Mollohan loses in West Virginia
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Rep. Alan Mollohan, a 14-term incumbent, has been defeated by state Sen. Mike Oliverio in West Virginia's Democratic primary, according to the Associated Press.
With 97 percent of the vote in, Oliverio led Mollohan 56 percent to 44 percent.
Mollohan's decisive loss -- a stunning rebuke for a veteran appropriator who has held his seat for nearly three decades - comes just days after Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) lost his bid for renomination. Mollohan, the son of a congressman, had typically coasted in his re-election bids.
Oliverio had cast Mollohan as a creature of Washington and blasted the veteran incumbent over his ethics, repeatedly calling him "one of the most corrupt congressmen."
In coal-dependent West Virginia, Mollohan also found himself taking heat for the ambitious Democratic push for climate change legislation. In the final weeks leading up to the primary, Oliverio was endorsed by a handful of area newspapers that pointedly criticized Mollohan for not speaking out more strongly against the cap-and-trade bill and for not voting against the bill until the last minute.
Mollohan also found himself under fire from his former allies in the pro-life movement, who targeted the veteran congressman over his support for the health care reform bill. The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, launched radio ads and robo-calls in the district targeting Mollohan during the primary. West Virginians for Life pulled their longtime support for him and endorsed Oliverio.
"Just as Bart Stupak did, Congressman Mollohan now fully realizes that votes do have consequences. Mollohan's loss comes as a direct result of his vote for healthcare reform that included federal funding of abortion," SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. "This should be just another sign to 'pro-life' Democrats that voted for the healthcare bill that they will face the same consequences as Stupak and Mollohan."
Mollohan fought back aggressively, spending nearly $700,000 and hitting the airwaves with a handful of ads slamming Oliverio as a Republican wolf in sheep's clothing. In his latest TV ad, Mollohan's campaign highlighted Oliverio's membership in the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council and noted that he had been embraced in some corners of the tea party movement.
Mollohan had received the strategic support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee throughout the spring, though the committee did not air any TV ads on his behalf. A host of congressional colleagues also cut campaign checks for Mollohan.
"This was a tough and spirited primary process and we are confident that this historically Democratic seat will remain Democratic this November," DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen said in a statement Tuesday evening. "On behalf of the DCCC, I thank Alan for friendship and his outstanding years of service to our country and West Virginia."
Oliverio will face former state GOP Chairman David McKinley in the general election. With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, McKinley, the establishment favorite in the race, led attorney Mac Warner 35 percent to 27 percent. Former state Sen. Sarah Minear trailed with 21 percent.
The top Republican candidates engaged in a combative and expensive primary, with McKinley and Minear spending hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to blast each others' state legislative records.
In West Virginia's 3rd District, 17-term Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall won renomination over hotel worker Bruce Barilla. With 88 percent of the vote in, Rahall led 67 percent to 33 percent. He'll face the winner of a four-candidate GOP primary field that includes former state Supreme Court Justice Spike Maynard.
Voters also headed to the polls Tuesday for a Georgia special election, where former state Rep. Tom Graves and former state Sen. Lee Hawkins are headed toward a June 8 runoff to compete for the state's vacant 9th District seat.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Graves led the eight-candidate field with 35 percent of the vote, followed by with Hawkins at 23 percent, Chickamauga City Councilman Steve Tarvin at 15 percent, and cardiologist Chris Cates at 12 percent.
Graves, a tea-party inspired candidate, had the backing of the anti-tax Club for Growth, which has spent heavily in the race on his behalf.
Former GOP Rep. Nathan Deal, a nine-term congressman, resigned from the north Georgia seat in March to run for governor.
Nebraska voters also headed to the polls on Tuesday. GOP Gov. Dave Heineman and Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry, and Adrian Smith all prevailed over little-known primary opposition.
First Published May 12, 2010 12:20 am