Former Common Cause president Chellie Pingree, a passionate reformer who calls for a rapid end to the war in Iraq and supports the opening of impeachment hearings against President Bush, easily won Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Maine’s 1st congressional district.

The Democratic-leaning seat came open when incumbent Tom Allen decided to challenge Republican Senator Susan Collins this fall.

Pingree faced a free-spending challenge from a former Republican, Adam Cote, who switched parties to mount a campaign that was backed by business groups that were engaged in bluewashing — the tactic of pouring money into a Democratic primary in a blue state or district with hopes of nominating the candidate most inclined to favor corporate interests.

Cote hoped to capitalize on the fact that the progressive vote in the Portland-area district would be divided between Pingree and several other anti-war Democrats, including state Rep. Ethan Strimling and prosecutor Mark Lawrence.

And he aggressively attacked Pingree, a former Maine state senator who was considered the front-runner, for backing presidential accountability. “Cote Will Focus On Economy, Pingree On Impeachment,” read a press release from Cote’s campaign, in which the candidate said of Pingree’s support for impeachment and Cote opposition to it: “This is a defining, substantive issue difference in this election.”

The attack was absurd. Pingree was never cautious about stating her support for holding President Bush and Vice President Cheney to account. But impeachment was not the central issue of her campaign. Despite what Cote and his corporate backers claimed, it was Pingree who made the economy a prime focus of her campaign. She has long been a leading advocate of health care reform, in Maine and nationally. And she’s an enthusiastic backer of new, progressive approaches on trade policy, energy policy and other concerns of working families.

Still, Cote’s campaign made impeachment an issue.

And if Cote wants to describe impeachment as the “defining” issue, well, fair enough.

Pingree is going to be the Democratic nominee. She was way ahead Tuesday night with 44 percent of the vote to 26 percent for Cote. And two other candidates who strongly backed impeachment, Strimling and Lawrence, were grabbing another 16 percent of the vote.

So presidential accountability proved to be a winning issue Tuesday. And corporate bluewashing suffered a serious setback.