What You Need to Know About the Upcoming May Elections

Eleven states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Texas, have huge primary elections on tap for May.

Senate Republican primary candidate Matt Bevin (L) campaigns in a restaurant in Sligo, Kentucky, on April 23, 2014. Bevin, an unknown businessman, opposes Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader , with 30 years in the US Senate. Bevin launched an incendiary campaign on behalf of the Tea Party, to eject the McConnell, 72, in the Republican Senate primary to be held in May.
National Journal
Adam Wollner
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Adam Wollner
May 4, 2014, 5:24 a.m.

After months of fun­drais­ing, stump speeches, de­bates, and ad­vert­ise­ments from can­did­ates, voters in 11 states will take their turn in May, cast­ing bal­lots in a series of key primary elec­tions that will give more defined shape to the 2014 land­scape.

Much of the ac­tion com­ing up this month is on the Re­pub­lic­an side of the aisle, as the dif­fer­ent wings of the party con­tin­ue their fight for con­trol. But Demo­crats will be pay­ing close at­ten­tion to more than a few nom­in­at­ing con­tests for House and gov­ernor in the se­lect races. Here are the key Sen­ate, House, and gubernat­ori­al primar­ies to watch this month.

May 6 (North Car­o­lina, Ohio)

May 13 (Neb­raska, West Vir­gin­ia)

May 20 (Geor­gia, Idaho, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon, Pennsylvania)

May 27 (Texas)

MAY 6 

North Car­o­lina

Can Re­pub­lic­an state House Speak­er Thom Tillis avoid a costly primary run­off be­fore an ex­pec­ted match­up with Demo­crat­ic Sen. Kay Hagan? That’s the main ques­tion head­ing in­to Tues­day. The es­tab­lish­ment-backed state le­gis­lat­or will need to clear 40 per­cent to be­come the party’s Sen­ate nom­in­ee and dir­ect his full at­ten­tion to Hagan. Phys­i­cian Greg Bran­non, who re­ceived a last-minute en­dorse­ment from Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, and pas­tor Mark Har­ris are both hop­ing to push Tillis in­to a Ju­ly 15 run­off, but the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and Amer­ic­an Cross­roads have spent heav­ily to pre­vent that.

With the hard-fought Sen­ate race de­mand­ing at­ten­tion, sev­er­al con­sequen­tial House primar­ies have gone re­l­at­ively un­noticed. Former state Sens. Dav­id Rouzer and Woody White are fa­cing off in the 7th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict race, one of the Re­pub­lic­ans’ best op­por­tun­it­ies to pick up an open House seat. In just the past week, three es­tab­lish­ment-ori­ented out­side groups, in­clud­ing the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, have got­ten in­volved in the race on be­half of Rouzer, who nar­rowly lost to re­tir­ing Demo­crat­ic Rep. Mike McIntyre in 2012 and has sup­port from Eric Can­tor and oth­er es­tab­lish­ment lead­ers, which White’s cam­paign has at­tacked. The last-minute ad blitz may end up provid­ing the boost he needs.

The 3rd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict is also play­ing host to a com­pet­it­ive primary, where an­ti­war, liber­tari­an Rep. Wal­ter Jones is try­ing to fend off a chal­lenge from Taylor Griffin, a more hawk­ish former aide to Pres­id­ent George W. Bush. Jones has out­raised Griffin, but End­ing Spend­ing Ac­tion Fund, a GOP su­per PAC, has run ads at­tack­ing the chal­lenger.

A hand­ful of Re­pub­lic­ans are also vy­ing for the party’s nom­in­a­tion in the 6th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, a safe seat left open after Rep. Howard Coble’s re­tire­ment. An in­tern­al poll from Rock­ing­ham County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Phil Ber­ger Jr.’s cam­paign in April showed him with a double-di­git lead, but still short of the 40 per­cent needed to avoid a run­off.


