Primary elections swept California and six other states on Tuesday, further affecting Democrats and Republicans identities in the midterms, as Republican candidates — some of whom have bucked Trump — try to fend off right-wing rivals, as liberal contestants believe with a backlash. Their party’s policies and messages about public safety and growing concerns about an increase in violent crime.
From the Deep South to the West Mountain, voters will select candidates in municipal, congressional and state contests with some significant implications in the November midterm elections. Their choices will provide clues about the direction of both parties in the run-up to the elections in which Republicans are expected to make gains across the country.
Many of Tuesday’s primaries — in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota — will not be competitive. But some have been raging and sending signals about battle lines this fall.
GOP strategists have criticized Democrats for high costs and violent crime, telling voters their opponents are guilty of trends that worsened as they viewed the ruling party in many major cities, as well as in Congress and the White House. Tuesday’s vote poses a new test for Democrats regarding crime, an issue they are struggling to deal with. Even in left-leaning areas, voters are indicating their appetite for a new direction.
“Democrats, for some reason, tend to spend a little bit longer than their Republican counterparts waking up to political realities,” said John Reinsch, a Democratic strategist. He said that if San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Bowden is called up decisively, and if businessman Rick Caruso does well in the main race in Los Angeles, “that’s going to shake a lot of people.”
Bowden rose to national prominence in 2019 as a “progressive prosecutor” promising to fight mass incarceration. Now it’s the epicenter of outrage over rising crime during the pandemic, as Democrats toughen their language on crime across the country and Republicans continue to draw attention to some of the far left’s calls to “defund the police.” President Biden and other party leaders have tried hard to distance themselves from the idea, urging more police funding along with other proposals to improve public safety.
Supporters of the main opponent of Bowden and Caruso, MP. Karen Bass (D-CA), says these more liberal candidates offer subtle solutions about public safety rather than sound bites. Bass, a well-known lawmaker with a history of community organizing, stresses social interventions to prevent crime and says different neighborhoods want different things from the police. Her campaign website declares: “We’ve tried stopping our way out of the problem before – it just didn’t work.”
“Karen Bass recognizes that you need to move beyond tough talk and be smart and thorough about how you approach these complex issues,” former Los Angeles Major Antonio Villaraigosa, who endorsed Bass, said in an interview Monday. “Poverty. A mental health crisis. The gun violence we see in our cities. You don’t solve these problems with a magic wand.”
But Bass may be in a long, hard race against Caruso, the real estate developer and former head of the city’s police commission. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, as some polls have suggested it might in the crowded race, the top two candidates will advance to the showdown in November.
Caruso has spent tens of millions of his own money promoting himself as a candidate for change who will stand up to crime and homelessness. He became a Democrat this year, switching from “no party preference,” but sought to signal that he wouldn’t be a model member of his new party.
Some analysts say Caruso’s best chance of winning the mayoral race may be Tuesday’s primary. They said the expected high turnout in the run-off may likely help Bass.
Bass’ campaign sought to point out that Caruso was underperforming despite the massive spending. “It should be 20 points higher than us because of the spending differential,” said Bass campaign spokeswoman Anna Bahr, attributing Caruso’s success in part to his deep pockets and his name as a mall developer.
Peter Ragon, Caruso’s campaign adviser, responded in an interview Monday that previous campaigns in California had shown that “money without a message is not very effective.” Former Assistant to the Governor of California. Gavin Newsom (D) argued that Caruso “emphasized public safety and the way of the people They feel their general safety more than other candidates.”
Bowden, from now on, appears to be in danger of recall. An attempt is also being made to impeach Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon (Dim).
Mike Trujillo, a Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist, said that if takeovers work in such Democratic strongholds, “then you have to make strong, hard assessments that in swing counties and swing states, things are in a much more difficult place.”
The Republicans were navigating their own challenges.
In Orange County, the PAC supercommittee dedicated to maintaining a Republican majority in the House of Representatives sought to strengthen the incumbent. Young Kim (R) takes on a challenge to her oath from retired fighter pilot Greg Raths. In California, the top two vote-getters moved out of the primaries regardless of their party affiliation, and Democrats said they see the National Republicans’ spending of money attacking Rath as a sign of nervousness that Kim may not advance.
“Whichever Republicans manage to win the primaries will have to explain their extreme positions and out-of-touch records to swing voters on the battlefield,” said Helen Calla, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Matt Gorman, a former communications director for the Republican Congressional National Committee, said the outside assistance shows Kim is well thought out among House Republicans. “Keeping her in Congress is a big, big priority,” he said optimistically about her chances. Republicans are expected to take control of the House of Representatives and hope to regain a majority in the Senate as well.
A similar test of Republican preferences is unfolding in the state with Rep. David J. Valadao, one of the 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Trump last year. Trump has not endorsed any challenger to Valadao, unlike other races in which he has recruited candidates and sought to sanction officials who helped certify the 2020 presidential election. But Chris Mattis, Valadao’s Republican opponent, is still campaigning over the incumbent’s break with Trump.
“I will do everything in my power to defeat Congressman David Valadao who voted to impeach President Donald Trump!” It reads a prominent quote on the Mathys campaign website.
Elsewhere on the California ballot, Newsom is expected to qualify for the victory after she overcame an impeachment bid last year.
Iowa’s Kim Reynolds (right) has no opposition in its primaries and has Trump’s support. On the other hand, Democrat Deidre DeJear, a small business owner and voting rights activist, also has no primary competition. DeJear will be the first black female governor of Iowa if she wins in November. Reynolds will start as the preferred candidate, according to nonpartisan analysts.
In South Dakota, the Republican primary poll gave a significant advantage to the incumbent governor. Kristi Noem, potential 2024 presidential candidate.
One of the top Republican recruits in the US House of Representatives, Gorman said, is New Jersey’s Tom Keane, who narrowly lost to Representative. Tom Malinowski (D) is in 2020 and now faces the primary challengers on the right as he pursues rematch. “I think he can get through this primaries, and if he does that he has a good chance of winning” in November, Gorman said.
Some incumbents face scrutiny after ethical investigations. Ryan Zinke, who served as Secretary of the Interior during the Trump administration, is seeking the Republican nomination for Montana’s new House seat. The Justice Department declined to file charges this year after a government watchdog found Zinke violated federal rules.
In Mississippi’s Fourth District, Republican Rep. Stephen M. Palazzo is facing a slew of rivals a year after the Congressional Ethics Office found “fundamental reason to believe” it missed campaign money.
Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.