By Jim Ellis
June 6, 2018 — Voters chose their general election nominees in eight states last night with most races ending as predicted, though a few surprises also occurred. Here’s the rundown:
Gov. Kay Ivey scored an outright Republican primary victory, defeating Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile), and two others. The governor scored 56 percent of the GOP primary vote. She will now face Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in the general election. Maddox defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, 55-29 percent, in last night’s Democratic primary. None of the other four candidates even reached 10 percent support.
In House races, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) placed first in her multi-candidate primary, but scored only 39 percent support. She will now advance to a July 17 run-off election with party-switching former Democratic Congressman and ex-Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, who recorded 28 percent of the vote. In 2010, Roby unseated then-Democratic incumbent Bright, so the run-off will be a re-match of sorts. Her low vote total suggests that Rep. Roby is in danger of losing re-nomination in the secondary election. The winner faces business analyst Tabitha Isner who won the Democratic primary with 60 percent of the vote. Either Roby or Bright will be favored in the general election after the run-off concludes.
In the other challenged primary race, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) notched a 61-39 percent win over businessman Clayton Hinchman. Earlier, this looked to be a significant challenge, but Rep. Brooks easily secured re-nomination.
The California tabulation is incomplete as votes can still be received through Friday. Ballots postmarked yesterday will count as long as they reach the county elections office by 5 pm on Friday. Therefore, some second place finishes in the various races are somewhat undetermined though the current leader for the final general election qualifying position will likely hold on through the final counting phase.
As expected, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) finished first (33 percent) in the open governor’s race and advances into the November general election. Republican attorney and former presidential candidate John Cox (26 percent) clinched second place making both the state GOP leadership and Newsom happy. The Republicans needed a statewide candidate in the general election to help with voter turnout for the down ballot races, while Newsom clearly wanted a Republican against him in the general as opposed to another Democrat. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa finished third (13 percent) and state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) was fourth (10 percent). In all, 27 individuals received votes for governor in the state’s jungle primary format.
Incumbent Dianne Feinstein (D) finished first (44 percent) in the Senate race, and it appears that former state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) (11 percent) will also advance. With more votes to count, de Leon leads Republican James Bradley by three percentage points.
In the competitive House contests, no race features members of the same party advancing to the general election with the possible exception of District 8, where incumbent Rep. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) could face another Republican. Cook secured his general election slot with 41 percent and former state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R) leads Democrat Marjorie Doyle, 22.6 to 21.5 percent, but it’s possible that outstanding ballots still to be received could alter the final order.
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto) (38 percent) advances into the general election, but will almost assuredly face venture capitalist Josh Harder (15.7 percent). Republican Ted Howze has 14.4 percent, so the order could change in the final count, but it is unlikely. In a bit of a surprise, 2014 and ’16 general election candidate Michael Eggman (D) finished fourth with 11 percent, and will not advance for the first time in three elections. This will be a highly competitive race in the fall.
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) easily outpaced businessman T.J. Cox (D), but both will advance to the general election in the state’s 21st District. Since these were the only two individuals who filed to run, it was clear that last night’s vote would provide us a glimpse into the general election. Rep. Valadao again performed well despite the district’s Democratic voting history. The congressman’s qualifying margin was 63-37 percent.
Moving south toward the Palmdale and Simi Valley areas, Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) placed first as expected, and did so with majority support (53 percent). It appears an upset will occur for second place, as non-profit executive Katie Hill (D) appears to be advancing into the general election (20 percent) over attorney and 2016 general election qualifier Bryan Caforio (18 percent).
The surprise of the night came in the San Bernardino area, as two-term Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) failed to place first, coming in slightly behind college professor Sean Flynn (R) by what is now an 83-vote edge. The third place finisher, Kaiser Ahmed, is also a Democrat and secured what looks to be in the eight percent range, meaning the combined Democratic vote is still a majority. The result here could change the Republican targeting priority, since their candidate performed well against Rep. Aguilar.
In Orange County, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) secured majority support (53 percent) against five opponents. It appears she will draw Democratic law professor Katie Porter (20 percent) who leads fellow Democratic law professor David Min (17 percent) at this writing. This result is a slight upset since Min was the endorsed California Democratic Party candidate.
