The 8 Primaries to Watch Tuesday

The duel in Mississippi, a more collegial contest in Oklahoma, and a string of competitive New York campaigns are among the most interesting races up this week.

National Journal
Adam Wollner
June 22, 2014, 9:50 a.m.

After House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor’s shock­ing de­feat, polit­ic­al ob­serv­ers got some ex­tra re­cov­ery time last week, when there were no primar­ies for the first time since April. This week, voters in six states will hit the polls to de­term­ine nom­in­ees in sev­er­al im­port­ant Sen­ate, House, and gubernat­ori­al races. Here are eight to keep an eye on:


The GOP primary in the Magno­lia State went to a second round after neither six-term Sen. Thad Co­chran nor his tea-party chal­lenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, got the ma­jor­ity sup­port ne­ces­sary on June 3 to avoid a run­off. After fin­ish­ing just ahead of Co­chran in the ini­tial round of vot­ing, McDaniel seems to have the slight up­per hand. Both can­did­ates have con­tin­ued to re­ceive plenty of air cov­er from out­side groups in the weeks since the primary: the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Re­altors have run TV ads pro­mot­ing Co­chran, while con­ser­vat­ive out­fits like Club for Growth, Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Ac­tion, and Cit­izens United have aired ads be­ne­fit­ing McDaniel.


The race to re­place out­go­ing Sen. Tom Coburn in Ok­lahoma has been less ex­pens­ive and less nasty than the cam­paign in Mis­sis­sippi. Rep. James Lank­ford is look­ing for a pro­mo­tion after two terms in of­fice, while T.W. Shan­non, con­sidered a rising star in Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an circles, hopes to make the leap from the state House speak­er’s of­fice. The pop­u­lar Coburn is of­fi­cially neut­ral in the race, though he re­cently made a state­ment prais­ing Lank­ford while con­demning out­side groups run­ning neg­at­ive ads in the race, something loc­al ob­serv­ers think could be im­port­ant. Shan­non counts tea-party fa­vor­ites like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — who ap­peared in a pro-Shan­non TV spot — and Sarah Pal­in among his sup­port­ers. Ok­lahoma is an­oth­er state that man­dates run­offs if no can­did­ate reaches 50 per­cent, and Lank­ford and Shan­non are ex­pec­ted to con­tin­ue their con­test head-to-head un­til Aug. 26.


As term-lim­ited Mary­land Gov. Mar­tin O’Mal­ley sets his sights on a po­ten­tial 2016 pres­id­en­tial run, his lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor ap­pears well-po­si­tioned to re­place him. Re­cent in­de­pend­ent polling has shown An­thony Brown with a 20-point lead over At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Doug Gansler in the Demo­crat­ic primary. Boos­ted by en­dorse­ments from O’Mal­ley and Bill Clin­ton, Brown has run a mostly pos­it­ive cam­paign, tout­ing the ac­com­plish­ments of the ad­min­is­tra­tion and say­ing little about the his­tor­ic nature of his cam­paign: If Brown wins the nom­in­a­tion, he will be well on his way to be­com­ing just the third elec­ted black gov­ernor in U.S. his­tory. Gansler’s at­tend­ance at a teen drink­ing party last year drew more at­ten­tion than any­thing pos­it­ive about his cam­paign.


Gov. John Hick­en­loop­er looks less vul­ner­able now than he did a year ago, but the GOP still has its sights set on knock­ing him off this fall. Four Re­pub­lic­ans are vy­ing for the party’s nom­in­a­tion, and with little pub­lic polling avail­able, it’s not en­tirely clear who has the ad­vant­age head­ing in­to Tues­day. Some Re­pub­lic­ans worry that vic­tory by con­ser­vat­ive firebrand Tom Tan­credo, a former con­gress­man, would not only hurt their chances to take over the gov­ernor’s man­sion, but weak­en their odds in down-bal­lot con­tests and the state’s cru­cial Sen­ate race. A Demo­crat­ic group has even aired ads in the race de­signed to boost Tan­credo, along with a spot at­tack­ing former Rep. Bob Beau­prez. But Tan­credo’s cam­paign has been strangely quiet to­ward the end of the primary, while Beau­prez’s has been ag­gress­ively build­ing him up on TV. Former state Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mike Kopp and Col­or­ado Sec­ret­ary of State Scott Gessler are also on the bal­lot.


