Voters had no shortage of options in choosing party nominees in Tuesday's primaries as they focused on successors to Republican senators in Kansas and Missouri and term-limited Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Five Republicans and two Democrats were vying to succeed Granholm in Michigan, a state reeling from the economic downturn. Three Democrats and nine Republicans were running in Missouri's Senate race, and four Republicans and five Democrats were competing for their party's Senate nominations in Kansas.
Ballots were even more crowded—with up to as many as nine candidates in some cases—in House races in all three states.
With less than three months to the elections, Tuesday's primaries will determine matchups for the midterms. They were just the latest contests in which a crush of candidates, including first-timers, sought political posts. Ballots were equally as crowded in earlier primaries this year.
Analysts say the high level of civic engagement may indicate just how disgusted the electorate is with politicians of all stripe, furious enough, perhaps, to try to change the system themselves. Economic doldrums—and frustrations with persistent unemployment—also may be driving people to run for office.
Despite the numerous candidates, some outcomes were all but certain. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback was expected to cruise to the GOP gubernatorial nomination over a single opponent; State Sen. Tom Holland is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
The highest profile race in that state was the GOP primary for Brownback's Senate seat. Reps. Todd Tiahrt and Jerry Moran, and two others squared off for the Republican nod; 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's Senate race, Rep. Roy Blunt is expected to cruise to the GOP nomination over eight opponents, including tea party favorite state Sen. Chuck Purgason. Robin Carnahan was on the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nod against two challengers. Four-term Sen. Kit Bond is retiring.
Less certain is just who Republicans and Democrats will pick to run for governor in Michigan, economically ailing with the nation's second-highest unemployment rate—at 13.2 percent—and scores of foreclosures. Granholm, a Democrat, must leave office after two terms.
Among Democrats, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero was up against House Speaker Andy Dillon. Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and two others were in a close GOP race.
An incumbent lawmaker could stumble. Michigan Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick faces five opponents. Her strongest opponent, state Sen. Hansen 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.
Missouri also becomes the first state to the test the popularity of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law. Voters will weigh in on a statewide ballot proposal on whether to reject the law's core mandate that most Americans have health insurance.
The legal effect is questionable, because federal laws generally supersede those in states. But its expected passage could send an ominous political message to Obama and the Democrats.