The Primary Primer: 12 Races to Watch in Arizona, Florida, Vermont, and Oklahoma

Aug 26, 2014 4:00am
GTY Voting TG 140602 16x9 608 The Primary Primer: 12 Races to Watch in Arizona, Florida, Vermont, and Oklahoma

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WHO’S ON THE BALLOT? We are getting closer to the end of primary season and today we have four more states voting with ballots being cast in Arizona, Florida, Vermont, and run-offs in Oklahoma. It’s the second to last primary day we have left and it’s the day we will see Charlie Crist complete his political conversion, a former live-action vampire try to unseat an incumbent in always interesting Florida, a 14 for 14 race in Arizona will likely see a female fighter pilot battle for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords former seat, and much more. There’s also a gubernatorial race in that state, as well as Vermont, which even features a write-in candidate.

Here are 12 races to watch this primary day: 

FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: The Florida governor’s race is one of the most closely watched and tightest races this cycle, but before former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist can truly battle incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott, he needs to win the Democratic primary (now that he is a Democrat). WHY IT MATTERS: Crist is taking on former state senate Democratic leader Nan Rich from South Florida. Crist has completely ignored Rich, running his general election against Scott since the very beginning. Although there is little polling in the race, Crist is expected to beat Rich so why is this primary important? He needs to trounce her to prove Sunshine State Democrats are comfortable with his political metamorphosis. He will need them to throw out Scott, who is expected to out-raise Crist. No Democrat has won the governorship in the state since 1994 and Scott has the backing of former Gov. Jeb Bush. Rich is running as the “real Democrat” and has been reminding voters of the formerly conservative Crist and his earlier anti-abortion rights and anti-same sex marriage views, as well as anti-Obamacare statements. Crist has raised 10 times what Rich has and Rich has promised to back Crist if he is the victor today. Scott only has token primary opposition today and with polls showing Crist within striking distance the fight for Florida is on.

ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Arizona has an open governor’s race thanks to term limits and several Republicans are vying to try and succeed Gov. Jan Brewer. WHY IT MATTERS: All of the candidates have focused on border security and the race has now come between the top two candidates: the state’s treasurer and former chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery, Doug Ducey and Scott Smith, the former mayor of Mesa and a developer. Although he is seen as moderate on some issues, Smith received the coveted backing of Brewer. Brewer sees Smith as most likely to continue her legacy, including her controversial decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in the state. Ducey has the backing of pro-business GOP groups, as well as tea party favorites Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin. It’s a combination rarely seen this primary cycle. Koch Brothers-supported groups are also running ads against Smith. The other possible contenders are Christine Jones, a former executive at the internet company GoDaddy, who has partially self-funded her campaign; Ken Bennett, Arizona’s secretary of state; Andrew Thomas a former county attorney disbarred in 2012; and Frank Riggs, a former California congressman and long shot candidate. The winner will face Fred Duval, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, the group that runs the state’s three public universities.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR ARIZONA’S SECOND DISTRICT, An ABC News 14 for 14 Race from Alexandra Dukakis: If all goes as expected, retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally will be the Republican Party’s two-time nominee to challenge – and if she’s successful unseat – incumbent Rep. Ron Barber in Arizona’s second district. WHY IT MATTERS: An establishment favorite since her 2012 run for the seat – where she fell short by less than 2,500 votes – the former fighter pilot now has big guns like the Koch brothers and the NRCC pouring in cash to fuel her campaign like never before. Evidence suggests that her fellow rivals today, small business owner Shelley Kais and retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Chuck Wooten, the president and CEO of a consulting corporation, have failed to garner meaningful, viable votes from the district’s Republicans, and McSally is expected to clinch the seat with ease. This is one of the few toss-up races of the midterm cycle and one of the most closely watched. Barber previously worked as a top staffer to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who held the seat before the January 2011 shooting that wounded Giffords (and Barber), and killed six others. After Giffords decided to leave office, Barber replaced her in a special election in 2012.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR ARIZONA’S FIRST DISTRICT: Three Republicans are facing off to try and beat Democratic incumbent Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick: state Reps. Adam Kwasman, Andy Tobin and rancher Gary Kiehne. Tobin, the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, has the backing of the establishment GOP including the Chamber of Commerce and Mitt Romney. He may have recently hurt his campaign when he made a controversial and eyebrow raising comment, saying the most recent border crisis could lead to people infected with Ebola crossing the border. Kwasman has made his own mistakes, recently mistaking a bus of YMCA campers as undocumented children. This district is a tight one. Kirkpatrick won the seat in 2008, lost it in 2010, and won it back by just over 9,000 voters in 2012. Republicans do see Kirkpatrick as vulnerable, but whoever comes out the winner today will need help getting over those foot in mouth moments.

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR ARIZONA’S SEVENTH DISTRICT,  from Fusion’s Jordan Fabian:  A Phoenix-area congressional race hasn’t earned much attention nationally. But the contest for Arizona’s 7th Congressional District has become one of the most hotly contested and acrimonious campaigns of this midterm election season. WHY IT MATTERS: On Tuesday, voters will choose a replacement for Ed Pastor (D), the first Latino elected to Congress in Arizona. Pastor is retiring after two decades in Washington. His open seat is a prize for Democrats. It’s in a deep blue district and the winner of the Democratic primary is presumed to win the general election. Former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and ex-state Rep. Ruben Gallego are the front-runners in the four-candidate primary field. They’ve both tapped into the Latino community for support in a district where more than six in 10 residents are Hispanic. But a campaign that started with a positive tone has devolved into mudslinging, which could be a turnoff for many constituents. Gallego, 34, looked to young immigrant activists to run an energetic get-out-the-vote operation designed to spur first-time voters to support him. The mission wasn’t just to win a congressional seat this year, it was to awaken the Latino vote in Arizona. That’s an uphill battle in a district, and state, where Latinos vote in low numbers. But success could have national implications. Wilcox, 64, has stressed her deep ties to the district. She served on the Board of Supervisors for over 20 years and says she has the track record to best represent the district.  Wilcox has gone on the attack early and often against Gallego. Gallego’s campaign has struck a more positive tenor overall, but it hasn’t been afraid to go after Wilcox too. The negative tone of the campaign could take a toll on election day. The district had the fifth lowest turnout in the country in 2012 and Latino voters have an even lower propensity to cast ballots in midterm years. Read more from Fusion: http://fus.in/VNXGxM

