Five-Term Democrat Holden Loses in Pennsylvania Primary

by
April 25, 2012
By JONATHAN WEISMAN, The New York Times

Five-term Representative Tim Holden of Pennsylvania appeared headed to defeat in a Democratic primary Tuesday, losing to lawyer Matt Cartwright who made Mr. Holden’s vote against President Obama’s health care law a major issue in the newly redrawn 17th district.

With more than 54 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Cartwright held a 64 percent to 36 percent advantage over the incumbent. Mr. Holden, who is part of the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats, would become the second incumbent to lose to a newcomer in a House primary this season. Earlier this year, Representative Jean Schmidt, Republican of Ohio, was also defeated by a member of her own party. In both cases, the anti-incumbent “super PAC” Campaign for Primary Accountability has worked against the defeated House member.

In Mr. Holden’s case, the liberal League of Conservation Voters and MoveOn.org also piled on, taking advantage of a new district drawn by Republican legislators that is considerably more Democratic than Mr. Holden’s old seat. Center Forward, a group that is pro-Blue Dog Democrat, tried to bail Mr. Holden out with an advertisement last week attacking Mr. Cartwright. Mr. Holden himself had tried to portray his opponent as a corrupt lawyer wrapped up in a pay-to-play judicial scandal.

But ultimately Mr. Cartwright’s own money may have made the biggest difference in a district where most Democratic voters had never been represented by Mr. Holden. Mr. Cartwright also hit Mr. Holden for voting with Republicans on some energy policies.

The incumbent was one of only 25 remaining Blue Dogs, whose ranks were decimated in the Republican surge of 2010 that wiped out most Democrats in Republican-leaning districts.

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