Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) defeated labor-backed Arkansas Lt. Governor Bill Halter in a heated Democratic primary runoff Tuesday, bucking the notion that Lincoln might be the third Senate incumbent casualty of strong anti-Washington sentiment this year.

blanche lincoln.jpgLincoln, a conservative Democrat, pulled ahead of Halter, a progressive, candidate, winning 52 percent of the primary vote. Late last week, some polls had showed Halter slightly in the lead.

The victory could free up the Senator’s schedule for Ag Committee proceedings for the next several weeks. Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, the Obama Administration’s nominee to be Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is waiting to be cleared by the Committee and move on to full Senate consideration.

The position has been without a Senate-confirmed leader for 20 months. Hagen, who currently serves as the agency’s chief medical officer, was announced as the Administration’s pick in late January. The Ag Committee held a brief and noncontroversial hearing on the nominations May 27 (after rescheduling so Lincoln could hit the campaign trail). According to Committee staff, there is currently no timeline for a vote on the nominees.

Though Lincoln weathered the runoff, she faces tough poll numbers for the general election in November. The latest Real Clear Politics polling average has Republican Senate candidate John Boozman leading the Senator by 25 points. Lincoln’s seat is a prime target for the GOP.