Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Holden Loses Re-Election Bid to Cartwright

From: National Journal

Democratic attorney Matt Cartwright has defeated Rep. Tim Holden in Pennsylvania's 17th District Democratic primary.

The Associated Press called the race at 10:15 p.m. With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Cartwright led Holden 59 percent to 41 percent.

Holden, a battle-seasoned veteran first elected in 1992, had been repeatedly targeted by Republicans over the years, but his independent, Blue Dog Democratic credentials consistently swayed electorates to his side.

This year, though, he was caught from the left by Cartwright, who argued that Holden was too conservative to represent the new, more liberal-leaning 17th District.

The new seat robbed Holden of one of the key benefits of incumbency: name identification. More than 80 percent of the redrawn seat was new territory to him, and Holden started the primary campaign little-known outside his base east of Harrisburg. Cartwright negated another usual advantage for incumbents by loaning $380,000 to his campaign and banking dozens of high-dollar donations from fellow trial lawyers and family members. Outside groups, including the anti-incumbent super PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability, also chipped in over $350,000 to help oust Holden, while the incumbent only got $95,000 in outside help from a moderate Democratic group.

Holden won 85 percent of the vote in Schuylkill County, his base, but he lost each of the other major counties in the district. Cartwright built his victory on the foundation provided by Lackawanna County, one of the heavily Democratic regions grafted onto Holden's seat in redistricting. Cartwright won Lackawanna with 78 percent, but it provided almost 7,000 more votes by itself than Holden's base, and Cartwright also swept through all of the other counties in the district except Carbon County.

The outcome of the primary will have little effect on the general election: President Obama carried the 17th District with 57 percent in 2008 and Cartwright will be heavily favored in a race an under-funded tea party activist, Laureen Cummings.
Holden is the fourth House member to lose a primary this year. Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Don Manzullo, R-Ill., were eliminated by House colleagues in member-versus-member races, and Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, lost her renomination bid to a tea party-affiliated candidate.

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