Governor’s races are on the ballot in three of the four states, and Georgia’s Democratic contest between Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans has particularly drawn national attention.
But it’s an important night for the battle for Congress too. The highest-stakes races for Democrats are in Texas, where the party will choose its nominees to take on Republican incumbents in three districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. But the party has its eye on House primaries in Georgia, Kentucky, and Arkansas too. Here’s what to watch.
Texas Democratic governor’s primary: Lupe Valdez versus Andrew White
Update: Lupe Valdez is the projected winner.
Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston business executive Andrew White are vying for the Democratic nomination to face off against Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, who was first elected in 2014.
Both first-time candidates for statewide office, Valdez and White are taking two different paths to the nomination. Valdez, the state’s first openly gay and first Latina sheriff, is trying to turn out Latino voters. White, meanwhile, is courting suburban voters who dislike how far-right the Texas government has become under Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s leadership.
Whoever wins will have a tough battle in November. The last time Democrats won a Texas governor’s race it was the 1990s. And this year doesn’t promise to be different; Abbott is one of the most popular governors in the country and will be tough to beat in November.
Texas’s Seventh Congressional District Democratic primary: Laura Moser versus Lizzie Fletcher
Update: Lizzie Pannill Fletcher is the projected winner.
Activist and freelance journalist Laura Moser and attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher will square off in TX-7, which encompasses Houston’s western suburbs. Thanks to some explosive Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) meddling ahead of the first March, this race got national recognition early.
Things have quieted down ahead of the May runoff, but the race has turned into one between progressives and the establishment. Moser now has the backing of the Bernie Sanders–affiliated group Our Revolution and is positioning herself as the progressive insurgent.
Fletcher has the backing of Emily’s List, which helps elect Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights, and is trying to appeal to moderate voters. The seat is currently held by Rep. John Culberson, in office since 2001. He’s a conservative Republican and member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Texas’s 21st Congressional District Democratic primary: Joseph Kopser versus Mary Wilson
Update: Joseph Kosper is the projected winner.
Army veteran and entrepreneur Joseph Kopser is running against pastor and retired professor Mary Wilson. Kopser has more money than Wilson, but she garnered more votes than he did in the first round of primary voting in March.
The DCCC hasn’t added either candidate to its Red to Blue list, but Kopser has the endorsement of No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer and VoteVets, an organization supporting veterans for office. The 21st Congressional District didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but it’s on the list of potentially flippable districts because it’s an open race: Longtime incumbent Rep. Lamar Smith is retiring.
Texas’s 21st Congressional District Republican primary: Chip Roy versus Matt McCall
Update: Chip Roy is the projected winner.
These two men emerged from a gigantic field of 18 candidates who competed in the March primary. They are former Texas Assistant Attorney General Chip Roy (who also served as former chief of staff to US Sen. Ted Cruz), and business executive and staunch Christian Matt McCall.
Roy is certainly the establishment Republican pick; he has a long history in Texas politics. McCall is running to the right (his campaign slogan on his website is “Conservative. Christian. Constitutionalist.”) Conventional wisdom says a Republican will win in November, but there are some interesting demographics at play: The large district includes a significant chunk of liberal Austin and stretches all the way down to areas north of San Antonio and rural counties out west. If conditions are right for a blue wave, TX-21 could be a pickup opportunity for Democrats.
Texas’s 23rd Congressional District: Gina Ortiz Jones versus Rick Treviño
Update: Gina Ortiz Jones is projected to win the primary.
Veteran Gina Ortiz Jones is squaring off against teacher Rick Treviño in TX-23, a huge district that wraps around San Antonio and encompasses most of West Texas and the southern border with Mexico.
Like in TX-7, this race is will be a test of whether progressives can win in Texas. Ortiz Jones has the backing of the DCCC and Emily’s List, while Treviño, a former Bernie Sanders delegate, was endorsed by Our Revolution.
The winner will face Rep. Will Hurd, a young, moderate Republican who’s made a name for himself working across the aisle. He was a co-author of the Hurd-Aguilar bill to protect DREAMers (immigration is likely to be a big issue in November). Whoever wins on Tuesday has a real shot at beating Hurd — TX-23 has flipped blue before, and Clinton won it in 2016.
Texas’s 32nd Congressional District Democratic primary: Colin Allred versus Lillian Salerno
Update: Colin Allred is the projected winner.
Former NFL player and civil rights attorney Colin Allred is facing off against former Obama administration appointee Lillian Salerno in this Dallas-based district. Allred is backed by the DCCC, while Emily’s List has endorsed Salerno (but hasn’t spent a lot of money on her).
The winner will challenge incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions, chair of the House Rules Committee, who has been in office since 2003. Allred already garnered the vast majority of the votes in the March primary and is the Democratic favorite: He’s young, African American, and a former football player for the Tennessee Titans (a natural boost in football-loving Texas). Come November, Democrats are sure to try to tie Sessions to Trump; Sessions’s voting record aligns almost perfectly with the president’s policy priorities.
Georgia’s governor primary: an open seat up for grabs
Update; Stacey Abrams is projected to win the Democratic primary. Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp will head to a runoff in the Republican primary.
Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is term-limited, so both parties have competitive contests for the nomination to replace him. It’s a red state, albeit one that’s been getting less red of late, so while the GOP nominee will be the favorite, Democrats do hold out some hope of picking it up.
