US midterm elections 2018

Donald Trump invokes ‘red wave’ in US midterm elections as Republicans and Democrats both avoid embarrassment

Both Democrats and Republicans avoided embarrassment in the primary votes on Tuesday night, but Trump said his ‘impact’ could lead to a ‘red wave’ of Republican wins

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 1:38am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 6:23am

Both Republicans and Democrats appear to have escaped embarrassment after eight states voted in primary elections on Tuesday, selecting candidates to go head-to-head in November’s midterm elections.

US President Donald Trump cast the night as a win for Republicans. “So much for the big Blue Wave, it may be a big Red Wave,” he tweeted on Wednesday morning, hailing what he called “the Trump impact”.

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While some California contests remained too close to call, Republicans avoided disaster in the race for governor by nominating business executive John Cox.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, easily captured the top spot in California’s unique top-two primary system, in which the top two finishers qualify for the November ballot, regardless of party. Cox finished second, putting to rest Republican fears that no one from their party would appear on the November ballot for the state’s top office.

Democrats were fighting to avoid similar potential calamities in California’s many competitive House districts, considered critical in their quest to seize control of Congress this fall.

At least two of their best opportunities to pick up seats in southern California, a Republican stronghold, may take days to be decided, but they avoided being blocked from the ballot in the vast majority of the state’s top battleground districts.

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Voters in seven other states went to the polls as well. Neither party immediately appeared to suffer major setbacks. But Trump regarded the night as a repudiation of “Fake News”.

“Many more Republican voters showed up yesterday than the Fake News thought possible,” Trump tweeted. “The political pundits just don’t get what is going on out there - or they do get it but refuse to report the facts! Remember, Dems are High Tax, High Crime, easy to beat!”

Tuesday proved to be a big night for women, as female candidates for governor advanced, including Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico and Republican Kristi Noem in South Dakota. Female Republican governors in Alabama and Iowa will vie for their first full terms in November after succeeding men who resigned.

California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, also fared well, fending off challenges from the left. It was still unclear whether a Republican would earn enough votes to oppose her on California’s November ballot.

The governor’s race was one of many drawing attention to California.

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The state’s handful of competitive House races — more than a half-dozen Republican-held seats may be in play — 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. Democrats need to pick up 23 seats nationwide to retake the House of Representatives.

Much of Tuesday’s drama focused on women, including the former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill, who bested a field of rivals in New Jersey for the Democratic nomination to replace the retiring Republican Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen.

Sherrill will take on the Republican state Assemblyman Jay Webber in one of several New Jersey races Democrats view as possible pickups.

In Alabama, four-term Republican Representative Martha Roby was forced into a runoff election next month after failing to win at least 50 percent of her party’s vote. She will face Bobby Bright, a onetime Democratic representative who is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, in Alabama’s conservative 2nd district — where Trump loyalty has been a central issue.

In 2016 Roby was the first Republican member of Congress to withdraw her endorsement of Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee after he was caught on video bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.

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In New Mexico, Democratic Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham won her party’s nomination in the race to succeed the departing Republican governor, Susana Martinez. If Grisham wins, she’ll be the second Latina to become the state’s executive, after Martinez.

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

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.”

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey fended off three Republican challengers, while South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem, another Republican, became her party’s first female nominee for South Dakota governor.

In Iowa, 28-year-old state Representative Abby Finkenauer won the Democratic nomination to oppose Republican Representative Rod Blum. If she wins in November, she would become the youngest woman to serve in Congress.

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Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, won his primary contest as did Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. Memendez faced federal bribery charges last year, but the jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. New Jersey Republicans hope to use Menendez’s legal troubles to tar him and other Democrats like Sherrill across the state.

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

In California, national Democrats spent more than US$7 million trying to repair the damage inflicted by Democrats attacking each other in districts where seats have opened because Republican Representatives Ed Royce and Darrell Issa are retiring, as well as in the district where Republican Dana Rohrabacher faces challenges from the left and the right.

In two of those three Southern California districts, Democrats were coming in second place behind Republicans, but the races were too close to call early Wednesday, leaving Democrats at risk of being locked out. In the third, Issa’s district, Republican Diane Harkey was leading in early returns, as two Democrats vied for the second slot.

Republican Representative Mimi Walters easily advanced to the November election in her Orange County district that has been targeted by Democrats. The second spot remained up for grabs.

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And in Central California, the House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican, qualified for the general election ballot as well. Representative Nunes is a polarising figure in national politics given his support for Trump in the House investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

A key Senate race took shape in the heart of Trump country as well.

Montana Republicans were picking a candidate to take on Democratic Senator Jon Tester, considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent senators in the nation. State Auditor Matt Rosendale won the GOP nomination.