This post first appeared on Daily Kos.
Forty-two states have already done it, and by this time next week, the entirety of the nation will have completed the process of primary elections. And, in the grand tradition of saving the best for last, there is no shortage of high-octane contests with which we will close out the primary season this week.
So, allow this to be your clip-and-save preview of the week's festivities, which kick off Tuesday in seven different states, and then come to a conclusion out west on Saturday, when Hawaii closes the curtain on the primary election cycle. Both Republicans and Democrats have races this week to keep their eyes on, but as has happened throughout the 2010 cycle, the majority of the fireworks are on the Right.
DELAWARE: DE-Sen, DE-AL
Two months ago, only the most grossly addicted of the political junkie class could have told you the name Christine O'Donnell. Now, O'Donnell, the far-right Republican who was boatraced in 2008 by Joe Biden even as he was being elected Vice-President, has become the center of attention for the political community as we head into primary week.
It was about two months ago that the teabaggers
decided to make this race their cause celebre
, putting longtime Congressman and runaway GOP primary favorite Mike Castle into their crosshairs. That, plus O'Donnell's abnormally brutal
(not to mention, at least to some extent, gay-baiting) campaign against Castle seems to have found some purchase in the soils of the Delaware GOP electorate. Just this morning, Tom Jensen of PPP teased that
their final poll in the race (due tonight) has it as a single-digit race between Castle and O'Donnell.
This has huge implications for the general election. Democratic County Executive Chris Coons is waiting patiently as the certain Dem nominee, and polls show
that he has an infinitely better shot at keeping the seat Democratic against O'Donnell than he does against Castle, though he is surprisingly competitive against the longtime GOP Congressman.
While the Senate primary is consuming most of the oxygen, it is worth remembering that there is also a primary on Tuesday for the lone House seat in the state (held since 1992 by Mike Castle). Democrat John Carney, the former state Lt. Governor, will learn the identity of his GOP opponent. Attorney and GOP activist Michelle Rollins is generally considered to be the favorite, but she has been challenged hard by wealthy real estate developer Glen Urquhart, who has dropped a half million of his own money into the race. Carney is sitting on more cash-on-hand than either Republican has raised to date, however, and he held a lead in the PPP poll
conducted for DK last month. This is the seat that arguably is the most likely in the nation to flip from Republican to Democrat.
HAWAII (To be held on Saturday 9/18): HI-Gov, HI-Sen, HI-01
The governorship most likely to change hands from Repubican to Democrat is way out West, where Hawaii's ancestral roots (and the fact that they are the state that still retains the most affection for native son Barack Obama) means that Dems are in the driver's seat for Governor, according to recent polling
First, though, the Democrats have to figure out who will lead their ticket. From the outset, this has been a two-man race between longtime Congressman Neal Abercrombie and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann. A late primary poll by the Merriman River Group
breaks what had been a coin flip throughout. The poll gave Abercrombie a seventeen-point edge over Hannemann (48-31). Republican state Lt. Governor Duke Aiona has nominal opposition next weekend, and is almost universally expected to be the nominee.
Forgotten in the state (and nationally) is the fact that Hawaii will be electing a Senator in November. Daniel Inouye, in his late 80s, has been in DC for half a century, and he will seek another term this fall. Cam Cavasso, who lost to Inouye in 2004, and activist John Roco are the leading competitors to lose to Inouye in November.
Abercrombie's early 2010 exit from the House (and the unusual special election rules in Hawaii) handed his House seat to the GOP, in the form of Charles Djou. Djou looked like he might benefit from the Democratic schism that earned him a special election win with just 39% of the vote. Then, in late May, former Democratic Congressman Ed Case surprisingly reversed field
and dropped his House bid. That left state Senator Colleen Hanabusa as the last prominent Dem standing. Both Djou and Hanabusa have nominal competition next week, and lots of eyes will be here in November, as this is one of the few legitimate Democratic pickup opportunities.
MARYLAND: MD-Gov, MD-Sen, MD-01
Much (probably too much) has been made of Sarah Palin's wave of endorsements this Fall. But easily her most perplexing interference in a primary came in Maryland, where she spurned the clear betting favorite, former Governor Bob Ehrlich, in favor of little-known investment executive Brian Murphy. While no polls were conducted in the final days of the race, a late August poll indicated that Murphy had a little hill to climb
to catch Ehrlich: he was down by sixty-two points (75-13). Ehrlich will face incumbent Democrat Martin O'Malley, who took Ehrlich out back in 2006. Polls have shown the race close, with O'Malley staked to a narrow advantage.
While a number of Democratic Senators are in electoral peril this Fall, one who appears to be doing just fine is fourth-term Senator Barbara Mikulski. She faces several primary opponents, but no one expects her to be in any primary peril. The frontrunner in a crowded (11 candidates!) GOP primary is County Commissioner Eric Wargotz, who has dumped $575,000 of his own money into his bid.
