WASHINGTON — Two-term Sen. Sam Brownback sailed to the GOP nomination in Kansas' gubernatorial race Tuesday while Democrat Robin Carnahan — a member of a famed Missouri political family — and seven-term GOP Rep. Roy Blunt secured top spots on the November ballot in the state's Senate race.
The 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.
Voters had no shortage of options in choosing party nominees Tuesday 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.
The primaries were just the latest contests in which a crush of candidates, including first-timers, sought political posts.
Despite the numerous candidates, some outcomes were all but certain.
In Kansas, Brownback easily won the GOP gubernatorial nomination over a single opponent and already was considered the front-runner for the general election. 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 Reps. Todd Tiahrt, Jerry Moran and two others facing 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, Carnahan, the daughter of a former governor and a former senator, easily dispatched two challengers. She will face seven-term Rep. Roy Blunt in the fall. He took an early lead in the race for the GOP nomination over eight opponents, including tea party favorite state Sen. Chuck Purgason. 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, businessman Rick Snyder, Rep. Pete Hoekstra and two other candidates were locked in a close GOP race.
An incumbent lawmaker could stumble.
Seven-term 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.