Politics

5 Things to Watch in Tuesday’s Primaries

Outside of Texas runoffs, this week’s action is mostly on the Democratic side

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray is running in Kentucky’s 6 District Democratic primary Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Voters again head to the polls Tuesday, this time in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky. 

Texas held its primaries in March, but more than a few of those contests advanced to runoffs since the winners did not surpass 50 percent of the vote. None has received more attention that the Democratic runoff in the 7th District. 

Elsewhere, much of the action is on the Democratic side with candidates vying for the right to take on Republican incumbents.

1. Democratic showdowns in Texas

A Democratic primary that captured national attention will be resolved Tuesday, when lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher faces activist Laura Moser in the Houston-area 7th District. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took the unusual step of releasing research on Moser ahead of the March 6 primary to highlight her past comments it viewed as damaging in a general election. But Moser made the runoff anyway, finishing second behind Fletcher. Tuesday’s matchup will be an early sign of whether national party intervention backfires, works, or doesn’t really matter. The winner will take on GOP Rep. John Culberson in a district Hillary Clinton carried by 1 point in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election race Tilts Republican.The 7th isn’t the only race where the DCCC has weighed in. In the 32nd District, the committee added former NFL player and Obama administration official Colin Allred to its Red to Blue program in late March. The move drew the ire of the other Democrat in the runoff, Lillian Salerno, who has the endorsement of EMILY’s List. Allred won the most votes in March, with 39 percent to Salerno’s 18 percent. Clinton carried the Dallas-area seat, held by GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, by 2 points. Inside Elections rates the general election race Likely Republican. Tuesday will also determine the Democratic nominee in Texas’ 23rd District to take on vulnerable GOP Rep. Will Hurd. Former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones, who has also been named to the Red to Blue program, is favored to win the runoff against former high school teacher Rick Treviño. Inside Elections rates the general election race a Toss-up.Watch: 4 Races to Watch in Tuesday’s Primaries

2. Open Republican seats in Texas

Five open seats are hosting GOP runoffs Tuesday, where the winners will mostly be in a strong position for November. The conservative Club for Growth’s independent expenditure arm has spent nearly $1.5 million in four of the contests, according to Federal Elections Commission documents.

Club for Growth Action Fund spent to bolster the following GOP hopefuls:

  • In the 5th District, Bunni Pounds, a former campaign manager to outgoing GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling. She faces off against state Rep. Lance Gooden.
  • In the 6th District, Ron Wright, a former Tarrant County tax assessor-collector and onetime staffer to retiring  Rep. Joe L. Barton. He’s up against Navy veteran Jake Ellzey.
  • In the 21st District, Chip Roy, a former chief of staff to Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. Roy faces businessman Mike McCall. 
  • In the 27th District, Michael Cloud, a former Victoria County GOP chairman. His opponent is Bech Bruun, a former chairman of the state Water Development Board.

The 2nd District hosts the fifth open-seat runoff where state Rep. Kevin Roberts is up against Navy veteran Dan Crenshaw.

The political arm of the House Freedom Caucus has endorsed Roy and Cloud.

Inside Elections rates the general elections for the above races Solid Republican with the exception of the 21st District, which is rated Likely Republican.

3. Arkansas’ 2nd District

Democrats are targeting GOP Rep. French Hill in Arkansas’ 2nd District, but the nominee might not be determined Tuesday. If none of the four Democrat running in Tuesday’s primary takes more than 50 percent of the vote, the race will head to a June 19 runoff. State Rep. Clarke Tucker is the pick of national Democrats as the candidate who can present the strongest challenge to Hill. The DCCC added him to its Red to Blue program in April. He launched two television ads ahead of the primary — one highlighting his own struggle with cancer and the other focusing on his work for veterans in the state House. Inside Elections rates the general election race Likely Republican.

4. Remember Georgia’s 6th?

Another state where Tuesday’s primaries could go to a runoff: Georgia. This time last year, the special election contest for the 6th District sucked up much of the oxygen in the political world. This year, the race for governor is getting more attention. But in the 6th, GOP Rep. Karen Handel, who defeated big-spending Democrat Jon Ossoff by 4 points last year, is now running for a full term. Inside Elections rates the general election Likely Republican. At least three viable Democrats are jockeying to take her on in November. If none receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top-two finishers will advance to a July 24 runoff. Former local TV news anchor Bobby Kaple ended the pre-primary reporting period with the most money in the bank (he’s loaned his campaign about $200,000). He’s received support from House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, the Blue Dog PAC and the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as from Georgia politicos such as former Sen. Max Cleland and former Gov. Roy Barnes.

Activist Lucy McBath, the only woman and African-American in the Democratic primary, entered the race later and lags in fundraising. But she has outside support from the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, which has made direct mail and TV independent expenditures on her behalf. McBath’s son was shot and killed at a Florida gas station in 2012, and she’s on an unpaid leave of absence from Everytown for Gun Safety. She’s also been endorsed by EMILY’s List.

A third Democrat in the race, businessman Kevin Abel, finished the pre-primary reporting period with $111,000 and has loaned his campaign about $150,000. In his messaging, he directly addresses Trump to talk about his own story as an immigrant businessman.

Inside Elections rates the general election race Likely Republican.

5. Kentucky warfare

The Democratic primary in Kentucky’s 6th District to take on GOP Rep. Andy Barr includes two competitive hopefuls. Until recently, it was a war of positive spots between Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Marine veteran Amy McGrath. But that changed Friday, when Gray launched the first negative ad of the primary, going after McGrath for not having lived in the district until last year. (Her answer to this is that she was serving her country in the military.) McGrath’s campaign has been arguing that Gray represents the political establishment because the DCCC first encouraged him to run after she was already in the race. It remains to be seen how much that resonates against the openly gay mayor, who carried the district during his losing 2016 Senate bid against GOP incumbent Rand Paul.

Inside Elections rates the general election race Leans Republican.

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