PRIMARY 2018: Voters in 7 states add their voices on where their parties are headed
Author: David Weigel, The Washington Post - June 26, 2018 - Updated: June 26, 2018
The ideological battles in both parties will play out across seven states today, with voters from New York to Utah picking their nominees for November’s midterm elections. A number of incumbents are trying to hold off credible challengers, Democrats have piled into primaries for Republican-held seats, and races in some open seats will determine whether the parties are moving toward their fringes.
Democrats are trying to extend their 12-year hold on the Colorado governor’s mansion with a primary that’s largely boiled down to two candidates: Rep. Jared Polis and former state treasurer Cary Kennedy. Polis, who’s represented the Boulder area in Congress since 2009, has run as progressives’ dream candidate, supporting universal Medicare even though a ballot measure that would have brought that to Colorado failed in 2016 by 57 points. Kennedy, backed by Emily’s List and labor unions, is running on expanding Medicaid.
In the Republican primary, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a cousin of the Bush family, is the favorite. Like many races around the country, it’s boiled down to whether the front-runner is too critical of President Trump.
The Democrats’ family feud has also spilled down the ballot, including in the primary for the 6th Congressional District, seen as one of the country’s truest swing seats. There, it’s attorney and party favorite Jason Crow vs. Obama administration graduate Levi Tillemann. With California’s primaries safely over, no candidate in the country rankles national Democrats like Tillemann, who has blamed his struggles on the “corruption” of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Democrats badly want to see him defeated, though maybe not pepper-sprayed — he already did that to himself in a viral video about school safety.
In the 1st District, there’s left-on-left drama, as longtime Rep. Diana DeGette faces her first real primary challenge against Saira Rao, who argues that the Denver-based seat should belong to a “true blue” liberal. And in the 5th District, there’s confusion after Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) was briefly ordered off the ballot, then ordered back on. Four ambitious Republicans, led by 2016 U.S. Senate nominee Darryl Glenn, are still trying to unseat him.
Democrats did not expect to lose the 2014 race for governor here. They certainly did not expect Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who survived cancer early in his term, to become one of the country’s most popular incumbents. Eight Democrats are nonetheless running to challenge him, betting on a surge in voter anger to make the race competitive. It’s likely that the party will nominate an African American candidate for the second cycle in a row, with Prince George’s County executive Rushern Baker enjoying support from state party leaders and former NAACP president Ben Jealous rallying with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The race for Senate in Maryland demonstrates just how many political stories have been lost in a media age dominated by White House fireworks. Chelsea Manning’s decision to challenge Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) made national news, then no news at all. In another year, Cardin’s support for attacks in Syria might have risked a voter revolt; he is now likely to roll past Manning and peace activist Jerome Segal, and then whoever among 11 Republicans escapes their primary.
Rep. John Delaney’s surprise decision to leave his blue-tinged 6th District has created a competitive and costly primary, with wine magnate David Trone spending nearly $10 million — mostly his own money — for the Democratic nomination. Republicans are likely to nominate Amie Hoeber, who lost to Delaney in 2016 and would start out as an underdog in a district that backed Hogan for governor but rejected Donald Trump by 15 points.
Are you following the battle between Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and actor Cynthia Nixon? Good news: That election will go on for three more months. New York’s uniquely confusing primary system will let voters decide federal candidates Tuesday, then makes them go back to the polls on Sept. 13, a Thursday.
That’s turned the GOP nomination for the 11th District into Tuesday’s marquee fight. Michael Grimm, the charismatic former congressman who pled guilty to tax fraud, is fighting to take back his seat from Rep. Dan Donovan (R), the man who replaced him.
Most of Tuesday’s drama, however, will follow the theme of the Cuomo-Nixon race: A battle for the Democratic Party’s soul. In the 9th District, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke is being challenged by Adem Bunkeddeko, the son of war refugees who’s gotten serious attention and no party backing. In the Manhattan-based 12th District, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney has been outspent by Suraj Patel, a real estate executive who’s introduced himself to voters as an idea-driven liberal tired of the political establishment. In the 14th District, Rep. Joe Crowley has spent more than $3 million to fend off challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; in the 16th District, Rep. Eliot L. Engel has spent more than $1.3 million against three left-wing challengers.
As of now, Republicans are unsure whether Donovan will survive, but Democrats are confident that their incumbents will. They’re more curious about the swing seats that could determine control of the House, including in the 1st, 11th, 19th, 21st and 24th districts.
In the 25th district, which has remained empty since the March 16 death of Louise Slaughter, four Democrats are fighting to replace her; longtime State Assembly leader Joe Morelle is the favorite but did not clear the field.
Republicans took full command of this state after 2012, shutting Democrats out of every federal and statewide office. But since Trump’s election, and since a budget crunch that kicked off massive teacher protests, Democrats have gained ground in local elections and are fielding candidates in places where they’d been wiped out.
The ruling party is trying to reboot in Oklahoma. Ten Republicans are running for governor, led by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and former Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett; the Democratic race pits Drew Edmondson, a former attorney general and the last member of his party elected statewide, against more liberal former state legislator Connie Johnson. Five Republicans are competing to replace former congressman Jim Bridenstine, who left the deep-red 1st District to lead NASA.
The only House race Democrats view as competitive — and that only if a wave rolls behind them — is the 5th District, held by Rep. Steve Russell (R). Based around Oklahoma City, it has not been won by a Democrat since 1974, but it has been shifting slightly to the left. Kendra Horn, a former Hill staffer, surprised Russell by keeping pace in fundraising. But five lesser-known Democrats have crowded onto the ballot, making the primary a test of whether a party that had fallen into decline can elevate credible candidates despite an anti-establishment mood. One sign of how the district is changing: Russell was the only Oklahoma Republican to oppose the conservative immigration bill voted on in the House last week.
Even after Mitt Romney lost the Utah GOP’s official endorsement at their state convention, Republicans expected him to become their next U.S. senator. Mike Kennedy, the state legislator who edged him out among GOP delegates, has struggled to raise money or break through on a major issue. Like most members of his party, Romney has reacted to the Trump ascendency by moving right, and both parties are more interested in how he’ll behave in Washington than in whether anything can impede his path there.
President Trump himself came to the state the day before the runoff for governor, which pits Gov. Henry McMaster against businessman John Warren. And national GOP groups have piled into the 4th District, which Rep. Trey Gowdy is leaving after eight years, to help far-right former legislator Lee Bright (one of few Republicans who opposed the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse) mount a comeback.
Two Republicans are in a runoff to replace Rep. Gregg Harper in the 3rd District: local district attorney Michael Guest, who has the congressman’s tacit support, and former gubernatorial aide Whit Hughes.