The 2018 midterms are officially underway with four primary elections in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, and North Carolina on Tuesday.
West Virginia Senate Republican primary: Don Blankenship vs. Evan Jenkins vs. Patrick Morrisey
Update: Patrick Morrisey is the projected winner.
Monday morning, President Trump warned West Virginians that a victory for Don Blankenship, a convicted coal baron tarred by the death of 29 miners in a 2010 mining accident, would be a redux of Alabama, when Democrats won a Senate seat in a special election upset.
To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State...No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018
The Republican Senate primary has been a vicious fight between Blankenship and the Washington establishment, most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. National Democrats have also been spending money here in an apparent attempt to prop up the former coal boss. Here is how Vox summed up the race:
Come November, West Virginia will be a top Republican target. It’s become something of a miracle the state still has a statewide Democrat at all, though Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has a long history within the state. But he’s in choppy waters. While it has a working-class Democratic history, West Virginia went for Donald Trump by 42 points and hasn’t gone for a Democrat in the presidential election since 1996.
“There’s a very strong anti-establishment sentiment in West Virginia, and there’s also an ‘it can’t get any worse’ sentiment,” Patrick Hickey, a political science professor at West Virginia University, told me. “We’re just trying to shake it up.”
Blankenship is the GOP primary’s wild card. The former Massey Energy CEO has an extensive personal fortune and deep West Virginia ties in the state’s marquee industry. Then again, he also has a criminal conviction, and many voters in the state will never forgive him for the Upper Big Branch mining accident.
“One candidate has no convictions, one candidate has a conviction, and the other guy is a carpetbagger,” Jeff Kessler, a Democratic politician in the state, told me.
West Virginia Senate Democratic primary: Joe Manchin faces a left-flank challenge
Update: Joe Manchin is the projected winner.
Manchin, who is considered to be one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in the general election, is facing a primary challenge from progressive candidate Paula Jean Swearengin. Some West Virginia Democrats blame Manchin for supporting Gov. Jim Justice, who wound up switching parties after his election at a much-touted rally with President Trump.
“He pulled a fast one on everybody. That’s more the perception on the ground. It’s not a Manchin thing; it’s more of a Justice issue,” a Manchin-backing Democrat told Vox last month.
Manchin is expected to win handily, but a strong showing for Swearengin could indicate some weakness on his left flank.
West Virginia Third Congressional District primary: Richard Ojeda vies for Democratic nomination
Update: Richard Ojeda is the projected winner.
There is also at least one House primary worth watching, for the West Virginia Third Congressional District. Democratic state Sen. Richard Ojeda — a marquee supporter of the West Virginia teachers strike whom Politico dubbed “JFK with tattoos” — could grab the Democratic nomination.
This is Jenkins’s old seat. It leans heavily Republican, but there is some belief that an Ojeda nomination could put it within reach for Democrats.
Ohio Democratic governor’s primary: Richard Cordray vs. Dennis Kucinich
Update: Richard Cordray is the projected winner.
The Democratic contest could end up being equally eventful and represents something of a family feud within the left: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has taken one side, and a Bernie Sanders-aligned group is on the other. The two big names are Richard Cordray and Dennis Kucinich.
Cordray, then the state treasurer, was elected as Ohio attorney general in 2008 in a special election but lost in 2010 in his bid for a full term to Mike DeWine, a Republican who’s also currently running for governor. He later served as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created in the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, from 2012 to 2017.
Kucinich, on the other hand, is ... eclectic. The former Cleveland mayor represented the area for 16 years in Congress, becoming one of the House’s most prominent doves and a fierce critic of President George W. Bush and even President Obama for their military adventures. He has criticized Cordray during the campaign for not being sufficiently opposed to guns. The ex-Congress member has the support of Our Revolution, the grassroots group that grew out of Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign, even if the senator himself is staying out of the race.
Ohio Republican governor’s primary: Mike DeWine vs. Mary Taylor
Update: Mike DeWine is the projected winner.
