Stateline Story

Nine States Hold Primaries Today

Voters in Arizona, Minnesota and Wisconsin will go to the polls to settle on candidates for gubernatorial and attorney general races, joining voters in six other states participating in primaries today (Sept. 12).

Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont also are holding their primaries Sept. 12.

Voters in Arizona have a crowded Republican field from which to pick a challenger to face Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) this November. The candidate with the most familiar name is Don Goldwater, nephew of former Arizona senator and 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Other Republicans on the ballot are Len Munsil, an attorney, Mike Harris, an investment banker, and Gary Tupper, a contractor. An August election poll from Rasmussen Reports found that Napolitano had a double-digit lead over the Republicans vying for her job.

Minnesota voters will select the Democrat to face Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican. Recent polls show Mike Hatch, the state's attorney general, leading Becky Lourey, a state senator, for the Democratic nomination. Two statehouse races also are being closely watched in Minnesota: Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson (D), who is being challenged by a more conservative Democrat, Michael Cruze; and the only openly gay Republican legislator, state Sen. Paul Koering, who faces Kevin Goedker in the GOP primary.

The big contest in Wisconsin is for attorney general. It already has drawn national attention for its mudslinging and negativity, including one candidate telling the other, "You suck," during a radio debate . Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager (D), whose career as state top cop was marred by a drunken driving citation in 2004, faces Dane County Executive Kathleen M. Falk in the Democratic primary. Two Republicans — Paul Bucher, the attorney general of Waukesha County, and J.B. Van Hollen, former U.S. attorney for Wisconsin — are battling for a spot on the November ballot, making it the first time primaries have been held on both sides of the ticket since 1962.

In Maryland, Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. is unopposed in the primary, as is his Democratic competitor, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. But one of the state's most colorful and controversial politicians — 84-year-old former-governor-turned comptroller William Donald Schaefer — is in a tight race against Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, who Schaefer recently said dressed like Old Mother Hubbard and was getting fat.

In New York, polls show Eliot Spitzer, the state attorney general, far ahead of Democratic rival Thomas R. Suozzi, a Nassau County executive, to take on Republican John Faso, a former leader in the state Assembly, this November to replace retiring Gov. George Pataki (R). In the race to succeed Spitzer as AG, former U.S. Secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo, son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, leads his closest rival, former New York City public advocate Mark Green, according to results of a Sept. 9 poll from WNBC and Marist College. The winner there will take on Republican Jeanine Pirro in the AG race.

In Delaware, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) is not up for re-election this year, but the primary - the first in three decades to occur on a Tuesday, not a Saturday, will decide several General Assembly races, including four state House seats in Wilmington, The News Journal reported.

The state-level races in the Sept. 12 primary may be overshadowed by a handful of close congressional races that pundits are watching for indicators of an incumbent backlash nationally. Moderate Rhode Island Republican U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, for example, is facing a stiff primary challenge from conservative Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey.

Two incumbents in Congress already have lost this primary season: U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) in the Aug. 9 Connecticut primary against fellow Democrat Ned Lamont, a businessman who ran against the war in Iraq, and U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) in a Democratic primary in Georgia's 4th Congressional District to challenger Hank Johnson. In Alaska's primary last month, voters also rejected Gov. Frank Murkowski (R).

One of the country's closest primary contests is expected next week in Massachusetts, where three Democrats are in the Sept. 19 gubernatorial primary vying to take on Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey for the chance to replace retiring Gov. Mitt Romney (R). The three Democrats are: Deval Patrick, who served as assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration, Thomas Reilly, state attorney general, and Chris Gabrieli, a venture capitalist.