The 4 Primaries to Watch This Week

From Lindsey Graham’s surprisingly easy route to Eric Cantor’s oddly aggressive tack, here are the most interesting nominations that will be decided Tuesday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham.
National Journal
Scott Bland Zach C. Cohen
June 8, 2014, 6:30 a.m.

After the ex­cite­ment of last week’s late-night primar­ies, this week’s nom­in­at­ing con­tests look a little more sed­ate. But there’s still plenty to keep an eye on as voters in five states head to the polls Tues­day. Here are the top four primar­ies to watch on June 10.

SOUTH CAR­O­LINA SEN­ATE

At the be­gin­ning of last year, Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham looked like a prime ex­ample of the type of GOP in­cum­bent get­ting chal­lenged in primar­ies these days. Since then, he’s turned in­to a prime ex­ample of the type of Re­pub­lic­an who es­capes such a fate some­what com­fort­ably.

Gra­ham’s mod­er­ate stances on cli­mate change, im­mig­ra­tion, and sev­er­al more is­sues dam­aged his stand­ing with parts of South Car­o­lina’s fam­ously fac­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Party in the last six years. But Gra­ham’s ag­gress­ive cam­paign­ing and fun­drais­ing — he raised nearly $6.5 mil­lion in the past year and a half and spent even more than that over the same peri­od — kept that specter of in­tra-party threat from grow­ing in­to any­thing more real. Gra­ham was not only in a com­fort­able first place in his primary in the most re­cent Pal­metto poll from Clem­son Uni­versity, he was at 49 per­cent sup­port, on the cusp of the ma­jor­ity he’d need to avoid a run­off and win the nom­in­a­tion out­right. More than a third of the elect­or­ate said they were un­de­cided, while the closest Re­pub­lic­an to Gra­ham was still lan­guish­ing in single-di­gits.

Mean­while, ap­poin­ted Sen. Tim Scott is on the bal­lot, too, and he’s go­ing to cruise through his first statewide primary with ease. He tech­nic­ally has a primary chal­lenger, but there’s noth­ing to the chal­lenge. Not only do 65 per­cent of South Car­o­lina Re­pub­lic­ans give Scott an “ex­cel­lent” or “good” rat­ing, ac­cord­ing to that Pal­metto poll, but, as the Char­le­ston Post and Cour­i­er wrote in May, “Re­peated ef­forts by state me­dia to loc­ate [Scott’s op­pon­ent] have been un­suc­cess­ful.”

MAINE’S 2ND CON­GRES­SION­AL DIS­TRICT

When Demo­crat­ic Rep. Mi­chael Michaud an­nounced last year that he would run for gov­ernor, that left his dis­trict — a vast stretch of north­ern Maine that is the largest con­gres­sion­al dis­trict east of the Mis­sis­sippi River — open for new rep­res­ent­a­tion. Two Demo­crats from the state Sen­ate, Emily Cain and Troy Jack­son, leaped at the op­por­tun­ity. Jack­son is well-con­nec­ted with loc­al labor, nev­er a li­ab­il­ity in a Demo­crat­ic primary, but Cain has cast Jack­son’s vot­ing re­cord as in­suf­fi­ciently pro­gress­ive on sev­er­al ma­jor is­sues: abor­tion, same-sex mar­riage, and the en­vir­on­ment. EMILY’s List, the Demo­crat­ic wo­men’s group, and the League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters have spent over $200,000 between them boost­ing Cain. Who­ever wins on Tues­day will be a fa­vor­ite, but def­in­itely not a lock, to rep­res­ent the dis­trict in 2015. Re­pub­lic­ans Bruce Poli­quin (who pre­vi­ously lost two statewide GOP primar­ies) and Kev­in Raye (who pre­vi­ously lost two races against Michaud) are com­pet­ing for their party’s nom­in­a­tion.

VIR­GIN­IA’S 7TH CON­GRES­SION­AL DIS­TRICT

No one ex­pects House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor to lose his primary Tues­day, and he’ll prob­ably win com­fort­ably. But the ag­gress­ive cam­paign Can­tor had to run against loc­al eco­nom­ics pro­fess­or Dave Brat sym­bol­izes how, even if not very many in­cum­bents are los­ing primar­ies, those nom­in­at­ing con­tests have still got­ten much less stable than in the past. Can­tor aired neg­at­ive TV ads against Brat, sent mail­ers boast­ing about de­feat­ing a pro-“am­nesty” im­mig­ra­tion-re­form plan, and spent more money than usu­al on cam­paign activ­it­ies (as op­posed to fun­drais­ing for the rest of his party), all un­usu­ally force­ful moves for a party lead­er up for re­nom­in­a­tion.

VIR­GIN­IA’S 8TH CON­GRES­SION­AL DIS­TRICT

Demo­crat­ic Rep. Jim Mor­an is re­tir­ing, giv­ing his party the op­por­tun­ity to anoint the next mem­ber of Con­gress from his safely Demo­crat­ic sec­tion of North­ern Vir­gin­ia. Former Lt. Gov. Don Bey­er ap­pears to be the front-run­ner in a crowded field of sev­en Demo­crat­ic primary hope­fuls, thanks not only to his pri­or polit­ic­al ex­per­i­ence but also be­cause of the name re­cog­ni­tion and wealth that come with own­ing a suc­cess­ful loc­al car deal­er­ship and serving as the na­tion­al fin­ance chair for a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate (Howard Dean in 2004). There has been a little out­side money spent on be­half of state Del. Patrick Hope, but Bey­er’s mil­lion-dol­lar cam­paign has out­stripped the rest of the di­vided field. Mor­an hasn’t en­dorsed any­one, telling The Wash­ing­ton Post that “it wouldn’t be fair.”

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