The inside track on Washington politics.
It’s primary day in eight states today, with voters heading to the polls in Alabama, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and California. The biggest spotlight is on Mississippi, where Republican Sen. Thad Cochran is being challenged by tea party candidate Chris McDaniel, and Iowa, where state Sen. Joni Ernst is poised to finish first in Tuesday’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Check here for the latest results and analysis for all eight states.
The Senate GOP primary in Iowa didn’t go to a convention, but we could see something tonight that we have seen just once in a half-century: a congressional race going to a convention.
In the GOP primary for the swing 3rd district, no candidate is currently above 30 percent. If nobody gets to 35 percent, which seems likely, a convention would choose the nominee for the first time in Iowa since 2002 and just the second time since 1964.
With 72 percent of precincts reporting, state Sen. Brad Zaun is at 29 percent, followed by Mike Huckabee-backed Robert Cramer at 22 percent and Secretary of State Matt Schultz at 19 percent.
Of course, the vote totals don’t mean much if it goes to convention.
The Democratic nominee is former state Sen. Staci Appel.
The last congressional race to go to convention in Iowa was when now-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was nominated in 2002.
In the other race where this was possible Tuesday, Democratic state Rep. Pat Murphy won the nomination for Braley’s seat. He’s at 36 percent — just above 35 — with 92 percent of precincts reporting, and AP has called the race for him. He’s favored to win in a Democratic-leaning district.
The long-running clash between the tea party insurgency and the Republican establishment came to a dramatic head in Mississippi on Tuesday when Sen. Thad Cochran faced off against Chris McDaniel at the polls after a nasty and expensive primary battle. Incomplete returns showed a race that was too close to call.
Cochran went into the contest at risk of becoming the first U.S. senator to be toppled this year. With 92.4 percent of precincts reporting, barely one percentage point separated the top contenders. McDaniel had a slight lead, but both were under 50 percent, which would mean a runoff in three weeks if those results hold up.
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) will not be the second incumbent congressman to lose tonight, but he’s still fighting to avoid a runoff.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Palazzo leads party-switching former congressman Gene Taylor, whom he beat as a Democrat in 2010. The current count is 50.2 percent for Palazzo to 43.3 percent for Taylor.
If Palazzo stays above 50 percent, he’s got the nomination. If not, he faces a three-week runoff against the former congressman.
How familiar are you with the record of Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.)? Not very? Well, that’s probably in large part because he’s been in office for less than four months. (He was appointed to replace Max Baucus, who became ambassador to China.)
The good news for Walsh is that he just won the Democratic primary in Montana for the November general election, setting him up to actually be elected to the position.
The bad news for Walsh is that Steve Daines won the Republican primary. Daines is currently the state’s sole representative in the House of Representatives, and leads Walsh by a wide margin in (admittedly somewhat old) polling. (He also won tonight with a much larger margin than Walsh, though that doesn’t mean much.) The race is another that would be a pickup for the Republican Party nationally should Daines win.
With Daines not running for reelection in the House, the state’s sole congressional district is wide open. Neither of the party primaries for that race have been determined as of this writing.
The likely newest addition to the 42-year-long list of unsuccessful New Jersey Republican Senate candidates was determined tonight. After an agonizing back-and-forth, the Associated Press called the state’s GOP primary for former Reagan speechwriter Jeff Bell. (Cory Booker was uncontested on the Democratic side.)
Amazingly, Bell is one of the 14 Republicans that were defeated in that 42-year period. In 1978 — when Booker was nine — Bell lost to Bill Bradley by a wide margin.
Lots of things can happen between now and November; nothing in politics is set in stone. But given Booker’s wide margin in the state’s special Senate election last year (and predictions from experts handing him a likely win), it seems unlikely that a miracle will happen. Which is kind of the thing with miracles.
State Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has won the GOP Senate primary in Iowa, easily avoiding a potential convention vote to determine the party’s nominee.
She’s at 53 percent with 22 percent of precincts reporting — well above the 35 percent she needs to win outright tonight. Her nearest competitor, Sam Clovis, is at 18 percent.
AP has called the race for Ernst.
Ernst surged late in the race and got both establishment and tea party support, moving past the erstwhile GOP frontrunner, businessman Mark Jacobs. Ernst was backed by both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin.
In the general election, Ernst gets Rep. Bruce Braley (D). Braley, as we’ve noted, begins as the slight frontrunner. This is a second-tier GOP target, but still one very much worth watching.
Ernst made a name for herself in the GOP primary with an ad in which she used the metaphor of castrating hogs to suggest her approach to spending if she heads to Washington.
The other major Senate matchup of the night is now counting votes after Iowa closed its polls at 10 p.m. EDT.
