Pension, gay marriage votes stir primary contests

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Several state lawmakers face challenges in the March 18 primary election because of high-profile votes for cutting state worker retirement benefits or legalizing gay marriage.

In each case, unions or other interest groups are working against their re-election bids.

The targeted challenges are among the toughest primary races in a year in which all 118 House seats and a third of the 59 Senate seats are on the ballot. Overall, there are 27 House primary contests, and just two in the Senate.

Democrats have a good chance of holding their veto-proof supermajorities in each chamber this year. But experts say intra-party challenges and interest group influence could alter the makeup of each caucus.

Democrats have 71 seats to Republicans' 47 in the House, and a 40-19 margin in the Senate.