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At the Races: Primary Hangovers Are Real

Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns


Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter by subscribing here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. —Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

This week … we survived the midterm Super Tuesday, Minnesota had some shake-ups, and Capitol Hill staffers and reporters canceled their August plans.


Will Democrats be able to take advantage of a blue wave in California? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Will Democrats be able to take advantage of a blue wave in California? (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Starting Gate 

Howze It Goin’? GOP Rep. Jeff Denham, unsurprisingly, finished first in California’s 10th District primary, but Republican veterinarian Ted Howze surprised everyone when he ended up in third place, nearly locking Democrats out of the November ballot. A closer look at what happened in the Central Valley.

Elsewhere in California, a few House matchups aren’t decided as yet since votes are still being counted. One race that does have its contenders is the open 39th District, and we have an early look at how the candidates there are going to talk about President Donald Trump. And for a refresher on why we’re even talking about Orange County as a battleground this election cycle, check out Bridget’s dispatch from California.

*Bookmark* More primaries are around the corner! Stay up to date with Roll Call’s election guide.

Primary Recap: Besides the Golden State warrior-ing, it was a busy Tuesday. The only Senate primary in a competitive state was in Montana, where state Auditor Matt Rosendale’s GOP primary victory makes the general election a flattop race. We have to go to safe Democratic seats for more Senate primary news. New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez only took 62 percent of the vote against an unknown challenger who raised no money. And in California, state Sen. Kevin de León secured the second spot on the ballot against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat.

It wasn’t a great night for Republican women running in safe GOP districts — just the kind where the party could diversify their ranks by helping women through primaries. In South Dakota, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs lost the nomination for the open seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Kristi Noem (who won her gubernatorial primary). In Mississippi’s 3rd District, half of the six GOP candidates were women, but none advanced to the primary runoff. And in Alabama, four-term Rep. Martha Roby was forced into a runoff.

Democratic women continued to have a good night, though. With state Rep. Abby Finkenauer and small-business owner Cindy Axne winning their nominations in Iowa’s 1st and 3rd districts, respectively, the Hawkeye State has a chance of electing its first woman to Congress. Despite raising less money than her male opponents, former state Rep. Kathleen Williams received the Democratic nod for Montana’s at-large district. And in New Mexico’s 1st District, Deb Haaland will likely replace fellow Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham (who won her gubernatorial primary Tuesday). Elsewhere in the Land of Enchantment, both parties nominated women for what could be a competitive open seat in the 2nd District.

In New Jersey, gender was less of a factor. The DCCC’s picks easily won their nominations in four competitive districts (that included one EMILY’s List candidate, Mikie Sherrill). Republicans had two surprises in the Garden State, with underfunded candidates winning the nominations in the 2nd and 5th districts.

Lawyered? Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney decided to jump into the race for New York attorney general, and he says he doesn’t yet have to end his re-election campaign (but no one really knows if he can legally run for AG and the House simultaneously). He’s one of 12 Democrats representing districts that backed Trump, so his exit could make the 18th District race competitive. But Maloney said Democrats will have a plan to hold the seat. 

Minnesota (Not So) Nice? We won’t blame you for missing it on Tuesday (was anything else happening?) but things got crazy in the Gopher State. It all started with the endorsement process at the Democratic-Farmer-Labor convention last weekend, which led to a cascade of last-minute candidate filings before Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline. After failing to receive the endorsement for her re-election on the first ballot, state Attorney General Lori Swanson decided Monday she’d run for governor instead and lure 8th District Rep. Rick Nolan out of impending retirement to be her running mate. That created an opening for Rep. Keith Ellison, who’s been wanting to get back to Minnesota, to run for AG, which will create a vacancy in his safe Democratic Minneapolis-based seat.

Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them: Lobbyists, that is. Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie claimed to detest an interaction with a lobbyist so much he wanted to take a shower afterward. But days later, he was inviting lobbyists to a smoke-filled and bourbon-soaked fundraiser for his campaign at a Capitol Hill townhouse. Kate Ackley has the details. The

The Count: 1

Cancel your summer vacations … Senators will have just one week back home this August. There are obvious political motivations and consequences to that decision. The scheduling change could also have a big effect on fundraising and lobbying.

Nathan’s Notes

With Montana behind us, Senate matchups are mostly set, even in states that have yet to hold their primaries. The biggest unknown of the Senate map could be Mississippi, Nathan explains.

Candidate Confessions

The Associated Press has not yet called the second-place finisher in California’s 25th District held by GOP Rep. Steve Knight. But Democrat Katie Hill is roughly 1,500 votes ahead of the 2016 nominee, lawyer Bryan Caforio, who has conceded. Hill, an executive for a nonprofit combating homelessness, was cast as more of a moderate, and stressed in the campaign that she would be open to working with Republicans. One issue that hasn’t really come up is her sexual orientation. Hill notes on her website that she is bisexual. She said some people discouraged her from mentioning her sexuality since she is married to a man.

“It’s who I am. I’m not going to hide from it,” Hill said in an interview in the 25th District last month. She said she expected some conservative pushback, but instead saw some criticism from Democrats, mainly through comments online suggesting she was making up her sexual orientation to win the endorsement of LGBTQ groups. “Those endorsements are great but they are definitely not something that you would pretend to be bi for,” she said. There are currently only two LGBTQ women in Congress, and both face tough races in 2018.

Reader’s Race

In case you didn’t know, Democratic Rep. John Delaneyis running for president (and has been for nearly a year). That means Maryland’s 6th District is an open seat this year. Republicans are at least nominally targeting the district, with 2016 nominee Amie Hoeber running again. (She lost by 16 points two years ago, when Hillary Clinton carried the district by 15 points.) The Supreme Court is weighing a challenge to the district lines, which Democrats drew to their advantage after the 2010 census. But for now, it’s still a blue seat, so it’s attracting lots of attention from Democratic candidates.

State Delegate and civil engineer Aruna Miller has picked up lots of endorsements, including from EMILY’s List and some state lawmakers. She ended the first quarter with $941,000 in the bank. Meanwhile, Total Wine owner David Trone is running again, fresh off his primary loss in the 8th District two years ago. He starts this race with a cash advantage (he had kicked $5.3 million of his own money toward his campaign by the end of the first quarter), but self-funding didn’t pay off for him in 2016.

For next week, email us at and let us know which race you want to know more about: NY-21 or TN-04.

Photo Finish

Maloney thinks he’s running for two offices, but where will he end up?

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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