Following in Dede Scozzafava’s Footsteps? 7 House GOP Primaries to Watch

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Sure, all the talk this weekend was about the murder-suicide between Democrats Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii that handed Republican State Assemblyman Charles Djou a victory in a special election for Hawaii’s First Congressional District – President Obama’s childhood home. But Dems are betting that base anger on the other side – where there’s talk of purity tests and hunting RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) – could help hobble or eliminate some of the NRCC’s strongest candidates before the primary season is done. Below are seven races that the Dems are sure to be watching. “These House Republican candidates have raced to the far right and outside the mainstream practically overnight and simply can’t be trusted to fight for anyone jobs’ but their own,” says Ryan Rudominer, a spokesman for the DCCC. “The more voters get to know about these Republican candidates and their lack of core beliefs, the less there is to trust.”

1) Cory Gardner, the GOP frontrunner to challenge freshman Democrat Betsy Markey in Colorado’s 4th district, is a state representative from Yuma whose father and grandfather were Dems. According to the Colorodoan, Gardner was also once a Democrat, volunteering right out of college for Susan Kirkpatrick’s challenge of Republican Bob Schaffer in 1998 for the same seat he now aspires to. Gardner even delivered Kirkpatrick’s seconding speech at her nominating assembly.

2) Sarah Palin may have just stumped for Vaughn Ward, who tomorrow will find out if he’ll be the GOP nominee for Idaho’s first district when Idahoans go to the polls, but in 2005 Ward was listed as a volunteer for Tim Kaine’s gubernatorial campaign – the same Kaine who now heads the DNC. Ward also interned for former state lawmaker Jim Hansen, now the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, while attending Boise State University in the early 1990’s.

3) Scott Rigell, running as the favorite of the GOP establishment in the Republican primary to take on freshan Democrat Glenn Nye in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, is coming under attack from his GOP primary opponents for a $1,000 donation to President Obama’s 2008 campaign. “Rigell was one of the highest Obama donors in the zip code,” Scott Taylor told Human Events. Taylor, a former Navy SEAL and local business owner, is also running in the Republican primary; his campaign slogan is “Send a SEAL not a RINO.”

4) Although Stephen Fincher has been touted by the National Republican Congressional Committee as a strong candidate for Tennessee’s Eight Congressional District (Democrat John Tanner is retiring), he now faces a competitive Republican primary in Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District from two well-funded physicians, not to mention a Brighton businessman who’s running as a Tea Party independent candidate. A common criticism: Fincher’s votes in three Democratic Party primaries over the last eight years.

5) Paul Huber had raised more than $600,000 – double that of any other Republican in the primary — in his bid to challenge Democratic freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper in Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District. But that didn’t help him when a Butler car dealer named Mike Kelly reminded audiences that Huber, a Meadville businessman, was a registered Democrat from 2000-2008. Huber lost by 950 votes of the 52,891 votes cast.

6) Kevin Yoder’s political career has seen a steady progression to the right from his time as a Democrat during his college years. As a Kansas State representative he ran as a moderate Republican, even interning for moderate GOP legislators David Adkins and Dean Newton. But in his bid for the Republican nomination for Kansas’s Third Congressional District – to replace retiring six-term Democrat Dennis Moore – Yoder’s taken a hard turn to the right to fend off Tea Party challenges. Unfortunately, all the Kansas articles I found were firewalled but here’s an example:

“Ok, before we crown Yoder as the Republican nominee, however, this is why they are not out of the woods on this divisive primary, potentially, because there are candidates—like Patricia Lightner, who will say, ‘I am the bonafide conservative in this race and I’ve got a record to prove it,’ and look for her to try as hard as she can, as fast as she can, to challenge Yoder’s conservative credentials, and that’s where this thing get’s divisive—if she is successful at it.” [Michael Mahoney on Kansas City Week in Review, 4/23/10]

7) Parker Griffith, the Democratic Republican freshman incumbent in Alabama’s 5th Congressional District is probably the poster child for partisan panic attacks. Since changing parties in December, Griffith has been attacked for his votes inline with Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leaders, been forced to return over $94,000 in campaign contributions and refused to return other contributions. Republican Leader John Boehner’s endorsement of Griffith was denounced by the Huntsville Tea Party. And Griffith has already spent hundred of thousand dollars in the GOP primary running TV ads since March.

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