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Every June 5 primary election you should know about, briefly explained

California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, and New Mexico voters are all headed to the polls.

There are key primary races in six states Tuesday. California, New Jersey, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Alabama and Mississippi are all holding primaries June 5

June 5 marks one of the most consequential and crowded primary days of the year. There’s a “jungle primary” that could lock out Democrats from important House seats in California, an establishment 84-year-old Democratic senator is facing a compelling primary challenger, and there’s a surprisingly heated governor’s race in South Dakota.

There are key primaries in five states Tuesday: California, New Jersey, Iowa, Montana, and New Mexico.

California will likely be the most closely watched state. With seven Republican-held districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, the state is an integral part of Democrats’ path to regaining control of the House in November.

But the states is also home to the chaotic “top two” primary system — in which all candidates of all parties compete against each other, with only the first- and second-place finishers advancing to the general election. It’s high stakes for Democrats, who legitimately fear losing out to Republicans because of the crowded field of Democratic candidates in many contests.

In addition to California, there’s a lot going on. Republicans in Montana are duking it out for the chance to compete against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in the fall. Health care is running front and center in two key Iowa races. And New Jersey will choose nominees for another set of House contests crucial for Democrats’ takeover chances.

There’s a lot to keep straight. Here’s what to watch.

California

Democratic Senate: can Kevin De León pose a real challenge to Sen. Dianne Feinstein?

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Firearms Accessory Regulation And Enforcing Background Checks
Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Who are the Democrats? Incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been a senator since 1992 and is the ranking member of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. At age 84, she’s the oldest US senator. Also running is state Sen. Kevin De León, the former president pro tempore of the California Senate.

Who are the Republicans? The Republicans in this race aren’t very well-known or super important (they likely won’t advance through California’s “top two” primary system). There’s a pro-Trump Republican named James Bradley, but he has very little money and practically no name recognition.

What’s the story? Feinstein is an institution in California and in the US Senate. She’s been a senator since the early ’90s and was a fixture in California politics long before (she served as San Francisco mayor in the late ’70s and ’80s). She’s still fairly popular in the state and has a war chest with millions, so she’ll be very tough to beat.

But there are also signs that some in California might be ready for a change. Feinstein is a centrist, and De León is banking on the hope that California might be ready to elect a younger, more progressive candidate. In order to do that, he needs to boost his name recognition and fundraising numbers, which are both low.

California’s Fourth District: Democrats are trying to target California’s most conservative Congress member

Who is the Republican? Rep. Tom McClintock is the incumbent Republican. He’s the most conservative Congress member in California and is serving his fifth term. He’s almost guaranteed the top spot in the top-two primary system.

Who are the Democrats? Two women, both in their 30s, stand out from the pack of four Democratic candidates. Jessica Morse, 35, a national security strategist, whose résumé includes the State Department, Defense Department, and USAID, has gained the Democratic party endorsement and the support of many progressive groups. She’s outraised her Democratic competitors and even Republican incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock and is the Democratic favorite. But Regina Bateson, an MIT professor on leave and native of the local town Roseville, has mounted a formidable challenge.

Here’s the kicker: Bateson said she’d drop out of the race if the party endorsed someone else — then didn’t. The other two candidates in the race — Roza Calderon, a 32-year-old geographic information systems consultant who has some grassroots support, and Robert Lawton, an investment adviser and rancher based in Yosemite — have raised significantly less.

What’s the story? This district is rated as Likely Republican by Cook’s Political Report, but Democrats still think it’s in play. McClintock represents a district encompassing Roseville, Lake Tahoe, and down to Yosemite National Park — but he doesn’t live there. This won’t be an easy race for Democrats. It’s an R+10 district. McClintock won reelection in 2016 by 25 points, and Trump took the district by 16 points.

California’s 10th Congressional District: a beekeeper, the venture capitalist behind Blue Apron, and the daughter of immigrant farmworkers

Who is the Republican? This is Rep. Jeff Denham’s district. He’s been in Congress since 2010, coming in on the Tea Party wave.

Who are the Democrats? Among the five Democrats on the ballot, three stand out: Michael Eggman, a 53-year-old third-generation beekeeper who is making his third run against Denham; Josh Harder, the 31-year-old venture capitalist who backed the meal kit service Blue Apron; and Virginia Madueño, the 52-year-old former mayor of Riverbank who has been tapped by Emily’s List. The California Democratic Party hasn’t endorsed anyone, and all three are duking it out to prove their close ties to the district.

