nathan Deal’s 9th congressional district seat. Deal resigned to run for governor. The Peach State district is one of the most conservative in the country, and both candidates who made it to the run-off are Republicans: former state Rep. Tom Graves and former state Sen. Lee Hawkins. Graves is largely seen as a Tea Party backed candidate.

— In the New Jersey 3rd congressional district, former NFL star Jon Runyan of the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers is running for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Rep. John Adler. Low-voter turnout is expected throughout the state.

— In Virginia, seven Republican candidates are vying to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello, who was slimly elected to the 5th Congressional District seat in 2008 and voted for Obama’s health-care bill this year.

— In North Dakota, Gov. John Hoeven will likely win the Republican nomination to fill the seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan. Hoeven is expected to face state Democratic state Sen. Tracy Potter in November.

— In South Dakota, three Republicans are vying to take on Democrat Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for the state’s only congressional seat. The GOP sees the district as a prime pick-up opportunity with candidates Christopher Nelson, Kristi Noem and Blake Curd.

— In Montana, several Democrats are duking it out to take on Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg for the state’s at-large congressional seat. Former Democratic Party Chairman Dennis McDonald is facing Tyler Gernant, among others, in the primary.

— Seven Republicans are running in Maine for the open gubernatorial seat being vacated by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. Four Democrats are also running for the seat.

— In Iowa, former Gov. Terry Branstad is polling ahead of Bob Vander Plaats in the race to take on Democrat Gov. Chet Culver. Palin endorsed Branstad, while former Gov. Mike Huckabee endorsed Vander Plaats.

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