Early returns Tuesday evening from primary elections in eight states set the stage for a couple of key House battles in New Jersey and a race for an open Senate seat in South Dakota, while Republican Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi was in the fight for his political life against tea-party challenger Chris McDaniel.
A number of other contests in Alabama and New Jersey were playing out as expected, but results from primaries in California, Iowa, Montana, and New Mexico had not yet started to trickle in by 10 p.m. Eastern time.
With less than half the vote counted in Mississippi's Republican primary, Cochran had 50.6 percent while McDaniel had 47.8 percent. Cochran, 76, is seeking his seventh term in the Senate.
Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds easily won a five-way Republican primary Tuesday for the right to take on Democratic business owner Rick Weiland and two independents on Nov. 4 for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Tim Johnson, the Senate Banking Committee chairman who is retiring after five terms in the House and three terms in the Senate.
Thunderstorms forced Rounds to cancel his travel plans as voters went to the polls Tuesday, but the bad weather didn't affect the results — Rounds was heavily favored over state Sen. Larry Rhoden, state Rep. Stace Nelson, and two other GOP candidates in the primary.
In New Jersey, candidates were selected Tuesday for November races to replace retiring Reps. Jon Runyan, a Republican, and Rush Holt, a Democrat.
County official Aimee Belgard will be the Democrats' hope for flipping Runyan's 3rd District seat in South Jersey against Republican Tom MacArthur, a former mayor who crushed another former mayor, Steve Lonegan, in a tough primary. Belgard, who had the backing of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, easily bested two other candidates in her primary.
State Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman will be the favorite to keep Rush's central New Jersey seat in Democratic hands after besting state Sen. Linda Greenstein, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, and physicist Andrew Zwicker in Tuesday's primary. Watson Coleman will face Republican Alieta Eck, a physician, in November.
Also in New Jersey, Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat who won a special election last year to finish the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, was waiting until late Tuesday night to find out his opponent this fall in a race for a full, six-year term. Conservative Richard Pezzullo, establishment Republican Brian Goldberg, and economic researcher Jeff Bell were in a close race in the GOP primary with about two-thirds of the vote counted Tuesday. Booker will be heavily favored over either Republican, though.
In Alabama, state Rep. Paul DeMarco was leading a seven-candidate field in the Republican primary for the seat being vacated in January by GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus. State Sen. Scott Beason and think-tank cofounder Gary Palmer were both running about 15 points behind with about a third of the vote counted. The winner will be favored over Democratic businessman Avery Vise in November.