What’s the story? In 2016, Denham narrowly won by 3.4 percent in one of the closest House races in the country. Clinton won the district in 2016 by 3 points too; it’s rated as a toss-up, and is a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats. The Central Valley district, a strongly agricultural area, is 40 percent Hispanic. Denham has been scrambling — or at least, so it appears — to be on the forefront of a congressional push from moderate Republicans to force the House into an immigration debate. He’s been candid that he wants that debate to happen before the midterms.

California’s 22nd Congressional District: a safe Republican seat that’s getting attention because of Devin Nunes

House Ways And Means Committee Continues Mark Up On Tax Bill
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has made a name for himself in the House Russia investigations.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Who is the Republican? Incumbent Devin Nunes, in office since 2013. Friend to President Donald Trump and the author of the House Intelligence Committee’s dubious Russia investigation memo.

Who are the Democrats? Andrew Janz, the Fresno County deputy district attorney, is considered the best-positioned to take on Nunes. He has the endorsement of the California Democratic Party and has raked in more than $1 million to challenge Nunes (mostly because Nunes is so nationally well-known/disliked).

Entrepreneur Bobby Bliatout and business consultant Ricardo Franco are also running.

What’s the story? Nunes is the chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and is well-known for his role in releasing the committee’s Russia investigation memo that basically accused the FBI of abusing its powers while investigating Trump’s 2016 campaign. Nunes is very close to Trump, having served on the president’s transition team.

Democrats would love to see Nunes lose reelection, but it will be tough. The district is heavily Republican, and Nunes has won by significant margins in the past.

California’s 25th Congressional District: a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats

Who is the Republican? Incumbent Rep. Stephen Knight, in office since 2015.

Who are the Democrats? Attorney Bryan Caforio and nonprofit policy advocate Katie Hill. Both are running competitive campaigns; Caforio (who challenged Knight in 2016) has locked up a lot of endorsements from labor and progressive groups, while Hill has the backing of Emily’s List, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and a number of California’s Democratic Congress members. Caforio and Hill have both out-fundraised Knight so far.

What’s the story? This race hasn’t been nearly as dramatic as other California House primaries, but it’s still a key potential pickup for Democrats. Cook rates this district a toss-up, and Los Angeles County is growing more liberal (although parts of it are full of older, Republican voters who are likelier to turn out).

Knight is tasked with trying to separate himself from President Donald Trump, but he’s voted with Republicans to repeal Obamacare and pass massive GOP tax cuts, so that could be a tall order.

California’s 39th Congressional District: in an open race, Democrats are in an absolute squabbling match

Who are the Democrats? In a packed field of six candidates, two wealthy Democrats are in an ugly battle for a spot on the November ballot. Gil Cisneros, a former Navy officer and 2010 lottery winner (he won $266 million) is on the DCCC’s Red to Blue list, which is as close as the national campaign arm gets to endorsing a candidate. He’s up against Andy Thorburn, a health insurance executive and former teacher.

It’s been a doozy of a race, including allegations of tax fraud and legal action over a voicemail. Cisneros is claiming Thorburn released a “fabricated” voice message in which a voice sounding like Cisneros warns Thorburn he’s going to go negative. There’s also another Democrat in the running, pediatrician Mai Khanh Tran, who’s endorsed by Emily’s List.

Who are the Republicans? The field of Republicans running in this race is just as deep as the Democratic side. Three stand out: Shawn Nelson, the Orange County supervisor; Bob Huff, who is the former state Senate minority leader; and Young Kim, who has served in the state Assembly.

What’s the story? This is an open seat, currently held by the retiring Republican Rep. Ed Royce, which makes it all the more attractive for Democrats in a blue year. The district, which is anchored in Orange County and covers Fullerton and Yorba Linda, is a toss-up. The Cook Political Report says it leans Democratic. But Democrats have failed to get behind a single candidate, and the race has devolved into a negative squabbling match that could result in Democrats getting shut out of the general election.

California’s 45th Congressional District: a hotly contested Democratic race to challenge Mimi Walters

Who is the Republican? Incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters, first elected in 2014. She voted for Obamacare repeal and the tax bill, which particularly hurt California by eliminating the federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes.

