Tomorrow’s Primaries Preview

By Jim Ellis

June 29, 2020 — Three more state primaries are on tap for tomorrow, those in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Utah. The day will be highlighted with the Colorado Senate Democratic primary where former governor John Hickenlooper battles ex-state House wpeaker Andrew Romanoff, and the Utah Republican gubernatorial primary that features four candidates vying for the right to replace retiring Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

Two of these three states, Colorado and Utah, use an all-mail voting process meaning we could again be waiting several days for final returns.

COLORADO

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

Democrats believe that the Centennial State is one of their best conversion opportunities in the country, and early polling confirms their analyses. Sen. Cory Gardner (R) stands for a second term but in a state that has significantly changed since he was elected in 2014. As the state continues to move closer to the Democrats, the tougher the re-election outlook for Sen. Gardner. He may well be the best campaigner in his party’s national stable, but is attaining statewide office now out of touch for any Republican? This election may definitively answer that question.

The House delegation looks set to continue with four Democrats and three Republicans. All will face general election opponents, but none appear competitive. All seven incumbents are clear favorites for re-election, and only Western Slope Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) has a nomination opponent tomorrow. Surprisingly, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), who always seems to draw competitive intra-party opponents, is unopposed in this year’s Republican primary.

OKLAHOMA

Veteran Sen. Jim Inhofe, at 85 years of age, is seeking a fifth full term and is certainly the prohibitive favorite tomorrow night against only minimal opposition. For the Democrats, former television news reporter Abby Broyles should have little trouble in securing her party’s nomination. Already raising over $535,000 through the June 10 pre-primary report, only she and Sen. Inhofe have substantial resources among the eight major party candidates on the ballot.

The big race of the night comes in Oklahoma City’s 5th Congressional District, where a total of nine Republicans are competing for the opportunity of challenging freshman Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Oklahoma City) who unseated two-term Rep. Steve Russell (R) in 2018. This will be one of the Republicans’ top national targets since the seat has a conservative history and the Horn victory two years ago was unexpected. With nine candidates adorning the GOP ballot tomorrow, advancing to an Aug. 25 runoff election is a certainty.

While several candidates have the opportunity of qualifying for the runoff, one has attracted the ire of an important conservative advocacy organization. The Club for Growth, an organization committed to reducing federal taxes and spending, is not endorsing any one candidate, but opposes state Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City) and attacking her on the spending issue.

The 5th District race becomes much clearer after tomorrow. Rep. Horn has raised $3.3 million for her re-election campaign, far beyond any other candidate in the state from either party.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Westville/Muskogee) drew significant primary opposition two years ago, especially since he was breaking a term limit pledge. He has little competition tomorrow, however, and is safe for re-election. The rest of the delegation is quiet in tomorrow’s primary, with minor candidates only challenging Rep. Tom Cole (R-Moore). Reps. Kevin Hern (R-Tulsa) and Frank Lucas (R-Cheyenne) are unopposed.

UTAH

The Republican gubernatorial primary is the main attraction in the Beehive State tomorrow, and all polling suggests a very tight result between Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former governor and ex-US ambassador Jon Huntsman.

Previous state House Speaker Greg Hughes is showing momentum and attempting to solidify the strong conservative base in the state, which is of considerable size, but he is not showing enough support to compete for the victory. The fourth candidate is former Utah Republican Party chairman Thomas Wright, who has selected retiring Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City) as his running mate for lieutenant governor. With the all mail-in ballot format, it could take days for a winner to emerge from this race. The new nominee becomes a prohibitive favorite to succeed retiring Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in November.

Rep. Bishop’s open 1st District features four GOP candidates, two from the state Republican convention process and another pair who petitioned onto the primary ballot. The 1st is a safe northern Utah district that will remain in Republican hands in the general election regardless of who wins the June 30 primary.

Freshman Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Salt Lake City), who defeated then-Rep. Mia Love (R) by just 694 votes in 2018, stands for a second term. The congressman was re-nominated in convention, so he has already secured ballot position for the general election. On the Republican side, four candidates are vying for the party nomination, with the two contenders drawing the most attention being retired NFL football player and businessman Burgess Owens and state Rep. Kim Coleman (R-West Jordan). This will be another hotly contested race in the fall.

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