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10 House races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries

Rep. Rob Menendez faces challenger as his senator father battles indictment

Rep. Rob Menendez, D-N.J., right, joins his father, Sen. Bob Menendez, also D-N.J., at a news conference with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Dec. 13, 2023.
Rep. Rob Menendez, D-N.J., right, joins his father, Sen. Bob Menendez, also D-N.J., at a news conference with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Dec. 13, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A senator’s son battling for renomination while his father battles corruption charges, a crowded Republican race for an open Montana seat and a handful of contests that will help decide which party has control next year all shape the House primaries happening in five states on Tuesday.

The races in Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota will pick nominees for 22 seats, but in one of those races, an unopposed candidate died last month and a special primary will be held this summer to replace him.

Here’s a rundown of those races and others to watch:

Menendez in battle for seat

Rep. Rob Menendez, the son of indicted Sen. Bob Menendez, drew a primary challenger after charges against his father were unveiled last year. Now, he’s hoping voters will look past his family name and nominate him for a second term. 

He faces Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla as well as businessman Kyle Jasey. Bhalla backed Menendez during his first run for the House two years ago.

Menendez has focused on his record from his first year and a half in the House and less on his father’s alleged criminal conduct. He has support from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the House minority leader, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and touts that he’s the state’s only Latino serving in the House. 

“Rob Menendez does what he says, always fighting for what matters to us,” one ad from Menendez’s campaign says.

Bhalla, meanwhile, has been focusing on his work as Hoboken mayor. In an ad running over the final weekend of the campaign, he didn’t directly address Menendez but said that “On the City Council, we cleaned up corruption,” and said it was time to “return power to the people.” 

While the state’s Democratic establishment largely abandoned his father after the indictment, Menendez has held onto most of his support, including from the state’s powerful county chairs. While that infrastructure could still help with turning out voters on Tuesday, Menendez won’t be able to rely on the “county line,” a ballot design that a federal judge ended for the Democratic primary. 

Bhalla outraised Menendez as of May 15, bringing in $2 million compared to Menendez’s $1.7 million. But Menendez had more on hand for the final weeks of the campaign. He had $696,000 as of May 15, while Bhalla had $385,000. 

Outside groups have come in to assist Menendez. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC spent $486,000 supporting him. The National Association of Realtors PAC spent $62,000 to support his campaign, while BOLD America spent $46,000 and the Turnout Project spent $4,000. BOLD America also spent $310,000 opposing Bhalla. 

The winner of Tuesday’s primary is likely to be in Congress next year. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as Solid Democratic. 

Four GOP seats Democrats hope to flip

Democrats in Iowa are trying to defeat two Republican incumbents.

In the 1st District, the party has united behind former state Rep. Christina Bohannan as its choice to unseat Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

However, Miller-Meeks faces a primary challenge from fellow Republican David Pautsch, an advertising executive whose son, an Army corporal, was killed in Iraq in 2009.

Miller-Meeks and Bohannan both had about $1.8 million on hand as of mid-May. Pausch had about $6,000.

The race is rated Lean Republican by Inside Elections. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump won the district, which includes most of southeastern Iowa, by 2 percentage points.

In the 3rd District, currently held by GOP freshman Rep. Zach Nunn, Democrats’ hopes rest with Lanon Baccam, the son of refugees from Laos who grew up in rural Iowa and deployed to Afghanistan while serving in the Iowa National Guard. Baccam has the backing of the House Democrats’ campaign arm as well as support from the Blue Dog Coalition’s PAC and New Democrat Coalition Action Fund.

But first Baccam must get by fellow Democrat Melissa Vine, a small-business owner and nonprofit official, in Tuesday’s primary. 

The race is considered Iowa’s most competitive, and Trump won the district by about half a percentage point. Inside Elections rates it Tilt Republican.

Meanwhile, in Montana’s 1st District, Democrat Monica Tranel, a lawyer who twice competed in the Olympics as a member of the U.S. women’s rowing team, is seeking a rematch against Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke. Zinke won their first race by about 3 percentage points.

Tranel has the backing of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, which included her in its red-to-blue program that offers challengers access to additional resources and training. She had about $1.5 million on hand in mid-May; Zinke had $2.5 million.