Who are the Democrats? This is a free-for-all race, with four Democrats who raised at least $500,000 looking to earn a top-two slot and challenge Walters. Katie Porter, a UC Irvine law professor, has endorsed Medicare-for-all and has the support of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Dave Min, another UC Irvine law professor, is more moderate and received the endorsement of the California Democratic Party. Brian Forde is an ex-Republican who worked under President Obama, and Kia Hamadanchy is a young Iranian American who has worked for populist Democrats like Tom Harkin and Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH).

What’s the story? In its 35 years of existence, the California 45th has never elected a Democrat. But in a diversifying district, where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 5 points in 2016, Walters should be vulnerable. The Cook Political Report rates the race as Lean Republican.

Walters did run nearly 10 points ahead of Trump, and she has represented the area in either Congress or the state legislature for quite a while. She’s an entrenched incumbent. But the Democrats here plan to slam her for her votes for Obamacare repeal, for the tax bill, and for generally siding with President Trump almost all of the time.

This is also a diversifying area — 60 percent white, 21 percent Asian American, 14 percent Latino — and two of the Democratic candidates, Min and Hamadanchy, said they entered the race after Trump instituted his travel ban. Orange County has long been a very conservative region, but a woefully unpopular president and the changing nature of the district should give Democrats an opening.

California’s 48th Congressional District: drunken bar fights, a Putin-adored Republican, and a Kasich-friendly Democrat ... what could go wrong?

Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, dubbed Putin’s favorite Congressman, lost his long-held California district on November 7, 2018.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Who are the Republicans? Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is the incumbent. He’s represented this district for 30 years and isn’t too popular — although Vladimir Putin really likes him, and the feeling appears to be mutual. He’s getting challenged by Scott Baugh, a former Orange County Republican Party chair who is a longtime friend of Rohrabacher’s. In the 1990s, Rohrabacher’s wife pleaded guilty to two felony charges for recruiting and installing a decoy Democratic candidate to split the vote and get Baugh elected to the California Assembly.

Who are the Democrats? There are eight Democrats on the ballot, but two are in serious contention for a spot on the ballot in November. There’s Harley Rouda, a DCCC and Indivisible-endorsed real estate investor who donated to Republican campaigns as recently as 2016; and Hans Keirstead, a stem cell scientist with a California Democratic Party endorsement who has spent a lot of time trying to fend off 2009 allegations that he slept with his grad students and got into a drunken fistfight. These two are tied in the polls, but there are others still in the race that could split the vote count even more.

What’s the story? In short, this race is a circus. Clinton eked out a 1-point win in this district in 2016, so Democrats are energized for a potential takeover — maybe too energized. The ballot will feature a total of 16 names total on the ballot, almost half of whom have unofficially dropped out of the running but are still likely to get some votes. There’s a big possibility Democrats are going to get shut out of this race altogether, which would be a major upset in a year when they’re trying to take back control of the House.

California’s 49th Congressional District: Republicans are just as likely to get shut out as Democrats

Who are the Democrats? There are four Democrats to keep an eye on: real estate investor Paul Kerr; Sara Jacobs, who is the CEO of a nonprofit and from a wealthy family; environmental lawyer Mike Levin; and retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate. No one seems to have taken the clear lead in what has become a very heated and expensive race.

Who are the Republicans? There are a whopping eight Republicans on the ballot, and no clear winner among the pack either. Among the notable candidates are Rocky Chávez, a state Assembly member and retired Marine Corps colonel; Diane Harkey, who used to serve in the state Assembly and has current Rep. Darrell Issa’s endorsement; Kristin Gaspar, an Orange County supervisor and small-business owner who has Rep. Ed Royce’s endorsement; and Craig Nordal, a real estate entrepreneur who said he’d join the conservative Freedom Caucus if elected.

What’s the story? Issa was considered to be the most vulnerable Republican in the midterms, having won reelection by the slimmest margin in the country; then he dropped out. It’s left his Orange County/San Diego County district up for grabs. This is an R+1 district that Democrats have a huge chance of taking if they can get on the ballot in November. Clinton won by 7.5 points, and with a stacked ballot on both sides of the aisle, the possibility of a Republican shutout is just as likely.

California’s 50th Congressional District: incumbent Duncan Hunter is being investigated by the FBI for campaign fraud

Who are the Democrats? There are two formidable Democratic challengers: retired Navy SEAL Josh Butner, and Ammar Campa-Najjar, who worked in Obama’s Department of Labor. Realtor Patrick Malloy, who has run against Hunter in the past, is also in the race.