The Democrats’ fear that Republicans might place 1-2 in the most competitive of the southern California districts did not materialize. It appears that all of the key races will feature a Republican and a Democrat advancing into the general election, which was the most likely pre-election scenario.
In the 39th CD, where veteran Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton) is retiring, former state assemblywoman and Royce staff member Young Kim (R) placed first with 22 percent. Lottery winner and retired US Navy officer Gil Cisneros (D) looks to be advancing into the general election with 19 percent. In a surprise, Republican Phil Liberatore was third with 14 percent. Bernie Sanders’ activist candidate Andy Thorburn finished fourth with nine percent. In the biggest surprise, two well-known veteran politicians finished poorly. Orange County Supervisor and former Fullerton Mayor Shawn Nelson (R) registered only seven percent support, while former state Senate Minority Leader, ex-assemblyman, and former local Mayor Bob Huff (R) only secured six percent. The Kim-Cisneros general election will be highly competitive. Combined, the Republicans attracted over 54 percent of last night’s vote.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) finished a weak first with 30 percent of the vote, and who will face off against him in the general election is still very much in doubt. Two Democrats are very close, as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee-endorsed candidate Harley Rouda leads California Democratic Party-endorsed candidate Hans Keirstead by just 53 votes in a result that could clearly change when all the votes are finally counted. Former state assemblyman Scott Baugh (R) is 1,219 votes behind Rouda, probably too great a distance away for him to vault into second place and force a double-Republican general election. Regardless of the finish to this qualifying contest, Rep. Rohrabacher will face very stiff competition in the fall. It looks like the combined Republican primary vote, however, will top 53 percent.
In the Orange/San Diego County 49th District, where Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is retiring, it also appears that a Republican and a Democrat will advance to the fall campaign. State Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey (R) secured first place with 25.5 percent of the vote. It appears that attorney Mike Levin (D) will also advance, as he leads former State Department official Sara Jacobs (D) by 1,859 votes. Retired Marine Corps Colonel Doug Applegate (D), who held Rep. Issa to only a 50.3 percent victory margin in 2016, is fourth and too far behind to qualify for the general election. Here, it looks like the combined Democratic qualifying vote will exceed 54 percent, which is a good sign for Levin as the candidates begin the general election.
Finally, in San Diego County, embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), who is under FBI investigation for campaign finance issues, secured first position but did so with less than majority support (48.7 percent). Still, the combined Republican vote will be about 64 percent, so Hunter must be considered the favorite over Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar who advances into the general election with 16.3 percent of the vote.
As expected, businessman Fred Hubbell easily claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, turning back labor union official Cathy Glasson and four others. He now faces Gov. Kim Reynolds, who was unopposed in the Republican primary. Reynolds stands for her first full term as governor, after ascending to the office when then-Gov. Terry Branstad (R) was appointed as US Ambassador to China.
As expected, in what promises to be a hard fought general election campaign, 1st District, Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) was unopposed for re-nomination. State Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) easily won the crowded Democratic primary, tabulating 67 percent of the vote against three opponents. This general election campaign must be considered a toss-up.
In the 3rd District, Rep. David Young (R-Van Meter/Des Moines) will defend his seat against digital design firm owner Cindy Axne (D). While Rep. Young was unopposed in the Republican field, Axne won her Democratic primary with 58 percent over two intra-party opponents.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R) won an easy re-nomination campaign, capturing 83 percent of the vote. The top-two finishers on the Democratic ended in a virtual tie with venture capitalist Howard Sherman and state House Minority Leader David Baria garnering 32 and 31 percent of the vote, respectively. The pair will now square-off in a June 26 run-off election. Sen. Wicker is safe for re-election.
The open 3rd District (Rep. Gregg Harper-R; retiring) will feature a Republican run-off. Madison and Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest placed first with 45 percent and faces medical company CEO Whit Hughes who captured 22 percent. The winner in late June will oppose state Rep. Michael Evans (D-Preston) who won the Democratic primary outright with a 69-31 percent victory margin. The eventual Republican nominee becomes a heavy favorite for the general election. The 3rd District occupies a quarter of the state, and stretches from the far southwestern corner of the state to the Alabama border and houses about half of the capital city of Jackson.
