Election 2018FeaturedNewsThe West

Primary roundup: Results from across the West

Author: Associated Press - June 6, 2018 - Updated: June 6, 2018

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Deb Haaland poses for a portrait in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, June 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)

Voters in several states across the West and elsewhere nominated candidates in primary elections that ended Tuesday, with many of the races having national significance. Here’s a roundup:

NEW MEXICO: Native American woman advances in primary

New Mexico Democrats rallied around progressive female candidates in Tuesday’s primary – including the party’s nominee for the Albuquerque area’s U.S. House seat who will try to become the first Native American congresswoman.

The primary also set up a November race that will mean the most Hispanic congressional district in the most Hispanic state in the nation will be represented by a woman for the first time.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, a three-term congresswoman who won the Democratic nomination for governor, said political currents in the state have shifted dramatically since Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cruised to re-election in 2014.

Lujan Grisham could become the nation’s second elected Latina governor if she succeeds Martinez, who cannot run for a consecutive third term.

With people frustrated over lagging economic opportunity and employment, Lujan Grisham hopes to offer distinct solutions in the general election against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.

“We’re going to have a very different approach,” Lujan Grisham said of her campaign and Pearce’s. “Creating a strong, sound economy is not mutually exclusive with taking care of our most vulnerable.”

Pearce has highlighted his own childhood brushes with poverty as the son of failed Texas sharecroppers. He said he wants to help people “achieve the dignity that comes from having a good job.”

The state’s weak economy, dissatisfaction with public education and concerns about urban crime took center stage in the Democratic primary and in Pearce’s early campaigning.

With Lujan Grisham’s central New Mexico seat open, former state Democratic Party leader Debra Haaland won the Democratic nod in her push to become the first Native American woman elected to Congress.

She faces former Republican state lawmaker Janice Arnold-Jones, who ran unopposed in the primary, and Libertarian candidate Lloyd Princeton. A Republican hasn’t represented the 1st Congressional District since 2009.

In the 2nd Congressional District along the U.S.-Mexico border, Republican state Rep. Yvette Herrell will take on Democratic attorney Xochitl Torres Small in the general election. The congressional race is one of many expected to draw national attention because it may help determine which party controls the U.S. House.

State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard won the Democratic nomination for New Mexico public land commissioner. She would be the first woman in the state to hold the job if she beats Republican Patrick Lyons of Cuervo in the general election.

For the Senate, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and GOP challenger Mick Rich both ran unopposed in the primaries and moved on to the November contest.

An incumbent Santa Fe-area representative who fought accusations of sexual misconduct lost his primary bid to a Democratic challenger.

Democratic voters nominated Andrea Romero of Santa Fe to replace Rep. Carl Trujillo in a race with no Republican opponent. Trujillo denies a former lobbyist’s 2014 harassment allegations, which a panel of four lawmakers and an outside attorney are investigating.

Sarah Pierpont, 43, of Santa Fe, said she deferred judgment on the harassment allegations but voted for Romero and Lujan Grisham for governor in an effort to support qualified female candidates.

“I think it’s important right now that our Statehouse should look like our state, and that’s at least half women,” she said.

CALIFORNIA: Republican gets spot in runoff for California governor

John Cox, a Republican business owner who has tried and failed for nearly two decades to win elected office, snagged a spot in the November runoff for California governor with the help of President Donald Trump, but that support could hurt him in the winner-take-all race with Democrat Gavin Newsom.

Cox got about a quarter of the votes counted so far in Tuesday’s election to easily outdistance former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for second to Newsom, who won by a comfortable margin. Cox had been struggling to break clear of fellow Republican Travis Allen until Trump tweeted his endorsement two weeks ago — 273 characters that rallied the president’s fans but set up a hyper-partisan battle with Newsom.

Because of California’s “jungle primary,” the top two finishers — regardless of party — advance to a runoff in November.

Newsom, the state’s lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco, had said during the primary he preferred a Republican opponent in the fall. He told supporters Tuesday that he relishes a fight with Cox, whom he called “a foot soldier” for Trump’s war on California.

Meantime, Cox made it clear he’ll be fighting Newsom on taxes and California’s high cost of living.

“It wasn’t Donald Trump who made California the highest tax state in the country,” Cox told enthusiastic supporters. “It was Gavin Newsom and the Democrats.”

Cox, 62, became wealthy as a lawyer, accountant, wealth manager and investor in the Chicago area. He now owns thousands of apartment units in the Midwest.

In the early 2000s he ran unsuccessfully for a string of offices in Illinois — U.S. House, twice for the U.S. Senate, and Cook County Recorder of Deeds, a job he wanted to see eliminated. He also ran for Illinois GOP chairman.