For Democrats, former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams is running against state Rep. Stacey Evans for the nomination. The race has gotten a lot of buzz, though, as Matt Yglesias writes, it’s tough to impose a simplistic narrative such as “establishment versus outsider” on it.
For Republicans, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is the establishment favorite, with his nearest rival expected to be Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Also running are state Sen. Michael Williams (who’s gotten some press for his “deportation bus” idea), former state Sen. Hunter Hill, business executive Clay Tippins, and restaurant owner Eddie Hayes. If no candidate tops 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election.
Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District Democratic primary: who will take on Karen Handel?
Update: Lucy McBath and Kevin Abel are projected to make the runoff.
Georgia’s Sixth District should be familiar to Democrats because it was the site of an expensive, high-profile congressional special election in 2017. In the end, Republicans held on to the seat, as now-Rep. Karen Handel triumphed over Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff.
Though Trump won this traditionally Republican district by just 1.5 points in 2016, Handel pulled out the special election last June by a 4 percentage point margin. So Democrats are hoping that Ossoff just wasn’t the right fit, and that a different nominee could give them a better chance at taking the seat.
Running for Democrats are IT consulting firm co-founder Kevin Abel, former local TV anchor Bobby Kaple, gun control activist Lucy McBath, and former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyst Steven Knight Griffin. A runoff will ensue on July 24 if no one tops 50 percent.
Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District Democratic primary: a suburban district that typifies what Democrats are targeting in red states
Update: Carolyn Bourdeaux and David Kim are projected to go to a runoff.
Rep. Rob Woodall, first elected to Congress in 2010, is the incumbent in Georgia’s Seventh District (though Marine veteran Shane Hazel is challenging him from the right). Trump won this suburban district by a little over 6 points, and Democrats have viewed Woodall as a potential reach target.
The Democratic primary is crowded, and the field is diverse. Six candidates — tutoring business founder David Kim, Georgia State professor Carolyn Bourdeaux, small-business owner Ethan Pham, consultant Kathleen Allen, financial manager Melissa Davis, and lawyer Steve Reilly — are in the race.
Bourdeaux, Kim, and Pham are the leading fundraisers, with Kim putting in more than half a million dollars of his own money and Bourdeaux winning the endorsement of Emily’s List. A runoff will be held on July 24 if no candidate tops 50 percent, and with so many candidates in the race, that seems likely to happen.
Arkansas governor Republican primary: Gov. Asa Hutchinson versus Jan Morgan
Update: Asa Hutchinson is the projected winner.
Asa Hutchinson, a former member of Congress and US attorney, was elected governor in 2014 and is running for a second term. He’s being challenged from the right by Jan Morgan, whom the Arkansas Times described as a “hog-riding, Muslim-banning, gun-toting, airbrushing, RINO-busting gadfly from Hot Springs.”
Hutchinson is a staunch conservative with a strong approval rating in this red state, so he’s a solid favorite for reelection in the fall. But first, Morgan is challenging him from the right on a platform of, basically, bigotry and right-wing nuttery — she owns a gun range and gained notoriety in 2014 after declaring it would be a “Muslim Free Zone.” She’s “basically attacking Hutchinson from the right on any issue,” Dylan Scott writes.
Democrats aren’t particularly optimistic about winning this seat, but Jared Henderson, who was executive director for Teach for America’s Arkansas programs, is their expected nominee.
Arkansas Second Congressional District Democratic primary: who will take on Rep. French Hill?
Update: Clarke Tucker is projected to win the primary.
The Republican incumbent in this district is Rep. French Hill, a former banker who served in George H.W. Bush’s Treasury Department before winning election to Congress in 2014. Trump won the district by a little over 10 points in 2016, so it won’t be an easy pickup for Democrats — but it is on the party’s target list.
State Rep. Clarke Tucker, a Harvard graduate, lawyer, and cancer survivor, is the DCCC-favored candidate. But he’s being challenged by Paul Spencer, a farmer and teacher running on Medicare-for-all. Teacher Gwen Combs and University of Arkansas employee Jonathan Dunkley are also in the race. If no candidate tops 50 percent of the primary vote, there will be a runoff on June 19.
Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District Democratic primary: Democrats are squaring off in Trump country
by Ella Nilsen
Update: Amy McGrath is projected to win.
A lone congressional race in Kentucky has garnered lots of national attention this cycle: the Democratic primary for the Sixth Congressional District. The district sits in central Kentucky, encompassing the city of Lexington and rural counties around it.
Three Democrats are vying for the chance to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Andy Barr in the fall: Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, retired Marine Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, and state Sen. Reggie Thomas. But throughout the race, the competition has largely come down to Gray and McGrath, a young veteran who recently moved back to her home state of Kentucky to run for Congress.
Gray and McGrath have both fundraised a lot of money for ads; McGrath has raised about $2 million, while Gray has raised about $1.3 million. McGrath, who recently moved back to her home state of Kentucky to run, is running as a fresh political face but has also been dogged by questions of her lack of time living in Kentucky.
She’s painted her main opponent, Gray, as an establishment candidate. Gray entered the race fairly late but has the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as local name recognition in Lexington, which makes up about 40 percent of the district’s voter share.
Gray and McGrath are vying in a district that’s prime Trump country: It’s rated R+9 by the Cook Political Report but has nearly 100,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, so it has blue roots. The district has flipped before, meaning this primary is all about who can convince Trump voters to cast ballots for Democrats.