Now with 100% of the precincts finally reporting, US senatorial challenger Chris McDaniel and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) are advancing to a Republican run-off election on June 24. The primary ended in a razor-thin result, as we now all know, with McDaniel finishing first and coming within 1,702 votes of clinching the nomination. Because McDaniel and Cochran virtually split the votes evenly – McDaniel 49.4 percent; Cochran 49.0 percent – realtor Tom Carey’s 1.6 percent finish forced the two major candidates into a secondary election.
Though the spread between the two leaders is only 1,386 votes, McDaniel is already establishing early momentum for the run-off. With analysts conceding that McDaniel has the more committed following, and therefore a base of support more likely to vote in a summer run-off election, the signs are pointing to an upset. While the Club for Growth is committed to spending on McDaniel’s behalf in the run-off, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads indicates that they will abandon Cochran. Even the National Republican Senatorial Committee is less inclined to spend additional dollars for the incumbent, particularly if they perceive that McDaniel will be their nominee in the fall. Primarily, the Chamber of Commerce and likely the National Association of Realtors are two major organizations that will continue to aggressively back the senator.
Former Congressman Gene Taylor’s comeback attempt after switching to the Republican Party has ended. Though he exceeded all expectations in his first campaign as a Republican after winning 10 congressional elections as a Democrat, Taylor conceded defeat when it became clear that Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS-4) had exceeded the 50 percent threshold. The congressman should now have an easy ride in the general election.
Several congressional races remain outstanding. Since Californians use mail-in ballots for as many as half of all votes cast, the counting process is slow and laborious. As a result of the state’s jungle primary system, which allows two members of one party to advance to the general election, we find five Democrat vs. Democrat races and a pair of Republican on Republican campaigns in the contests that have been determined.
In a major break for the GOP, two Republicans, former state Sen. Tony Strickland and incumbent state Sen. Steve Knight, will both advance to the 25th District general election. The somewhat surprising result guarantees that the party will hold retiring Rep. Buck McKeon’s seat. The most competitive Dem on Dem race is the challenge to Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA-17). Former Obama Administration appointee Ro Khanna placed second in the primary, but well behind Honda. Though the congressman is the favorite in the fall election, Khanna commands serious resources and will make his challenge competitive.
It is still unclear as to who will oppose former Navy officer Paul Chabot (R) in the 31st District general election. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) is currently second, but has only a slight lead over Republican Lesli Gooch and Democratic attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes. Should Gooch edge Aguilar in the final count, it will be the second time in two elections that this San Bernardino County heavily Democratic district would send two Republicans to the general election. In 2012, Rep. Gary Miller (R) was victorious but is retiring this year.
In the open 33rd District (Rep. Henry Waxman (D) retiring), close third-place finisher Wendy Greuel (D) conceded the race despite thousands of ballots remaining uncounted. This means that state Sen. Ted Lieu (D) secures second place and becomes the heavy favorite to defeat Republican Elan Carr in the general election. Because the Democratic vote was split among 10 candidates, Carr was able to secure the top ballot position but his good fortune will not continue to November.
The one race headed to a post-election convention is the Republican 3rd District nomination battle. Under Iowa election law, if no candidate receives at least 35 percent of the primary election vote a follow-up party convention is convened to select a nominee. Just because former state senator and 2010 congressional nominee Brad Zaun (R) finished first on Tuesday (25 percent), provides no guarantee he will win the June 21 convention delegate vote. Now, anyone can enter the race, and not just the six Republicans who competed this past Tuesday.
The post-primary chaos is likely a boon to Democratic nominee Staci Appel, a former state senator. She can take advantage of this three-week period while Republicans are distracted. The general election is rated a toss-up, but is one of the top Democratic conversion opportunities in the country. Incumbent Rep. Tom Latham (R) is retiring.