In his 2004 Senate run, he shared a crowded debate stage with then-state Sen. Barack Obama and sparred one-on-one with the future president over the Iraq war. He later ran for president in 2008 and fought unsuccessfully to get into Republican debates before dropping out, but his name appeared on the ballot in several states.

He bought his house in Rancho Santa Fe, outside San Diego, in 2007 and moved there full-time in 2011, according to spokesman Matt Shupe.

Cox, who has largely self-funded his campaign for governor, decries what he calls the corrupting influence of special interests — a line of attack he’s sure to deploy against Newsom, who is backed by heavy-hitting unions, businesses and interest groups.

He’s also focused heavily on California’s high taxes and cost of living. He’s one of the most prominent backers of a ballot initiative that would repeal recent increases in gasoline and diesel taxes, which is likely to qualify for the November ballot.

Tuesday’s primary included a preview of the potency of the gas tax as a political motivator. State Sen. Josh Newman, a Democrat targeted for supporting the gas tax hike, was recalled by a wide margin.

The race for governor was one of hundreds of contests Californians narrowed on Tuesday. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein cruised to first place in her bid for a fifth full term, while fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon finished second.

Northern California voters recalled the judge who gave a light sentence to a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexual assault. It could take days to sort out who will advance in several key Southern California races for U.S. House.

In the race for governor, Cox’s second-place finish was a victory for a state GOP that has been shrinking in numbers and influence. It avoided a worst-case scenario where Republicans would stay home for lack of a candidate in the races for governor and U.S. Senate, thereby imperiling vulnerable Republicans in other races.

Cox faces long odds in November. No Republican has won statewide here since 2006. And while Trump is well-liked by the GOP base that boosted Cox, he’s unpopular with independents and a call to arms for Democrats.

“Cox had to run toward Donald Trump to get Republican voters to rally around him in the primary,” said Thad Kousser, chair of the political science department at University of California, San Diego. “The problem is, now he can’t run away from Donald Trump in November.”

Newsom’s begins the race with inherent advantages — he’s much better-known than Cox and a Democrat in a heavily Democratic state. He’s motivated the liberal base with his support for a plan to provide universal government-funded health care and his support for aggressive gun controls.

“We’re engaged in an epic battle, and it looks like voters will have a real choice this November — between a governor who is going to stand up against Donald Trump and a foot solider in his war on California,” Newsom told supporters.

Villaraigosa’s distant third-place finish was a stunning result for man once hailed a rising star in the Democratic Party and the face of the changing demographics in California and the nation. He was hoping to be California’s first Latino governor since 1875.

His focus on energizing Latinos, moderate Democrats, independents and some Republicans wasn’t enough to overcome Newsom’s strength with the Democratic Party’s liberal base or Cox’s united GOP front.

He conceded Tuesday night and endorsed Newsom while also congratulating Cox.

CALIFORNIA: Feinstein to face fellow Democrat for U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein trounced a field of 31 competitors in California’ primary and will face a general election challenge by a Democratic state senator who is promising generational change.

“I’m running for the United States Senate to protect California in what are difficult and contentious times,” Feinstein said in a video from Washington, where she spent Tuesday’s primary night.

With nearly 3 million votes counted as the day closed, Feinstein held about 44 percent. Fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon finished second with 11 percent.

The Feinstein-de Leon general election will be California’s second U.S. Senate contest featuring two Democrats. In 2016, then-state attorney general Kamala Harris defeated U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

Feinstein is the heavy favorite. She’s one of the most well-known politicians in California and has a sizeable war chest to communicate her message.

De Leon, the former state Senate leader, will have an uphill battle should he make it through the primary. In a sweeping speech to supporters Tuesday night, he outlined his pitch for the fall: Feinstein is too entrenched in Washington to fight for liberal interests and too old to serve another term.

She was first elected to the Senate in 1992, and at 84, Feinstein is the chamber’s oldest member. She would turn 90 in her next term.

“We decided to give voters a real choice — between new ideas and the same old, same old,” he declared, later adding, “this race is a fight for California’s future.”

Trailing de Leon was little-known Republican James Bradley, who has never held elected office and raised less than $5,000 in his campaign.

Feinstein, for her part, argues that her seniority in Washington gives her the clout to advocate effectively for California. She is the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and has considerable clout in the chamber.

She’s highlighted her successful 1994 effort to ban assault weapons, which has since expired, and legislation to protect the environment as evidence that she understands Californians’ priorities. She pledged in her victory statement to fight for a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, women’s reproductive rights and universal health care.

While her support is strong, some party activists have chaffed at Feinstein in recent months, particularly after she said last fall that Donald Trump “could be a good president.” Activists denied her the California Democratic Party’s endorsement in February, highlighting frustrations among some of the most liberal members about her interactions with Trump and stance on issues such as immigration.

