WASHINGTON, D.C. – While Tuesday night's primary results left the political class reeling and Republican grassroots activists claiming victory, numerous races related to the pro-life and pro-family cause have received less media attention.
Tuesday night's election results show that South Carolina's Republican primary voters overwhelmingly support the concept of personhood. The state party asked whether Article I, Section 3 of the South Carolina state Constitution should be amended to say that “no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law,” and that these “rights shall extend to both born and pre-born persons beginning at conception.” A whopping 79 percent of GOP voters responded yes. The vote was not open to all voters and was not seriously contested. “The sweeping success of this Personhood resolution means congressional Republicans in South Carolina just received a mandate for Personhood from the grassroots,” wrote Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, after the election. “And if any 2016 Republican Presidential candidate expects to do well in the crucial South Carolina primaries, that candidate cannot forget that 79 percent of the base believes preborn children deserve full Personhood protections!” GOP primary voters also backed a measure to eliminate the state income tax. The state's Democrats approved questions supporting online gambling and medical marijuana.
Elsewhere in the state, pro-life U.S. Sen. Tim Scott may be on his way to making history as the first elected black senator in South Carolina history. Unofficial results showed Scott steamrolling over his primary competitor, Randall Young, by a margin of nine-to-one. Scott already made history as the first black person to serve in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed him to fulfill the Senate term left by incumbent Jim DeMint. Scott has not shied away from confronting the Obama administration in either capacity. In 2011, after Obama threatened to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling, then-Congressman Scott called the proposal “an impeachable act.” Days later, Obama backed down.
Sen. Lindsey Graham managed to avoid a runoff election Tuesday night, picking up 59 percent of the vote as of this writing. He needed only pass 50 percent. His closest rival, pro-life conservative Lee Bright, garnered 15 percent of the vote. Graham never looked truly vulnerable, collecting more than $12 million in campaign funds, while none of his six challengers collected even one million dollars. His decision to introduce the national ban on abortions after 20-weeks into the Senate last year helped solidify his standing in the socially conservative state, something that had been called into question over his support for left-wing Obama administration appointees and high-profile backing of amnesty for illegal aliens.
David Brat was not the only pro-life Tea Party candidate to pull off an unexpected win last night. Former Maine state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin defeated pro-abortion Republican Kevin Raye in a primary to run for the vacant second district seat. Poliquin spoke frequently of his Catholic faith and his belief in the rights of the unborn, as he had in previous elections. “It's clear to me that at conception, a life has begun, and that is a life that should be protected,” he said at a candidate's forum in 2012. Raye, who had lost two previous runs for Congress, called himself “pro-choice.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Poliquin “made his opposition to abortion rights a central issue in the race,” as he did not vow not to raise taxes. (Raye declined to make such a pledge.) At Poliquin's victory party Tuesday night, former Maine lawmaker Harry Rideout told Maine Public Broadcasting, “I would say pro-life has quite a bit to do with it right now.” This fall, Poliquin will battle pro-abortion Democrat Emily Cain. The National Republican Congressional Committee is pitching the race as “a self-made businessman who managed companies that created thousands of jobs” vs. a career politician.
The congressional seat is being vacated by Democratic Rep. Michael H. Michaud, who is running against pro-life Republican Gov. Paul LePage. LePage recently signed a state budget that defunded Planned Parenthood.
The upset of the night was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's lopsided defeat by the little known and underfunded Tea Party candidate David Brat. Brat bested Cantor, who had been seen as a future Speaker of the House, by a 56-44 percent margin. Cantor had introduced rape and incest exceptions into the national 20-week abortion ban. More recently, as a featured speaker at the 2014 March for Life, Cantor promised that he would see to it that “the House will stand for life” by reintroducing the 20-week ban and measures to end taxpayer funding of abortion until they become law. Cantor had the unified support of the Republican leadership and collected more than $5 million to Brat's $200,000, spending more than $1 million in the last two months alone. But it was Cantor's continual plea to offer amnesty to illegal immigrants that proved a critical component in his surprise upset defeat, particularly as the news featured young immigrants streaming across the southern border without their parents in order to get in line for U.S. citizenship. Cantor, Brat said, had lost touch with his district's voters.
The results startled some in the Republican leadership. Congressman Peter King, R-NY, told MSNBC's Morning Joe that he and other moderate Republicans would not allow the “Ted Cruzes and the Rand Pauls to take over” the GOP. King has considered running for president in 2016 on a platform promoting a hawkish foreign policy.
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The last Virginia Republican to beat an establishment favorite, former Virginia state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has a new job. He will be taking over the Senate Conservatives Fund, the group founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint to support conservative Republicans during the primaries. The abortion industry said deafeating Cuccinelli in his hotly contested race against Democrat Terry McAuliffe was its top priority. Many believed Republicans did not do enough to support the conservative favorite, who had won several races in the Democrat-dominated northern Virginia area.