By Jim Ellis
June 30, 2016 — Voters went to the polls to select their general election political lineups in Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah.
Just as El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn became the endorsed US Senate candidate at the state Republican convention earlier in the year, he soared to a primary victory. Glenn topped 38 percent of the GOP vote, outpacing former Colorado State Athletic Director Jack Graham (25 percent), who many people believed to be the best candidate in the crowded field, businessman Robert Blaha (16 percent), former state Rep. Jon Keyser (13 percent), and ex-Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier (nine percent).
Commissioner Glenn now advances to the general election to face Sen. Michael Bennet (D), where the challenger faces long odds. Considering the breakdown in Republican recruiting and the fact that the establishment candidate, Keyser, finished second to last gives observers little confidence that this can become a competitive race in the fall.
In House elections, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) easily turned back her Democratic primary opponent, claiming 87 percent of the vote. The win assures her of re-election in this safest of Colorado Democratic congressional seats.
In the western slope’s 3rd District, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) captured 79 percent against his minor nomination challenger, and will now face former state Sen. Gail Schwartz (D) in what has the potential of becoming a competitive race. Tipton is the clear favorite, but a strong Democratic win in the presidential race could help Schwartz potentially smell an upset opportunity.
CO-5’s Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) easily defeated his primary challenger, legislative aide Calandra Vargas, 68-32 percent. Rep. Lamborn will now claim a sixth term in November.
The 6th District will again become the top congressional race in Colorado, featuring four-term Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and his challenger, state Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll (D). Coffman is favored to win in November, but the 6th is a highly competitive district that actually leans Democratic. Rep. Coffman will again be hard-pressed to win another term, but he has prevailed in equally difficult situations during the last two elections.
Last night’s closest election came in the Long Island 1st District, and it may not be yet decided. Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (D) holds a 29-vote lead over venture capitalist David Calone (D) in a contest that saw only 11,000-plus people vote. Absentee ballots remain, so it is possible that this contest could turn around. The eventual winner will challenge freshman Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley/Suffolk County) in a CD that features a competitive history.
In Rep. Steve Israel’s (D-Huntington) open 3rd District seat, Republicans drew the Democratic opponent they wanted as former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi won a crowded Democratic primary with just 36 percent of the vote. Suozzi, was upset as a sitting incumbent in 2009, and then failed in a comeback attempt four years later even though his party dominates the regional electorate. The Democratic leaders clearly wanted an alternative candidate last night, but could not agree among the three viable options. As a result, Suozzi becomes a plurality nominee against a split field. Republican state Sen. Jack Martins was unopposed in his primary, thus setting up a general election battle that potentially looks favorably upon the GOP. The open NY-3 campaign is now a top Republican conversion opportunity.
The man to succeed retiring Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem) is his two-time primary challenger, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat. On his third try for Congress, Sen. Espaillat captured 37 percent of the vote in a field of nine candidates to win the nomination. He defeated state Assemblyman Keith Wright (34 percent), former Clinton Administration official Clyde Williams (11 percent), and ex-state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV (six percent). Approximately 42,000 people participated in the Democratic primary. The Espaillat victory in November will mean this district will not have an African American representing it for the first time in 72 years.
In the open 19th District (Rep. Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) retiring), as expected, former state Assembly Minority Leader and ex-gubernatorial nominee John Faso easily won the Republican nomination against a big-spending Republican opponent in a low turnout election. Taking the Democratic nod is former Gov. Andrew Cuomo primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout. The 19th is a lean Republican seat, so Faso becomes the clear early favorite to win the district in November.
In the open 22nd District (Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) retiring), state Assemblywoman and former congressional candidate Claudia Tenney (R) will face Broome County legislator Kim Myers (D) in the general election. The Assemblywoman scored 41 percent of the primary vote against two opponents.
As expected, former congressional aide Colleen Deacon (D) won the Democratic nomination and will now directly challenge freshman Rep. John Katko (R) in the Syracuse district. Katko will open the campaign as a decided favorite.
All incumbents were easy victors. The race that was supposed to be the most intriguing, second-term Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Tulsa) turned back a spirited challenge from energy executive Tom Atkinson (R) by a whopping 81-16 percent margin. Atkinson likely raised and spent more than $700,000 on his campaign.
In the 2nd District, freshman Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Westville/Muskogee) also won re-nomination, but in a closer result. The congressman defeated former Army Ranger Jarrin Jackson by a 63-37 percent margin.
No change is expected in the Oklahoma congressional delegation after this year’s general election.
The only major Utah contest featured a primary challenge to Gov. Gary Herbert (R). Overstock, Inc. CEO Jonathan Johnson could only manage to attract 28 percent of the GOP vote against the governor’s 72 percent.
The key general election contest will feature freshman Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs) again facing attorney Doug Owens (D), son of the late former Rep. Wayne Owens (D-Salt Lake City). The two fought to a 51-46 percent result in 2014. This race promises to be competitive in much the same measure as their campaign from two years ago.