By Jim Ellis
April 12, 2022 — Candidate filing closed in Arizona, New Jersey, and New York for major party candidates, and for all candidates in Tennessee. The first three states noted each have later deadlines for minor party, independents, and write-in candidates.
The Senate race features incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who is running for a full six-year term after winning the 2020 special election to fill the balance of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. He has no primary opposition. Republicans feature five candidates, but the battle is revolving around three of them for the party nomination — Attorney General Tim Brnovich, venture capitalist Blake Masters, and former solar energy company CEO Jim Lamon.
The open governor’s contest finds six Republicans and three Democrats vying to become their respective party standard bearers. Former news anchor Kari Lake, who former President Donald Trump endorses, and ex-congressman and 2000 gubernatorial nominee Matt Salmon appear to be the leading candidates. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs opens with a large polling lead over former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and ex-Nogales mayor, Marco Lopez. This race will likely evolve into a toss-up general election battle.
Four key congressional general election races and a Republican primary are on tap in Arizona. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills) inherits a tougher new district, now numbered 1, that rates a R+7 according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization. His current 6th District is R+13. Physician Hiral Tipirneni (D), who held Rep. Schweikert to a 52-48 percent victory in 2020, is not returning for a re-match. Former Phoenix Suns executive Adam Metzendorf appears to be the strongest of the three filed Democrats. Rep. Schweikert drew two minor GOP primary opponents.
Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona) has an R+6 rated 1st District under the current map, but the new 2nd District, despite having almost two-thirds of his current territory, increases to R+15, making him possibly the most endangered Democratic incumbent in the country. Six Republicans are vying for the party nomination, the leader of whom appears to be state representative and decorated Army veteran Walt Blackman.
Democratic representative and former Phoenix mayor, Greg Stanton (D-Phoenix), is also looking at a post-redistricting competitive general election. Seeing his Phoenix metro district move from D+15 to D+1 suggests that a Republican challenger will be a serious contender in November. Six Republicans are vying for the party nomination including two sports figures. Jerone Davison is a pastor and former member of the then-Oakland Raiders NFL franchise after playing football for Arizona State University. Tanya Wheeless is an attorney and former senior vice president for the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise.
The open Tucson-anchored 6th District is another commission-drawn CD designed to be competitive for the decade. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Tucson) had she decided to seek re-election, would have run here. This is a must-win seat for Republicans if they are to capture a House majority. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has already endorsed former Hispanic Chamber of Commerce official Juan Ciscomani among a field of five GOP candidates. Democrats feature a battle between state Rep. Daniel Hernandez (D-Sunnyside) and former state senator Kirsten Engel.
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) draws no opposition in her 8th District. In the new 9th CD, controversial Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) sees his home placed outside the new 9th, but faces only a Republican primary battle in a CD that contains 70 percent of his current constituency.
There is no 2022 New Jersey Senate race, and the governor’s contest was decided last year. Therefore, the US House races lead the top of the ticket. Redistricting saw the Democratic commission members strengthen the politically marginal districts of Reps. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wycoff), and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), but doing so made Rep. Tom Malinowski’s (D-Rocky Hill) 7th CD more Republican.
The real political battle in the state will likely feature a re-match between Rep. Malinowski and state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield). In 2020, Malinowski won a tight 51-49 percent victory. The new 7th District is now rated R+3, a swing of seven points in the GOP’s favor post-redistricting.
The New York governor’s race will be a campaign to watch. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) runs for a full term in her own right. Resigned Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not file in the Democratic primary but still has until May 31 to join the race as an Independent, if he were to so choose. Long Island US Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is the officially endorsed Republican candidate.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) will have another easy run for re-election, and arguably the most gerrymandered map in the country could yield the Democrats a 22-4 US House delegation split if the voters adhere to the legislators’ plan, a map that has already lost its first court challenge. Under NY law, appealing a ruling stays the decision, meaning that the enacted map will likely stand for this election.
Democrats will probably convert two redistricted open seats. Rep. Zeldin’s Long Island 1st District now becomes a D+6 seat. Four Democrats are competing for the nomination, three of whom are local officials. Jackie Gordon, the 2020 2nd District nominee, has switched to the 1st District and has a good chance of capturing the Democratic nomination and the seat. Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse) retiring allowed the Democratic map drawers to convert this seat, now numbered 22, to the Democratic column.
On Staten Island, we will assuredly see a re-match between Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) and former US Rep. Max Rose (D) in a district that moves from R+13 all the way to D+7.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-Yonkers) faces a serious Democratic primary challenge from Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi. Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) sees her 22nd District collapsed, but is running in Rep. Tom Reed’s (R-Corning) vacated 23rd District that should yield her a safe run to re-election. Freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-Westchester County) is rather surprisingly unopposed for a second term.
Republican challenge opportunities exist in the 18th District where state Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R-South Salem) is challenging Rep. Sean Patrick Murphy (D-Cold Spring), and the 19th CD that will feature a race between Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck) and Duchess County Executive and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee (R) appears in strong shape to win a second term against a field of Democrats and Republicans, of whom only one has waged a successful campaign. That individual is Memphis City Councilman J.B. Smiley.
The lone competitive congressional race comes in the redistricted open 5th CD that sees incumbent Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) retiring from the House after 32 non-consecutive years of service. The seat was converted into an R+15 district from a D+17 under the current map thus making an Aug. 4 Republican primary the defining campaign. A total of 14 Republicans filed in the 5th, including former state House Speaker Beth Harwell and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles. The eventual Republican nominee will assuredly face state Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Oak Hill) in the general election.