Wednesday, August 27, 2014

4 Thoughts on Yesterday's Primaries

With only one more primary to go, this is the penultimate of our long series on the 2014 primaries.  Like always, here are my thoughts coming out of last night's elections in Florida, Arizona, and Oklahoma.

Patrice Douglas (R-OK)
1. Republican Women Continue to have a Mixed Cycle

There is little doubt that Republican women have had a bit of a mixed cycle this year in terms of success at the ballot box.  Republicans currently have major candidates like Joni Ernst and Shelley Moore Capito looking more and more likely to join the Senate in January, but in the House the bag has been a bit more convoluted.  In Arizona last night, Republicans got two female challengers, one anticipated to win (Martha McSally was not a question mark in Arizona-2) and one that was less certain (Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers in Arizona-9 emerged victorious to run against Democratic Rep. Krysten Sinema).  Both of these seats are going to be tough races in November and both women could win, though neither is a lock for the Republicans and could stay with Democrats.

In the one open primary seat that was a certain win for the Republicans, the female candidate got clobbered.  In Oklahoma's open fifth district, the Republicans decidedly went against State Corporations Commissioner Patrice Douglas in favor of State Sen. Steve Russell.  This is indicative of a larger problem that the GOP has been having with vulnerable or open seats-female candidates are seen as great challengers in tossup or underdog elections, but when it comes to open seats that are certain locks for the Republicans (which make up the vast majority of their seats in the Congress), women cannot seem to find much success.  This is also true in the Senate, where women either didn’t run or didn’t win states like Georgia, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, but they are being leaned on heavily by the GOP in Obama-states like Iowa, Michigan, and Oregon.

2. The Florida GOP Didn't Have Another Cliff Stearns

Two years ago, one of the biggest upsets of the cycle happened when 12-term incumbent Rep. Cliff Stearns was blindsided in the primaries by now Rep. Ted Yoho.  This year, all incumbents won in Florida, and the preferred Republican candidates won in the two most competitive seats for the GOP.  Miami Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo will face vulnerable Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia in the 26th district and State Rep. Carl Domino will campaign against freshmen Rep. Patrick Murphy in the 18th.  The 26th was of particular note because former Rep. David Rivera was running such an unconventional campaign (he “dropped out” but was still on the ballot and stealthily campaigning), and I personally was curious to see if that would work considering his name recognition in the state.  Democrats have only one really competitive seat in the state in the second district, but Gwen Graham (daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham) wasn’t in a competitive primary and will now sail into the general election.

State Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)
3. Emily List has Another Rough Night

As I mentioned above, the Republicans have had a pretty mixed bag this year with recruitment and victories for female candidates, but Democratic women haven't been universally victorious either.  Democrats of course generally run more female candidates, and that is definitely the case again this year, but in competitive primaries Emily's List has not done particularly well this cycle (they have a host of candidates in the general elections that they will campaign for, likely including recent Montana Senate candidate Amanda Curtis, who will surely get an endorsement).

Following tough losses in Pennsylvania and Hawaii earlier this year came another big loss for Emily's List with County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox losing her primary to State Rep. Ruben Gallego.  Like Douglas above, this was a safe seat and not a question mark for the incumbent party, so Gallego will surely win the general election.  Emily's List of course has a number of major races in November across almost every level of government (Democrats have nominated a lot of women), but they will likely be doing soul-searching in their primaries after this year, as it's been a rougher road than in the past.  They have one last major primary left in Rhode Island for governor, where their backed candidate (State Treasurer Gina Raimondo) is in a tight threeway race with Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Clay Pell, grandson of former Sen. Claiborne Pell.

4. Democrats Get Their Opening in Arizona

The Tea Party scored a late-in-the-year victory in Arizona, where State Treasurer Doug Ducey emerged victorious from a very contested primary, beating incumbent Jan Brewer's preferred candidate.  While Ducey goes into the race the favorite, he hasn't polled particularly well against Democrat Fred Duval, former Chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents.  Considering that Democrats have been doing oddly well in red state gubernatorial races this year (see also Kansas), this isn't a far-fetched race and if the polls continue to be marginal, may be revisited by the DNC and DGA.

And those are all of my thoughts.  In a few weeks we finish off the primaries, but in the meantime-what did you think of last night's elections?  Any surprises that left you stymied?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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