Published: Jun 09, 2010 12:37 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 09, 2010 9:38 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Once, California Democrats led the way to a

year of the women. Now, nearly two decades later, Republicans hope

it's their turn.

Meg Whitman won the party's nomination for California governor

on Tuesday and Carly Fiorina will carry the GOP banner into the

fall campaign for a Senate seat, a pair of wealthy businesswomen

and first-time candidates running against veteran politicians in a

year of palpable anti-establishment sentiment.

In next-door Nevada, a third woman contender, Sharron Angle, won

the right to oppose Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the fall.

And hundreds of miles to the east, South Carolina state Rep.

Nikki Haley outpaced three male rivals in a race for the GOP

gubernatorial nomination. Shy of a majority, she will face Rep.

Gresham Barrett in a June 22 runoff in a solidly Republican state.

Democrats, too, got into the theme of the busiest primary night

of the year.

Embattled two-term Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln scored a

narrow win over her labor-backed rival in Arkansas, and now must

pivot to face Rep. John Boozman in the fall.

The primaries, spread across a dozen states from coast to coast,

took place against a backdrop of the worst recession in decades,

stubbornly high unemployment, dispiriting day-by-day images of the

damage caused by an offshore oil rig disaster and poll after poll

that reported the voters angry and eager for a change.

Lincoln told voters she understood their discontent with a late

campaign ad that said, "I know you're angry at Washington."

Whitman offered her own version of the same sentiment in her

first appearance as GOP nominee to replace retiring Gov. Arnold

Schwarzenegger.

"Career politicians in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., be

warned: You now face your worst nightmare - two businesswomen from

the real world who know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get

things done," she said. The remarks were aimed at Democratic Sen.

Barbara Boxer and former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., seeking a return

to the office he left in 1983.

Ironically, Boxer's victory and that of fellow California Sen.

Dianne Feinstein in 1992 were standout events in an election year

that sent record numbers of women to Congress, many of them

Democrats. Scores of women were enraged by the predominantly male

Senate's treatment of Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings

of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; that anger translated

into female candidates running for Congress.

Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, spent more than $70 million in

her own funds to claim her nomination. Fiorina is a former CEO of

Hewlett-Packard.

As bruising as they were, the night's events merely set the

stage for the fall campaign, when Republicans hope to challenge

Democratic control of Congress and the two parties vie for three

dozen statehouses.

Fiorina is "against a woman's right to choose, supports the

Arizona immigration law, wants to repeal health care and supports

allowing people on the `no-fly' list to buy guns," said Sen. Bob

Menendez of New Jersey, the head of the Democratic Senatorial

Campaign Committee.

Michael Steele, the Republican national chairman, countered that

in victory, Lincoln "has made it clear that she will simply fall

in line with President Obama's big-spending, big-government agenda,

putting her vastly out of touch with the majority of Arkansans."

Another conservative Democrat, California Rep. Jane Harman,

withstood a challenge from a more liberal opponent - in this case,

Marcy Winograd, co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of

Progressive Democrats of America.

Two incumbents did not fare as well Tuesday.

Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons of Nevada fell to Brian Sandoval, a

former federal judge, after a term marked by a messy public divorce

and allegations of infidelity. Rory Reid, the son of the Senate

majority leader, won the Democratic nomination.

And Republican Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina trailed

challenger Trey Gowdy by double digits, though he qualified for a

runoff on June 22 in the solidly conservative district. The

challenger campaigned as an opponent of the 2008 financial bailout

legislation that the incumbent supported.

Gibbons was the first governor tossed from office in a year of

living dangerously for incumbents everywhere.

With her win and his run-off, Lincoln and Inglis avoided joining

a list of congressional incumbents sent packing by voters in their

own party in earlier contests - Sens. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and

Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., and Parker

Griffith, R-Ala.