The big question here, of course, is whether state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) gets to 35 percent in her primary. If she does, she wins. If she doesn’t, a party convention decides the nominee, and who knows what happens.
Waiting in the general election is Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), who is considered the favorite.
Of course, Iowa is a swing state, and Braley hardly looks bulletproof early on. Republicans feel like Ernst could turn this into a close race rather quickly.
New Jersey’s Steve Lonegan, last seen lying in a crumpled heap beside the path Cory Booker took to the United States Senate, has lost his bid for the Republican nomination for the state’s 3rd congressional district. Lonegan, who lost to Booker in last year’s special Senate election, was defeated by Tom MacArthur, a businessman and local elected official who had establishment support over the conservative Lonegan.
The district is currently represented by Republican Rep. Jon Runyan, who announced last year that he would not seek reelection. Runyan had harsh words for the Republicans seeking to replace him, at one point calling the contest “ugly as Hell.”
MacArthur will face Democrat Aimee Belgard, who won her party’s nomination by a much-wider margin. Belgard also holds local office. Unlike most of this fall’s House races, this is expected to be a contest. Real Clear Politics lists it as “leans GOP,” but others call it a toss-up and Democrats hope it will be an opportunity to gain a seat.
Lonegan, however, will have to sit it out. After his last 12 months, though, that will probably be something of a relief.
The two races of note in Mississippi are both very, very close.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) took a brief lead over Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), but Cochran is back up 50-49 with 32 percent of precincts reporting.
In the 4th district, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.) leads party-switching former Rep. Gene Taylor (R-Miss.) by less than 100 votes with 26 percent in.
It’s still very early in both races, but both look very tight and would be headed for runoffs as it stands.
Alabama governor Robert Bentley won the state’s Republican primary for governor, essentially guaranteeing him reelection to the position after the November general election. The Associated Press called the race for Bentley while a lot of the vote was still out — given that Bentley was up by about 80 points.
His opponent will be Parker Griffith, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat who briefly held a seat in the U.S. House from the state. Griffith’s victory was called somewhat later, with a lead of 20 percent.
Following the retirement of Spencer Bachus, the Republican primary in the state’s sixth congressional district will also essentially determine Bachus’ replacement. Votes in that race are still being tallied, but state Rep. Paul DeMarco has made the run-off scheduled for July 15.
Since the big news of 2014 is control of the Senate, we can report that Senator Jeff Sessions won his primary race. He was uncontested.
As predicted, the Senate race in South Dakota — a key part of the national Republican Party’s plans to retake the Senate — will be Democrat Rick Weiland versus Republican Mike Rounds.
The AP called the Republican race for Rounds with 32 percent of the vote counted and a 40-plus percent lead for Rounds, the former governor of the state. Weiland was uncontested. Polls consistently indicate that Rounds is likely to win the November general election.
Governor Dennis Daugaard also won his party’s nomination for his current seat by a wide margin. He will face the winner of the Democratic primary, state Rep. Susan Wismer. The race is considered safe for Daugaard.
Profanities are also mentioned, as are historical anecdotes about speeding 80 year olds and shaved cats.
In California’s 17th District, two Democrats are likely to make the runoff once results are announced tonight. There is incumbent Mike Honda, a progressive who is well-liked and has the support of many Democratic bigwigs — Barack Obama, for example. There is also Ro Khanna, who has Silicon Valley in his corner, as well as much of Barack Obama’s campaign team. They are both progressive. But where Honda draws support from traditional liberal organizations, focused on the environment and labor, Khanna has piqued the interest of the tech crowd that happens to be the district’s best-known feature.
It’s an interesting race, and it is definitely going to be an expensive one, too, by the time November gets here. The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker wrote a story about the two candidates in today’s paper. You can read it here.
Two former congressmen who switched parties are attempting a return to elective office tonight.
One of them is former congressman Gene Taylor (R-Miss.), a former conservative Democrat now challenging the man who beat him, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.).
The other is former congressman Parker Griffith (D-Ala.), who was elected as a Democrat in 2008, attempted to win reelection in 2010 as a Republican but lost his primary, and has since switched to independent and then back to Democrat for this year’s governor’s race.
Both men lead in very early returns. Griffith would be a big underdog, though, even if he wins the primary.
Whoever wins tonight’s Republican primary for the Senate in New Jersey, the odds are stacked against him. As the Newark Star-Ledger pointed out, it’s been 42 years since a Republican won a Senate race in the state. When Gov. Chris Christie was 10.
