Voters in eight states go to the polls tomorrow, making June 3rd the largest single voting day on the primary election calendar.
We begin our analysis in the south, with the premier race of the day. Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran fights to win renomination against state Sen. Chris McDaniel in order to continue his long political career. Cochran was originally elected to the Senate in 1978 and became the first modern-day Republican to represent a Deep South state. He won his House seat six years earlier, in fact on the same day that Richard Nixon was re-elected president.
The latest public opinion polls actually showed McDaniel leading the senator, perhaps as a result of a unified front of national conservative organizations falling in line behind the challenger and spending significant money to cast the senator as not being sufficiently conservative. As has been the case with virtually all incumbent attacks from the right, Cochran was hit for increasing the debt ceiling and raising taxes, in addition to supporting big government spending programs. McDaniel is portraying himself as the truer conservative.
The race could hinge upon a bizarre occurrence where an individual gained access to the nursing home where the bedridden Rose Cochran, the senator’s wife, resides and posted pictures of her on his blog. The intruder was arrested and will face charges. The controversy surrounds whether the McDaniel campaign had advance knowledge of the plan. No late polls have been released, but the incident could be leading to a Cochran surge. Going into tomorrow’s vote, the outcome is very much in doubt.
For the Democrats, former Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS-1) is the overwhelming favorite to win the party nomination. Should McDaniel upset Sen. Cochran, the Childers general election effort will spark new interest within the national Democratic leadership.
Turning to the House, the race of note comes in the 4th District Republican primary where sophomore Rep. Steve Palazzo (R) is repelling a challenge from former Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor. In the 2010 general election, Palazzo upset the 20-year incumbent, Taylor. Changing his party affiliation, the ex-Rep is attempting to even the score with the new incumbent. Rep. Palazzo is favored.
The Hawkeye State hosts another Senate race of key importance. Late polls suggest that state Sen. Joni Ernst is pulling away in her quest to win the Republican nomination. Former Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs was running either first or second for weeks, but now has fallen considerably behind. Former US Attorney Matt Whitaker and radio talk show host Sam Clovis do not appear within range to finish first. In Iowa’s unique system, if no candidate receives 35 percent of the vote a post-primary state convention will then be assembled to choose the official nominee. At that point, an activist conservative candidate such as Clovis could become a major factor. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) is the consensus Democratic nominee.
Two key House races are also on tap here. In Braley’s open eastern Iowa 1st District, the key battle is in the Democratic primary. Former state House Speaker Pat Murphy and ex-state legislator and state official Swati Dandekar are the top Democratic candidates. The eventual party nominee will be favored in November. In the open Des Moines area district, where Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-3) is retiring, six Republicans are battling for the nomination including Secretary of State Matt Schultz. Here, too, the winner must receive 35 percent or a post-primary convention will be convened. The Democrats have coalesced around former state Sen. Staci Appel. The general election will likely be considered a toss-up and must be thought of as a top national Democratic conversion opportunity.
With Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) being unopposed both in the primary and general elections and Gov. Robert Bentley (R) in strong shape for re-election, little excitement will be generated in the Alabama primary. The main race of interest is the 6th Congressional District Republican campaign where seven Republicans are competing to replace retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) in the state’s most conservative district. Two candidates advancing to a July 15 run-off is a virtual certainty.
With no Senate race on the ballot and an uncompetitive governor’s campaign, the political focus is on the congressional races. Five seats are open, and an additional six significant races could yield two members of the same party advancing to the general election in California’s jungle primary system.
Though general elections will take place in all districts regardless of the percentages attained tomorrow, many candidates will be eliminated from further competition. The more interesting races include the open seats of retiring representatives Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) – where two top GOP candidates are vying for what will likely be one Republican general election position – Gary Miller (R-CA-31) – to determine the general election match-up that features seven candidates of both parties, including former Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA-43), vying for the two spots – and Henry Waxman (D-CA-33) – in which two Democrats will probably advance to the general election, thus eliminating eight party contenders. State Sen. Ted Lieu (D) is favored to advance, but the remaining position is decidedly up for grabs.
Tuesday’s election will likely yield as many as 16 significant general election campaigns.
Appointed Sen. John Walsh (D) and Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL) are poised to win their respective party nominations, but the real competition rests in the at-large House Republican primary. There, five GOP contenders are battling for the nomination, which will be decided tomorrow. The candidate field contains two sitting state senators, two former state senators, and a Tea Party activist. The Democratic primary is between former state House Speaker and US Senate candidate John Driscoll and ex-congressional aide John Lewis. This race will be competitive in the fall.
The Garden State political picture will become clearer tomorrow as three open seats will nominate candidates. In the vacant 1st District (Rep. Rob Andrews, D, resigned), state Sen. Don Norcross is positioned as the prohibitive favorite in both the Democratic primary and general election. In retiring Rep. Jon Runyan’s (R) 3rd District, the Republican battle is between former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur and frequent candidate and 2013 US Senate nominee Steve Lonegan. Democrats are coalescing behind Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard. In Trenton’s open 12th District – Rep. Rush Holt (D) retiring – three state legislators are among the four Democratic candidates running for a nomination that will surely bring a victory in November.
In the crowded Democratic gubernatorial field, Attorney General Gary King, son of former Gov. Bruce King (D), is favored to win the party nomination. He will then challenge first-term Gov. Susana Martinez (R) in a race that could have national presidential implications. Gov. Martinez, should she win re-election in a difficult political state, would be primed as a top Vice Presidential prospective nominee. In the Senate race, former NM Republican Party chairman Allen Weh is expected to win the party nomination. He will challenge first term Sen. Tom Udall (D) in the fall.
The Mount Rushmore State is having a relatively quite political year, so far. Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) is poised for a strong re-election. In the open Senate seat campaign – Sen. Tim Johnson (D) retiring – former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) and former congressional aide Rick Weiland (D) will win their respective party nominations. The South Dakota Senate race is a prime national GOP conversion contest.