What you need to know about today’s New York primaries

Most election nerds will be obsessing over the Mississippi Senate primary runoff today -- and deservedly so, as it's an expensive nail-biter of a race -- but there are a few other races worth watching across the country, and in particular in the Empire State.

Here's a guide to which ones could be exciting -- either now or in November -- in New York, a state big enough that it's often difficult to track every House race.

Trump vs. Giuliani

Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop has had a rough couple of election cycles. In 2010, the Long Island congressman beat Republican challenger Randy Altschuler by 593 votes. In 2012, Crossroads GPS and a few local hedge-fund bigwigs showered the race with money as Bishop and Altschuler tried again. Bishop won by about 5 percentage points. This year, Republicans are going to wage a big expensive campaign to unseat Bishop once again.

Former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer George Demos had spent nearly $2 million in the Republican primary as of June 4, while his opponent, state Sen. Lee Zeldin, had spent nearly $600,000. Demos has the support of former governor George Pataki (R) and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, while Zeldin has the support of Donald Trump, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) visited a fundraiser Zeldin held last week. Cantor, known for his fundraising, was surely welcome. However, winning close primaries is not his strong suit lately. 

Zeldin was named a "rising star" at the Conservative Political Action Conference this year, and has also earned the support of the Chamber of Commerce. It's a weird joining of the establishment and conservative wings of the party, to be sure. Demos definitely has the moderate support, but not necessarily the GOP establishment.

Regardless of how the race turns out, both party's congressional committees are already preparing for the fall. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $1.4 million in ad time. The National Republican Congressional  Committee has spent $1.1 million doing the same.

Bishop is probably going to have a tough election year for the third year in a row.

Rangel redux

Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel (D) has been around Congress forever, but Democratic state Sen. Adriano Espaillat has been trying to displace him for three years now. In the 2012 primary, Espaillat lost by about 1,000 votes. This year's rematch has Rangel on even more unsteady footing.

You should read Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery's story on the race for a better understanding of the dynamics shaping the race -- the fact that the district is now majority-Hispanic, Rangel's 2010 ethics investigation, his age, etc. Many Democrats -- like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- have endorsed Rangel, but many have remained silent -- like President Obama and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who was notably Rangel's campaign manager in 1994.

At a campaign event last week, a reporter asked Rangel whether he had done enough to win, given that he has been framed as the underdog.

“I can’t think of anything else I could do," he said.

 

The moderate vs. the media-shy millionaire

This race won't be interesting in the primaries today, as both the Republican and Democratic candidates are already set. However, it will be one of the most fascinating races to watch in the fall. Moderate Republican incumbent Chris Gibson beat a Democratic incumbent in 2010 -- when Republican House candidates were picking up seats everywhere -- but the seat is one that Democrats think they could take back this year.

Sean Eldridge, the young husband of Facebook co-founder and owner of the New Republic Chris Hughes, is the Democratic candidate. They moved to the district in 2013, and their massive fortune -- and what they have done with it in the district -- has become an inevitable talking point in the race.

One local newspaper interviewed a constituent at a campaign stop about Eldridge's campaign. “I guess it’s probably a hobby he wants to pick up,” the constituent said. “He has the money to do it. He’s probably bored at home.” Eldridge has also been wary of the media so far -- as an April Politico article delighted in revealing --which is usually not the most successful tactic for a candidate who hasn't ever held political office in the region he's running in.

Once media outlets and voters start paying attention to the race again, after the primary coverage in other districts fades, this race will be worth watching. Eldridge is going to spend a lot of money, and you can bet GOP outside groups will spend a bunch making his political foray as bruising one.

The third-party threat

Democratic Rep. Bill Owens announced he was retiring in January, and the Republican primary to find a candidate in the open seat race quickly got nasty and expensive. This congressional district in upstate New York leans conservative, so the GOP clearly thinks it  has a chance to pick up a seat. The two candidates in the Republican primary are 43-year-old Matt Doheny, who lost three previous congressional races, and 29-year-old Elise Stefanik, a former Bush White House staffer with the support of American Crossroads and mega-donor Paul Singer. The Karl Rove-founded super PAC has spent more than $760,000 on ads against Doheny -- the first time the group has been involved in a Republican House primary. Singer helped throw a fundraiser for women candidates in Republican primaries, including Stefanik, earlier this year.

Mitt Romney, who has been the lucky charm of many a Republican primary candidate this year, has also endorsed Stefanik.

The race is close, and ads have been quite negative.

Despite the massive costs and infighting caused by the primary, the two candidates' platforms aren't very different. As North Country Public Radio put it, "Both candidates are pro-gun, pro-medical marijuana and anti-Common Core. And they’ve both milked a cow."

And, they'll both be on the ballot in November anyway -- as Doheny won the Independence Party's nomination, and Stefanik won the ConservativeParty nomination. (New York has roughly a million parties on their ballot.)

In the 2009 special election that put Owens into Congress, a tea party candidate running as a third-party nominee (the Independence Party) was beating the Republican nominee, Dede Scozzafava, in the polls. She ended up dropping out and endorsing Owens, who won. That outcome seems unlikely this year, given the ideology of all candidates involved. But, Doheny and Stefanik's joint presence on the ballot could split the conservative vote if either decides to actually pursue a third-party bid (a big question, indeed).

After the primary, the chosen Republican candidate will face off against Democrat Aaron Woolf, a documentary filmmaker who directed "King Corn." He also owns a Brooklyn grocery store named Urban Rustic. The Green Party will be represented by Matt Funiciello, who owns a bread company. So if you like Cornbread, this is the race for you.

Gay marriage and the GOP primary

The Republican primary here at first glance looks like it fits into the convenient national story of establishment vs. tea party. Rep. Richard Hanna (R) is being challenged from the right by state Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney. However, the issues animating this race sets it apart. Hanna is a supporter of LGBT rights, including marriage, while Tenney opposes same-sex marriage. American Unity PAC -- the super PAC started by Singer that supports GOP candidates who support same-sex marriage -- has been running ads against Tenney in the district. However, the ads do not mention LGBT issues. 

Neither of the candidates has made the race about anything but economics, although some of their supporters definitely have tried.

The National Organization for Marriage supports Tenney. Brian Brown, NOM's president, said of the incumbent, "Richard Hanna has abandoned Republican principles and is a foe of New York families. He wants to redefine marriage and has refused to allow voters a say on this critical issue. He's also militantly pro-abortion."

Hanna has outraised Tenney considerably, and it seems unlikely he will lose -- although this is a post-Cantor world, so caution is always advised.

Correction: This post previously said that Elise Stefanik won the Independence Party nominate and Matt Doheny won the Conservative Party nomination. The nominations are reversed. 

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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