The Fix’s top 10 primaries of 2014

January 3

The 2014 midterm election year is here!

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Before the main event in November, a series of primary elections will play out.

For now, the top action is in Congress: Three of the top 10 primaries are in House races, and the other seven are in contests for the Senate.

Below is our rundown, in alphabetical order. As a reminder, some races stand out because of deep rivalries or because the outcome will say something larger about the Democratic or Republican Parties. Others matter because the winner could increase or decrease a party’s odds of winning in the general election.

Debuting on our list: The Texas Republican Senate primary, where Sen. John Cornyn drew an eleventh hour challenge from Rep. Steve Stockman. Cornyn remains a heavy favorite to win. But his race is notable because it means another member of Senate leadership will have to survive a primary this cycle.

To the Line!

Alaska's Republican Senate primary: Sen. Mark Begich (D) recently launched some new ads, but the real question in Alaska is who emerges from the GOP primary. The best-case scenario for Begich is 2010 nominee Joe Miller, who was a disaster after defeating Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) in a primary (Murkowski beat him as a write-in candidate). From there, we’ll have to see how formidable both Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former state natural resources commissioner Dan Sullivan are.

California’s 31st district election: This one technically isn’t a party primary – given the state's top-two, nonpartisan primary system -- but the real question is which Democrat emerges against Rep. Gary Miller (R) in this Democratic-leaning district. In 2012, Miller was lucky enough to face another Republican after the Democrats split up the vote too much. That isn’t going to happen again in 2014, as there’s no other Republican in the race. But Miller’s chances would likely be better against someone like former congressman Joe Baca (D).

Florida's 13th district Republican primary: Democrats have to feel good about where they are in this potential bellwether special election. Democrat Alex Sink is expected to cruise to her party's nomination later this month. And she's likely to have a huge cash advantage over whomever she faces after that. The Republican front-runners are state Rep. Kathleen Peters, who has received financial support from the PACs of several members of Congress, and lobbyist David Jolly, who is backed by former "Price is Right" star Bob Barker. Sink raised more money than Jolly and Peters combined. The primary is Jan. 14.

Georgia's Republican Senate primary: Want an idea about where this GOP primary is headed? Rep. Jack Kingston had the audacity to suggest the GOP might want to fix the Affordable Care Act rather than just focus on repealing it. That promptly earned a rebuke from fellow GOP candidate Rep. Paul Broun, who posted a web video saying Kingston wants to keep Obamacare intact.

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Hawaii's Democratic Senate primary: Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) recently told The Washington Post's Philip Rucker he didn't  want to "get into a discussion about letters and deathbed notices." But late-Sen. Daniel Inouye's dying wish for Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to replace him is why this contest is so personal. The question is whether Inouye's allies can boost Hanabusa -- who was passed over by Abercrombie in favor of now-Sen. and former lieutenant governor Brian Schatz -- past an emerging younger, whiter, more liberal coalition that is lining up behind Schatz.

Idaho's 2nd district Republican primary: The latest front in the business-versus-tea party battle in the GOP that promises to be a major story line this cycle is this district. The Chamber of Commerce recently went up with its first ad in support of Rep. Mike Simpson.  The anti-tax Club for Growth, meanwhile, backs Simpson's opponent, attorney Bryan Smith. Given the amounts of money the Chamber and the Club are typically willing to spend to help their preferred candidates, this is shaping up to be a nasty and expensive contest -- even before taking into account the money the candidates and their campaigns are going to dish out.

Kentucky's Republican Senate primary: The Senate Conservatives Fund is going whole-hog for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s primary challenger, businessman Matt Bevin. According to a new Politico report, the group has spent more than half a million on Bevin and guided another $450,000 in contributions to him – for a total of nearly $1 million.

Mississippi's Republican Senate primary: It looked for some time late last year like Sen. Thad Cochran was going to retire. But he announced in early December that he would run again, putting him on a collision course against state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the darling of national tea party groups. Of all the Senate incumbents facing primaries, Cochran likely will have the toughest test.

Texas's Republican Senate primary: Stockman’s late entry into the primary against Senate Minority Whip Cornyn took the political world by surprise. Many are already counting Stockman out, given some of his outlandish statements and lack of fundraising acumen in a big/expensive state. But under-funded and controversial GOP candidates have won primaries in recent years, and he is a sitting member of Congress running against a member of leadership. We're not saying he'll win, but it's worth monitoring just in case it gets competitive.

Wyoming's Republican Senate primary: The big question for Liz Cheney is this: Can she avoid the distracting stories that have prevented her campaign from staying on message? The latest was a December revelation that her husband was registered to vote in both Wyoming and Virginia. Before that, it was a public spat with sister Mary over gay marriage. And before that, it was tension between her mother and former senator Alan Simpson. Cheney's shown she can raise the money to make Sen. Mike Enzi sweat a bit. But no fundraising total will matter if she can't stick to the script.

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