WASHINGTON — Virtually unknown a month ago, Christine O'Donnell of Delaware rode a surge of support from tea party activists to victory in the Republican Senate primary Tuesday night, dealing yet another setback to the GOP establishment in a campaign season of them. A second insurgent led for the GOP nomination in New Hampshire.
O'Donnell defeated nine-term Rep. Mike Castle, a fixture in Delaware politics for a generation and a moderate who campaigned with the strong backing of party officials in his state and in Washington. Nearly complete returns showed O'Donnell with 53 percent of the vote.
Castle had been considered a shoo-in for the seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden.
Despite her win, O'Donnell will enter the fall campaign as an underdog to Chris Coons, a county executive who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
GOP officials said as the votes were being counted the party would not come to her aid if she won the primary, citing a string of disclosures about her personal finances and other matters. The state party chairman, Tom Ross, said recently she "could not be elected dogcatcher."
In New Hampshire, lawyer Ovide Lamontagne led former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, 42 percent to 37 percent, with ballots counted from nearly a quarter of voters. A former chairman of the state Board of Education, Lamontagne campaigned with the support of tea party activists.
Before Tuesday, the tea party movement claimed as victims two Republican incumbents in the Senate and two House members. In several other races, candidates favored by the party insiders were beaten by outsiders who claimed more conservative credentials.
New York: Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel prevailed in a crowded Democratic primary, with voters in his New York City district signaling they are willing to stand by the 40-year House veteran despite more than a dozen ethics charges pending against him.
Alaska: Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who lost to tea party-backed candidate Joe Miller in Alaska's Aug. 24 Republican primary, said she has given up the idea of trying for a place on the Libertarian ticket and will decide by Friday whether to mount a write-in campaign.
Information from the New York Times was used in this report.