By Jim Ellis
June 3, 2020 — Ten entities held primary elections yesterday, and among the voting results we saw a second US congressman being denied re-nomination, as well as two primary victors who have virtually secured their seats in the next Congress:
• DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Former vice president Joe Biden easily won the DC primary last night in capturing 78 percent of the vote, which is a significant improvement over his last two performances in Oregon and Hawaii. Biden is now within shouting distance of officially clinching the Democratic nomination and will do so next week when six more states vote in their primary elections.
• IDAHO: 2018 gubernatorial nominee Paulette Jordan with her 86 percent Democratic primary win yesterday will challenge Sen. Jim Risch who seeks a third term. Sen. Risch is a clear favorite to win in November.
Both US Reps. Russ Fulcher (R-Meridian) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho Falls) were easy winners for re-nomination scoring 80 and 72 percent victories, respectively, and each has minimal opposition in the general election.
• INDIANA: Biden recorded a solid 76 percent in his Hoosier State Democratic primary. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) will square-off with Democratic former health commissioner Woody Myers in November as both men were unopposed in yesterday’s primary. Gov. Holcomb appears safe for re-election in the fall.
North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan, with retiring Rep. Peter Visclosky’s (D-Merrillville/Gary) endorsement, defeated Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-Lake County) in the open 1st Congressional District, and now becomes the prohibitive favorite to succeed Visclosky in the next Congress.
In the Indianapolis area’s 5th CD, state Sen. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville) scored an impressive victory over three Republican opponents to capture the party’s open seat congressional nomination. Spartz will now battle former state representative and 2016 lieutenant governor nominee Christina Hale (D) in the general election. Likewise, Hale defeated three Democratic opponents to win her nomination. The Ukrainian born Spartz is favored to succeed retiring Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) but the Democrats are expected to make a run at the seat.
The other seven congressional incumbents on yesterday’s ballot were all easily re-nominated, and each is favored to retain his or her seat in the general election.
• IOWA: The big story coming from the Hawkeye State was the defeat of US Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron), as he fell to state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull/Sioux County), 46-36 percent in the western Iowa 4th District.
King, who was stripped of his committee assignments after making statements that even key Republicans say align him with white supremacists, will serve the balance of the term and then end his 18-year congressional career. Sen. Feenstra advances to face Democrat J.D. Scholten, the 2018 party nominee who lost to Rep. King in the general election. This 4th CD is the most Republican of the state’s congressional districts, so Feenstra is already rated as a clear favorite for November.
Real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, with backing from the Democratic establishment, won the party’s US Senate primary last night, but did fall short of reaching the majority mark. She now advances into the general election to battle first-term Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in a race that is becoming a national campaign. In many ways, the Iowa seat is a Republican firewall to protect their Senate majority, so this contest will draw national attention.
The other three seats will also be competitive in the general election. The 1st District will now yield an official general election campaign between freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) and state representative and former television news anchor Ashley Hinson (R-Cedar Rapids).
The 2nd District is open because veteran Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) is retiring after serving seven terms. Here, the Democrats featured an unopposed candidate for an open seat. Rita Hart is a former state senator who was the party’s 2018 lieutenant governor nominee. Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) won the GOP primary for the fourth time in a congressional race, but she failed to reach the 50 percent mark against former Illinois congressman Bobby Schilling and two others. Hart is the clear favorite to keep the seat in Democratic hands.
In the Des Moines-anchored 3rd District, former US Rep. David Young was an easy 70 percent winner in the Republican primary thus guaranteeing that we will see a highly competitive re-match between he and freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), who was unopposed for re-nomination.
• MARYLAND: No surprises occurred in the Maryland primary. Biden topped the 85 percent mark, one of his best showings in the nation. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Baltimore), winner of the April 28 special election was re-nominated for the full term with a 77 percent victory. All eight Maryland incumbents are favored for re-election, with none expecting major competition.
• MONTANA: Former VP Biden topped 75 percent in the Montana presidential primary but will be a clear underdog to President Trump here in November. Three top state races are on the Montana ballot for November. Both incumbent Steve Daines and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock easily won the Republican and Democratic US Senate nominations and will now face-off in what is another Republican majority firewall state.