Re­pub­lic­ans view Demo­crat­ic Rep. Tim Bish­op’s Long Is­land House seat as one of their best pickup op­por­tun­it­ies this cycle: The five-term con­gress­man won his last elec­tion by just 4 per­cent­age points, and Pres­id­ent Obama car­ried the dis­trict by less than 2,000 votes that year. But the two Re­pub­lic­ans who hope to de­feat Bish­op first got in­volved in a con­ten­tious in­tra-party battle which at­trac­ted nearly $1.3 mil­lion in spend­ing from out­side groups. About two-thirds of that tar­geted state Sen. Lee Zeld­in, who has earned the sup­port of much of the party’s es­tab­lish­ment wing, in­clud­ing the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce. His rival, George Demos, who ran for the same seat un­suc­cess­fully in 2010, has pumped $2 mil­lion of his own money in­to the cam­paign and is backed by former New York City May­or Rudy Gi­uliani — but oth­ers in the GOP are wor­ried that he won’t be able to knock off Bish­op in the fall.

(RE­LATED: Out­side Groups Pour Cash In­to N.Y. Dis­tricts)


For the second year in a row, Rep. Charlie Ran­gel is fa­cing a stiff primary chal­lenge for his re­li­ably Demo­crat­ic Har­lem-based seat. After fall­ing roughly 1,000 votes short in 2012, state Sen. Ad­ri­ano Es­pail­lat is tak­ing an­oth­er shot at Ran­gel this year. A stark ra­cial di­vide defines the race for the ma­jor­ity-minor­ity dis­trict, with black voters co­ales­cing around Ran­gel and His­pan­ic voters around Es­pail­lat — but not as strongly. Ran­gel seems to be in a bet­ter po­s­i­tion than he was at this point two years ago, however. Late last week, a new NY1/Si­ena Col­lege poll found Ran­gel lead­ing Es­pail­lat 47 per­cent to 34 per­cent, ex­pand­ing on the 9-point ad­vant­age the 22-term con­gress­man held in mid-May.


After los­ing to Demo­crat­ic Rep. Bill Owens by less than 2,000 votes in 2010 and just 5,000 votes in 2012, busi­ness­man Matt Do­heny de­cided to run for the Up­state New York seat again this year after Owens an­nounced his re­tire­ment. But former Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion aide Elise Stefanik was already off and run­ning, and out­side en­dors­ers and groups have made elect­ing her a cause. Mitt Rom­ney and Rep. Paul Ry­an en­dorsed Stefanik, and the GOP su­per PAC Amer­ic­an Cross­roads spent $770,000 on TV ads call­ing Do­heny un­elect­able. The primary win­ner will face Demo­crat Aaron Woolf, a doc­u­ment­ary film­maker, in a battle­ground gen­er­al elec­tion, though they could end up di­vid­ing con­ser­vat­ive votes be­cause both have won third-party bal­lot lines for the fall.


Rep. Richard Hanna isn’t seen as one of the more en­dangered in­cum­bents in Con­gress, but he has angered con­ser­vat­ives on sev­er­al is­sues (in­clud­ing same-sex mar­riage, which he sup­ports), and Hanna drew a con­ser­vat­ive primary chal­lenge from As­semb­ly­wo­man Claudia Ten­ney. Amer­ic­an Unity PAC, a pro-gay-rights su­per PAC cofoun­ded by hedge-fund man­ager and ma­jor GOP donor Paul Sing­er, has spent over $600,000 on the race, an out­size sum for a sleepy primary that’s prob­ably more about Hanna’s gay-rights stance than a warn­ing that he’s en­dangered. Mean­while, Ten­ney has the back­ing of so­cially con­ser­vat­ive groups like the Na­tion­al Or­gan­iz­a­tion for Mar­riage.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
6 hours ago

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Variety Looks at How Michelle Obama Has Leveraged Pop Culture
8 hours ago

“My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen," says Michelle Obama in a new profile in Variety. "So I’m always game for a good joke, and I’m not so formal in this role. There’s very little that we can’t do that people wouldn’t appreciate.” According to writer Ted Johnson, Mrs. Obama has leveraged the power of pop culture far beyond her predecessors. "Where are the people?" she asks. "Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”

New York Times, Other News Organizations Hacked
9 hours ago

The FBI and other US security agencies are currently investigating a series of computer breaches found within The New York Times and other news organizations. It is expected that the hacks were carried out by individuals working for Russian intelligence. It is believed that these cyber attacks are part of a "broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said."

NLRB: Graduate Students Can Unionize
9 hours ago

In a 3-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Columbia University graduate students, granting them the legal right to unionize. The petition was brought by a number of teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school. This decision could pave the way for thousands of new union members, depending on if students at other schools nationwide wish to join unions. A number of universities spoke out in opposition to this possibility, saying injecting collective bargaining into graduate school could create a host of difficulties.

Cruz Approval Ratings Underwater
11 hours ago

Following Texas Senator Ted Cruz's controversial decision not to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, instead telling voters to "vote (their) conscience," a new poll out today shows that his approval ratings have sunk. The poll from Public Policy Polling shows that 39 percent of Texans approve of the job Cruz is doing, compared to 48 percent who don't approve. Additionally, despite winning the GOP primary in the state, the poll found that if the primary was held today, Trump would garner 52 percent of support to just 38 percent for Cruz.