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Every June 26 primary election you should know about, briefly explained

Voters head to the polls in New York, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Maryland.

midterms 2018 Zac Freeland/Vox

The summer primary season continues on Tuesday, June 26, with voters in New York, Utah, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Colorado heading to the polls. South Carolina and Mississippi will also hold runoffs for races that were too close to definitively call earlier this year.

There’s a slew of important Democratic primaries to watch as the party keeps up the push for a “blue wave” this fall. In New York, Colorado, and Maryland, Democrats are eyeing several districts where they can potentially unseat Republican incumbents to regain the House majority. In an interesting twist for one of the New York districts, a former Republican Congress member, Michael Grimm, is trying to see if he can claw his way back to public office after eight months in jail.

Colorado, Oklahoma, and Maryland also have crowded primaries for their respective governor’s contests. Democratic Rep. Jared Polis is making his bid for the Colorado governorship, and Maryland and Oklahoma will also be weighing tight contests for governors’ mansions.

Mitt and Ann Romney pose for a photograph during the Strawberry Day Parade in Pleasant Grove, Utah, on June 23, 2018.
Rick Bowmer/AP

Speaking of governors: Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and 2012 presidential candidate, is likely to sail to the nomination for a Utah Senate seat against Republican state representative Mike Kennedy, who has proven to be a surprisingly stalwart competitor. Oklahoma will also consider a contentious ballot measure that could result in the Sooner State becoming the 30th state in the US to legalize medical marijuana.

Here is every June 26 primary election you need to know about, briefly explained.

New York

New York First Congressional District: Democrats could conceivably make Lee Zeldin feel the heat

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) during a news conference on May 22, 2018.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Who is the Republican? Incumbent Rep. Lee Zeldin, first elected in 2014. He was a state legislator before that. Voted in favor of Obamacare repeal but against the tax bill, which, in its rollback of deduction for state and local taxes, particularly hurt high-tax states like New York.

Who are the Democrats? It’s a crowded field, with five candidates, but there appear to be two who stand out from the rest. Kate Browning, who fled Ireland during The Troubles and used to be a school bus driver, is one of the top-two fundraisers on the Democratic side. But far and away, the money leader is business executive Perry Gershon, who has put at least $600,00 of his own money into the race. Scientist Elaine DiMasi, Bernie Sanders acolyte David Pechefsky and former county official Vivian Viloria-Fisher make up the rest of the field.

What’s the story? This district is rated Likely Republican and R+5 by Cook Political Report, meaning all else being equal it’s about 5 points more Republican than the rest of the country; this means it’s on the edge of competitiveness. But the district, taking up the Eastern half of Long Island, did narrowly vote for Barack Obama twice before backing Donald Trump by 12 points in 2016. It’s gonna be an expensive race for Democrats, but they hope there might be enough independent and moderate voters that, in an anti-Trump year, they can pull off an upset.

New York Second Congressional District: Democrats dig in on Rep. Peter King’s ties to Trump as they try to flip the district

President Trump talks with Rep. Peter King (R-NY) after addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Who are the Republicans? Thirteen-term Rep. Peter King was elected to Congress in the early 1990s and is aiming to keep his winning streak going this fall. King is known for siding with Trump on issues like border security and health care, but he’s got a track record of collaborating with Democrats as well.

Who are the Democrats? Suffolk County official DuWayne Gregory is back after losing to King pretty badly in the 2016 election. He’s touted his legislative experience while his competitor, consultant Liuba Shirley, has emphasized her grassroots activism.

Shirley made headlines in May when she gained FEC approval to use campaign funds for child care. She’s posted an impressive fundraising haul and gained the endorsements of Emily’s List, which helps elect Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights, and Bernie Sanders-aligned group Our Revolution.

What’s the story? The district, rated R+3 by Cook Political Report, has been named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) list of targets, amid strong Democratic performances in recent elections for local office.

Thus far, the Democratic candidates have slammed King’s ties with the president, as well as his role in advancing a tax bill that did not include local and state tax deductions. Despite the district’s conservative lean, active registered Democratic voters actually outnumber Republican ones.

New York 11th Congressional District: Dan Donovan versus Michael Grimm on the GOP side, heading into a competitive general election

Incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), center, listens to participants as he attends a property tax protest rally in the Staten Island, New York, on June 23, 2018.
Craig Ruttle/AP

Who are the Republicans? Incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan and former Congress member and convicted tax evader Michael “I’m gonna break you in half, like a boy” Grimm, the man Donovan replaced in 2016.