The race is rated Lean Republican and the district is a paler shade of red than the rest of the state. Democratic nominee Joe Biden lost the 1st, which covers a swath of western Montana from Kalispell to Bozeman, by less than 8 percentage points in 2020. (He lost the state as a whole by more than 16 points.)

Tranel does not have a primary, but Zinke will face fellow Republican Mary Todd on Tuesday. Todd, a small business owner, had about $20,000 in her campaign account.

In New Jersey, the 7th District is projected to be the state’s sole competitive House race in November.

Freshman Rep. Thomas H. Kean Jr., faces a primary challenge from perennial candidate Roger Bacon, who in the past has run as a Democrat. 

Kean will likely face Democrat Sue Altman, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, in November. Before launching her campaign, Altman was a progressive organizer who led New Jersey’s Working Families Party.

Altman outraised Kean in the six weeks leading up the primary, but he had $2.5 million in his campaign account on May 15, while Altman had $1.1 million. 

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to the House GOP, has already invested in the race. spending $75,000 to support Kean and another $10,000 opposing Altman. Inside Elections rates the race as Tilt Republican. 

New Mexico seat is one the GOP wants to flip

A rematch is looming in a battleground district in southern New Mexico, where former Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell will try to unseat the Democrat who beat her in 2022, Rep. Gabe Vasquez.

With neither candidate facing a primary challenge, Herrell and Vasquez are already gearing up for November. Vasquez had about $2 million on hand as of mid-May, about $1 million more than Herrell.

The House Freedom Fund PAC has already spent $110,000 in support of Herrell, but outside money is expected to pour into the district as the campaign proceeds. When she entered the race in April of 2023, Herrell received the endorsement of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

The race in the 2nd District is rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections. Biden won the district by 5.5 points.

Each party has an open seat with Solid rating

A Republican primary in the open 2nd District in eastern Montana has drawn a crowd of candidates. The seat is currently held by Rep. Matt Rosendale, who ultimately decided not to run after a couple of campaign launches and reversals.

Contenders include state Auditor Troy Downing, who had the largest campaign war chest on May 15 with $435,000; former Rep. Denny Rehberg, who had about $148,000 on hand; and Elsie Arntzen, Montana’s superintendent of public instruction, who had about $66,000.

There are also four candidates running in the Democratic primary: retired pharmaceutical salesperson Ming Cabrera, former state legislator John Driscoll, LGBTQ activist Kevin Hamm and rancher Steve Held.

The race is rated Solid Republican, so the winner of the GOP primary has a strong chance of winning the seat in November.

In New Jersey’s 3rd District, there’s a battle in the Democratic primary to replace Rep. Andy Kim, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for Senate. The five candidates include two members of the state Assembly, Herb Conaway and Carol Murphy. 

Conaway, an Air Force veteran and medical doctor, led in fundraising and had $130,000 on hand May 15 for the final weeks of the campaign. Murphy had $33,000.

The other Democrats are civil rights attorney Joe Cohn, teacher Brian Schkeeper and businesswoman Sarah Schoengood. 

Four Republicans are also running in their primary. Shirley Maia-Cusick led in fundraising and had $51,000 on May 15. Cardiologist Rajesh Mohran had $35,000 on hand while financial adviser Gregory Sobocinski had $5,000 on hand. A fourth candidate, Michael Faccone, didn’t report raising any money. 

Inside Elections rates the race as Solid Democratic. 

Primary redo coming in New Jersey

Rep. Donald Payne Jr. will posthumously win the Democratic primary for the 10th District on Tuesday. No other candidates filed to challenge Payne, and he died last month after the deadline to get on the primary ballot had already passed. 

So 10th District voters will pick their nominees to finish Payne’s term in a special primary on July 16. Eleven Democrats are running in the special election, and just one Republican, Carmen Bucco, who is also unopposed in the Republican primary on Tuesday for the term that begins in January. The special election will be held on Sept. 18.  

Johnson a sure thing in South Dakota

No matter what, the next House member from South Dakota’s at-large seat will be named Johnson.

Incumbent Rep. Dusty Johnson, who chairs the Republican Main Street Caucus, is unopposed in the Republican primary. On the Democratic side, Sheryl Johnson, reportedly a former Republican, is running unopposed. 

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