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Political Newcomer Wins GOP Nod for Mich. Governor

WASHINGTON -- In a surprise primary outcome, political newcomer Rick Snyder dispatched Michigan's attorney general, a longtime congressman and two others Tuesday to win the Republican nomination in the race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero grabbed the Democratic nod, but the GOP candidate automatically became the favorite in the economically ailing state. Michigan has the nation's second-highest unemployment rate -- at 13.2 percent -- and scores of foreclosures, and that has been a drag on the two-term Democratic governor.

With less than three months to the election, two-term Sen. Sam Brownback sailed to the GOP nomination in Kansas' gubernatorial race. Democrat Robin Carnahan -- a member of a famed Missouri political family -- and seven-term GOP Rep. Roy Blunt secured spots on the November ballot in that state's Senate race.

Those outcomes were expected in what otherwise has been a primary season filled with unanticipated results as tea party hopefuls shook up races across the country and voters spurned candidates aligned with the Washington establishment and political parties.

Two other longtime politicians -- GOP Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt -- were locked in a close race for the party's Senate nomination in Kansas, with fewer than 1,200 votes separating the two. Lisa Johnston won the Democratic nomination.

Seven-term Michigan Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick was struggling in her re-election bid. State Sen. Hansen Clarke led Kilpatrick, 48-39 percent with 53 percent of precincts reporting. Clarke has stressed the legal problems of her son, Kwame Kilpatrick, who resigned as Detroit mayor in 2008 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

If Kilpatrick stumbles, she'd be the sixth incumbent lawmaker -- the fourth from the House -- to lose this year.

In the Michigan governor's race, Snyder -- who grabbed attention with ads promoting himself as "one tough nerd" -- overcame Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra and two others. A wealthy businessman, he was president and chief operating officer of computer maker Gateway Inc.

He estimates that he's had a hand in helping create 400 Michigan jobs and 1,200 nationally. But he's been criticized for Gateway's decision to drop most of the 9,000 U.S. jobs added while Snyder was in management when it moved much of its manufacturing operations to other countries. Snyder was still on Gateway's board when the change occurred, but wasn't involved in those decisions.

Dearborn resident Jim Kwilos said he voted for Snyder because he believes the former computer executive is the best candidate to turn Michigan around.

"He doesn't have the baggage of a traditional politician," said Kwilos, 54, a sales representative and Republican. "He comes from a different mindset, which I think is refreshing. It's about jobs and productivity and things he can do that will benefit everybody in the state."

In November, Snyder will face Bernero, who beat House Speaker Andy Dillon.

In Kansas, Brownback easily won the GOP gubernatorial nomination over a single opponent and already was considered the front-runner for the general election. He is giving up a Senate seat he's held since 1997. A conservative favorite, he made a brief run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination before dropping out.

State Sen. Tom Holland is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. They will square off to succeed Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson, who was finishing out the remainder of Kathleen Sebelius' term. She left office last year to become President Barack Obama's Health and Human Services Secretary.

The GOP primary for Brownback's Senate seat featured Moran, Tiahrt and two other candidates; five Democrats were seeking the Democratic nomination. Victory in the GOP primary was tantamount to getting elected. Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932.

In Missouri, Carnahan, the daughter of a former governor and a former senator, easily defeated two challengers. Her Senate bid comes 10 years after the death of her father and one of her brothers. They died in an October 2000 plane crash while Mel Carnahan was campaigning for the Senate.

Robin Carnahan, the two-term secretary of state, will face Blunt, who has served in the House since 1996 and whose son is a former governor. He beat eight opponents for the GOP nomination, including tea party favorite state Sen. Chuck Purgason. Four-term Sen. Kit Bond is retiring.

Missouri also became the first state to test the popularity of Obama's health care overhaul law.

Voters strongly approved a new law that prohibits the government from requiring people to have health insurance or from penalizing them from paying for their own health care. That conflicts with a federal requirement that most people have health insurance or face penalties starting in 2014.

The legal effect is questionable, because federal laws generally supersede those in states. But its passage send a clear political message to Obama and the Democrats.