Another Tuesday, another round of primaries.
Voters in eight states will head to the polls on June 3 to cast their primary ballots in a bevy of races for Senate, House, and governor. Here are the eight most important races to keep an eye on:
The tea party hasn't had any luck in its quest to knock off Republican senators this cycle, but its best chance will come Tuesday in Mississippi, where state Sen. Chris McDaniel is challenging six-term Sen. Thad Cochran. Conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund have gone all-in for McDaniel, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Mississippi Conservatives have rushed to Cochran's defense. Outside groups have spent more on this primary—close to $8 million—than any other so far in 2014. In recent weeks, the race has been engulfed by a scandal involving a local political blogger who faces felony charges for taking photos of Cochran's bedridden wife in her nursing home. Cochran's team has attempted to pin the controversy on McDaniel, whose campaign denies any involvement, but it is unclear if voters will do the same.
Unlike in Mississippi, there's no disagreement between the different factions of the GOP in the Hawkeye State's Senate primary. Groups aligned with both sides have rallied behind state Sen. Joni Ernst as she seeks to clear the 35 percent threshold necessary to win the nomination outright instead of going to a convention. The chamber, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's PAC have all run ads on her behalf. Mitt Romney appeared in one of the chamber's spots and stumped for Ernst in Iowa. But Ernst first broke through after launching a TV ad where she talked about castrating hogs on her family's farm. Recent polls show Ernst pulling away from self-funding businessman Mark Jacobs, despite his significant cash advantage, in the race for the right to take on Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the fall. A strong Republican challenge for this seat would make Democrats' task of holding the Senate much tougher in five months.
Even though they aren't likely to prevent Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown from winning a fourth term, Republicans will be paying close attention the results of California's nonpartisan, top-two primary. Republicans worry that Tim Donnelly, an outspoken member of the state Assembly, could have a negative effect on down-ballot races where the GOP is more competitive if he advances to the general election. Donnelly has held the advantage in polls over a better-funded Republican, Neel Kashkari, but the former Treasury Department official closed that gap thanks in part to spending $2 million of his own cash on the campaign. Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are pulling for Kashkari.
NEW JERSEY'S 3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Both parties see the race for the New Jersey seat left open by Republican Rep. Jon Runyan as one of the most competitive of the cycle. House Democrats have already backed lawyer Aimee Belgard, while two candidates on the Republican side have fought a nasty race. Randolph Township Mayor Tom MacArthur is the favorite to win the GOP nomination after seeding his campaign with $2 million and earning the coveted endorsements of New Jersey's powerful county parties. Tea-party favorite Steve Lonegan, the 2013 Senate nominee, started the race better known but couldn't keep up with MacArthur's spending—to the delight of the Republicans who worried that the outspoken Lonegan would be a liability in a bellwether district in November.
CALIFORNIA'S 7TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
On the House side in the Golden State, Republican former Rep. Doug Ose is attempting a comeback bid in the battleground 7th Congressional District, currently represented by Democratic Rep. Ami Bera. Ose's main obstacle in the jungle primary is Igor Birman, a tea-party darling endorsed by both Rand and Ron Paul. The House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, has attacked Ose with TV ads and mailers in hopes of preventing him from advancing.
CALIFORNIA'S 31ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Democrats are trying to avoid a 2012 repeat in the 31st district, a Democratic-leaning seat where several candidates surprisingly split the liberal vote and let two Republicans sneak into the general election. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the League of Conservation Voters is supporting Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, while EMILY's List is backing lawyer Eloise Gomez Reyes. Then there's former Democratic Rep. Joe Baca, who is well-known from his time in elected office; he is benefiting from spending by a secretive super PAC that hasn't filed required disclosures with the FEC, which has some Democrats worried about another split vote. Retired Navy officer Paul Chabot, a Republican, appears most likely to emerge from the primary, but former Miller aide Lesli Gooch could sneak by if there is enough division among the Democratic candidates—which is why the DCCC attacked her with mailers recently.
CALIFORNIA'S 33RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Longtime Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman's district is a safe Democratic seat, but that doesn't mean the fight to take it over after his retirement isn't fierce. A total of 18 candidates to enter the 33rd Congressional District race, including a pair of experienced local Democrats, state Sen. Ted Lieu and former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel; independent Marianne Williamson, the fundraising leader after putting in nearly $400,000 of her own money; and Democratic radio host Matt Miller, among others. The race in the Los Angeles County-based district has attracted celebrities such as Eva Longoria, Katy Perry, and Kim Kardashian, who all support Williamson.
IOWA'S 3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
While Democrats have already selected former state Sen. Staci Appel to run for this evenly divided, GOP-held seat, the crowded Republican primary in Iowa's 3rd Congressional District seems destined to be inconclusive. (If no one wins 35 percent of the vote, there will be a nomination convention instead, and such gatherings are often unpredictable.) Former congressional aide David Young and civil engineer Robert Cramer have raised the most cash after dipping into their personal coffers, but repeat candidate Brad Zaun is the best known, thanks to his previous campaigns and legislative service. The Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have all thrown their support behind Secretary of State Matt Schultz, while Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw has an endorsement from the Des Moines Register going for him.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified retiring California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman.
This article appears in the June 3, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.
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