In the open at-large House seat, State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who will be running for his fifth different office this decade, topped a field of four candidates to win the Republican nomination with 49 percent of the vote. Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams (D), the 2018 nominee who held incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) to a 51-46 percent victory, captured 90 percent of the vote in her Democratic primary. The House race promises to be a competitive campaign, though the Republicans do have the advantage in all races because President Trump will be running strong in the state.
Rep. Gianforte is forfeiting his House seat to again run for governor. In 2016, he lost 50-46 percent to Gov. Bullock. In the Republican primary, Rep. Gianforte showed strength in defeating Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski (R-Kalispell) with 53 percent of the primary vote. For the Democrats, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney topped former Clinton White House aide Whitney Williams, 55-45 percent. The governor’s race will also be competitive in the fall, though the Republicans again look to have an advantage.
• NEW MEXICO: In the Land of Enchantment, Joe Biden garnered slightly more than 72 percent of the vote to easily win the party primary. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe) was unopposed for the Democratic Senate nomination and looks to be a prohibitive favorite in replacing retiring Sen. Tom Udall (D). Lujan will now face Albuquerque television weatherman Mark Ronchetti, the new Republican nominee, in the general election.
It appears we now know who will represent the state’s northern congressional district. Former Clinton White House Fellow and attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez won the Democratic primary last night, capturing 42 percent of the vote against controversial former CIA agent and author Valerie Plame (23 percent), and state Rep. Joseph Sanchez (D-Alcalde) who posted 14 percent. Fernandez will easily capture the general election in the safe Democratic district and replace Rep. Lujan in the US House.
In the southern 2nd District, 2018 nominee and ex-state representative Yvette Herrell won the Republican nomination last night with a 45-32 percent victory over Claire Chase, the chair of the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association. The progressive left organization Patriot Majority ran an independent expenditure to help Herrell because they believe she is the weaker candidate to challenge freshman Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces) in what should be a highly competitive general election.
The 2nd District, with its long Republican history, is a must-win for the GOP if they are to have any chance of re-taking the House majority. The 2018 race ended with a 51-49 percent win for Torres Small in a district where President Trump scored a 50-40 percent victory.
• PENNSYLVANIA: Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued a last-minute executive order to allow ballots postmarked Election Day to be counted so long as they arrive in the county clerks’ offices in at least seven days. Therefore, several races will remain uncalled until all of the votes are counted.
At this point, it appears Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) will win re-nomination, but so far, his vote total remains surprisingly low as he is recording only 56 percent support from the 23,000-plus votes counted. This low total means a substantial number of mail votes remain to be counted. The result is surprising in that Rep. Fitzpatrick’s opponent, investment executive Andy Meehan, didn’t even spend $100,000 on his campaign.
Two other GOP primaries remain uncalled. In the Allentown-Bethlehem 7th District, former Lehigh County Commissioner and business owner Lisa Scheller has a 52-48 percent lead over ex-Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning. The winner will face freshman Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown) in a race that could become highly competitive.
In the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre seat, a close Republican primary result between former Export-Import Bank official Jim Bognet and businessman and Afghan War veteran Teddy Daniels won’t be resolved until the substantial number of absentee ballots are counted. Currently, Bognet leads Daniels by just 400 votes. The eventual winner will challenge Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic) in a district that could elect a Republican.
Elsewhere in the state, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg/Harrisburg), as expected, will face State Auditor Eugene DePasquale who is well ahead in the Democratic primary with a 63 percent total pending mail vote counting.
Veteran Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pittsburgh) had little trouble dispensing with law professor Jerry Dickinson, as he so far has recorded 72 percent of the Democratic primary vote. He will have no trouble securing a 14th term in November.
• RHODE ISLAND: The presidential primary was the only race on the ballot, and Joe Biden scored only 62 percent amidst a miniscule turnout. Rhode Island portends as a safely Democratic state from the top of the general election ballot to the bottom.
• SOUTH DAKOTA: Biden topped 76 percent in the South Dakota Democratic primary, and both Sen. Mike Rounds and freshman at-large Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-Mitchell) scored easy Republican primary wins last night. Sen. Rounds faces little competition in the fall, and Rep. Johnson actually won re-election last night since he is unopposed for the general election.