The margins haven’t typically been close, either. According to the Star-Ledger‘s tally, the closest race was in 1990, when Christine Todd Whitman lost to (former New York Knick) Bill Bradley by about 59,000 votes. The biggest spread was in 1984, when Bradley trounced Mary Mochary by almost a million votes.
On average, Republicans have lost by about 300,000 votes since 1972. That’s some good news for tonight’s winner. In the most recent election, the 2013 special election that made Newark mayor Cory Booker the state’s junior senator, the Democrat only got 148,000 votes. In a race Real Clear Politics pegs as “safe Democratic,” below average may be as good as the Republicans are going to get.
We talked earlier about how the California 33rd District election is the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ primary of June 3. Its nearby neighbor in the north, the 11th District, is worth watching, too. Rep. George Miller, like Rep. Henry Waxman, served in the House for 40 years before deciding to retire in 2014. Democrats in both districts were immensely excited to finally have a chance of running, and filed for candidacy immediately. In the 33rd District, that led to more than 20 people running in the race at one time or another. Not as many people ran in the 11th, but there are still enough candidates to make things interesting.
Who will join him in the general is still up in the air.
There is Tony Daysog, a Democrat on the Alameda City Council. His Web site url is moderatedemocrats.com, which sums up his platform pretty well. He wants to be “the Democratic equivalent of Paul Ryan in dealing with budget matters.”
There’s Ki Ingersol, whose career is rooted in business, not politics. He’d like for the U.S. to move to single payer.
Cheryl Sudduth’s platform stresses social justice. She talks about gender and economic equality on the trail quite a bit.
Republican Tue Phan is a retired immigration judge, with many years of experience in the legal system. Independent Jason Ramey calls himself a “maverick” and is a member of United Steelworkers. DeSaulnier is the only candidate who has raised more than $100,000. Sudduth and Ramey haven’t reported any donations.
The poor competition means that no matter who joins DeSaulnier in the runoff, he’s got an exceedingly good chance of becoming Miller’s replacement.
Iowa, where the nominating contest goes to party convention if no candidate gets 35 percent of the vote, has perhaps the oddest primary system in the country — though this rule is rarely invoked (only once in 50 years).
Over on The Fix today, we recapped some of the odder systems, two of which come into play today — Iowa and California:
1. IOWA — The “35 or everyone’s alive” primary
Some states attempt to nominate or endorse candidates through state party conventions before the primary. In Iowa, they use the convention as a backup plan.
And the 35 percent threshold isn’t just an issue in the Senate race; it’s also quite possible it will settle the GOP primary in the all-important 3rd district race and possibly even the Democratic primary in the northeastern 1st district, which could be in-play come November.
Conventions have historically meant that underfunded and more ideological candidates have a better shot, so whether or not things proceed in that direction matters.
Notable historical example: This actually hasn’t happened since 2002. That year, the state GOP nominated one Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who is now one of the leading conservative crusaders in Congress. Prior to that, it hadn’t happened since 1964!
4. CALIFORNIA/WASHINGTON — The “top two” primary
Both of these states effectively have Louisiana’s system, with two differences: 1) the open primary is held well before Election Day, and 2) the top two candidates proceed to the November general election, regardless of whether one of them got more than 50 percent the first time.
California is also holding its primary on Tuesday, so expected plenty of talk about this system Tuesday.
Notable historical example: California Democrats fell victim to this system in its first year. In Rep. Gary Miller’s (R-Calif.) district, Democrats split up the vote so much that two Republicans advanced to the general election — in a 57 percent Obama district.
For the rest, click here.
As in Mississippi, today was the first election in which Alabama voters had to bring ID to the polls in order to vote, after the 2011 passage of a law tightening voting rules. (Twitter was full of reminders for people heading to vote.) If they did forget ID, voters were still allowed to cast a ballot, provided two poll workers vouch for their identity.
That backup wasn’t always sufficient. One woman, a 92-year-old who hasn’t moved in 57 years, was turned away at the polls because her drivers license has been expired since August, and no poll worker was able to identify her.
Kay Campbell of the Huntsville Times spoke with Libba Nicholson, the woman’s neighbor (and occasional driver):
She had not renewed [the license] because her eyesight is failing and she has made the tough decision to quit driving. But she thought since it was so recent, it would work. She uses it to cash checks and in other rare incidences when she is asked for an ID.
The woman, who Campbell describes as “deeply embarrassed,” decided not to cast a provisional ballot because she would have needed to update her ID by Friday, and she didn’t think she’d be able to arrange the rides she would need to do so.
She wasn’t alone. Willie Mims, 93, showed up to vote and also was blocked from doing so, MSNBC reports. He first voted during World War II, he told organizers from a progressive vote, but not today. He was told he’d need ID, and he didn’t have any. So he went home and took a nap.