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What to Watch in Tuesday's Primaries

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

After a break in primary elections over the long Memorial Day weekend, voters are back in the spotlight as they choose their parties' standard-bearers for November's midterms just five months away. Tuesday night, it's voters in New Jersey, Mississippi, Iowa, South Dakota, New Mexico, Montana, and California who have their turn deciding the direction of their respective parties as centrist Democrats find it difficult to beat leftist challengers and Republicans continue to pick America First candidates to represent them in the general election contests ahead. 


On Tuesday, several Trump-endorsed candidates will face contested primaries. Among them are South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in Montana, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Rep. Ken Calvert and Kevin Kiley in California. For more on these races, plus live-updated vote totals as ballots are counted on Tuesday night, stay with Townhall and read on below. 


In bluer-than-blue California, one of the biggest stories ahead of Tuesday's primary is how few Golden State residents have voted so far. In a funny twist, the state that has made it supposedly easier than ever to vote has found that Californians aren't doing so. The Los Angeles Times even lamented on Monday that early voting turnout is "dismal." Quite the difference from states like Georgia and Texas where Democrats said election integrity measures would suppress participation, but have done the opposite.

But by far the biggest item in California to watch on Tuesday night after polls close is the recall effort against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. As The Washington Post put it bluntly, "[t]he district attorney is in trouble." Boudin, the child of Weather Underground domestic terrorists who was raised by The Unrepentant Terrorist(TM) Bill Ayers himself, is barely halfway through his first term as the City by the Bay's top cop, but he has made a name for himself by being one of the softest-on-crime DAs in America. And the proof of why that's been a disaster is evident in San Francisco. It's become, for many residents, the land of the lawless — hence the recall effort which, in a surprise to some, was spearheaded by one of Boudin's fellow (albeit more centrist) bay area Democrats.



In Montana, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is among five others seeking the GOP nomination to represent Montanans in a newly created congressional seat that covers a western slice of the state stretching from Bozeman to Butte to Missoula to Kalispell. Zinke previously represented Montana in the House as the state's at-large member from 2014 to 2017. There are also three Democrats and one Libertarian running for the First District.

South Dakota

In South Dakota, incumbent GOP Governor Kristi Noem who became a conservative hero for her hands-off and unobtrusive handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — allowing her state's residents to choose for themselves how they'd take precautions rather than mandating business closers, masking, or vaccines — faces a long-shot challenge from within her party in former state House Speaker Steve Haugaard. Incumbent Republican Senator John Thune is also facing challengers Bruce Whalen and Mark Mowry. The incumbent GOP Representative for South Dakota's at-large district, Dusty Johnson, has a challenger as well — state Rep. Taffy Howard. 

While Republican challengers abound in South Dakota this year, a poll conducted by South Dakota State University in early May found Noem, Thune, and Johnson all leading their challengers. Governor Noem is up 61-17 percent over Haugaard, Thune polled at 46 percent compared to ten and four percent for Whalen and Mowry, respectively, with 41 percent "not sure," and Johnson was up 53 to 17 percent over Howard. 


New Jersey

In New Jersey, no statewide races are on the ballot in 2022, but primary voters will still decide a number of key U.S. House races that will determine the final general election showdowns in November that could wrest control of the lower chamber away from Speaker Pelosi and into Republicans' eager hands. For The Garden State's twelve congressional seats — 10 of which are held by Democrats and just two have GOP incumbents — more than 50 candidates between the two parties are running to carry their team's banner into November. Among more notable names on the ballot in New Jersey's primary are Rob Menendez, son of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, seeking the Democrat nomination for 8th Congressional District to replace retiring Rep. Albio Sires (D). 


In Iowa, Democrats lined up to challenge long-serving Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in November's general election — who also faces a long-shot GOP challenger in state Senator Sen. Jim Carlin. In the Democrat field, Retired Navy Admiral Mike Franken and former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer are leading their party's charge. An Iowa court had previously ruled that Finkenauer had failed to get enough valid signatures to appear on the primary ballot, but the Iowa Supreme Court overruled and allowed her to remain in contention. Franken, however, leads her in last-minute campaign spending by more than five-to-one, according to The Des Moines Register.

Meanwhile in Iowa's Third Congressional District, three Republicans are competing to challenge incumbent Democrat Rep. Cindy Axne, one of many incumbent Dems considered vulnerable in the midterms. While the GOP field remains contested, it's been a relatively quiet primary by comparison. One of the three Republicans — Gary Leffler, state Sen. Zach Nunn, or Nicole Hasso — will be worth watching heading toward November's general election.


New Mexico

The Land of Enchantment has seen multiple Republicans seek their party's nomination for the contest to unseat Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is unopposed. The five-way GOP race includes two frontrunners: a former TV Meteorologist, Mark Ronchetti, and state Rep. Rebecca Dow. Greg Zanetti, Jay Block and Ethel Maharg are also on the Tuesday's GOP primary ballot. Meanwhile, after redistricting, Democrats are looking to mount a stronger challenge to incumbent Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell in New Mexico's Second Congressional District. That contest is between a doctor, Darshan Patel, and a city councilor from Las Cruces, Gabe Vasquez. 


As Mississippi voters head to the polls on Tuesday, residents will be choosing among candidates for the Magnolia State's four congressional seats, all of which have an incumbent running to keep their seat with challengers looking for an upset. The GOP currently holds three seats — those of Reps. Trent Kelly, Michael Guest, and Steven Palazzo — while Rep. Bennie Thompson is the lone Democrat from Mississippi's U.S. House delegation. Several races feature multiple challengers, meaning there's a chance of a runoff being called should no one candidate in a given race receives a majority of the votes cast. In Palazzo's race, for example, there are ten challengers in all — six Republicans and four Democrats — looking to land a punch toward unseating the incumbent. The runoffs, if necessary, will take place three weeks later on June 28.



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