Looming over the Republican primary is outgoing Gov. John Kasich, one of Trump’s biggest GOP critics, who is flirting with a 2020 presidential run. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the establishment favorite, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, positioning herself as the Trumpian insurgent, are both running away from him.
DeWine, a former US senator, has been treated as the most likely Kasich successor for a while now. He’s the one walking a tightrope on some issues: On Medicaid expansion, for example, which Kasich had pursued by circumventing the GOP-led legislature, DeWine has been hard to pin down, the Toledo Blade reported.
Taylor, meanwhile, has said flatly that she opposes the Medicaid expansion, even as it covered 300,000 of the poorest residents in a state with one of the nation’s worst opioid crises. That tracks with her general strategy of taking the hard-right stance and trying to shore up the Trump wing of the party by painting DeWine as a sellout.
Ohio Senate Republican primary: Jim Renacci vs. Mike Gibbons
Update: Jim Renacci is the projected winner.
Republicans will also pick a Senate candidate to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Rep. Jim Renacci has Trump’s endorsement, though Cleveland business executive Mike Gibbons is posing as a Trump replica and had a lot of money to spend on his campaign.
Whichever Republican emerges to challenge Brown, the stakes in Ohio are ginormous on several levels. First and foremost, if Democrats are to have any hope of taking over the Senate next year, Brown needs to keep his seat. Democrats are defending seats in 10 states that Trump won; Ohio is a big one, a step below the challenges the party will face in Indiana and Missouri.
On a more fundamental level, the Ohio Senate race will be an important test case of whether Democrats can still contend in the Midwestern, mostly white states that Obama won but that fell out from under the party in 2016, handing Trump an Electoral College win even as he lost the popular vote.
Ohio 12th Congressional District primary (and special election primary): Troy Balderson vs. Melanie Leneghan on the GOP side
Update: Troy Balderson is the projected winner.
Republicans are locked in a bitter primary over who should bear the party’s standard to replace Rep. Pat Tiberi in the Ohio 12th, with establishment Republicans entrenched on one side and the archconservative House Freedom Caucus on the other.
There will actually be two primaries held Tuesday night: one for the November general election and one for the August 7 special election. The candidates are almost identical, and the same nominee is likely to prevail in both. But it’s a strange quirk in Ohio electoral law to keep in mind.
For the general election:
For the special election on August 7:
Whoever emerges in the May 8 primary is likely looking at a more difficult race than one might otherwise expect in this district, which Tiberi had held since 2002 and carried with two-thirds of the vote in 2016. The Cook Political Report places the district as R+7 and rates the race as a toss-up.
Republicans in the state say that already shaky outlook could darken even more if conservative insurgent Melanie Leneghan prevails over Tiberi’s chosen successor, state Sen. Troy Balderson, in the primary on Tuesday. Veteran Air Force officer Tim Kane is also getting a big boost from an outside Super PAC that promotes veterans running for office, which is spending six figures on a TV spot backing him.
Democrats think they have a few viable candidates: Danny O’Connor, the Franklin County recorder who has the endorsement of former Gov. Ted Strickland and Rep. Tim Ryan and is raising the most money; Zach Scott, a former Franklin County sheriff with strong name recognition; and John Russell, a local farmer with ties to area progressive grassroots groups.
Ohio Seventh Congressional District Democratic primary: Ken Harbaugh looks to secure nomination
Update: Ken Harbaugh is the projected winner.
Ken Harbaugh, former president of Team Rubicon, the veterans group that does recovery work after natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey, was the first Democrat in Ohio to raise $1 million. He’ll be fighting Patrick Pikus, who has oddly been the subject of Republican mailers accusing him of being too liberal, for the nomination. Dems think it’s an effort to prop up Pikus at Harbaugh’s expense, given that the latter should be a much stronger general election contender in this district.
This district is R+12, and Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs won with 64 percent in 2016. Still, Democrats see an opening here as long as Harbaugh takes care of business in the Tuesday primary. He’s running a “Country Over Party” message for this red district. He could be the next Conor Lamb if things break right.
