Indicted U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville was defeated Tuesday night, scandal upending her long congressional career as Al Lawson of Tallahassee blew past her. Brown, first elected in 1992, has endured controversy before, but in June was indicted on fraud charges over connection to a charity, One Door for Education Foundation Inc. She and others are accused of taking money intended for scholarships. She also had the challenge of a redrawn district that extended into former state Sen. Lawson's turf.
On the last big primary day of 2016, nearly all of the key races wrapped up as expected. In Arizona, for example, Sen. John McCain (R) easily dispatched his primary rival. In Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) won their respective Senate primaries, and will face off for a closely watched contest in the fall.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) faced a competitive rival in her Florida district, but she prevailed with relative ease, despite her challenger receiving an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
But what caught my eye was the outcome of the primary in Florida's 5th congressional district. The Tampa Bay Times reported overnight:
We discussed the criminal indictment against Brown a couple of months ago, and the allegations, which the congresswoman denies, are quite serious. It's not impossible for a member of Congress to win an election while facing public-corruption charges, but it definitely makes things awkward for the incumbent.
With nearly all of the precincts reporting, Brown lost by about 8 percentage points. Given the district's Democratic leanings, Lawson is widely expected to win the seat in November.
But in the larger context, Brown joins a very small club: members of Congress ousted in 2016 during a primary.
As Roll Call noted, Brown is only the fifth to suffer this fate in this election cycle: "In addition to Brown and [Pennsylvania's Chaka] Fattah, three Republicans have been defeated: North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers and Virginia Rep. J. Randy Forbes lost in seats that were redrawn in redistricting. And Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp lost earlier this month to an establishment-backed challenger."
Among incumbent senators, meanwhile, zero lost primary fights this year.
The Washington Post recently noted in passing that the 2016 campaign season is being shaped by "voter fury" and "angry voters." And while the analysis is understandable, there are clearly limits to the public's throw-the-bums-out mood.