Primaries can be found for 14 of the 16 major party nominations for the U.S. House, but the main one worth watching is in the swing district in eastern Maryland's 1st district. Democrat Frank Kratovil is unopposed, and he seems likely to face a rematch with the man he barely defeated in 2008: Republican CfG fave Andy Harris. But Harris has an interesting primary challenge from IT consultant Rob Fisher, who has dumped almost half a million bucks into his longshot bid. Harris is still a strong favorite, and this is the one House race in Maryland that it at risk of changing hands in November.
MASSACHUSETTS: MA-Gov, MA-04, MA-09, MA-10
Massachusetts' gubernatorial race will get a lot of attention in November, with a legitimate three-way battle between incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick, Republican health care executive Charlie Baker, and Democrat-turned-Indie state Treasurer Tim Cahill. However, the convention process in the Bay State ended the primary process (ending the bid of GOP hopeful Christy Mihos), so primary day will be quiet for the three gubernatorial aspirants.
Two House primaries, however, are worth keeping an eye on in nominally Democratic Massachusetts. For the first time in several cycles, there is a legitimate GOP target in Massachusetts: the Cape-based 10th district. It has historically been the most GOP-friendly district in the state, and was carried by Republican Senator Scott Brown in January. Both parties have competitive primaries in the wake of the retirement of longtime Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt. On the Democratic side, state senator Robert O'Leary is going heads-up with Norfolk County DA Bill Keating. Keating has easily won the fundraising primary, but the lone internal poll released in this race (in late July
) gave O'Leary a six-point edge (44-38). On the Republican side, which has been percolating since before Delahunt hit the bricks, the two leading candidates are former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state legislator Jeff Perry.
Two other intriguing primaries on the Democratic side that I meant to hit, and got lost in the shuffle. In the 4th district, longtime incumbent Democrat Barney Frank has arguably the most amusing primary of the night against Lyndon LaRouche activist Rachel Brown. For the uninitiated, the two first locked horns
in 2009, when Frank referred to Brown at a townhall (where she had asked a question about HCR by referring to it as a Nazi policy) by saying that talking to her was like arguing with a "dining room table." Speaking of HCR, it is front-and-center of a potentially hot primary in the 9th district, where Stephen Lynch's somewhat inexplicable "no" vote on the bill in the Spring earned him a Democratic challenge from union political director Mac D'Alessandro
. Lynch was obviously worried enough about the primary challenger to limit debating to a single 15-minute
joint TV appearance.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: NH-Gov, NH-Sen, NH-01, NH-02
New Hampshire's marquee race on Tuesday is on the Senate side. Congressman Paul Hodes has the Democratic nomination locked down, but the Republican side is a multi-candidate scrum that has grown more intriguing as we have drawn closer to the primary. In a rare break from form, Sarah Palin went with the establishment choice in the Granite State, giving her nod to state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte. This was not only welcomed by Ayotte, but it was (in a pretty comical shot) welcomed by Hodes
, as well. Curiously for Ayotte, the nexus of establishment support and the anointment by Mama Grizzly has not translated to electoral success. The influential Manchester Union-Leader
decided to give their endorsement
to Ayotte's leading conservative challenger, 1996 gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne. Tom Jensen of PPP will be dropping their final poll on the race tonight, and they see
a single-digit race there, as well.
New Hampshire does have primaries for both gubernatorial nominations Tuesday night, but the winners there are essentially foregone conclusions. Incumbent Governor John Lynch is certain to earn re-nomination from the Democratic Party, while Jensen tweeted last night that his polling makes it extremely clear that, on the GOP side, former state HHS commissioner John Stephen will win the nomination.
Both of New Hampshire's House seats will be watched closely in November, and they both have races which will be watched closely on Tuesday, as well. In the 1st district, incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter will learn the identity of her GOP challenger. For months, it seemed like the establishment Republicans were going to ride-or-die with former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta. However, the free spending of self-funding businessman Sean Mahoney has made the race extraordinarily competitive. In fact, a late poll
has pushed Mahoney into a single-digit lead over Guinta. Meanwhile, in the open seat 2nd district, the action is on the Democratic side, and progressives have a clear rooting interest. Attorney Ann McLane Kuster is an Orange to Blue
pick, and her dogged campaigning has moved her into the frontrunners' position against Katrina Swett, the conservative Democrat whose ideological positions
makes this race a clear choice for progressive voters. Former Congressman Charlie Bass (who Paul Hodes knocked from office in 2006) is seeking a comeback on the GOP side, and is the betting favorite over former state legislator Bob Giuda and 2008 GOP nominee Jennifer Horn.
NY-15: NY-Gov, NY-Sen (both of them), NY-01, NY-13, NY-15, NY-23
The state with the greatest volume of races to watch on Tuesday is the Empire State, where there are no less than half a dozen races to keep an eye on come Tuesday night.
At one point, the highest profile race in New York looked like it might be a primary between incumbent Democrat David Paterson and state AG Andrew Cuomo. Paterson's resilience gave way to pragmatism
in May, when he announced that he would not seek re-election. That means that the only action on Tuesday is on the Republican side, where quite an incredible trainwreck awaits us. Envy New York Republicans, whose get to choose between former Congressman Rick Lazio (whose obsession with the "ground zero mosque" has been a sight to behold
) and businessman Carl Paladino (who thinks that welfare recipients would love the chance to go to prison
to learn hygiene skills).