Who are the Republicans? Rep. Duncan Hunter is running as the incumbent. He’s an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran and was elected to Congress in 2008. In Washington, he’s been dogged by ethical and legal complaints. He’s being challenged by El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and business executive Shamus Sayed.

What’s the story? The district itself is hardly competitive. Covering most of San Diego County, it’s an R+11 suburban district that’s extremely white. Registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats 42 percent to 27 percent, and Trump won by 15 points. Twenty-five percent of voters have no party preference. But the demographics have been slowly changing — there’s a growing Latino population that Democrats think could shift the area’s politics.

And Hunter has been dogged by serious legal and ethics scandals. He’s been accused of having inappropriate relationships with women, drinking on the job, and other unprofessional conduct, which his office has denied. Then there are his financial woes. The FBI is investigating allegations that he used campaign funds for personal use, like private school tuition, vacation, and oral surgery. He’s also undergoing a House Ethics Committee investigation. It’s likely this district will remain in Republican hands, but that doesn’t mean Hunter isn’t in trouble. Even his Republican colleagues were reportedly encouraging him to drop out.

Iowa

Governor contest: a potential referendum on Medicaid privatization and Trump

Iowa Freedom Summit Features GOP Presidential  Hopefuls
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Who are the Democrats?

Business owner Fred Hubbell and local labor leader Cathy Glasson are competing in the Democratic primary. Hubbell is the top fundraiser and first in the only poll on the race so far. Especially after state Sen. Nate Boulton dropped out of the race a few weeks ago due to sexual misconduct allegations, Glasson could be a competitive challenger. If no candidate gets 35 percent of the vote, the race goes to a convention. Hubbell is pressing right up against that threshold.

Who’s the Republican?

Incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds, who replaced longtime Gov. Terry Branstad in 2017 when he was appointed Trump’s ambassador to China. She’s seeking her first full term.

What’s the story?

Expect health care and Trump’s approval rating to come into play in this race. Reynolds’s signature achievement is probably moving Iowa’s 600,000 Medicaid enrollees into managed care, a privatized version of the program where private health plans administer Medicaid’s benefits. Hubbell wants to reverse that privatization, while Glasson supports a more liberal single-payer option.

Reynolds is fairly popular — 42 percent approval and 35 percent disapproval, according to Morning Consult — but she could be dragged down by Trump, who’s currently at 51 percent disapproval in the state.

Iowa’s Third Congressional District: Obamacare could be a big test in this swing district

Who are the Democrats? Small-business owner Cindy Axne, former insurance executive Eddie Mauro and former Bernie Sanders campaign aide Pete D’Alessandro. Axne has been endorsed by Emily’s List, while D’Alesandro (no surprise) has Sanders’s support.

Who’s the Republican? Incumbent Rep. David Young, first elected to Congress in 2014.

What’s the story? Young has won pretty big in the past, but Cook rates this district R+1 this year, so it definitely has the potential to swing. There’s a strong health care angle in this race. Young has a mixed voting record on Obamacare repeal; he actually voted against the first version of the House’s Obamacare repeal bill, lost the backing of a House leadership PAC, and ended up voting for the final bill that passed the House.

The Democratic side is a contest between a progressive vision for health care and a more moderate one: Axne is running on fixing Obamacare, while D’Alessandro has fully embraced a platform that includes Medicare-for-all.

Montana

Montana Senate: millions are being spent in the race to elect a Republican challenger to Sen. Jon Tester

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Delivers Financial Stability Report To Senate Committee Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Who is the Democrat? Incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, who’s been in office since 2007. He’s a farmer and the ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. He sports a great buzz cut.

Who are the Republicans? There are four Republicans running, but the primary has heated up between Montana state auditor Matt Rosendale (fellow buzz cut aficionado and Maryland accent-haver) and retired state Judge Russ Fagg.

What’s the story? Tester has no Democratic primary challenger, but he’s facing a tough reelection battle in November and is sitting on a substantial war chest to prepare for it. Trump won Montana by 20 points in 2016, and Tester hasn’t exactly made friends with the president lately, so expect Trump to do everything he can to oust the Montana senator.

On the Republican side, conservative outside groups are spending millions to boost Rosendale, but it has the potential to backfire in a state where local ties are paramount. Rosendale moved to Montana from Maryland nearly 20 years ago, but Fagg is a fourth-generation Montanan and is painting Rosendale as a carpetbagger. The fact that outside groups are going all in for Rosendale could irk the locals.