Ohio 10th Congressional District Democratic primary: Theresa Gasper is a former Republican-turned-Democrat
One Democratic candidate is a former Republican, Theresa Gasper. She has some key endorsements, like Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and is making the case that it’s the GOP that moved away from her. Her competitors are Michael Milisits, a union worker running on a populist Bernie Sanders platform, and Robert Klepinger, an area teacher who was the Democratic candidate in 2016 and lost to the Republican incumbent by more than 30 points.
The 10th is theoretically only an R+4 district, but Turner has been winning here with 65 percent of the vote the past few cycles. Cook did slide it over to merely Likely Republican, which suggests it could possibly be in play with a big enough wave. Gasper would have an interesting profile for the moderate district, as an ex-Republican who is catering to the people without a party. We’ll see if she makes it out of the primary.
Ohio 15th Congressional District Democratic primary: Rick Neal vs. Rob Jarvis
Update: Rick Neal is the projected winner.
Rick Neal, a former international aid worker who has never run for office before, and Rob Jarvis, a high school government teacher, are the Democratic candidates. Jarvis seems a little further to the left, endorsing Medicare-for-all while Neal talks about stabilizing Obamacare first. Neal gets credit from Washington Democrats for training his fire early and often on the incumbent Republican here.
This is an R+7 district where Republican Rep. Steve Stivers got two-thirds of the vote in 2016. Still, Cook qualifies it as merely Likely R instead of Solid R in this potentially wave-y year. A bonus of a competitive race here for Democrats: Stivers has a lot of money ($2.2 million on hand), so the more he has to spend on his own race, the less he can send elsewhere.
Ohio gerrymandering reform ballot initiative
Update: Ohio’s gerrymandering reform ballot initiative has passed.
Last but not least, Ohio voters have been asked to weigh in on a gerrymandering reform referendum.
This is the plan, as Vox’s Andrew Prokop reported:
So why would the Ohio Republican Party — which has controlled the governorship, dominates the state legislature, and drew the maps of its dreams in 2010 — sign on to a deal that could limit its power to gerrymander in the future?
The answer lies in the plan itself. Under it, the legislature would have to try to come up with a new map supported by a big bipartisan majority. If they fail, however, a one-party map could still pass — but it would now expire after four years, rather than the current 10.
Reformers see this as a clear improvement on the status quo, which gave the minority party little recourse. The Ohio GOP, though, sees it mostly as a way to preserve that status quo — fearing that if they didn’t cut a deal for here, a more radical measure could have gained support and passed through a separate ballot initiative.
Indiana Republican Senate primary: Todd Rokita vs. Luke Messer vs. Mike Braun
Update: Mike Braun is the projected winner.
This is a heated, and nasty, three-way race among three similar conservative white men: Todd Rokita, Luke Messer, and Mike Braun. It’s been a mudslinging race to out-Trump one another, but the president has stayed away from endorsing anyone.
Regardless of which Republican wins, he won’t come out unscathed. The primary has moved the Republicans far to the right and has been pretty much void of policy. Instead, negative ads and talking points started early, with biting attacks from all three candidates. It’s giving Donnelly some hope, but Indiana is still a strong Trump state (and Vice President Mike Pence’s home state) and one of the biggest opportunities for Republicans this year.
Indiana’s Second Congressional District Democratic primary: Mel Hall vs. Pat Hackett vs. Yatish Joshi
Update: Mel Hall is the projected winner.
A competitive Democratic primary has unfolded in Donnelly’s former House district. It’s a race to unseat Rep. Jackie Walorski, a three-term Republican Congress member in a district covering South Bend, the central-north region of the state. It’s an area that has turned increasingly red (Trump won the district by 23 points, and it was rated R+10 after a bout of Republican-led redistricting efforts in 2011) but has some Democratic roots.
Of the six Democrats vying for the chance to turn the district blue in November, three have stood out: Mel Hall, a pastor turned CEO of a health care survey company with a more moderate policy platform, who has the support of some national Democrats and is the establishment pick; Pat Hackett, an attorney with a specialty in health care, estate, and probate law, who is openly gay and running on a progressive message; and Yatish Joshi, a manufacturing businessman and Indian-born immigrant who is also running on a progressive message. Hall has raised the most money of the three, followed by Joshi, then Hackett.