There are actually two Senate races in November, as Chuck Schumer's six-year term coincides with an election to fill the rest of the term left unattended by now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The latter was the race expected to get the most attention (and Dick Morris, according to a Dave Weigel tweet, thinks this race is still winnable for the GOP), but big-name Republicans eschewed the race. Three Republicans are vying for the seat, with former Congressman Joe DioGuardi the narrow favorite. Gillibrand has maintained a steady double-digit lead
throughout the year against all three potential comers. Meanwhile, Republicans will also decide the candidate that will lose in November to Chuck Schumer. Political strategist Jay Townsend and former CIA officer Gary Berntsen are vying for the honor.
Meanwhile, there are no less than a quartet of House primaries worth watching. On Long Island's 1st district, the electoral climate has encouraged several Republicans to seek this ancestrally Republican seat held since 2002 by Democrat Tim Bishop. The trio of Republican hopefuls (Nixon grandson Chris Cox, attorney George Demos, and businessman Randy Altschuler) have already spent over three million dollars on the primary, which has the novelty of watching GOP gasbags
Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich cheering for different candidates. Meanwhile, on Staten Island (NY-13), there is a potentially explosive primary between former Bloomberg aide Michael Allegretti and former FBI agent Michael Grimm. This primary has exposed any number of fault lines in the local GOP, and that might work to the advantage of freshman Democrat Michael McMahon. In NYC, longtime incumbent Charlie Rangel has been under a huge ethical cloud, and some wonder if that will spell the end of his legislative career in Tuesday's primary. The guess here is that the split opposition (there are a half-dozen Democrats in the field) will save Rangel from primary defeat. Finally, the highest entertainment value comes upstate, in the lone 2009 bright spot for Democrats--the 23rd district. Freshman Democrat Bill Owens looks ready to benefit again from Republican untogetherness. 2009 Indie candidate-turned-de facto GOP nominee, Doug Hoffman, is locked in a primary battle with state legislator Matt Doheny. Deliciously, Hoffman has already promised
to fight until November, even if he loses Tuesday to Doheny.
RHODE ISLAND: RI-Gov, RI-01, RI-02
Republicans are the only game in town on Tuesday at the gubernatorial level, as Victor Moffitt and John Robataille square off for the nomination. The GOP nominee will likely be the longest shot in November, despite the party being the current occupants in the Governors mansion in Little Rhody. Democrats have coalesced around state Treasurer Frank Caprio (who had a pretty bad week
, with the revelation that he met with the RNC in February, presumably to discuss a party switch). Meanwhile, the x-factor is former GOP Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is running as an Independent and seems (from endorsements and campaign pronouncements) to be running to the left of both Caprio and the GOP.
Both of the state's House districts have interesting primary action. In the open-seat 1st district, Providence Mayor David Cicilline has enjoyed both the fundraising edge and the polling edge in the sole public poll (a late July Brown University poll) taken to date. He is being challenged by former state chairman Bill Lynch and state legislator David Segal. Republicans are more buoyant than usual about their chances in this district, and will be running state legislator John Loughlin in November. Meanwhile, in the 2nd district, incumbent Democrat Jim Langevin is likely to survive his primary challenge against former state legislator Betsy Dennigan.
WISCONSIN: WI-Gov, WI-Sen, WI-07, WI-08
Wisconsin Democrats are already certain of their nominee, as Milwaukee Mayor and former Congressman Tom Barrett has only nominal opposition on Tuesday. Republicans are a bit less certain, as the longtime frontrunner (Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker) has not quite managed to put away his primary challenger, former U.S Congressman and 1998 Senate nominee Mark Neumann. Curiously, in a high-profile race, it has been nearly three months since we have seen primary polling here. Rasmussen's general election polling showed a Neumann mini-surge in August, leading some to wonder if he is closer to Walker than he was in the Spring.
On the Senate side, the nominees are nearly assured, as Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold is almost certain to square off in November with plastics company owner Ron Johnson. Johnson has been exposed as of late as a hypocrite
on his anti-government rhetoric (despite a dogged attempt to cover his tracks
), but that isn't likely to move businessman Dave Westlake into competitive position in the GOP primary.
Wisconsin's eight House races include two seats in the northern part of the state expected to be very competitive in the Fall. In the open seat race in the 7th district to replace veteran Democrat David Obey, the primaries are likely to be anticlimatic. Democrats are expected to nominate state legislator Julie Lassa, while Republicans are bullish on attorney and former "Real World" reality show star Sean Duffy. Meanwhile, in the Green Bay-based 8th district, a quartet of Republicans are fighting it out to challenge sophomore incumbent Democrat Steve Kagen. Contractor Reid Ribble has raised the most cash, but that is not always an indicator of primary election success, as we have learned this cycle.