New Jersey

New Jersey Senate: Bob Menendez seeks a third term

Who are the Democrats? Incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez is running for reelection, and the only other Democrat on the ballot is community news website publisher Lisa McCormick.

Who are the Republicans? Pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin, construction company executive Brian Goldberg, and attorney Dana Wefer.

What’s the story? The only reason this general election contest might get interesting in this blue state is that Menendez faced trial last year on corruption charges. Prosecutors say Menendez abused his office to do favors for a wealthy Florida eye doctor in exchange for private jet flights, fancy vacation accommodations, and contributions for his campaign and legal defense fund. The jury failed to agree on a verdict, the prosecution ended with a mistrial, and the Justice Department decided to drop the charges rather than try a second time.

Even though he wasn’t convicted, none of this looked great politically for Menendez. But New Jersey is a hierarchical state politically, and the senator is expected to win renomination easily, since his only challenge is from a little-known candidate who’s raised hardly any money, and the state party has stood behind him. Republicans, meanwhile, are excited that self-funder Bob Hugin is running and has poured $7.5 million into his campaign already — he’s expected to win the GOP primary fairly easily.

New Jersey’s Second Congressional District: a retirement gives Democrats a big opportunity

Who are the Democrats? State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, retired teacher Tanzie Youngblood, former Cory Booker aide Will Cunningham, and farmer Nathan Kleinman.

Who are the Republicans? Engineer Hirsh Singh, former Assembly member Samuel Fiocchi, lawyer Seth Grossman, and former FBI agent Robert Turkavage.

What’s the story? Democrats were thrilled when Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo decided to retire after 24 years in Congress because it gave them an opportunity to contest this district at the southern end of New Jersey. Since Trump won this district by about 4 points, the party thought that Jeff Van Drew, a moderate state senator, would be their strongest nominee.

Van Drew’s record (he’s voted against same-sex marriage and often backs business interests on environmental matters) could make him vulnerable in a primary, so a few candidates have jumped in to try their luck against him. Tanzie Youngblood has gotten the most attention, as a progressive black woman running against a moderate white man with the backing of the state’s establishment. But Van Drew had raised more than six times as much money as Youngblood.

Meanwhile, the Republican field is generally viewed as weak — even National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Steve Stivers said the race was a “recruiting hole for us” in late April (though he later tried to walk that back). Singh leads in county party endorsements, which are particularly important in New Jersey because they’re printed on the ballot — he won four of eight county GOP endorsements in the district.

New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District: the most Republican-leaning congressional district in the Garden State

Who are the Democrats? Navy veteran Josh Welle and former Asbury Park Council member Jim Keady.

Who is the Republican? Rep. Chris Smith.

What’s the story? The Fourth, in the center of the state, is the most Republican-leaning district in New Jersey — Trump won it by 15 points. Rep. Smith, meanwhile, has kept winning reelection since he joined Congress in 1981. So this district is a stretch for Democrats, though some don’t entirely rule it out in a wave year, especially since the GOP’s new tax bill is widely viewed as awful for New Jersey in particular.

Josh Welle won all three Democratic County party endorsements and leads his rival Keady in fundraising, while Keady has the backing of the Bernie Sanders-aligned group Our Revolution.

New Jersey’s Seventh Congressional District: the most endangered Republican incumbent in the state

GOP Rep. Leonard Lance Holds Constituent Town Hall Meeting In New Jersey Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Who are the Democrats? Former State Department official Tom Malinowski, attorney Goutam Jois, and activist Peter Jacob.

Who are the Republicans? Rep. Leonard Lance is the incumbent. Doctor Raafat Barsoom and progressive millennial Lindsay Brown are also running.

What’s the story? Lance is the only New Jersey Republican in a district Hillary Clinton won (by about 1 percentage point), so he’s naturally one of Democrats’ top targets in the state. Malinowski, who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor in the Obama administration, has the party’s backing and blew away his rivals in fundraising. Peter Jacob, who has pledged not to accept PAC money, has the Our Revolution endorsement.

New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District: who will replace Rodney Frelinghuysen?

Who are the Democrats? Former Navy pilot and prosecutor Mikie Sherrill, entrepreneur and advocate Tamara Harris, research scientist Alison Heslin, lawyer Mitchell Cobert, and history professor Mark Washburne.

Who are the Republicans? Assembly member Jay Webber, entrepreneur Peter De Neufville, investment banker and Army Reserve Maj. Antony Ghee, liberal Republican Martin Hewitt, and former concert promoter/Roger Stone employee Patrick Allocco.

