CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Republican incumbents in three states fended off challenges from anti-establishment candidates, in the first of a spate of primaries testing the strength of the small-government tea party movement that first rocked the party years ago.
Tuesday’s races marked the beginning of the political primary season in earnest.
In one of the most watched primaries, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis defeated tea party favorite Greg Bannon and Baptist Minister Mark Harris on Tuesday for the right to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November.
The North Carolina Republican primary is a key test in the 2014 elections for control of the Senate. The Republicans, who are expected to retain control of the House of Representatives in November, are six seats away from a Senate majority.
In Ohio, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner easily defeated two tea party challengers as he seeks his 13th term in Congress. First-term Rep. David Joyce of Ohio, had a slightly tougher time but was running well ahead of his tea party rival.
In Indiana, Republican Rep. Susan Brooks easily fended off a challenge from the right, rolling up 75 percent of the votes in a three-way race.
Also in North Carolina, former “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken and textile entrepreneur Keith Crisco remained very close and without a clear winner in the Democratic primary for a House seat.