Wednesday, June 03, 2020

What Went On Downballot Tonight

A bunch of states held primaries today, but for the most part they weren't too interesting. The biggest news by far was the defeat of White supremacist (and former Ted Cruz presidential campaign chair) Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who was ousted by State Sen. Randy Feenstra. While this probably locks the normally solid red seat up for the GOP (unless King runs as an independent), most progressives still cheered the defeat of the most avowedly racist member of Congress.

Aside from that, though, there were very few marquee races. Incumbents won, generally quite handily. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D), who defeated former Rep. Elijah Cummings' widow in a special election a few months ago, repeated the feat in tonight's primary to win the Democratic nomination in Maryland's 7th congressional district. There was some barking by the left at targeting House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, but he crushed a progressive challenger with little trouble. Over in Pennsylvania, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, one of the few House Republicans who still can kinda-sorta gesture at being a moderate, looks like he managed to turn back a challenge from his right -- he's up 56/44 with just over half reporting (this seat will be a Democratic target come November).

So barring major action in the federal races, is there anything worth reporting further down the ballot? Potentially.

Start in Massachusetts, which had two State House special elections tonight. Democrats held the HD-37 in Middlesex, and, perhaps more importantly, flipped a Republican seat (HD-3) in Bristol. This follows on the heels of Democrats flipping two Massachusetts State Senate seats from red to blue a few weeks ago. While this has no immediate impact on the Bay State political arena -- Democrats enjoy commanding leads in both legislative chambers -- it still represents good news. The Bristol seat is one where Democrats have historically done well at the top of the ballot but have struggled in more local races; if voters of this ilk are becoming more solidly blue, that can only be a good thing.

Moving over to New Mexico, where a slate of progressive challengers sought to tackle right-wing incumbent Democrats who had joined Republicans to block reproductive rights legislation. In the State Senate, it looks like at least three Democratic incumbents have been defeated, in the 5th, 28th, and 35th Senate districts. Another two races, the 30th district and the 38th district (where the incumbent is State Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen) are too close to call. Also in New Mexico, Teresa Leger Fernandez defeated Valarie Plame to become the Democratic nominee for the third congressional district, vacated by Rep. Ben Lujan (D). I'm not sad about this result.

Montana kind of was a New Mexico in reverse, with the state GOP divided between a moderate "Solutions Caucus" wing (which has been working with legislative Democrats and incumbent Democratic Governor Steve Bullock) and a hard-line ".38 Special" group, which views cooperation as an anathema. Members of both groups faced primary challenges from the other wing, and the overall results were mixed.

Right-wing challengers targeted two moderate state Senators as well as ten state Representatives. On the Senate side, they split (ousting the incumbent in the SD-28 but falling short in the SD-10). In the House, they won in the HD-35, HD-37, and HD-68 but lost in the HD-7, HD-14, HD-21, HD-39, HD-70, HD-86 and HD-88. Meanwhile, centrist challengers took on four .38 special incumbents in the state House, defeating two. The moderates prevailed in the HD-9 and HD-75, while the conservative incumbents hung on the HD-10 and HD-11. Overall, close to a wash.

Our final stop tonight is Pennsylvania, where a bunch of Democratic incumbents appear to be in trouble, but I've yet to find a clear story as to why. Well, that's not wholly true -- in the SD-17, the incumbent is facing sexual harassment allegations, which probably has a lot to do with his troubles. But Democratic incumbents are also trailing in the SD-1 (Farnese), HD-20 (Ravenstahl), HD-182 (Sims), HD-185 (Donatucci), HD-188 (Roebuck), and HD-190 (Green). So far, I haven't found a clear through narrative for these races akin to what we're seeing in New Mexico or Montana. Of the endangered incumbents, Sims is probably the highest profile -- he recently went viral after accusing Republican colleagues of hiding a positive coronavirus diagnosis from House Democrats, placing them in danger. A lot of votes are still being tabulated because they were sent by mail, so I've been cautioned that some of the closer races (including Sims') may change.

Oh, one last thing: in Iowa, just one incumbent lost her primary race -- longtime Democratic state Rep. Vicki Lensing was ousted by University of Iowa law professor Christina Bohannan. I have no idea what these means politically, but I'm always happy to see law professors succeed in their life projects.

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