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US Politics

Democrats hope for ‘blue wave’ push from eight-state primary day

A handful of competitive races in California made it hotly contested territory in the fight over control of the House, drawing big money and the media spotlight

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2018, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 1:40am

Democrats fought to shape the political battlefield in primaries across eight states on Tuesday, none more important than California where Republicans avoided an embarrassing setback in the race for governor.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, easily advanced to the general election, with business executive John Cox coming in second. Cox’s strong finish put to rest Republican Party fears that no Republican would qualify for the deeply Democratic state’s top office this fall and the party’s other candidates would suffer from a resulting lack of voter interest on election day.

The governor’s race was one of many drawing attention to California, a state not accustomed to being a national political battleground. But its handful of competitive House races – largely in Southern California – have made it hotly contested territory in the fight over control of the House, drawing big money and the spotlight on the biggest primary night of midterms.

Meanwhile, voters in seven other states went to the polls. And it was a big night for women, as female candidates for governor advanced. Democratic incumbents, including California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein, fared well, fending off challenges from the left.

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Donald Trump and the billionaire class should consider this victory a warning shot: the blue wave is coming
Debra Haaland

Neither party immediately appeared to suffer major setbacks. Yet the winners and losers in California’s most competitive races could take days to sort out given the state’s unique election laws.

No state offers Democrats more opportunities to gain House seats this fall than California, where more than a half a dozen Republican-held seats may be in play. Democrats need to pick up 23 seats nationwide to retake the House.

Feinstein won her party’s nomination for another term, as expected. But it was still unclear whether a Republican would earn enough votes to oppose her on California’s November ballot.

In another midterm battleground 3,000 miles away, former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill bested a field of Democratic rivals in the race to replace retiring New Jersey Republican Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen. The favourite of Washington Democrats will take on Republican Party Assemblyman Jay Webber in one of several New Jersey races Democrats view as possible pickups.

Much of the day’s drama focused on women, who fought to make history in some cases and to avoid disaster in others.

In Alabama, four-term Republican Representative Martha Roby was forced into a run-off election next month after failing to win 50 per cent of her party’s vote. She will face former Democratic Representative Bobby Bright in Alabama’s conservative 2nd district – where Trump loyalty has been a central issue.

Roby was the first member of Congress to withdraw her endorsement of the Republican president in 2016 after he was caught on video bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.

In New Mexico, Democratic Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham won her party’s nomination in the race to succeed outgoing Republican Governor Susana Martinez. If Grisham wins, she will be the state’s second Latino state executive.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey fended off three Republican Party challengers, while South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem became the first female nominee for governor in her state, and in Iowa, 28-year-old Democratic state Reprentative Abby Finkenauer was trying to become the youngest woman to serve in Congress.

New Mexico former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland, a tribal member of Laguna Pueblo, won her primary and could become the first Native American woman in Congress if she wins this fall.

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Haaland said in her primary victory statement: “Donald Trump and the billionaire class should consider this victory a warning shot: the blue wave is coming.”

Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker won his primary contest as did New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat who faced federal bribery charges last year. The jury deadlocked, but Republicans hope to use Menendez’s legal troubles to tar other Democrats like Sherrill across the state.

Republican businessman Bob Hugin claimed the Republican nomination to face Menendez this fall.

Recognising the high stakes in California, Trump sought to energise his supporters in a series of tweets praising his preferred candidates.

“In High Tax, High Crime California, be sure to get out and vote for Republican John Cox for Governor. He will make a BIG difference!” Trump tweeted.