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR FLORIDA’S 26TH DISTRICT: Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo is the front-runner in this primary to take on Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia in this Miami district. WHY IT MATTERS:  Curbelo has been backed by Mitt Romney who even came to Florida to campaign with him and he’s been named one of the 2014 GOP “young guns” by the National Republican Congressional Committee. But, this primary has taken a strange turn. In July, scandal-plagued former Rep. David Rivera suspended his campaign. He’s still under investigation for a campaign finance scandal in 2012, but, Rivera is still being mentioned in automated robo-calls to voters and even took up campaigning again, leading some to believe he’s still in the game or at the very least running a shadow campaign. Republicans would very much like to take this seat back and this will be a bitter battle to November.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY RUN-OFF FOR OKLAHOMA’S FIFTH DISTRICT: This is a GOP primary run-off, but the winner in this conservative district is the likely November victor as well. WHY IT MATTERS: Former state Sen. Steve Russell and state corporation commissioner Patrice Douglas are vying to replace GOP Rep. James Lankford who won the GOP primary for Senate in June. He will also likely go on to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn, who is retiring. In the initial June primary, Russell beat Douglas by less than 1,000 votes and since neither candidate reached the 50 percent required threshold they are facing off again today. Douglas has the backing of business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, while Russell, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army hopes his military background gives him a boost. He commanded the 2003 mission that captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq.  The winner will face either Tom Guild or state Sen. Al McAffrey who are facing off in their own Democratic run-off today.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR FLORIDA’S 18TH DISTRICT: Six Republicans are vying to take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy in this South Florida district. Murphy may have the edge of incumbency, but this will also be a November toss-up. WHY IT MATTERS: Former state Rep. Carl Domino is the front-runner in the GOP primary and the investment manager’s personal financial resources have helped him ascend to the top of the field. The other contenders are health care attorney, Beverly Hines; consultant for an investment management firm, Brian Lara; former Connecticut stat Rep. Alan Schlesinger; former police officer Nick Wukoson; and Calvin Turnquest, a former Tequesta Village Council member, a small community in Palm Beach County. With little polling, Domino may be favored, but there very well may be a surprise.

 

THE OTHERS:

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR ARIZONA’S NINTH DISTRICT: The GOP primary vying for the chance to face off against Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is between retired Air Force officer Wendy Rogers and investor and former professional football player, Andrew Walter. Sinema, the only member of Congress to openly identify as bisexual, is still likely to be re-elected in this Tempe area district. Rogers and Walter have gone after each other on immigration reform and Social Security, but neither are seen as strong enough to topple Sinema.

VERMONT GUBERNATORIAL REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: In this bright blue state, the Republican nominee for governor may not have much of a chance against two-term incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, but the race has still been an interesting one with the momentum now possibly with a write-in candidate. Shumlin has more money than any of his potential opponents, but he has also faced questions over the state’s health care exchange. Business owner Scott Milne has most of the party establishment backing and he’s up against retired marketer Steve Berry and Emily Peyton, who has run twice as an independent and admits she is not a Republican. The other candidate is Dan Feliciano, a Libertarian who is running write-in campaign in the Republican primary. Feliciano has gotten the backing of some high profile members of the GOP state party recently and his ads, which include name spelling, have given him somewhat more of a higher profile.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR FLORIDA’S THIRD DISTRICT: GOP incumbent and tea party favorite Ted Yoho is being challenged by attorney Jake Rush. The primary is expected to be low turn out so despite incumbency and Yoho’s fundraising lead this is a primary to watch in this conservative, rural district. Yoho has been backed by Sen. Rand Paul and tea party groups like FreedomWorks. Despite his conservative stances, Yoho has crossed party lines to work with Democrats and Rush has tried to run to the right of Yoho, who he says has lost his way since going to Washington, DC. Yoho, a large-animal veterinarian, has made several eyebrow raising comments while in Congress earning him some late night show mentions. Before the campaign, Rush was most well known for successfully representing a client in a “Stand Your Ground” case. But, during the campaign his past as a live-action role-playing vampire named Chazz Darling was disclosed. Photographs in vampire dress came to light as well, which is thought to have hurt his upstart campaign. the winner will face Democrat Marihelen Wheeler and  Howard Lawson, who lists no political affiliation, in November.

FLORIDA’S SECOND DISTRICT: There isn’t a competitive primary here, but Democrat Gwen Graham has a famous name in the Sunshine State and the attorney is the daughter of former governor, presidential candidate, and longtime Sen. Bob Graham. She’s trying to unseat tea party Republican incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland, who she has already out raised. She has featured her father in ads and on the campaign trail and painted herself as an independent voice for the northern Florida district. This is one of few toss-up House races this cycle and in a season that is likely to be favorable to Republicans, this is a race that looks like a Democrat could win.

ABC’s Noah Weiland contributed to this story. 

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