WASHINGTON – Incumbents beware. Another lawmaker just bit the dust.
Michigan Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick lost her bid for an eighth term on Tuesday, her son's legal woes dragging her down in a year when fickle voters seem eager to fire longtime lawmakers.
She's the sixth — and the fourth in the House — to lose so far this year. And the frustrated electorate could deal others the same fate in primaries over the next two months, not to mention the general election in November, when nothing less than the balance of power in Washington will be at stake.
In another nod to fresh blood, Michigan voters chose political newcomer Rick Snyder as the Republican nominee in the race to succeed outgoing Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in a state severely battered by the economic downturn.
He automatically became the favorite in the ailing state in his race against Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who grabbed the Democratic nomination by beating House Speaker Andy Dillon. 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 because of term limits.
The two outcomes reflected the electorate's strong anti-establishment sentiment and intense desire for new faces just three months before midterm elections.
Other races in Missouri and Kansas were more predictable 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.
Another veteran 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.
The 2010 midterm elections already have seen five incumbents lose. 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. Throughout the campaign, he 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 governor's race, Snyder — who grabbed attention with ads promoting himself as "one tough nerd" — overcame Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra and two others. The former president and chief operating officer of computer maker Gateway Inc. spent $6 million of his own money on the primary.
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. The conservative 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 in a plane crash.
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 sent a clear political message to Obama and the Democrats.