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At the Races: The Fight for the Forgotten Borough

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 … An ex-con looked to make a congressional comeback, an engineer hoped to upset the biggest House self-funder ever, and family separations roiled campaign rhetoric.


Rep. Michael G. Grimm soon be back in the House, threatening to toss reporters off balconies? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Michael G. Grimm soon be back in the House, threatening to toss reporters off balconies? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Starting Gate

From Jail to the Trail: (You thought we were going to make a Grimm pun, didn’t you? Think again!) It’s been a while since a convicted criminal was elected to the House, but former GOP Rep. Michael G. Grimm could jump-start his political comeback if he wins Tuesday’s primary against Rep. Dan Donovan. Grimm and Donovan have been competing in a nasty primary (Exhibit A: “You look like a fool right now”). Donovan could benefit from President Donald Trump’s endorsement, as well as help from outside groups including a pro-Trump super PAC. Catch up on where the race stands less than one week before the primary.

*Bookmark* Five states are hosting primaries Tuesday, and we’ll be following the results. You can keep track of our primary coverage at Roll Call’s At the Races page.

Another One to Watch: For the first time in more than 40 years, Maryland has no women in its federal delegation. But it does have an open seat, and if there’s one electoral trend from this year so far, it’s that Democratic women are winning primaries. As an immigrant, an engineer and a state legislator, Maryland state Del. Aruna Miller checks many of the boxes for the kinds of candidates Democrats are nominating this year. So could that be enough to upset the largest self-funder in House race history? We’ll find out on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for the 6th District.

Golden Opportunity? (h/t @jmilescoleman for the pun.) More than a week after last week’s primary, the Maine secretary of state declared Jared Golden the winner of the 2nd District Democratic primary. (The vote tabulation took a while because of the state’s new ranked-choice voting system.) Golden, the state House assistant majority leader and a Marine veteran, has been seen as a top recruit for national Democrats looking for a Maine native to take on two-term Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

I Know You Are, but What Am I? From the looks of the TV ads hitting the airwaves in Indiana, the Senate race is all about who’s an outsourcer. The latest? Senate Majority PAC launched two ads — one against GOP nominee Mike Braun and one for Sen. Joe Donnelly — earlier this week. Braun added to the cacophony Wednesday with his second general election ad, (perhaps inadvertently?) walking by trucks displaying the names of two of his suppliers that import auto parts from China. 

On the Attack: Senate Democrats united behind a proposal to address family separation for those illegally crossing the border, and the top 2018 targets got an earful from their GOP opponents, who said the bill was too lenient. 

The Count: 7

Seven Supreme Court justices voted to send partisan gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland back to the lower courts. Senior editor David Hawkings writes that the next redistricting fight at the high court could turn to North Carolina, thrusting a farmer/John Deere salesman into the political spotlight.

Nathan’s Notes

Stu Rothenberg is pinch-hitting for Nathan this week. He breaks down why the recent controversy over immigration policy and separating families illegally crossing the southern border could be a problem for Republicans in November.

Candidate Confessions

Virginia Republican Tom Garrett is leaving the House at the end of this term to focus on treatment for alcoholism. Distillery owner Denver Riggleman is hoping to replace him in the 5th District. He first met the congressman when Garrett tried to change the way craft beverages were taxed.

The 48-year-old former Air Force intelligence officer has a quick, self-deprecating sense of humor. He traveled the world with the Air Force, then ran his own counterterrorism consulting companies. Eventually, he decided it was time to become a “househusband” and let his wife pursue something. So they opened Silverback Distillery outside Charlottesville. Besides helping that family business, briefly running for governor in 2017 and running for Congress now, Riggleman is also a senior consultant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which he says already puts him in D.C. three or four days a week.

Reader’s Race

GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s appointment as NASA administrator opened up his seat in Oklahoma’s 1st District. There won’t be a special election under Oklahoma law due to the timing of the vacancy, and the winner of the general election will be appointed to the seat to fill out the rest of the term. The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary is expected to be in a strong position to win in November in the ruby red-district. Trump carried the district by 29 points and Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

One GOP strategist watching the race said businessman Kevin Hern was expected to win Tuesday’s primary. He’s spent more than $1 million on the race — more than five times as much as the next closest Republican. (Hern loaned his campaign $700,000.) There has been some drama in the final days of the race, with Bridenstine blasting Hern for using his likeness in campaign ads. Bridenstine’s former campaign staffers are working instead for former military intelligence officer Andy Coleman, according to the Tulsa World. Three other Republicans are also in the race: former Tulsa County DA Tim Harris; state Sen. Nathan Dahm; and pastor Danny Stockstill.

For next week, email us at let us know which race you want to know more about: Kansas’ 2nd District or Florida’s 27th District. 

Photo Finish

One of your co-authors hit the first-recorded home run in the 10-year history of the Congressional Women’s Softball Game on Wednesday night. All hail Bridget, who was named MVP and propelled the Bad News Babes to a 5-0 finish!

(Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
(Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

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