De Leon sought to seize on that vulnerability by making the case that he better represents California’s values in the Trump era.

Sue Regan, a 66-year-old retired psychiatrist, said she voted for de Leon because Feinstein is “too old” and too conservative on certain issues.

“Feinstein’s time is up,” said Regan, a registered Democrat from Sacramento. “I know that Kevin de Leon would not have the power that she has in the Senate, it would take him some time to develop that, but I think he’s very liberal, and I support the causes that he does.”

But Feinstein’s age didn’t stop 82-year-old Jay Smith, a registered Republican, from casting his vote for her.

“I went to Stanford and so did Dianne Feinstein,” he said. “I don’t care how old she is.”

MONTANA: Rosendale wins GOP Senate primary, to face Tester

Montana State Auditor Matthew Rosendale won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on Tuesday in the race to challenge Democratic incumbent Jon Tester in November.

Rosendale, who has support from deep-pocketed Republican donors who want to deny Tester a third term, defeated three other candidates in the GOP primary.

“This win is just the first lap, and we’ve got a lot of race in front of us,” he said.

The campaign grew heated when former Judge Russ Fagg said Rosendale, 57, would go easy on “illegal immigrants who commit murder.” Political committees backing Rosendale hit back with attacks on Fagg’s judicial record.

The race between Rosendale and Tester will be under a spotlight. President Donald Trump vowed to make Tester pay for sinking his nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Trump’s remarks prompted a flood of outside money on ads blasting Tester and propping up Rosendale.

Tester, who is seeking his third term, is one of 10 Senate Democrats facing election in states that Trump won in 2016.

Republicans have been gaining ground on Democrats holding federal and statewide offices in every Montana election since 2010. Two years ago, GOP candidates won every statewide race except the governor’s office.

Tester, who did not receive a majority of the votes in his election victories in 2006 and 2012, also faces a potential Green Party challenger who could siphon away some Democratic voters. The Montana Democratic Party has sued to try to disqualify the Green Party from the ballot.

The race is on track to be one of the most expensive in Montana’s history, with outside groups already pouring in at least $5 million.

Tester has said outside spending would have come whether or not Trump had said the senator “will have a big price to pay” after releasing allegations that Jackson drank on the job and distributed prescription medication.

Some political analysts say Trump’s remarks may actually help Tester by galvanizing Democrats to turn out for a non-presidential election when turnout is typically lower.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Rep. Kristi Noem wins GOP governor primary

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem won South Dakota’s Republican primary for governor on Tuesday, defeating Attorney General Marty Jackley to emerge as the favorite to become the state’s first female governor.

GOP primary voters made Noem the only woman South Dakota Republicans have nominated for the state’s top job. She advanced to face well-funded Democrat Billie Sutton, a state senator and former professional rodeo cowboy, in the November general election.

Noem credited her primary victory in part to traveling around the state and talking about policies that cast a bold new vision for South Dakota.

“I expect the general election will be competitive as well, but we’re going to work hard,” Noem said. “We will start focusing on that tomorrow.”

The governor contest — the highest-profile match up on the ballot — started mostly polite, but soured at the end as the candidates sought to break out in the primary.

Ads from Noem in the final days criticized Jackley for his handling of a case involving a former state agent who received a $1.5 million state settlement after she won a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. They also accused Jackley of being soft in his prosecution of a financial misconduct case involving the EB-5 investment-for-visa program.

Similar on policy, the candidates tried to contrast their experience. Noem touted her role negotiating the GOP’s recent federal tax cuts with President Donald Trump. She cast Jackley as a “government lawyer” who would maintain the status quo.

Jackley unsuccessfully made himself the homegrown candidate, focusing on his tenure as the state’s former U.S. attorney and now attorney general.

Patricia McKeever’s vote went to Noem. McKeever, a 74-year-old retiree in Sioux Falls who works at a church, appreciated Noem’s support for Trump but also felt Noem — a rancher, farmer and small business owner — had proven herself as a businesswoman.

“And the last point on the list is that she’s a woman: I want to see a first female governor,” McKeever said.

Matt Schilling, 52, of Sioux Falls, backed Jackley, saying he felt he was committed to making sure South Dakota is run as efficiently as it can be.

“He’s conservative. He’s proven that he puts the state first, and I think that that’s important for the state of South Dakota,” said Schilling, a sales director for a manufacturing company.

Noem will have an advantage going into the general election in heavily conservative South Dakota, but Democrats have put forward a strong and well-funded challenger. Sutton has banked cash while Noem and Jackley fought for the GOP nomination.

Associated Press

Associated Press