Fresh­man Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Dav­id Joyce is fa­cing a primary chal­lenge in the 14th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict in his first primary cam­paign — he was ap­poin­ted to the gen­er­al-elec­tion bal­lot in 2012 after Rep. Steven La­Tour­ette de­cided to re­tire after win­ning re­nom­in­a­tion. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Amer­ic­an Hos­pit­al As­so­ci­ation PAC have run TV ads in north­east Ohio boost­ing Joyce in his race against GOP state Rep. Matt Lynch.

May 13


Neb­raska has played host to two highly con­tested statewide GOP primary battles for open seats this cam­paign sea­son. On the Sen­ate side, Re­pub­lic­ans Ben Sas­se and Shane Os­borne ap­pear to be the top two con­tenders and have aimed their fire at one an­oth­er in re­cent weeks. Sas­se has also be­nefited from the aid of na­tion­al tea-party fig­ures and well-heeled groups like the Club for Growth and Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund.

The gov­ernor’s race has de­veloped in­to a two-man con­test between Jon Brun­ing, Neb­raska’s at­tor­ney gen­er­al, and busi­ness­man Pete Rick­etts, who leads in fun­drais­ing and has sup­port from the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Scott Walk­er, and Sarah Pal­in. A num­ber of out­side groups, in­clud­ing Amer­ic­an Fu­ture Fund, have gone on air at­tack­ing Brun­ing, who was favored in 2012 to take the state’s open Sen­ate seat but lost the Re­pub­lic­an primary after an­oth­er on­slaught of out­side at­tack ads.

Also keep an eye on Rep. Lee Terry, a Re­pub­lic­an, in the 2nd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict. Terry has shown some vul­ner­ab­il­ity in re­cent primar­ies, cap­tur­ing less than 65 per­cent of the vote in 2010 and 2012. Chal­lenger Dan Frei, who has lagged well be­hind in fun­drais­ing, is hop­ing to make even more of a dent in Terry’s sup­port this year.

West Vir­gin­ia

With the Sen­ate con­test between Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Shel­ley Moore Capito and Demo­crat­ic Sec­ret­ary of State Nat­alie Ten­nant ba­sic­ally set, the con­test of con­sequence here is in the 2nd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, cur­rently in Capito’s hands. Alex Mooney, the former chair­man of the Mary­land GOP, seems to have the ad­vant­age in the GOP primary race: He’s the only can­did­ate on the cent­ral West Vir­gin­ia air­waves so far and is backed by tea-party-aligned groups like Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund and the Madis­on Pro­ject.

MAY 20


Every­one knows the GOP primary for the state’s open Sen­ate seat is destined for a run­off, but nobody knows which two can­did­ates will end up go­ing head-to-head. Self-fund­ing busi­ness­man Dav­id Per­due and Rep. Jack King­ston have topped many polls, but the field is bunched far be­low the 50 per­cent mark, and there has been re­cent move­ment by former Sec­ret­ary of State Kar­en Han­del. Reps. Phil Gin­grey and Paul Broun are in the mix, too, from the more firebrand wing of the party. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce en­dorsed King­ston and is work­ing to boost him in­to the run­off, while End­ing Spend­ing Ac­tion Fund has run at­tack ads against Gin­grey, seek­ing to pre­vent him from ad­van­cing. A likely Ju­ly 22 run­off means Demo­crat Michelle Nunn can con­tin­ue to re­main largely above the for the next two months and con­tin­ue stock­pile cash in pre­par­a­tion for her even­tu­al Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ent.

The Sen­ate race has left Geor­gia’s safely Re­pub­lic­an 1st, 10th, and 11th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­tricts open, and all three crowded GOP races, each of which pits more tra­di­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans with ties to busi­ness against more pop­u­list, tea-party-style con­tenders, will likely be de­cided by run­offs. In the 4th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, former DeKalb County Sher­iff Tom Brown has more money in his cam­paign ac­count than Rep. Hank John­son, one of the few in­cum­bents on either side fa­cing primary trouble this year.