The question before voters is which vision can better secure a win in a solidly red district.
Indiana’s Ninth Congressional District Democratic primary: Liz Watson vs. Dan Canon vs. Rob Chatlos
Update: Liz Watson is the projected winner.
Three Democrats are in this race: Liz Watson, a labor attorney and former adviser to congressional Democrats, who has raised the most in this race; Dan Canon, a prominent civil rights lawyer in Louisville (he helped win the Kentucky same-sex marriage case) based in New Albany, Indiana; and Rob Chatlos, an independent-running-as-a-Democrat truck driver, who is not raising money and has reported no contributions.
One of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s targets in 2018, this south-central district between Louisville and Indianapolis has flipped between Democratic and Republican control in recent history. It’s currently held by Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth III, a one-term Congress member and native Tennessean who moved to Indiana in September 2015 — a month before declaring his candidacy in the district.
Depending on who wins in this race, Democrats hope Hollingsworth’s short history in the region and the energy in their voter base this year could turn the district blue once more.
North Carolina’s Second Congressional District Democratic primary: Linda Coleman vs. Ken Romley
Update: Linda Coleman is the projected winner.
Two Democrats are running in what has become a competitive primary in North Carolina’s second district, encompassing Raleigh’s north and southeastern suburbs: Linda Coleman, a former state lawmaker, and Ken Romley, an entrepreneur in the technology sector.
They’re vying for the chance to oust incumbent Republican Rep. George Holding, a former prosecutor whose family owns First Citizens Bank & Trust and who has been in office since 2013. It’s a predominantly white district and has an R+7 estimated lean by Cook Political Report. But in 2016, Holding’s margin of victory was smaller than that of most incumbent Republicans in North Carolina, and weak approval ratings for Trump and an energized base have Democrats thinking they could flip the suburban district.
North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District Republican primary: Robert Pittenger vs. Mark Harris
Update: Mark Harris is the projected winner.
In this heavily suburban and gerrymandered district around Charlotte, incumbent Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger, a real estate investor who has served the district since 2013, is facing a serious primary challenge from Mark Harris, a former senior pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church and former president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention.
Harris, who was a leader in the successful 2012 push to pass a state constitutional amendment reaffirming North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban (which was rendered moot by the US Supreme Court decision), challenged Pittenger in 2016 and came close to beating him.
Update: Dan McCready is the projected Democratic winner.
There’s also a two-person Democratic primary. Dan McCready, a Marine Corps veteran and solar energy entrepreneur who has been compared to Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb, is the favorite to win. He’s running against Christian Cano, who calls himself a “20 year veteran of the Hospitality industry.” Cano made headlines after calling McCready a “coward” and a “pussy,” for which the state’s Democratic Party demanded he apologize. He did.
North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District Democratic primary: Kathy Manning seeks nomination to challenge Ted Budd
Update: Kathy Manning is the projected winner.
In another suburban district around Greensboro, Democrat Kathy Manning, a philanthropist, former immigration lawyer, and major Democratic donor, is the favorite to win the primary for one of the more competitive districts in North Carolina. She’s running on jobs and affordable health care and has already picked up an Emily’s List endorsement and the support of North Carolina Democratic lawmakers. Adam Coker, a small-business owner — a truck driver and cattle rancher — is also running, with endorsements from several state and local elected officials.
The incumbent is Republican Rep. Ted Budd, a first-term Congress member and former gun store owner who secured his seat in 2016 after winning a 17-way Republican primary. The area went for Trump pretty easily in 2016, but early on, the district’s rating went from Solid Republican to Likely Republican. There are 10 college campuses close by, and the district also has a significant African-American population. So far, Budd has had a lot of fundraising challenges and has some major national PACs behind him. Even so, Manning outraised him threefold over the first three months of 2018.