WASHINGTON – In a stunning tea-party smackdown against the establishment GOP Tuesday evening, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., lost his bid for the Republican Party nomination against tea-party backed candidate David Brat by a margin of more than 11 percentage points.
Republican incumbents Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Cantor have been favored candidates in their states, but both faced strong tea-party opposition.
The primaries Tuesday included elections in South Carolina, Virginia, Maine, North Dakota and Nevada. Arkansas has just a few runoffs, one between Republicans running for attorney general and two others in the state Legislature.
With 86.1 percent of precincts reporting, Brat led the race with 55.8 percent to Cantor’s 44.2 percent.
Fueled by opposition to Cantor’s stance on immigration, tea-party favorite David Brat had gained national attention as a threat to the incumbent’s hold on the largely Republican 7th Congressional district.
Brat said in a National Review piece, “There’s no chance Cantor will do as well in Tuesday’s vote as he did two years ago.” The House majority leader won his 2012 primary with 79 percent of the vote against a political novice with no money.
Cantor, a seven-term incumbent, attempted to portray Brat as a “liberal college professor.” Brat is backed by author Ann Coulter and radio host Laura Ingraham.
Meanwhile, seven Democrats in Virginia are vying for the chance to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran. Former Democratic Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer is expected to win the party nomination and the seat, which is considered secure in the Democratic Party’s clutches. Beyer was endorsed by David Axelrod and Oprah Winfrey.
Virginia polls closed at 7 p.m. EST
An embattled Graham, who many argue has been a proverbial thorn in the tea-party’s side, is expected to lead the Palmetto State to victory. But Graham must he must garner more than 50 percent of the vote in a seven-way race to avoid a runoff. His Republican challengers are Columbia pastor Det Bowers, State Sen. Lee Bright, businessman Richard Cash, attorney Bill Connor, attorney Benjamin Dunn and businesswoman Nancy Mace.
Clemson University’s Palmetto Poll last week showed Graham with a 40-point lead over Bright, his closest challenger. Graham has a $7 million war chest at his disposal.
Under state rules, Graham needs 50 percent of the vote to win the primary without a run-off in two weeks. Since none of his challengers have materialized as the bulk of anti-Graham voters, he could sidestep whatever punch his tea-party opposition throws.
South Carolina polls closed at 7 p.m. EDT.
Four candidates are hoping to fill Maine’s open 2nd Congressional District seat.
Establishment Republican Kevin Raye is taking on tea-party favorite Bruce Poliquin for the Republican nomination. Raye is considered the frontrunner.
President Obama carried the district with 53 percent of the vote in 2012.
The 1st Congressional District, Senate and governor primary races are all uncontested.
In the 2nd District, both primaries pit candidates who pledge to be fighters in Washington against those who vow to break down political barriers.
Maine polls closed at 7 p.m. EST.
In Nevada, first-term Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is expected to defeat four GOP primary challengers. He will be favored to make it all the way to re-election in November, no matter who emerges from the eight-way Democratic primary.
Freshman state Sen. Mark Hutchison and former state Sen. Sue Lowden have been embroiled in the nastiest race in Nevada’s primary election. The winner of Tuesday’s contest, which also includes Chris Dyer, is likely to face Lucy Flores, a two-term Democratic assemblywoman from Las Vegas who has the backing of Sen. Harry Reid.
In Nevada’s House, a conservative state assemblyman and a tea-party organizer are squaring off in the GOP primary in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District to likely challenge Democrat incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford in November. Horsford is expected to easily top one primary foe. Niger Innis, a tea-party organizer who acknowledges not voting very often in the past decade, faces Assemblyman Cresent Hardy of Mesquite in the GOP primary.
Republican infighting over adherence to conservative ideals is very much in play in several state legislative races and the fight for control of the Nevada Senate. GOP minority leaders in both the Senate and Assembly, Sen. Michael Roberson of Henderson and Assemblyman Pat Hickey of Reno, face primary challenges from the far right, as do several other incumbent lawmakers. GOP turmoil could dash Republican hopes of reclaiming the Senate, where Democrats hold an 11-10 majority.
Nevada polls close at 9 p.m. EST.
Mayoral races are drawing people to the polls in North Dakota’s largest city where Commissioner Brad Wimmer is challenging two-term Mayor Dennis Walaker.
In oil boomtown Williston, longtime Mayor Ward Koeser is stepping down and three people are vying to succeed him.
North Dakota polls close at 9 p.m. EST.