Nearly lost in all the presidential primary news is the fact that two longtime congressional incumbents in Maryland–one of each party–were defeated by primary challengers who had big assists from outside organizations and the netroots. It’s the first time this has happened in this election cycle, but perhaps not the last:
Maryland Democratic Rep. Al Wynn and Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest were handily defeated in their respective primary challenges. With three quarters of the vote tallied, Wynn was ousted, 61%-35% by liberal activist Donna Edwards, who unsuccessfully challenged him in 2006 but came within 3,000 votes of knocking him off then.
With 95% of precincts reporting, Gilchrest was defeated 44%-32% by state Sen. Andy Harris, who was backed by the anti-tax group Club for Growth. Gilchrest was also challenged by state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, a millionaire who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2004. As of two weeks ago, both challengers had raised more money than Gilchrest, who reversed a pledge not to accept money from political action committees late in the race in order to compete.
The nine-term Gilchrest, one of the remaining moderate Republicans serving in the House, was targeted for his anti-war stance and weakness on taxes. The Club for Growth put almost half a million dollars into the race, running ads charging Gilchrest was too liberal and voted with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi more often than any other Republican.
The hotly contested primary battle against Wynn attracted millions of dollars from outside groups and was a target of liberal bloggers who seek to move the Democratic Party more to the left.
Edwards accused Wynn of being beholden to the corporate interests that helped fund his campaign coffers and she made an issue of the high rate of bank foreclosures on homes in the district and surrounding suburbs.