Republican voters are picking candidates Tuesday night in Senate races that could help determine control of the chamber, two of the nation’s most competitive gubernatorial races — and a slate of districts featuring Republican House members who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump last year.
All of those races will test the power of Trump’s endorsement on one of the most crowded and consequential primary nights of the year. And one of the biggest contests Tuesday isn’t a primary at all: Kansans will vote on whether to approve a state constitutional amendment saying there is no right to an abortion in the state. It’s the first time voters will weigh in directly on abortion policy since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier in the summer.
All told voters in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington are heading to the polls on Tuesday. They will also weigh in on a series of battleground House races and down-ballot contests — including the fight to be chief election official in battleground Arizona, where a Trump-endorsed election conspiracy theorist is aiming for the job.
Results in some of those races — especially Arizona and Washington — may not be known on Tuesday night if the contests are close. Here is what to watch for as the primary results unfold.
Setting the Senate battlefield
Republican primaries on Tuesday will finalize some of the last remaining questions about this year’s Senate map — chiefly, who will face Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in what will be one of the most competitive Senate races this cycle.
And in Missouri, voters will pick from a crowded field of Republican candidates vying to replace retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, including disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Rep. Vicky Hartzler.
While Schmitt has surged to a lead in recent public polling, Trump issued a vague last-minute endorsement Monday night of “ERIC,” effectively amounting to a double endorsement of Greitens and Schmitt.
Though the red state should be safe for Republicans in this November’s Senate race, GOP operatives have long warned that a Greitens nomination — given his baggage including sexual assault and domestic violence allegations — could cost the party a Senate seat.
If Greitens were to prevail in Tuesday’s primary, Missouri could become a state where Democrats decide to spend big — a strategy that would force Republicans to do the same to keep their advantage.
The Republican Senate primary in Arizona has come down to two candidates: Blake Masters, the Peter Thiel protégé who secured Trump’s endorsement in June, and Jim Lamon, a solar power executive who has put at least $14 million of his own funds into the race.
Masters in the last month emerged as a clear frontrunner, according to public polling, though Lamon has continued to pour big money into the campaign to keep pace with a pro-Masters, Thiel-funded super PAC. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whom Trump has disparaged for failing to help overturn the results of the 2020 election, has polled in third place in the race.
Voters in Washington State will also advance two candidates from their all-party primary system. Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley is the only well-funded GOP candidate on the ballot, and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray already began running attack ads against her earlier this summer.
Swing-state governors on the ballot
Voters are also settling GOP races for governor in two top battlegrounds: Arizona and Michigan.
The Arizona race has broken down like a number of other GOP gubernatorial primaries this year, with Trump lined up on one side and leading state Republicans pushing another candidate.
Trump has backed former TV anchor Kari Lake in Arizona’s open primary. Meanwhile, term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey, the co-chair of the Republican Governors Association, and former Vice President Mike Pence are among those supporting former state board of regents member Karrin Taylor Robson in a contentious primary that drew both Trump and Pence to the state. Lake has led most of the recent public polling in the race.
On the Democratic side, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has been seen as the favorite in a primary that also includes former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez.
In the race to replace Hobbs to become the state’s next chief election officer, Republicans are on the verge of nominating state lawmaker Mark Finchem, a prominent election conspiracy theorist. Trump has endorsed Finchem, while Ducey backed advertising executive Beau Lane.
Tuesday’s second big gubernatorial primary comes in Michigan, where Republicans are searching for their nominee to face off against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
That contest has been one of the messiest in recent memory. Leading candidates were booted off the ballot after signature fraud on their nominating petitions were discovered, and another contender in the crowded field was arrested by the FBI for his alleged participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
But there, Trump and the establishment reached an apparent detente. Many of the state’s GOP power players, including the DeVos family, backed conservative media personality Tudor Dixon — and Trump followed suit late last week with a late endorsement.
The first abortion test
Voters in Kansas will have the first opportunity to weigh in directly on abortion policy at the ballot box following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, via the “Value Them Both” state constitutional amendment on the ballot on Tuesday.
While the amendment on the ballot would not create any new abortion restrictions, it would open the path for state lawmakers to do so. It has been the subject of an intense campaign on both sides, and the results could be close.
Both supporters of abortion rights and anti-abortion activists view the ballot initiative in Kansas as just the first of many to come. It is one of at least five abortion-related ballot measures across the country this year, and others are already being planned in states across the country for future elections.
The race is also an early setup of the state’s gubernatorial contest. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is arguably the most endangered Democratic incumbent in the country, while state Attorney General Derek Schmidt will lock up the Republican nomination on Tuesday. The results of Tuesday’s ballot measure could determine some of the central themes of the general election there.
Three pro-impeachment Republicans face voters
Three of the six pro-impeachment Republicans who decided to seek reelection will face the voters — and Trump’s wrath — on Tuesday.
The most imperiled: Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), the only freshman to vote to hold Trump accountable for the Jan. 6 attacks. He faces a strong challenge from the Trump-backed John Gibbs, but Meijer has a massive financial advantage. He and his allies have dumped $2.4 million on ads to bolster the incumbent.
Gibbs has spent just $26,000 on cable and digital ads — but he did get surprise air cover from the House Democratic campaign arm. Democrats are targeting the seat, which Biden won by 9 points, in the fall, and they controversially meddled in the primary in the hopes that Gibbs would be easier to defeat.
In Washington State, GOP Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beuter both face Trump-backed challengers in their all-party primaries — and both got millions in aid from establishment groups. Herrera Beutler and Winning for Women Action Fund, a group that backs GOP women, together spent over five times more on air than Joe Kent, her top challenger.
Newhouse and his allies invested $1.3 million on TV ads; his top challenger, 2020 governor nominee Loren Culp, aired none. Muddying the waters are several other non-Trump-endorsed Republican challengers in the mix in both races.
All three contests will test whether GOP outrage over a year-and-a-half old impeachment vote can overcome a deluge of pro-incumbent spending on TV.
There’s also another major incumbent primary to watch: a member-versus-member battle in Michigan between Democratic Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin. Redistricting forced them together, after Levin left behind the new version of his current seat to run against Stevens. The matchup has turned into a proxy war between national political forces, with pro-Israel groups spending money in the race and national progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) coming in to stump for Levin.
Priming the House battlefield
Both parties will also choose nominees in more than a half dozen swing seats across four states.
In Washington State, several Republicans are battling for the second slot in the general-election with Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier. Top contenders include Jesse Jensen, the 2020 nominee; Reagan Dunn, a former federal prosecutor whose mother previously represented the area in Congress; and Matt Larkin, a lawyer and businessman.
In Kansas, Republican Amanda Adkins and Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids are headed for a rematch in a suburban Kansas City seat.
Arizona will finalize matchups for four potentially competitive races in the fall. A slew of Republicans are vying for the nod to take on Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran after redistricting transformed his massive northern district into a seat Trump would have carried by 9 points. State Rep. Walt Blackman and the Trump-endorsed veteran Eli Crane — two election deniers — are the most prominent candidates.
In the Phoenix area, businessman Kelly Cooper and attorney Tanya Wheeless are battling for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton. In a nearby district, embattled Rep. David Schweikert faces a well-funded primary challenger and several Democratic ones as well.
And down south in Tucson, Republicans are hoping for a win by Juan Ciscomani, a former top advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey. State Sen. Kristen Engel and state Rep. Daniel Hernandez are competing on the Democratic side. The seat was left open by retiring Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.
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