In the 12th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, four Re­pub­lic­ans are vy­ing to take on ar­mor-plated Rep. John Bar­row, the last white con­gres­sion­al Demo­crat from the Deep South. Two have run for the dis­trict be­fore, while state Rep. Delvis Dut­ton is the only one cur­rently serving in elec­ted of­fice.


Tea-party dreams of knock­ing off the highest-pro­file Sen­ate in­cum­bent, Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, will likely be shattered later this month. Des­pite rais­ing de­cent money and gar­ner­ing anti-Mc­Con­nell sup­port from some tea party groups, chal­lenger Matt Bev­in has not panned out. Most re­cently, his ap­pear­ance at a pro-cock­fight­ing rally has stirred con­tro­versy. The Novem­ber fight between Mc­Con­nell and Demo­crat Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes awaits.


This state might hold Demo­crats’ best op­por­tun­ity to take over a gov­ernor‘s man­sion in 2014, and plenty of can­did­ates signed up to try out. Busi­ness­man Tom Wolf has ris­en to the top of the pack, thanks to an early bar­rage of self-fun­ded TV ads, with re­cent polls giv­ing him with a com­mand­ing ad­vant­age. But GOP Gov. Tom Corbett and Demo­crat­ic chal­lengers like Rep. Allyson Schwartz and state Treas­urer Rob Mc­Cord have be­gun at­tack­ing his busi­ness re­cord and fin­an­cial ar­range­ments, try­ing to erode his stand­ing be­fore May 20.

In the 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, Demo­crats are eager to take on Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick this fall, but they’re split on who should run against him. The Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee gave early sup­port to Kev­in Strouse, an Army vet­er­an, while EMILY’s List has been boost­ing busi­ness­wo­man Shaugh­nessy Naughton.

Schwartz’s bid for the gov­ernor­ship drew four Demo­crats in­to the race for her 13th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict. Former Rep. Mar­jor­ie Mar­gol­ies is vy­ing for her old job after a nearly 20-year hi­atus from the House. She’s fa­cing three op­pon­ents in the primary: state Sen. Daylin Leach, phys­i­cian Val Arkoosh, and state Rep. Brendan Boyle, all of whom have gone up on TV. There isn’t a clear front-run­ner in the con­test, but who­ever comes out on top will likely coast to Con­gress in the re­li­ably Demo­crat­ic dis­trict.


Idaho is host­ing one of the cycle’s most dan­ger­ous anti-in­cum­bent primar­ies in the House, pit­ting big-name out­side groups against each oth­er in the 2nd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce has gone all in Rep. Mike Simpson, while the Club for Growth, Freedom­Works, the Madis­on Pro­ject, and oth­er con­ser­vat­ive groups have thrown their sup­port — and money — be­hind law­yer Bry­an Smith. There was already $2.4 mil­lion in out­side spend­ing here by the end of April, most of it sup­port­ing Simpson.


As the map has turned to­ward Re­pub­lic­ans in the last half year, some Sen­ate races in Demo­crat­ic-lean­ing states are get­ting a second look from the GOP. Pe­di­at­ric neurosur­geon Mon­ica We­hby has emerged as a fa­vor­ite of her party’s es­tab­lish­ment, hand­ily out­rais­ing her main op­pon­ent, state Rep. Jason Con­ger, and air­ing a power­ful bio­graph­ic­al ad about her job. If We­hby ad­vances, Demo­crat­ic Sen. Jeff Merkley could have a race on his hands in the fall.

MAY 27 


The fate of the coun­try’s old­est con­gress­man will be de­term­ined at the end of the month in the state’s 4th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict. Un­able to garner the 50 per­cent ne­ces­sary to by­pass a run­off in the March 4 primary, 91-year-old Rep. Ral­ph Hall will go head-to-head with former U.S. At­tor­ney John Ratcliffe to close out a packed elec­tion month. Since the primary, con­ser­vat­ive out­side groups have provided Ratcliffe with a boost: The Now or Nev­er PAC has aired TV ads at­tack­ing Hall and the Club for Growth also threw its sup­port be­hind the chal­lenger.

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