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Updated: September 15, 2010 23:59 IST

Tea Party sweeps primaries

Narayan Lakshman
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Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell jokes with a supporter while waiting to be interviewed at her election night party, on Tuesday. Photo: AP.
Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell jokes with a supporter while waiting to be interviewed at her election night party, on Tuesday. Photo: AP.

In a string of shock victories, far-Right candidates supported by the Tea Party movement trounced official nominees in the Republican Party's primary elections across the United States this week. Major upsets occurred in Delaware and New York and a tighter-than-expected contest was on the cards in New Hampshire.

The Republican and Democratic parties are holding intra-party primary elections to decide their candidates for the mid-term elections to the Senate and the House of Representatives in November.

In Delaware, Sarah Palin favourite Christine O'Donnell knocked out Congressman Michael Castle. Mr. Castle, who has enjoyed success in elections for over 40 years, including two terms as Governor, garnered 47 per cent of the popular vote compared to Ms. O'Donnell's 53 per cent.

In New York, maverick and rank outsider Carl Paladino ended the hopes of Rick Lazio, who failed to capitalise on his party's backing. Media reports described the staunchly conservative newcomer as a man who had “forwarded e-mails to friends containing racist jokes and pornographic images, [and] espoused turning prisons into dormitories where welfare recipients could be given classes on hygiene”.

In New Hampshire, too, conservative candidate Ovide Lamontagne was closing the gap on Wednesday morning in the race with his mainstream Republican rival and former state Attorney-General Kelly Ayotte. Mr. Lamontagne was described as a devout Catholic, a fiscal and social conservative and a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion.

Even as news of their candidates' defeats streamed in, Republican Party leaders weighed in, fretting over the adverse impact this could have on the party's prospects in the November mid-term elections.

Karl Rove, strategist and advisor to the former President, George W. Bush, was quoted saying to a television channel, “We were looking at eight to nine seats in the Senate. We're now looking at seven to eight. In my opinion, this is not a race we're going to be able to win.”

There were however a few exceptions, particularly on the Democratic side. Congressman Charles Rangel of New York, described as a “legendary figure in city and state politics”, triumphed in a six-way contest despite being plagued by a raft of ethics charges.

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