What’s the story? Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who’s been in Congress since 1995, chose to retire rather than run again, so Democrats have a big opportunity in this wealthy suburban district that Trump won by just 0.9 percent. Mikie Sherrill has far surpassed her rivals in fundraising (she’s one of the top Democratic challenger fundraisers in the country) and won all the county line endorsements. Jay Webber is the expected GOP nominee.

New Mexico

New Mexico governor: can Democrats turn state leadership blue?

House Democratic Leadership Hold News Conference On Trump's Budget Proposal
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Who are the Democrats? Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the current chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is the favorite. Grisham received an overwhelming proportion of the vote during a pre-primary convention the Democratic Party held earlier this spring. If her name sounds familiar, it may be because she’s a member of a very political family: Her cousin Ben Ray Lujan represents New Mexico’s Third District in Congress, and her uncle Manuel Lujan Jr. also represented the state in the House.

She’s not the only one with political family ties. Jeff Apodaca, a former media executive and fellow gubernatorial hopeful, is the son of former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, who is trailing at a distant third, is also running.

Who are the Republicans? Rep. Steve Pearce, a member of the Freedom Caucus, is the lone Republican vying for the seat. The seven-term member of Congress and Vietnam War veteran currently represents the state’s Second District, a massive swath of land along the US-Mexico border.

Pearce was a vocal backer of Trump in 2016 — and even stumped for him — but has since bucked the president’s border wall proposal, slamming it as impractical. His success in this race will likely depend on how effectively he can distance himself from the president and prove he’s capable of making things work with the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature.

What’s the story? Current Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is term-limited out of the position, giving Democrats an opportunity to turn New Mexico state leadership even more blue. Democrats currently have control of both chambers of the state legislature, so retaking the governor slot would be a major boon for them as New Mexico undergoes a redistricting process following the 2020 census.

Broadly, momentum is in Democrats’ favor. New Mexico voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump by more than 8 points in 2016, and favored President Barack Obama heavily in both election cycles before that. Pearce is, in fact, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation.

New Mexico’s Second Congressional District: Democrats see opportunity after Republican incumbent opts out of reelection

Who are the Democrats? Water attorney Xochitl Torres Small has a strong lead. She’s garnered the support of big-name Democrats and groups including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emily’s List, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Small has made protection of public lands — an issue Trump has made headlines for in the past year — a cornerstone of her policy agenda. US Coast Guard veteran and history professor Madeline Hildebrandt is on the docket as well.

Who are the Republicans? There’s a long line of conservatives angling to take over Pearce’s seat, and they’re currently splitting the support of different factions of the Republican Party.

The House Freedom Caucus is backing state Rep. Yvette Herrell, and Sen. Ted Cruz is endorsing former state Republican Party Chair Monty Newman. Meanwhile, Gavin Clarkson, a former official in the Trump administration’s Interior Department, has leaned into his ties with the White House. Former Gary Johnson campaign staffer Clayburn Griffin is also on the ballot.

What’s the story? Pearce, the incumbent Republican representative, has opted out of reelection to run for governor, leaving the field open for fresh faces on both sides of the aisle. While the Second District leans Republican — and voted for Trump by more than 10 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016 — negative sentiment toward the administration and an energized liberal base could give Democrats a shot.

South Dakota

South Dakota governor: two prominent Republicans are battling to replace term-limited Gov. Dennis Daugaard

House Speaker Boehner Speaks On 1.1 Trillion Dollar Budget Plan
Rep. Kristi Noem, one of the Republican candidates for South Dakota governor.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Who are the Republicans? US Rep. Kristi Noem and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. Noem has served in Congress since 2011, and Jackley has been in office since 2009.

Who are the Democrats? South Dakota is a pretty red state, but there’s a Democrat running named Billie Sutton. He currently serves as the state’s Senate minority leader and is running unopposed on the Democratic side.

What’s the story? The Republican primary has gotten close — and bitter — in recent weeks. A member of Congress serving the state’s at-large district since 2011, Noem has higher name recognition. If elected, she’d be the state’s first female governor.

Recent negative ads Jackley and Noem are running about each other reflect the closeness of the race. A recent Mason-Dixon poll found Noem with a 1-point lead over Jackley and concluded she’s doing better with female voters. Candidates don’t have to distance themselves from Trump; the president has a 72 percent approval rating in South Dakota.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Boulton is no longer running in the Iowa Democratic primary.

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