Grimm is attacking Donovan as a soft Republican because he voted against the tax bill and Obamacare repeal. He got the backing of Steve Bannon and Anthony Scaramucci, for whatever it’s worth. Grimm also bizarrely claimed Donovan told him he would seek a pardon for his opponent from Trump if Grimm dropped out of the race.

There is a lot going on here, and we do have one public poll that showed Grimm leading Donovan by 10 points, but Trump has sided with Donovan in the intra-party fight. This will be one of Tuesday’s most closely watched elections.

Who are the Democrats? Max Rose, a post-9/11 combat veteran in this Staten Island district, has earned the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” imprimatur, which means they’re pretty excited about him. He has also raised by far the most money, though at least one other candidate — union-backed, Medicare-for-all-endorsing Omar Vaid — has cracked six figures.

What’s the story? Cook thinks this R+3 district leans toward the Republicans, though that could certainly change if Grimm and his baggage earn the GOP nomination. The district narrowly supported John McCain over Obama in 2008, backed Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012, and then went for Trump by 10 points in 2016.

New York 14th Congressional District: Joe Crowley faces an unexpectedly spirited progressive challenge

House Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) campaigns in Queens, joined by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, on June 19, 2018.
David Weigel/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Who are the Democrats? Longtime Rep. Joe Crowley, a member of House Democratic leadership, appears to face a somewhat serious progressive primary challenge from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

She is attacking Crowley as corporate-funded while talking up her progressive bonafides through her support of Medicare-for-all and a jobs guarantee. Crowley was tsked by the New York Times editorial board recently for skipping a primary debate with his challenger.

Crowley is a 10-term incumbent and seems more worried about whether he can move up in Democratic leadership if his party retakes the House than his primary. It’s worth noting, given the enthusiasm for Ocasio-Cortez among some lefty groups and publications.

Who are the Republicans? Economics professor Anthony Pappas. He will not be the next Congress member from the New York 14th in this district that leans hard toward Democrats.

What’s the story? Because this is a D+29 district, according to Cook, it’s not going to be competitive in November.

New York 19th Congressional District: a crowded Democratic field to challenge vulnerable incumbent John Faso

Rep. John Faso (R-NY) leaves a House Republican Conference meeting on June 6, 2018.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Who is the Republican? Incumbent Rep. John Faso, first elected in 2016. He voted against the tax bill but for Obamacare repeal.

Who are the Democrats? There are a bunch of viable candidates. Antonio Delgado is an attorney and Rhodes scholar raising a lot of money. Pat Ryan is running on a gun control message. Business executive Brian Flynn is putting a lot of his own money in the race. Gareth Rhodes is a former Andrew Cuomo staffer with the Times’s endorsement. Minister Dave Clegg is a long-time community leader. You also have former diplomat and CIA officer Jeff Beals and Erin Collier, a former economist in the Obama administration and the only woman in this race. It’s really wide open.

What’s the story? Cook rates this race as R+2 and a toss-up, so it should be competitive no matter who emerges on the Democratic side. Obama carried it twice, then Trump won by 7 points in 2016. Expect Democrats to hammer Faso over health care, where they will portray him as one of the decisive votes after he helped move the House repeal bill out of the budget committee.

New York 21st Congressional District: a scuffle over progressive endorsements precedes a packed Democratic primary

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) administers the House oath of office to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill on January 3, 2017.
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Who are the Republicans? Incumbent Elise Stefanik — the youngest woman ever elected to the House — is pursuing a third term. Stefanik has come under fire for her votes in favor of repealing Obamacare but has recently distanced herself from some Trump policies, criticizing his administration’s approach to trade and his rhetoric toward women. She’s also called for embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to step down.

Who are the Democrats? A crowded field is vying to take on Stefanik, with former St. Lawrence County official Tedra Cobb boasting a fundraising edge. Cobb and former Bernie Sanders delegate Patrick Nelson were among the candidates scrapping over the support of progressive groups. At one point, it was unclear whether Nelson, who has been endorsed by Our Revolution’s local affiliate, or Cobb, who’s garnered the support of Indivisible, had secured the backing of the New York Progressive Action Network.

Former NBC television host Dylan Ratigan, former professor Emily Martz and small-business owner Katie Wilson are also on the docket.

