Key takeaways from the June 7 primaries
The races featured some of the midterm cycle's most endangered incumbents.
As another slate of states hold their primary elections, most Americans remain critical of President Joe Biden’s handling of the inflation-plagued economy. According to a new ABC News / IPSOS poll, more than 8 in 10 Americans say that the economy is either an extremely or very important issue in determining how they will vote, a motivator likely to be reflected in which candidates advance to the general in tonight’s key races.
Here are the key takeaways from the races in New Jersey, Iowa and California, which featured some of the midterm cycle’s most endangered incumbents across the political spectrum:
San Francisco district attorney defeated in recall
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin lost his job after a nail-biter of a recall race. With 68% of the expected vote in, 60% supported his ousting. Now, the mayor will name a replacement who will serve in the role until November 2023, the end of the term. Supporters of Boudin’s recall who pushed for this change as the rate of hate crimes against Asian-Americans spiked in 2021 raised over $7 million for their efforts. They painted Boudin as soft-on-crime -- an accusation that clearly resonated.
Boudin’s recall is not only bad news for progressives -- it’s also a referendum on liberal prosecutors across the country who face constituencies incised at rising levels of crime in their communities.
Iowa Democrats' unsure future
The Iowa Democratic establishment is on the rocks. In one of the primary night’s stunning upsets, former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer decisively lost to retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Michael Franken. Finkenauer was painted by Washington as a rising party star, despite her reflection loss in 2020, garnering high-profile endorsements from groups like EMILY’s List. While she out fundraised Franken by a little over $1 million, voters may have been shaken by attempts from Republicans to challenge her candidacy eligibility. Franken continues on to attempt to unseat 88-year-old Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
“I am forever grateful, and I will never stop fighting for the Iowa that I love,” Finkenauer said in her concession statement.
Any attempt from the left to knock Grassley off his perch will be unwieldy at best, as Grassley has both major institutional support from Washington as well as from voters in a state that continues to trend Republican.
Democrats will leap another hurdle with the House race of Rep. Cindy Axne, who faces tough re-election odds thanks to newly redrawn boundaries of her 3rd congressional district. Thanks to redistricting Axne’s district saw an influx of more than 5,000 Republican voters, mostly rural, that are likely to be disdainful of her voting record and relationship with Biden.
Axne is a top target of the NRCC and is now forced to combat million dollars in spending on opposition ads. The Cook Political Report has Axne’s race in the general as one of 23 Democratic toss-ups.
She’ll face off with Republican former Iowa state Sen. Zach Nunn in November.
A showdown in the suburbs
New Jersey Democrat Tom Malinowski wins his primary but will have a harder time in the general election after the latest redistricting left him in the one vulnerable district when state leaders opted to draw 11 safely partisan other seats. Here, Republicans get an attempt banking to recapture the suburbs that they lost in 2018, which evidently lost them control of the House.
Malinowski, who represents Jersey’s 7th congressional district, told ABC News he thought such redistricting -- which has played out to varying degrees in new districts nationwide, with varying levels of scrutiny and controversy -- was bad for democracy.
“We're the only ones who actually, by our votes and by our work, get to decide, get to make a difference in terms of which way the wind is blowing in America one way or another. And that is a burden. It means we have to work much harder. It's going to cost us a lot of money. But I think it's also a privilege,” Malinowski said.
The may-be speaker makes it through
The potential next Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, expectedly survived his primary in California's 23rd district, perhaps with small help from a Sunday endorsement from former President Donald Trump. In his statement, Trump said McCarthy was instrumental in holding Biden and current House speaker Nancy Pelosi “accountable for their catastrophic failures and dereliction of duty.” If the Red Wave the GOP is banking on holds, McCarthy is well positioned to campaign for the speakership, a gig he’s not publicly claimed – but rumored to be pining for.