Michigan Voters Sack Kilpatrick, Pick Newcomers

Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., delivers her concession speech early Wednesday morning, Aug. 4, 2010 in Detroit. AP

Michigan voters fired seven-term Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and chose political newcomer Rick Snyder as the Republican nominee in the race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in a state severely battered by the economic downturn.

The two outcomes on Tuesday reflected the electorate's strong anti-establishment sentiment and intense desire for new faces just three months before midterm elections that will determine power in Congress.

Other outcomes in races in Missouri and Kansas had been expected in what otherwise has been a primary season filled with unanticipated results as tea party hopefuls shook up races and voters spurned candidates aligned with the political parties.

In Kansas, two-term Sen. Sam Brownback sailed to the GOP nomination in the gubernatorial race. Democrat Robin Carnahan - a member of a famed Missouri political family - and seven-term GOP Rep. Roy Blunt secured spots on the November ballot in that state's Senate race.

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Another longtime politician - GOP Rep. Jerry Moran - narrowly topped fellow Republican Rep. Todd Tiahrt in the race for the party's Senate nod in Kansas and will face Democrat Lisa Johnston, a college administrator. Moran had the backing of Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., while Tiahrt had the support of Sarah Palin. Victory in the GOP primary was tantamount to a general election win as Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932.

Kilpatrick was the sixth incumbent lawmaker to lose this year. Sens. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and Arlen Specter, D-Pa., were ousted by their respective parties. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., Parker Griffith, R-Ala., and Bob Inglis, R-S.C., have failed in their primary bids.

State Sen. Hansen Clarke of Detroit beat Kilpatrick and, throughout the campaign, stressed the legal problems of her son, Kwame Kilpatrick, who resigned as Detroit mayor in 2008 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice. Kilpatrick tried to overcome her son's legal woes by emphasizing her membership on the House Appropriations Committee and what she called her record of providing for the metropolitan Detroit district.

In the Michigan governor's race, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero grabbed the Democratic nod by beating House Speaker Andy Dillon.

But Snyder automatically became the favorite in the economically ailing state. Michigan has the nation's second-highest unemployment rate - at 13.2 percent - and scores of foreclosures, and that has been a drag on Granholm, the Democratic governor who must leave office after two terms.

Snyder - who grabbed attention with ads promoting himself as "one tough nerd" - overcame Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra and two others. The president and chief operating officer of computer maker Gateway Inc., spent $6 million of his own money on the primary.

Snyder estimates that he's had a hand in helping create 400 Michigan jobs and 1,200 nationally. But he's been criticized for Gateway's decision to drop most of the 9,000 U.S. jobs added while Snyder was in management when it moved much of its manufacturing operations to other countries. He was still on Gateway's board when the change occurred, but wasn't involved in those decisions.

Dearborn resident Jim Kwilos said he voted for Snyder because he believes the former computer executive is the best candidate to turn Michigan around.

"He doesn't have the baggage of a traditional politician," said Kwilos, 54, a sales representative and Republican. "He comes from a different mindset, which I think is refreshing. It's about jobs and productivity and things he can do that will benefit everybody in the state."

In Kansas, Brownback easily won the GOP gubernatorial nomination over a single opponent and already was considered the front-runner for the general election. He is giving up a Senate seat he's held since 1997. A conservative favorite, he made a brief run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination before dropping out.

State Sen. Tom Holland is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. They will square off to succeed Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson, who was finishing out the remainder of Kathleen Sebelius' term. She left office last year to become President Barack Obama's Health and Human Services Secretary.

In Missouri, Carnahan, the daughter of a former governor and a former senator, easily defeated two challengers. Her Senate bid comes 10 years after the death of her father and one of her brothers. They died in an October 2000 plane crash while Mel Carnahan was campaigning for the Senate.

Robin Carnahan, the two-term secretary of state, will face Blunt, who has served in the House since 1996 and whose son is a former governor. He beat eight opponents for the GOP nomination, including tea party favorite state Sen. Chuck Purgason. Four-term Sen. Kit Bond is retiring.

Missouri also became the first state to test the popularity of Obama's health care overhaul law.

Voters strongly approved a new law that prohibits the government from requiring people to have health insurance or from penalizing them from paying for their own health care. That conflicts with a federal requirement that most people have health insurance or face penalties starting in 2014.

The legal effect is questionable, because federal laws generally supersede those in states. But its passage send a clear political message to Obama and the Democrats.
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