What’s the story? Cook Political Report rates the district, which voted heavily for Trump, as R+4. Nevertheless, Democrats see it as a potential opportunity to snag a win as they seek a blue wave. Ahead of the election, Stefanik has endeavored to frame herself as an independent voice who’s focused on the economy.

New York 22nd Congressional District: Democrats are really excited about Anthony Brindisi’s chances against Claudia Tenney

President Trump signs an Executive Order, Identifying and Reducing Tax Regulatory Burdens, as Rep. Claudia Tenney R-NY), left, Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), center, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, look on at the Treasury Building on April 21, 2017.
Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Who is the Republican? Incumbent Rep. Claudia Tenney, first elected in 2016. She voted for both the tax bill and Obamacare repeal, making her unique among some of the vulnerable New York Republicans. Democrats would remind you that establishment Republicans didn’t want Tenney in the first place, having backed one of her primary opponents in 2016.

Who are the Democrats? State assembly member Anthony Brindisi, who is running unopposed in Tuesday’s primary. He has represented the area around Utica, the heart of the district, since 2011. Brindisi said he wouldn’t support Nancy Pelosi as House speaker and he has at times found himself at odds with Gov. Cuomo. Democrats hope that independent streak and his long roots in the district can work to his advantage in November.

What’s the story? This district is R+6, but Cook thinks it’s a toss-up. Brindisi is a strong candidate and Tenney may be an unusually weak incumbent. The district narrowly flipped from Obama in 2008 to Romney in 2012, but overwhelmingly backed Trump (by 16 points!) in 2016. So Democrats are putting their eggs in the strength of Brindisi’s candidacy. A poll in October and again in May showed the Democrat with a lead.

New York 23rd Congressional District: another historically Republican district Democrats are eyeing as part of their broader national strategy

House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) keeps a stack of books that document the current federal tax code and related regulations on his desk during the first markup of the proposed GOP tax reform legislation on November 6, 2017.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Who are the Republicans? Rep. Tom Reed has served in the House since 2010 and has a voting record pretty consistently in line with Trump’s policy priorities. Reed has fashioned himself as someone willing to reach across the aisle: He is the co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and has sought to promote a bipartisan approach to issues like immigration.

Who are the Democrats? Five candidates are jockeying for an opportunity to face Reed in November. They are former cardiologist Linda Andrei, retired Air Force Gen. Max Della Pia, small-business owner Ian Golden, former university administrator Tracy Mitrano and attorney Eddie Sundquist.

What’s the story? The R+6 Southern New York district is among the DCCC’s numerous New York targets. Reed has accrued a sizable war chest as he strives to stave off a challenger this fall. “There is a wave out there that I do see coming, and I think to deny that is an unwise position to take,” Reed told the Washington Post in April.

New York 24th Congressional District: John Katko awaits the winner of Juanita Perez Williams versus Dana Balter

Rep. John Katko (R-NY), center, chairman of the House Transportation Security Subcommittee, departs the House of Representatives on June 15, 2018.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Who is the Republican? Incumbent Rep. John Katko, first elected in 2014. He voted against Obamacare repeal but in favor of the tax bill.

Who are the Democrats? Another divisive Democratic race. Juanita Perez Williams has the support of the DCCC. She ran for mayor of Syracuse in 2017 but lost pretty handily to an independent candidate. Still, as retired Navy officer who grew up in a migrant community, the national Democrats like her profile. She is facing Dana Balter, who has the support of a few notable progressive groups and is running on Medicare-for-all.

What’s the story? This has classically been one of the nation’s top swing districts. Cook actually rates it as D+3 but Likely Republican — that may reflect Williams’s late entry into the race and Cook’s belief, apparently shared by national Democrats, that Balter would be a weak general election candidate. This is a district that voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and still supported Hillary Clinton over Trump by 3 points in 2016.


Colorado governor’s race: a bunch of candidates are vying to succeed Gov. John Hickenlooper

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper addresses a crowd of several hundred students as they protest against gun violence in front of the Colorado State Capitol on March 14, 2018.
Ross Taylor/Getty Images

Who are the Republicans? Colorado state treasurer Walker Stapleton, former state Rep. Victor Mitchell, former Mayor of Parker Greg Lopez and business executive Doug Robinson. Stapleton seems to be the frontrunner in the Republican primary, where the issues have mostly been focused on keeping taxes low and trying to prevent Democrats from enacting single-payer health care in the state. (There have been past attempts, but they’ve failed.)

