Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Another incumbent Democrat bites the dust as anti-Washington fever reaches West Virginia [Updated]

May 12, 2010 |  8:49 am

House Republicans unveil new GOP TV ad against President Obama's health care plan March 16, 2010, targeting Alan Mollohan, who lost his primary bid May 11, by Getty Images
First, Robert F. Bennett was denied renomination to another Senate term by Utah Republicans, a reliably conservative Republican ousted by Republicans for not being conservative enough. Utah's other Republican senator, Orrin G. Hatch, a conservative who tries to bridge the partisan divide with Democrats on issues with shared interests, is up for reelection in 2012 and could be the next casualty of Tea Party anger.

[Updated at 9:28 a.m.: An earlier version of this post said Bennett lost his seat in the Republican primary. Bennett was denied renomination to another term in the Senate by a vote of delegates at the Utah Republican Party convention.]

Washington was still recovering from that shock when another blow hit. On Tuesday, Democrat Alan Mollohan became the first congressman to be ousted this primary season, after 28 years in the House. And it wasn't even close -- 56%-44%.

State Sen. Mike Oliverio ran hard against Mollohan's earmark-happy ethics -- and his support for healthcare overhaul and climate change legislation. West Virginia is rich in coal -- and in antiabortion voters.

In a district that gave Republican John McCain 57% of its vote in 2008, Oliverio has an uphill climb in the fall against Republican David McKinley, who promises to make the race "a referendum on the Obama administration and Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda."

For Democrats, the news is devastating. Chris Van Hollen, the Maryland Democrat who chairs the congressional campaign committee for his party tried to put a good face on it. “This was a tough and spirited primary process. We are confident that West Virginia families will continue to have Democratic representation in this traditionally Democratic seat.”

Maybe, but the math is pretty telling.

Historically, midterm elections cost the party in power some seats and Democrats are girding for a 2010 loss of between 25 to 30 seats in the House. But Mollohan is a senior congressman, and as Fox News pointed out,  one of the reasons Republicans won the House in 1994 is that "they not only vanquished weak members and lawmakers from marginal districts, but wiped out big fish, too." Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich and his "contract with America" knocked off House Speaker Tom Foley and Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski.

Mollohan has been on the vulnerable list for awhile. The question now: Who's next?

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Republican U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Greg Walden of Oregon and Pete Sessions of Texas unveil a GOP ad on March 15 against President Obama's healthcare legislation targeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francsico), Obama and Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.). Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images North America)

Click here to receive Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item.

Our Facebook FAN page is right here.