Eight states cast midterm primary ballots Tuesday, with implications for control of the House and Senate and for several governor’s races
WOMEN IN THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
In a record-setting year for female candidates across the country, women moved closer to more milestones. Voters gave Michelle Lujan Grisham the Democratic nomination for New Mexico governor, giving her a shot at becoming the first Latina Democratic governor in US history.
Lujan Grisham, a congresswoman, is trying to succeed the nation’s first Latina Republican governor, Susana Martinez. Republicans also nominated a member of Congress, Rep. Steve Pearce, to run for the job.
Another congresswoman, South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, won her state’s Republican gubernatorial primary. She would become the first female governor in South Dakota history.
Voters in Alabama and Iowa had opportunities to set up all-female matchups for governor in November.
Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey avoided a runoff despite several primary challengers. But Democrats chose Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox over Sue Bell Cobb, a former state Supreme Court chief justice.
In Iowa, labour leader Cathy Glasson couldn’t pull off an upset against businessman Fred Hubbell for the Democratic nomination. Hubbell will take on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who had no party opposition.
Both Reynolds and Ivey are vying for their first full terms after succeeding men who resigned. Reynolds is Iowa’s first female governor. Ivey is the second woman to helm Alabama government, but the first in five decades.
It was also a good night for incumbents in the Senate. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey got a surprisingly strong primary challenge after a hung jury spared him a conviction in a federal bribery trial. But Menendez held on, to the delight of Republicans who want to use his troubles to tar every Democrat in the state. Menendez will face Republican Bob Hugin, a pharmaceutical executive, in the fall.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein stood her ground against criticism from the left. The 84-year-old Democrat advanced to the November ballot with a huge lead over more than two dozen challengers, including liberal state Senate leader Kevin de Leon. Incomplete returns showed de Leon still trying to fend off Republicans for the second spot on the November ballot.
In Montana, the GOP establishment’s choice for Senate, State Auditor Matt Rosendale, won a competitive primary over a former state judge for the chance to face Sen. Jon Tester in November. Tester is facing a tough race in a red state and Rosendale is likely get a big push from the national party.
BATTLE FOR HOUSE CONTROL
Democrats are looking to New Jersey and California as key states in their efforts to gain at least 23 more House seats and become the majority when Congress convenes next year.
There are five New Jersey GOP House seats targeted by national Democrats and establishment Democrats got their picks in a couple on the list. Navy veteran and former federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill claimed the Democratic nomination in a district left open by the retirement of Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen. Republicans nominated state Assemblyman Jay Webber.
In southern Jersey, a conservative Democratic state senator, Jeff Van Drew, dispatched more liberal competitors in a Republican-leaning district now held by Frank LoBiondo, who is retiring. Republicans tapped Seth Grossman, an Atlantic City attorney who says he will forcefully defend Trump’s agenda.
A former Obama administration aide, Andy Kim, will take on New Jersey GOP Rep. Tom McArthur, and Democrat Tom Malinowski, an appointee in the Obama State Department, won the nomination to take on vulnerable Republican Rep. Leonard Lance.
California’s outcomes probably won’t be decided Tuesday because the state allows mail-in ballots to be postmarked through primary day. But the focus is on seven House districts where President Donald Trump trailed Hillary Clinton in 2016.
In three of those districts, all in southern California, Democrats faced the possibility of being shut out of the top two spots because they have so many candidates. Early returns showed Democrats remained at risk of being shut out in two of the three.
In Alabama, a Republican incumbent who criticised Trump as a candidate in 2016 is headed for a runoff. Rep. Martha Roby led her GOP competitors but fell shy of a required majority. She’ll face former Rep. Bobby Bright, whom she defeated in 2010. Bright was then a Democrat.
An Iowa state lawmaker, meanwhile, has taken the next step toward becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Abby Finkenauer, 28, won the Democratic nomination in a northeast Iowa district. She will face Republican incumbent Rod Blum.
And in New Mexico, Debra Haaland won the Democratic nomination in the congressional district opened by Lujan Grisham’s run for governor. Haaland will be a heavy favourite this fall as she tries to become the first Native American woman to serve in Congress.
California Republicans dodged a bullet with Republican business executive John Cox qualifying for a November matchup in the governor’s race against Democrat Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and current lieutenant governor.
Avoiding a runoff shutout gives the state GOP an important voice at the top of the ticket in the fall. That could help drive turnout in down-ballot races, even though Newsom will be the clear favourite for the state’s top job.