Who are the Democrats? This is the field to watch, as Colorado tends to elect Democratic governors. Rep. Jared Polis, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, former state Sen. Michael Johnston and former state treasurer Cary Kennedy. Polis, a five-term Congress member, might be the most well-known nationally, but he’s facing a competitive field of well-known candidates in Colorado. Kennedy has a lot of grassroots support.

What’s the story? This is the first year that Colorado’s independent voters will be allowed to cast ballots in the Democratic and Republican primaries, which could make the contests more competitive than they’ve been in the past. The big issues in the primaries so far include education, gun control, and health care. Polis is proposing free pre-K and full-day public kindergarten for Colorado students; meanwhile, former state treasurer Kennedy has the backing of the Colorado Education Association teachers union.

Colorado Sixth Congressional District: Democrats face off to take on vulnerable House Republican Mike Coffman

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) leaves the House Republicans’ caucus meeting in the Capitol on immigration reforms on June 7, 2018.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Who are the Republicans? Rep. Mike Coffman, in office since 2009. Coffman has become a vocal Trump critic lately, in light of the administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating migrant families at the border. Coffman is conservative on health care and guns, but fairly moderate on immigration issues. (There’s a significant migrant population in CO-6.)

Who are the Democrats? Attorney and Army veteran Jason Crow and former Obama administration official Levi Tillemann. Crow has the backing of national Democrats, he’s been on the DCCC’s Red to Blue list for months. Tillemann made news a few months back by leaking a secretly recorded conversation he had with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in which Hoyer encouraged him to drop out of the race. A few months later, Tillemann had released a campaign ad in which he literally pepper-sprayed himself in the face to make a point about gun control measures.

What’s the story? This is one of the districts where Democrats see an opportunity to flip to blue this year because Hillary Clinton won it in 2016. Coffman has been around since 2009, but the state and district are both diversifying and turning more blue, so he’s vulnerable. Expect Democrats to go after Coffman’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and his donations from the NRA leading up to November. (CO-6 and the area around it have seen numerous mass shootings over the years.)


Maryland Governor’s race: a huge field of Democrats seeks to unseat popular incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (left) rides the Metro with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett (far right) and Metro chief Paul Wiedefeld, in Rockville, Maryland on April 25, 2018.
Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via AP

Who are the Republicans? Incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan, a popular moderate, will be on the defense this fall as he looks to pursue a second term. Hogan has managed to win over a heavily Democratic constituency during his tenure by distancing himself from Trump’s policies and taking a more centrist approach to a raft of issues including health care and gun control.

Who are the Democrats? They say eight’s a crowd. A wide range of Democratic candidates including a former Michelle Obama staffer, a former Hillary Clinton adviser, and a Maryland state senator are going head to head for the chance to topple Hogan.

Former NAACP president and venture capitalist Ben Jealous has garnered the backing of heavyweights like Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and has a slight lead, according to a recent poll. Rushern Baker, a Prince George’s County official, comes in a close second and has secured the backing of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

What’s the story? Fueled by anti-Trump sentiment, Democrats are angling to retake the governor’s mansion, spurring an outpouring of interest in the job from a broad set of candidates. Jealous and Baker, the top-two Democratic challengers, are seen as representing two very different approaches to the role. Jealous is perceived as a member of the more progressive wing of the party, while Baker is seen as closer to the Democratic establishment.

But even if Maryland’s Democratic voters far outnumber Republicans, they’ll have a tough fight this fall. Hogan’s high approval ratings will make him hard to beat.

Maryland First Congressional District: Democrats try to flip the state’s only red district in their quest for a “blue wave”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) approach a stage before holding a tax reform town hall in Chestertown, Md. on October 5, 2017.
Patrick Semansky/AP

Who are the Republicans? Four-term incumbent Andy Harris has comfortably sailed to reelection in previous cycles, but Democrats see his votes against the Affordable Care Act as potential ammunition that could be used against him. Security specialist Martin Elborn and former small-business owner Lamont Taylor are challenging Harris for the Republican slot.

Who are the Democrats? A half-dozen Democrats are competing to go up against Harris. They include former Army intelligence officer Jesse Colvin, who has raised a ton of money, small-business owner Allison Galbraith, and longtime Talbot County attorney Michael Pullen.

What’s the story? Despite the district’s firmly Republican leanings (Cook Political Report rates it as R+14), the DCCC named Harris’s seat as one of its targets earlier this year, hoping to promote another potential Democratic upset.

If Democrats are able to score a victory it would mark a major shift. The district, which contains all of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, voted for Trump by 29 percentage points in 2016. It would also mean knocking off the state’s only Republican Congress member.