Two Montana races ended in close fashion. In the Republican Senate primary, state Auditor Matt Rosendale and retired district judge Russ Fagg were locked in a close battle to decide who opposes Sen. Jon Tester (D) in November. In the end, Rosendale recorded a 34-28 percent primary victory over Fagg and will now become an underdog challenger to Sen. Tester.
In the Democratic primary challenging freshman Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman), former state Rep. Kathleen Williams slipped past attorney John Heenan by a slight one-percentage point margin. The congressman begins the general election campaign as a heavy favorite.
One of the biggest surprises of the June 5 primary elections was Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D) tepid Democratic primary performance against an opponent who did little more than place her name on the ballot. Sen. Menendez was easily re-nominated, but scored only a 62-38 percent victory margin over Democrat Lisa McCormick. For the Republicans, retired Celgene pharmaceutical company CEO Bob Hugin easily captured the GOP nomination with 75 percent support. This general election campaign now merits more serious consideration.
In the House races, primaries set up what promise to be several competitive general election congressional campaigns. In open District 2, veteran state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May), as expected, easily won the Democratic nomination and is favored to beat the new Republican nominee, former Atlantic City local official Seth Grossman. Van Drew will convert the seat retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor/Atlantic City) has held since 1995.
Former software company CEO Josh Welle defeated ex-Asbury Park Councilman Jim Keady to win the right to face veteran Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton Township/Red Bank). The congressman is favored to win for a 20th time.
Former Bogota Mayor and frequent district and statewide candidate Steve Lonegan lost the Republican primary last night to Cresskill Borough Councilman John McCann. Freshman Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wycoff) is favored in the general election.
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) was easily re-nominated last night and, as expected, and draws Democratic former assistant secretary of state Tom Malinowski in the general election. About 6,000 more Democrats than Republicans voted in the primary election. This race could quickly become a toss-up general election campaign.
In the open 11th District, the Morristown anchored seat from which Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) is retiring, Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber topped a field of four other GOP candidates to claim the party nomination. As predicted, attorney and Navy veteran Mikie Sherrill, who has already raised in the neighborhood of $3 million for the race, easily won the Democratic primary and will force a tough general election. The turnout was about even for both sides yesterday, with about 3,000 more Democrats voting than Republicans. The new Webber-Sherrill campaign is likely to become a key national congressional campaign.
Democratic US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) crushed her two opponents with 66 percent of the primary vote and defeated media executive Jeff Apodaca and state Sen. Joe Cervantes (D-Dona Ana County). Grisham will now face her US House colleague, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs), who was unopposed for the party nomination.
Also unopposed in the respective US Senate primaries, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) and state labor commission member Mick Rich (R) advance to the general election.
In Grisham’s Albuquerque-anchored 1st District, former state Democratic Party chair and Tribal Administrator Deb Haaland topped US Attorney Damon Martinez and retired law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez with a 41-26-21 percent margin. Haaland now faces Republican Janice Arnold-Jones in the general election and will be heavily favored.
In the state’s southern congressional district, the Republicans nominated conservative state Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Alamogordo), who defeated former state Republican Party chairman and ex-Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman on a 49-32 percent count. The Democrats only filed two candidates, attorney Xochitl Torres-Small, who easily defeated college professor Madeline Hildebrandt. The general election will be competitive, but the Republicans have historically run well here despite the large Hispanic population (50.7 percent of the citizen-age residents).
Polling was way off in the open governor’s Republican primary race. Predicting a close race, the actual results defied the forecasts. At-large US Rep. Kristi Noem (R-Castlewood) claimed the party nomination with a double-digit 56-44 percent margin over state Attorney General Marty Jackley. Noem is now a heavy favorite to win the governor’s office in November.
In Noem’s open House seat, the Republican primary went to former Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson, who topped Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, and state Sen. Neal Tapio (R-Watertown), 47-29-24 percent. Johnson is now the odds-on favorite to replace Rep. Noem in the House and hold the seat for the Republican Party.