It was clear that Sen. Thad Cochran was in trouble against state Sen. Chris McDaniel in their Republican primary battle. Last night, McDaniel outpaced the senator by just under 2,500 votes, but the race may not be over. With McDaniel hovering under the 50 percent cut line (49.4 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting), it appears a secondary election between the two men will occur on June 24. A third candidate, realtor Tom Carey, received two percent, which might be enough to deny McDaniel winning outright, although it is unclear just how many outstanding votes remain to be counted. The post-election period here should be of great interest. The bottom line: this pivotal Senate primary challenge race may not yet be over.
Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS-4) got a scare last night, in what proved to be the biggest surprise of the evening. Former veteran Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS-4) came close to forcing the two-term incumbent into a run-off, but it appears the congressman will barely win re-nomination with a 50.5-43 percent margin over Taylor and three minor candidates. The ex-congressman was attempting to regain the seat he lost to Palazzo in 2010, but this time as a member of the Republican Party after serving 20 years in the House as a Democrat. The outcome was not expected to be this close.
The Cochran-McDaniel race had been tight since mid-April, and the contest was rated a toss-up going into yesterday’s vote. The analysis proved to be correct, as McDaniel ended in a virtual tie with the senator. For the Democrats, ex-Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS-1) easily won his party’s nomination. Childers ran obviously hoping for a McDaniel upset in the GOP primary, certainly making him (Childers) more competitive in the general election. Therefore, it appears their strategy may have worked.
As expected, according to late statewide polling that showed her pulling away from the Republican field, state Sen. Joni Ernst easily won the Republican senatorial nomination, capturing an impressive 56 percent of the vote against four other GOP candidates. She will now pair with Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) in the general election. Ernst needs to make this a race, since the GOP needs Iowa to come seriously in play to enhance their chances of capturing the Senate majority.
In the open House seats, former state House Speaker Pat Murphy clearly placed first in the Democratic primary and probably has enough votes to win the right to succeed Rep. Braley in the eastern state congressional district, but he’s hovering just above the 35 percent mark. Under Iowa election law, if no candidate receives 35 percent of the vote, a post-primary convention is convened for purposes of choosing a nominee. It appears Murphy will end near the 37 percent range. The eventual Democratic nominee is now the prohibitive favorite to win in November.
Turning to the Des Moines-based 3rd District, former state senator and 2010 congressional nominee Brad Zaun placed first against four other Republican candidates, including Secretary of State Matt Schultz who finished a poor third. Since Zaun is only around the 27 percentage figure, a post-primary Republican convention will be called to choose a nominee. This will be a competitive race in the fall, and a legitimate Democratic conversion opportunity. Rep. Tom Latham (R) is retiring.
Former Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat again ex-Rep. Parker Griffith won the Democratic primary against former professional baseball player Kevin Bass. Griffith will now run a long-shot race against Gov. Robert Bentley, who captured 89 percent of the vote in his Republican primary. Griffith, also a former Democratic state senator, won a seat in Congress in 2008. He switched parties before the 2010 election, but lost the Republican primary to current Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL-5). Now coming full circle and returning to the Democratic Party, Griffith should cause Gov. Bentley little trouble in the general election.
In the single House race attracting attention, the open Birmingham seat of retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL-6). This is a safely Republican seat. The crowded GOP primary will advance two candidates to a July 15 run-off, state Rep. Paul DeMarco (33%) and construction company executive Gary Palmer (20 percent). The winner becomes the new congressman in November.
It will be at least a couple of more days before the final results are known, considering the always large number of mail ballots (probably well over half of the total cast) take an abnormally long time to count.
With the early numbers reporting, it appears that seven incumbents are falling below the 50 percent mark in last night’s jungle primary, which could mean trouble for them in the general election. Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA-7), Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15), Jim Costa (D-CA-16), Lois Capps (D-CA-24), Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), Mark Takano (D-CA-41), and Scott Peters (D-CA-52) all scored less than a majority in the early returns, though Bera and Swalwell were just under 50 percent.
The biggest surprise is Rep. Brownley leading state Assemblyman Jeff Gorell only 47-44 percent in the Ventura County seat. Likely the most vulnerable incumbent is Rep. Peters, who posted just 43 percent. Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R) finished second, and will advance to the general election. In this race, possibly as many as 57 percent of the voters selected a Republican candidate.
In Rep. Buck McKeon’s (R-CA-25) open seat, it is possible that two Republicans may qualify for the general, though all of the candidates are tightly bunched and more than half the votes still remain to be counted. The same for Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA-33) open coastal seat. Because the dominant Democratic vote is split among 10 candidates, Republican Elan Carr may finish first. State Sen. Ted Lieu (D), commonly viewed as the favorite, is in second position but with only a slight lead. Despite what could be a strong finish last night for Carr, the Democrats are heavily favored to hold the seat. Rep. Gary Miller’s (R-CA-31) San Bernardino County seat is a toss-up. Republican former Naval officer Paul Chabot has been projected to have clinched one of the general election positions, but the remaining slot is still very much up for grabs among four contenders.
We will have much more coverage of the California situation when vote tabulation concludes later in the week.
Both appointed Sen. John Walsh (D) and Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL) easily won their respective party nominations and will go head-to-head in the November US Senate contest. Daines remains as the favorite.
In the open at-large House seat, a tight three-way Republican contest appears to have yielded a close win for former state Sen. Ryan Zinke. Both former state Sen. Corey Stapleton and incumbent state Sen. Matt Rosendale are within three to five points of Zinke, however. The Democrats nominated former congressional aide John Lewis. He begins the general election in the underdog position, but things can always tighten between the two parties in Montana.
No great surprise in the Garden State primary, though the voter turnout was incredibly low, performing in this election as if the state were in the South. The southern states typically have the lowest primary participation levels in the country.
In the general election, Sen. Cory Booker (D), who was just elected in a 2013 special vote, will face former US Senate nominee (1978; 1982) and conservative think tank scholar Jeff Bell who won the Republican primary with 29 percent against three other candidates. The general election will not be competitive.
In the House races, three open seats are all closer to being decided. In the 1st District (Rep. Rob Andrews (D) resigned), as expected, state Sen. Donald Norcross easily won the Democratic nomination, making him the prohibitive favorite in the general election. The same is true for veteran state Assemblywoman Bonnie Coleman, as she topped a relatively strong field of Democratic contenders for the right to succeed retiring Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12). Coleman will claim the Trenton-anchored seat in November.
In what appears will be the most competitive New Jersey congressional election, former Randolph Mayor Tom McArthur defeated ex-US Senate nominee and frequent candidate Steve Lonegan to win the GOP nomination in the open 3rd District (Republican Rep. Jon Runyan retiring). McArthur will now face Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, the Democratic Party leadership choice for the nomination. She exceeded 80 percent in her party’s primary. McArthur begins the race as the favorite, but this is a seat that will attract a great deal of Democratic attention because it could possibly tilt their way.
In the only race of note, Attorney General Gary King, son of former Gov. Gary King (D), won the Democratic nomination and will now challenge first-term Gov. Susana Martinez (R) in November.
In the open Senate race – Sen. Tim Johnson (D) retiring – Gov. Mike Rounds (R) won the nomination as expected, but with a percentage (55 percent against four opponents) that was far below expectations. Former Democratic congressional staff member Rick Weiland is now the official party nominee. With former Sen. Larry Pressler running as an Independent, this race might take on a more interesting hue since a full 45 percent of Rounds’ own party voters chose another candidate. The South Dakota race is a must-win GOP conversion contest.