WASHINGTON - The September 14 primary elections in seven states and the District of Columbia brought almost the end of the primary season - with only Hawaii's Sept. 18 primary yet to go - and the start of the last crucial six week countdown to the Nov 2 midterm election, with control of the House and Senate hanging in the balance.
In Maryland's primary, first-term U.S. Representative, Frank Kratovil, a Democrat, won his party's nomination for a second term. He faces the rabid Republican extremist, Dr. Andrew Harris, in the Nov. 2 midterm election. Harris, an anesthesiologist, opposes a woman's right to an abortion even if pregnancy threatens her life. As state senator, Harris has gained a reputation for casting the lone vote, taking positions so extreme he has been abandoned even by his fellow Republicans.
Nevertheless, the Republican Party is pouring in money to defeat Kratovil, one of three dozen Democrats in conservative, traditionally Republican districts carried into office in 2008 on President Obama's coat tails.
With strong labor support, Kratovil defeated Harris in 2008, but by under one percent of the vote. He joined the "Blue Dog" Democrats in voting against the first version of the Obama economic stimulus although he reversed course and voted for final passage. He voted against the health care reform bill.
Labor and other progressive forces vow to defeat Harris again by working to reelect Kratovil, pointing to pro-labor votes he cast such as support for Lily Ledbetter in her plea against flagrant wage discrimination in Alabama.
In the Washington, D.C., primary, Mayor Adrian Fenty was defeated by D.C. Council Chairman, Vincent Gray. Fenty was dogged by charges of cronyism and his abrasive style of governing.
Fenty stirred anger among union school teachers when he supported School Superintendent Michelle Rhee's arbitrary firing of 241 classroom teachers this past summer. Fenty told reporters that firing the teachers "puts us one step closer" to insuring an effective teacher in every classroom. The Washington Teachers Union (WTU) charged that Rhee violated due process in refusing to consult with the fired teachers, the union, or the Board of Education before carrying out the mass firing.
In New Hampshire's primary it appears that Republican former Attorney General, Kelly Ayotte has squeezed out a narrow victory over Tea Party Express candidate, Ovide Lamontagne for the GOP Senate nomination. Ayotte will face Rep. Paul Hodes, the Democratic candidate in the race to fill the seat of Republican Sen. Judd Gregg who is retiring.
Also in New Hampshire, Democratic Rep. Carol Shea Porter, who ran unopposed in the primary, will face Manchester Mayor, Frank Guinta in the Nov. 2 election. Republicans see this as one of the 39 seats they must pick up to win back majority control in the House.
In Rhode Island's Democratic primary race to replace Rep. Patrick Kennedy who is retiring, Providence Mayor David Cicilline won with 37 percent of the vote compared to 21 percent for his nearest rival David Segal, a consumer rights attorney.
And in New York State's primary, Carl Paladino, backed by the Tea Party Express won the Republican nomination for New York governor, over GOP favorite, Rick Lazio. It was another upset victories by tea party-backed candidates who defeated GOP favored machine candidates, several of them incumbents.
Alaska's incumbent Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski, was picked off last month by Joe Miller, in the primary. Miller is a raving extremist backed by the tea partiers. At this writing, Murkowski is deciding whether to run as a write-in candidate. She charges that the Alaska primary was "hijacked by the Tea Party Express, an outside extremist group."
She added that the Tea Party Express used a California front-group to pour $600,000 into Miller's coffers. The Koch brothers, owners of Koch Oil, and longtime moneybags for the libertarian Cato Institute, have poured millions into Tea Party Express.
Some Democratic Party strategists say the defeat of more mainstream Republican candidates by tea party extremists improves the Democrats chances of holding on to the majority in the Senate and House in November.
This could be a dangerous illusion. Right now, the Rasmussen Poll shows Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his tea party opponent, Sharron Angle, running 48 percent to 48 percent among Nevada voters.
Angle is so extreme she called openly for privatizing Social Security, abolishing the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, IRS, and the Federal Reserve. She called the $20 billion Gulf Coast relief fund secured from BP by President Obama a "slush fund." She even advised 13-year old girls who become pregnant by the horrific crimes of rape or incest to avoid an abortion and "make a lemon situation into lemonade."