Oklahoma governor’s race: Republicans run in the shadow of an unpopular term-limited incumbent

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her State of the State address in Oklahoma City as Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb listens on February 6, 2017.
Sue Ogrocki/AP

Who are the Republicans? Ten candidates are vying for the seat since current incumbent Mary Fallin is term-limited out. Frontrunners include Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Tulsa business executive Kevin Stitt. Lamb and Cornett have leaned into their government experience, while Stitt has sought to frame himself as an outsider who can bring a fresh perspective to the governor’s mansion.

Who are the Democrats? The field is a bit less crowded on the Democratic side, with former Oklahoma attorney general Drew Edmondson and former state Sen. Connie Johnson duking it out for the nomination. Edmondson, the scion of an Oklahoma political family, unsuccessfully ran for the job in 2010, but has held a steady lead this time around.

What’s the story? Fallin, Oklahoma’s current governor, is notoriously unpopular — and has been slammed for her botched oversight of the state budget, which resulted in significant cuts to public school funding. Some of this negative sentiment could follow Republicans like Lamb, who have ties to the current administration. Stitt, a millionaire who has used much of his own money to campaign for the seat, has styled himself as a disruptor who would upend how things have been done in the past.

Given the state’s historically conservative leanings (Cook Political Report rates the governor’s race as solid Republican), the position is ultimately expected to stay red. Because there are so many candidates in the running, there’s a high chance the race will head to a runoff.

State Question 788: Oklahoma voters weigh the legalization of medical marijuana — prompting questions of faith

Where are the supporters? Oklahomans for Health, a nonprofit that pushed for this ballot measure, argues that it gives patients, including those who suffer from chronic pain, more choice about their medical care. Additionally, advocates for the policy suggest that the legalization of medical marijuana will enable the state to develop more concrete regulations around its use.

Where are the opponents? Critics of the measure including Americans for Equal Liberty claim it does not put enough limitations on the kinds of qualifying conditions individuals need to have to obtain medical marijuana licenses. Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford (R), an ordained minister, has been among the religious leaders who have been very outspoken on the subject and questioned the measure’s morality, slamming it as a “recreational marijuana vote disguised as medical marijuana.”

“To have our communities more drug-addicted and distracted, that doesn’t help our families. It doesn’t make us more prosperous. It doesn’t make our schools more successful,” Lankford said. His argument is one that’s been used by many religious leaders, who say that the measure would simply be a slippery slope to the proliferation of recreational marijuana.

What’s the story? This measure is among the most controversial items on this year’s Oklahoma primary ballot, inciting debates about religion and drawing a high number of early voters. If voters decide in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, Oklahoma would become the 30th state to do so.

A May poll found that nearly 60 percent of voters back the measure. The Oklahoma State Department of Health has already started floating draft rules that offer guidelines for patients and businesses that would go into effect if this measure passes.


Utah Senate race: Mitt Romney is expected to make a triumphant return

Mitt and Ann Romney walk in the Strawberry Day Parade in Pleasant Grove, Utah, on June 23, 2018.
Rick Bowmer/AP

Who are the Republicans? Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee is running for Senate in Utah and he’s the expected favorite to win Tuesday. He’s facing off against state Rep. Mike Kennedy, a doctor who has been in the Utah House since 2013.

Who are the Democrats? Jenny Wilson, who is on the Salt Lake County Council. She’s a former congressional aide and Utah statehouse aide.

What’s the story? Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch all but appointed Romney to be his successor last year, saying he’d only retire if Romney said he’d run. Now, Romney looks set to easily take the Republican primary Tuesday, with polling showing him more than 40 points above Kennedy.

But it’s notable that Romney didn’t win the Republican Senate nomination outright. Utah has a weird system, where candidates are first voted on in a state party convention; Kennedy, who has tried to paint Romney as a Massachusetts “carpet-bagger,” actually beat out Romney in two rounds of voting among delegates at the Utah Republican Party’s state convention. Even so, Romney, a Mormon political leader, has deep ties to the state, and is “royalty” for many, Utah’s Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox told Vox.

Utah is a uniquely red state. It has both an anti-establishment streak that elected Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and strong establishment ties, which Hatch, and Romney, largely represent. The voters have no patience for Trump’s Twitter antics or “locker room talk” — there was even a slight decline in Mormons affiliating with the Republican Party during Trump’s nomination. But it’s still a solidly red state.

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