Georgia, Oregon, Idaho and Kentucky primaries 2024: Willis, McAfee win; tough night for progressives

Abortion didn’t help liberals flip a Georgia Supreme Court seat.

On May 21, voters in Georgia, Idaho, Oregon, Kentucky and California held key elections for Congress and nationally watched local races. Two key figures from one of Trump’s legal cases, Fani Willis and Scott McAfee, easily won their races, while conservatives won a Georgia Supreme Court election fought largely over abortion. In the House, progressives lost two key races in Oregon, while California voters picked a successor to Kevin McCarthy.

As usual, 538 reporters and contributors broke down the election results as they came in with live updates, analysis and commentary. Read our full live blog below.

That’s a wrap!

With all of tonight's key races now projected, it's time for us to hit the hay. Here's a recap of who won today:

- Despite trying to ride the wave of voter activation over abortion, former Democratic Rep. John Barrow failed to unseat Republican-appointed Justice Andrew Pinson in the only contested race for Georgia Supreme Court today.

- Challenges to a pair of major figures in Trump's Georgia election-interference case also went nowhere. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis easily won her Democratic primary, and Judge Scott McAfee won his judicial election against a self-described "conservative Democrat."

- The Republican primary in Georgia's 3rd District is going to a June 18 runoff between longtime Trump staffer Brian Jack and former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan.

- In Georgia's 13th District, incumbent Rep. David Scott prevailed over his six challengers to win his Democratic primary and will go on to seek reelection in November. Scott's challengers tried to focus on his age and health as an issue, echoing criticisms facing the Democrats and President Joe Biden in November, but incumbency proved too powerful an advantage.

- Out west, the DCCC got their candidate in Oregon's 5th District, as state Rep. Janelle Bynum easily dispatched attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who lost in 2022 in this seat against Republican Rep Lori Chavez-DeRemer. Bynum will face off against Chavez-DeRemer this November.

- In Oregon's 3rd District, state Rep. Maxine Dexter benefited from a plethora of outside spending to defeat former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal in the Democratic primary, all-but-ensuring that Dexter will be this dark-blue seat's next representative.

- Republican Mike Erickson will get a third shot at winning a House seat as he cruised to victory in the GOP primary for Oregon's 6th District. At times, Erickson seems more focused on winning a defamation case against Rep. Andrea Salinas regarding an ad she aired last cycle against him than he does on beating her in an election.

- In Idaho's 2nd District, incumbent Republican Mike Simpson is poised to win his primary and likely reelection this fall. With more than 60 percent of the votes counted, he leads his closest challenger, investment adviser Scott Cleveland, 57 percent to 34 percent. (Scott Cleveland is a great quarterback name, now that this politics thing doesn't seem to be working out.)

- In the special election in California's 20th District (former Speaker Kevin McCarthy's old seat), Assemblyman Vince Fong defeated fellow Republican Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. As a result, Speaker Mike Johnson will soon get an extra vote in the House.

—Monica Potts, Nathaniel Rakich, Kaleigh Rogers and Geoffrey Skelley, 538; Jacob Rubashkin, Inside Elections

Simpson prevails in Idaho

The AP is now projecting that Simpson has won the Republican nomination in Idaho's 2nd District. The story of Simpson's career is that he has been moderate enough to arouse significant discontent in primaries, but not enough discontent to make him lose. This time around, he's pulling 57 percent of the vote.

—Nathaniel Rakich, 538

Anchorage, Alaska, has ousted its conservative mayor

This election actually happened last week, but the outcome just became official today: Suzanne LaFrance has defeated incumbent Dave Bronson in the election for mayor of Anchorage, Alaska. Bronson belonged to a right-wing faction of city politics, while LaFrance aligned herself with Democrats. LaFrance is also the first woman elected mayor of Anchorage.

—Nathaniel Rakich, 538

Greater Idaho grows?

Elsewhere in Oregon, Crook County is poised to become the 13th county to vote to secede from the state and join Idaho. These ballot initiatives are non-binding advisory votes, but a large swath of the sparsely-populated eastern part of the state has voted in favor of secession since 2020.

—Irena Li, 538

Major outside spending could tip the scales in Oregon’s 3rd District

Looking ahead to Oregon's results, the Portland-based 3rd District hosts one of the big contests of the night. Longtime Rep. Earl Blumenauer's retirement has left open this solidly blue seat, and three contenders with progressive brands are competing for the Democratic nomination: state Rep. Maxine Dexter, former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal and Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales. At first blush, Jayapal looked to be the front-runner, as she previously represented close to 30 percent of the 3rd District's overall population — far more than Dexter or Morales. She also sports ties to national progressives via her younger sister, Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Yet a late campaign cash bonanza may have turned the race on its head, to Dexter's benefit. Pre-primary financial reports through May 1 showed that Dexter had received a massive late boost to bring her campaign total to $919,000, ahead of Jayapal's $773,000 and Morales's $606,000. And from May 2 to May 19, Dexter reported $419,000 in major contributions, far more than her opponents' combined $150,000. Meanwhile, outside groups have spent more than $5 million either supporting Dexter or opposing Jayapal. The 314 Action Fund, a progressive group that supports candidates with science backgrounds, has doled out $2.2 million on ads promoting Dexter and a super PAC with unclear ties, Voters for Responsive Government, has spent $3.2 million on spots attacking Jayapal.

This surge of money has brooked controversy because it appears at least partly connected to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a bipartisan pro-Israel group opposed to progressive critics of Israel's military action in Gaza. While Dexter supports "a negotiated cease-fire" and Morales has called for aid to Gaza, Jayapal has emphasized her consistent and early calls for a cease-fire — so it would follow that groups like AIPAC would prefer that someone else wins. Tellingly, an analysis by Oregon Public Broadcasting found that a substantial portion of Dexter's last-minute donors have a history of giving to AIPAC, and some recently supported notable Republicans such as House Speaker Mike Johnson.

More controversially, The Intercept published reports in early May alleging that AIPAC funneled money to the 314 Action Fund to spend on Dexter's behalf, presumably because more direct intervention by AIPAC could backfire in a progressive-inclined district. The 314 Action Fund denied the allegations, and in the last pre-primary filing from the group on Monday evening, it turned out that a substantial chunk of the organization's recently raised cash came from billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and financier Rob Granieri. Either way, the money could prove to be a massive difference-maker for Dexter's campaign.

—Geoffrey Skelley, 538