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At the Races: Checkmate for the King of Queens

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 … Joe Crowley lost his Democratic primary, we looked at who could be next, and Mitt Romney started his political comeback.


Out at home. Joe Crowley’s primary loss to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned Democrats Tuesday night. It also means Democrats are losing another member of their baseball team. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Out at home. Joe Crowley’s primary loss to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned Democrats Tuesday night. It also means Democrats are losing another member of their baseball team. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Starting Gate

Who’s Next? Crowley’s stunning upset in New York’s 14th District this week is a reminder to Democratic incumbents they need to take primary challengers seriously — even very underfunded ones. Most states have already held their primaries this year, but a few big states remain. So who could be the next Crowley, losing to a challenger roundly dismissed as a long shot? Simone also breaks down the races to watch in this three-minute video.

*BOOKMARK* Tuesday was a big primary day, but the next bloc of contests isn’t until August. Keep track of primary dates with Roll Call’s midterm guide.

Ain’t About the Cha-ching, Cha-ching: Ocasio-Cortez made rejecting corporate PAC money a centerpiece of her campaign against Crowley. And she isn’t the only Democrat who sees that pledge as a winning message — just ask Conor Lamb. Dozens of candidates (read: mainly Democrats) are promising not to take corporate PAC money this year. Could that force Democrats to rethink how they fundraise? Some think it should.

Oh Right, There Were Other Primaries: Crowley’s defeat dominated the news Tuesday, but we can’t forget about the other primaries! New York GOP Rep. Dan Donovan fended off Michael Grimm. (Michigan Rep. Fred Upton greeted Donovan off the House floor Wednesday with an enthusiastic “Hey, Big D!” and back slap.) Three other longtime NYC Democrats defeated their primary challengers. Elsewhere in New York, Democrats picked their challengers in targeted races, but the DCCC didn’t get its preferred candidate in one contest. Colorado GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn, who was almost kicked off the ballot, survived his primary. And the race for former GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s ruby-red Oklahoma seat heads to a runoff.

Whole Hog: Ohio Republican Jim Renacci, a former Harley-Davidson dealer who rides his cycles in his campaign ads, is trying to ride President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade measures to victory in the Ohio Senate race against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who’s historically been more in line with the president’s populist message on trade.

Mitt-mentum: Mitt Romney handily won the GOP Senate primary in Utah to succeed Orrin Hatch, and he’s expected to win the seat in November. Some predict Romney could try to make his mark in the Senate on foreign policy and fiscal issues. But could he be a force in the Senate or just another freshman?

The Count: 4

The number of likely new members of the House who won primaries Tuesday in races rated safe for their parties. They hail from South Carolina, MississippiMaryland and New York.

Nathan’s Notes

Winter has come for Democrats — and it’s about to get worse in 2020, Nathan wrote after Tuesday’s primaries. Don’t miss his 10 one-liners recapping the week’s contests.

Candidate Confessions

By now you’ve heard of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old former Bernie Sanders organizer who defeated Joe Crowley. But you might not know that she originally planned to challenge Democratic Rep. José Serrano in the neighboring 15th District. After the group Brand New Congress, run by former Sanders campaign staffers, called her about running for the House, she originally filed to run against Serrano, where some of her family lives. (The district is two blocks from her home in Crowley’s district.) But Ocasio-Cortez decided she wanted to run where she lives and was born. Plus, she said in a NY1 debate, “Congressman Serrano is part of the Progressive Caucus and I think he’s doing a good job.” She said in an interview with Roll Call last week that running in her home district would be more impactful, and so she decided to take on Crowley instead. “I thought at the very least what I should do is offer our community a choice,” she said.

Reader’s Race

Seven Republicans are vying to replace retiring GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins in Kansas’ 2nd District, but Democrats have coalesced around one candidate. Democrats are targeting the seat even though Trump carried the district, which includes the state capital of Topeka, by 20 points in 2016. Former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis is the only Democrat in the race, and he could be a strong contender. Davis carried the district when he ran for governor in 2014, according to the Kansas City Star. He has raised more than $1 million so far, though he has already spent $412,000 despite having no primary opponents. Davis was one of the first Democratic candidates to say he would not support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

On the Republican side, three candidates had more than $200,000 in cash on hand at the end of March. Those included Army veteran and state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald; state Sen. Caryn Tyson; and Army veteran and defense contractor Steve Watkins. At a recent forum, Watkins cast himself as a political outsider, noting he is the only candidate who has not been elected to office. The candidates will face off in the Aug. 7 primary, and Kansas does not have a primary runoff. Inside Elections rates the race Leans Republican.

For next week, reply to this email and let us know which race you want to know more about: West Virginia’s 2nd District or Wisconsin’s 6th District.

We Want to Hear from You!

Talk to us. It’s easy. Reply to this email and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. As always, send us any race you think we should pay more attention to and we’ll look into it.

Photo Finish

Ocasio-Cortez’s win over Crowley shocked everyone — including her. NY1 was on hand to capture her reaction.


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