Eight states are casting midterm primary ballots Tuesday, with implications for control of the House and Senate and for several governor’s races.
Primaries are being held in Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota.
Some of the highlights:
There are no party primaries in California, with voters instead choosing among all candidates on one ballot, with the top two vote-getters advancing to November regardless of party.
That has repercussions for both major parties, but Democrats in particular have concerns that they could get shut out of a handful of Southern California races, costing them prime pickup opportunities to retake the House majority this fall.
The national party has spent millions of dollars trying to avoid that fate in seats opened by Republican Ed Royce and Darrell Issa’s retirements and in the district where Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is facing challenges from the left and the right.
Those three seats are among seven California House districts where President Donald Trump trailed Hillary Clinton in 2016. There are 25 such districts nationwide. Democrats must win at least 23 new seats to reclaim a majority.
For the GOP, the shutout is most likely in the governor’s race. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are considered the top Democratic hopefuls. Republicans view business executive John Cox as their best shot to make November a traditional two-party matchup.
For all the focus on various California scenarios, it’s almost certain that the results won’t be settled Tuesday night. That’s because the state allows absentee ballots to be mailed through the primary election day. It could be days before all those are counted — with runoff spots hanging in the balance.
SENATORS IN THE SHADOWS
Senate contests are mostly getting overlooked Tuesday, but vulnerable Democratic incumbent Jon Tester of Montana will learn who he’ll have to contend with this fall. The most likely nominees are State Auditor Matt Rosendale and retired judge Russ Fagg, both with long records in public posts. Rosendale has GOP establishment support. Either promises to take aim at Tester as a foe to Trump.
Tester is one of 10 Democratic senators running for re-election this year in states Trump won.
In New Jersey, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez appears a shoo-in to become his party’s nominee, but he must fend off a primary challenger to make it official. This comes months after federal criminal corruption charges against him were dropped and he was rebuked by the Senate ethics panel. Republicans hope to use the fallout to tar other Democrats in the state, including several trying to flip GOP House seats.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California isn’t believed to be threatened for re-election, but the 84-year-old is being tested from the left by state Senate leader Kevin de Leon. It will be worth watching what her final totals are coming out of the primary and heading into a potential two-Democrat match in November.
ANOTHER TRUMP TEST
Republican Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama was the first federal elected official to rescind her endorsement of Donald Trump after disclosure of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape of him bragging about grabbing women’s genitals without permission. Roby declared that she’d vote for someone else — and the Trump loyalists in her district haven’t forgotten, putting her at risk of a runoff. Her top challenger is the man she beat to win the seat in 2010. Former Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright switched parties to try to even the score.
SOUTH DAKOTA FIREWORKS
Politics in the Dakotas doesn’t always make national headlines, but there are plenty of fireworks in South Dakota. Attorney General Marty Jackley and U.S. Rep Kristi Noem are in a fierce battle for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Noem would be the state GOP’s first female nominee for governor.
Noem’s bid for the statehouse corner office has opened South Dakota’s at-large House seat, with a three-way race that’s drawn considerable out-of-state spending. Dusty Johnson, a former Public Utilities commissioner, is considered the favorite. But Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is pushing from the right, having campaigned recently with firebrand Rep. Steve King of Iowa. A third candidate, state Sen. Neal Tapio, has called for an end to the Native American reservation system in the United States.
OTHER GOVERNOR’S RACES TAKE SHAPE
Alabama has a rare primary experience: competitive gubernatorial primaries on both sides of the aisle.
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey is aiming for her first outright term, having assumed the office when Robert Bentley resigned amid a sex scandal involving an aide. But she’ll have to dispatch several GOP challengers first. Democrats will choose between Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. Either would be a big underdog in November.
Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds also is seeking her first full term after succeeding Republican Terry Branstad, now the U.S. ambassador to China. Democrats will be choosing between businessman Fred Hubbell and labor leader Cathy Glasson, with polls suggesting Hubbell is the favorite.
In New Mexico, both parties are picking would-be successors to outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez, the nation’s first Latina governor. Among the top Democrats is Michelle Lujan Grisham, a congresswoman who’d be the second Latina state chief executive.
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