Undeterred by popular incumbents, 11 candidates in Kentucky, Arkansas and Oregon sought their parties' nominations Tuesday in hopes of taking on Sens. Jim Bunning (search), Blanche Lincoln (search) and Ron Wyden (search) in November.
In other races, Republicans in Kentucky were choosing a candidate to take on actor George Clooney's father for a seat in the U.S. House, while Oregon voters considered whether to re-elect two county commissioners who decided in secret meetings to allow gay marriages.
In the Kentucky Senate race, Democratic state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo and David Williams sought the right to challenge Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher looking to win a second term. Bunning, who has raised $3.6 million already, had only token opposition.
Earlier this year, Bunning's campaign apologized after he said at a GOP dinner that Mongiardo, the son of Italian immigrants, looked like one of Saddam Hussein's sons. The campaign said the remark was a joke.
The Arkansas GOP primary featured three Republicans jostling to unseat Lincoln, a first-term Democratic senator who has raised more than $5 million for her re-election campaign.
Lincoln, a former congresswoman, faced a little-known, underfunded candidate in her bid to hold onto a seat that has had only four occupants since 1932, including Dale Bumpers and J. William Fulbright.
Six Oregon Republicans sought the nod to run against Wyden, a popular Democrat who has held the post since a special election in 1996 to replace disgraced Sen. Bob Packwood. Wyden, running for his second full term, was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
In other primaries:
— Three candidates were hoping to take on Nick Clooney, a media personality in the Cincinnati area and the father of the former "ER" star. While the elder Clooney opposes abortion and gun control, Republicans have threatened to use his son's more liberal views against him in the fall.
— In Oregon, Iranian-American Goli Ameri was the front-runner for the GOP nomination to challenge Rep. David Wu, who is running for a fourth term in Congress and remains the favorite in November.
Two Multnomah County commissioners, Lisa Naito and Maria Rojo, were up for re-election. They were among four commissioners in the liberal bastion that is home to Oregon's largest city, Portland, who voted in secret to allow gay marriage. If they won, they could still face a recall effort by opponents of gay marriage. More than 3,000 same-sex couples tied the knot until April 20, when a judge halted the weddings. The matter is likely to end up before the state Supreme Court.
— Twenty-two candidates competed to replace Portland Mayor Vera Katz, who is not seeking a fourth term. The top two vote-getters would probably meet in a runoff in November.
— In Arkansas, Court of Appeals Judge Wendell Griffen was trying to become the first black elected to the state's highest court. A state board voted in 2002 to admonish Griffen for speaking out about minority hiring practices at the University of Arkansas. His opponent Tuesday in the race for chief justice, Associate Justice Jim Hannah, was in the minority when the state Supreme Court voted later to drop the reprimand.