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5 races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries

Which lawmaker will emerge from two member-on-member primaries in Illinois, and will another Giuliani get on the ballot in November in New York?

If it’s a Tuesday in June, it’s primary day somewhere in the United States — and this Tuesday is a big one, with primaries and runoffs in seven states encompassing five U.S. Senate races, four governor’s races, and dozens of House seats. Here are five races to watch.

1. Democrats meddle in Illinois governor’s race

Illinois hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 1988, but Democrats aren’t taking anything for granted this year as they try to reelect Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) in a tough election year for Democrats. The focus this Tuesday is on the Republican primary to challenge Pritzker. Per usual in Republican politics, it’s shaping up as a race between a moderate Republican — Chicago-area mayor Richard Irvin — and a more conservative firebrand Republican — state Sen. Darren Bailey, who has former president Donald Trump’s endorsement.

Irvin would be the more competitive candidate against Pritzker. (Illinois voters do somewhat regularly nominate moderate Republicans to lead the state.) But the energy on the Republican side appears to be with Bailey, who wants to ban abortion in the state and has described Chicago as “[a] crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hellhole." He once tried to eject the city from the state. A Chicago Sun-Times/WBEZ poll from earlier this month shows Bailey with a big lead.

To compete with Pritzker, a billionaire with unlimited money to spend on his reelection, both Republicans have billionaires of their own backing them. The Democratic Governors Association and Pritzker are also spending ads in the Republican primary trying to muddle things up — and elevate Bailey to make Pritzker’s road to reelection easier.

2. A Giuliani could win in New York

No, Democrats aren’t at much risk of losing the governor’s race, even after all the drama of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) resigning over sexual harassment allegations. (After toying with the idea, he’s not running for the job again.) Instead the state’s first female governor, Kathy Hochul (D), looks set to win her nomination Tuesday and reelection in November.

But the Republican primary is worth watching as a test of how popular the name Giuliani is with hardcore Republican voters. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s son, Andrew Giuliani, is running for the nomination as his father has become synonymous with attempts to overturn the legitimate 2020 presidential election.

The other big name in the race is Rep. Lee Zeldin (R), a four-term congressman from Long Island and one of Trump’s earliest supporters. If Giuliani wins the nomination, New York Republicans will consider it an upset — and yet another example of how the Republican base isn’t phased by allegations that Trump and his allies tried to steal the election.

3. Two member-on-member races in Illinois: One Democrat, one Republican

Every decade, based on new census data, every state redraws its congressional and state legislative districts. Politicians try to draw lines that benefit their party (called gerrymandering), but sometimes they wind up with new districts that pit some of their own lawmakers against each other.

That’s playing out in suburban Chicago in Illinois’s 6th Congressional District. Reps. Sean Casten (D) and Marie Newman (D) are both on the ballot Tuesday for the same seat. The loser will cede their seat in Congress entirely. Illinois Democrats squeezed some of Casten’s and Newman’s districts together to make room for a new, solidly Democratic district on the other side of Chicago — seeing it as a net win for Democrats. Casten is more of a centrist while Newman is more of a progressive. Newman is facing a House ethics probe tied to her 2020 campaign. But both campaigns were stopped in their tracks last week when Casten announced that his 17-year-old daughter died suddenly in her sleep.

Outside St. Louis, two Republican members of Congress are also facing off Tuesday because of redistricting. In Illinois’s 15th Congressional District, voters will choose between GOP Reps. Mary Miller — a conservative firebrand with Trump’s endorsement — and the more moderate Rep. Rodney Davis (R), who supports red-flag gun laws and was one of 35 House Republicans who voted for a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol. Miller is on the other end of the political spectrum entirely: She recently drew national headlines and even international condemnation when she celebrated the end of Roe v. Wade at a rally Saturday alongside Trump as a “historic victory for white life.” The crowd cheered; her office said she misspoke.

A Republican lawmaker called the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade a “victory for white life,” at a rally held by former president Donald Trump on June 25. (Video: Reuters)

4. In Oklahoma, a sign of strength for a senator who stopped challenging the 2020 election results

On the day of the Jan. 6 attack, it was Sen. James Lankford (R) who was speaking — opposing some of the legitimate election results from states — when Congress had to evacuate. Lankford abandoned his protest mid-speech. After huddling in a secure location for hours, Lankford was one of a handful of Republican senators who changed their minds and decided not to continue to challenge the election results.

For that, the state Republican Party tried to censure him and he got a primary challenger — Oklahoma is deep in Trump country. Pastor Jackson Lahmeyer has the support of a who’s who in false election fraud claims: MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Giuliani, Roger Stone and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. But it looks like Lankford will prevail in the GOP primary just fine despite his perceived indiscretions to Trump world.

5. A rare open Senate seat in Oklahoma

It’s not often that a former Trump Cabinet official is at the bottom of a Republican primary battle in a pro-Trump state. But that’s what’s happening to Scott Pruitt, the former, disgraced Environmental Protection Agency head under Trump who resigned over multiple ethics scandals.

There’s a rare opening for this Senate seat in Oklahoma, with Sen. James Inhofe (R) retiring after nearly 30 years in office. Pruitt is running but has failed to catch on as a candidate. Instead the race is shaping up between Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R) and a former state House speaker T.W. Shannon (R). This could go to an August runoff if neither candidate gets 50 percent. (There are almost a dozen other lesser-known names in the Republican primary.)

But the winner of the Republican nomination is almost certainly the next senator from Oklahoma. And as nonpartisan handicapper Cook Political Report notes, either man would become the second Native American elected to the U.S. Senate; both politicians belong to tribes.

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