The Note: In biggest primary of the year, a crowded field as new candidates take root

June 6, 2018, 5:44 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The forest of the biggest primary night yet is a messy affair – filled with ethically challenged incumbents, fierce party infighting, and oh-so-much wasted money and lost energy.

But the new trees for Democrats tell a different set of stories – stories they hope power the party to a comeback this year.

In New Jersey, a former Navy pilot and prosecutor joins the swelling ranks of women seeking House seats. So does a New Mexico woman who would be the first female Native American serving in Congress.

The overflow of Democrats running in California could have done worse damage to party prospects, given the state's unusual method of winnowing candidates. And Iowa could be getting a new political star soon: 26-year-old Zach Wahls – whose "my two moms" speech went viral in 2011 – is now on the verge of capturing a state Senate seat in Iowa City.

"The resistance" went a long way toward defining itself in the eight states, representing nearly 20 percent of the American population, that voted Tuesday.

When the frustration with the process fades, an impressive lineup of Democrats reveals itself.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

One of the biggest questions of last night: could the traditional Republican enclave of Orange County, California (the birth place of President Richard Nixon and standard-bearer for President Ronald Reagan) really go blue in the era of President Donald Trump?

The country won't really know for six more months, but the campaigns revealed a lot about the state of politics today.

The leading Democrats in California's 48th Congressional District, which runs along the Pacific Ocean and has never been represented by a Democrat, seemed to concede that inspiring new blue voters would not be enough. They would need to appeal to the independents and frustrated Republicans to win too.

The top two Democrats prided themselves on the cross-party support they had received and tactically dodged questions about whether they would back their California colleague Nancy Pelosi for Speaker if they got to Washington and their party did in fact take the House.

PHOTO: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher arrives for the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on "An Insiders Look at the North Korean Regime," Nov. 1, 2017.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher arrives for the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on "An Insiders Look at the North Korean Regime," Nov. 1, 2017.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images, FILE

The incumbent in that race though, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, took a totally different approach.

Though Hillary Clinton beat President Trump in his district, though Republican registration has been down and though Democrat energy and spending has been up, Rohrabacher celebrated the news Tuesday night that he would advance to the general election by bashing what he called "left wing fanatics."

"Arrogant" and "elite" were other words he used for Democrats and the Democratic Party.

He seemed to make zero attempt to reach voters who did not align with him or the president at first blush. Though interestingly, that included other Republicans.

In some ways, similar to the Democrats, Rohrabacher described himself as beyond party. But for Rohrabacher, that did not mean he was moving towards the middle.

The TIP with Adam Kelsey

Upsets were largely absent from Tuesday's primaries, but for those watching closely – with an additional eye on the latest campaign finance reports – there was a surprise in New Jersey's 5th Congressional District where Republicans are attempting to steal back a seat in November, even as the rest of the Garden State trends blue.

Attorney John McCann (no, not John McCain), won the GOP primary in that district, defeating Steve Lonegan, whose name might also sound vaguely familiar to New Jersey residents, though for different reasons.

Lonegan, once the mayor of Bogota, has spent much of the past two decades running for various political offices unsuccessfully, culminating with the Republican nomination for Frank Lautenberg's senate seat in a 2013 special election that he ultimately lost to Cory Booker.

Despite Lonegan's historic trouble on the ballot, he attracted endorsements from Sens. Ran Paul, R-Ky. and Ted Cruz, R-Texas this cycle, raised over $1.4 million and spent nearly $900,000 of it.

Meanwhile, McCann, lacking the name recognition Lonegan accumulated from his various failed Senate, House and gubernatorial bids, took in only $186,000.

PHOTO: Rep. Josh Gottheimer participates in the House Financial Services Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress on Feb. 2, 2017.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer participates in the House Financial Services Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress on Feb. 2, 2017.

Despite the deficit, McCann prevailed by 6 percent Tuesday, and now turns his focus to Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer who, himself, upset former GOP Rep. Scott Garrett in 2016, even as the 5th went for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.

The odds for McCann in November may appear even longer however. Lonegan's war chest pales in comparison to the $3.8 million Gottheimer had on hand, as of mid-May.


  • President Trump participates in the signing ceremony for the VA Mission Act of 2018 in the Rose Garden at 12:15 p.m.
  • The president and First Lady Melania Trump visit FEMA Headquarters and attend the 2018 Hurricane Briefing at 2:00 p.m.
  • The president and first lady host the White House Iftar Dinner in the State Dining Room at 8:45 p.m.
  • Friends and family of the late Robert F. Kennedy hold a memorial event at Arlington Cemetery Amphitheater starting at 10:00 a.m. marking the 50-year anniversary of RFK's death.
  • The Federal Commission on School Safety will have a public "listening session" at the Education Department on Wednesday beginning at 9:30 a.m.
  • The Friends of the World War II Memorial hold a D-Day observance event at 11:00 a.m. at the World War II memorial to mark the 74th anniversary of the landing on the beaches of Normandy, France.

    "It wasn't my finest hour – but the important thing is, that was a very painful thing, 20 years ago, I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, to the American people." — Former President Clinton on CBS's Late Show with Stephen Colbert.


    Trump takes aim at Sessions for 'Russian Witch Hunt Hoax' in tweet. The tweet came early Tuesday morning, blasting Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation and saying that he would have "picked someone else." The president also lashed out at the Department of Justice Inspector General, asking if a report on the FBI's handling of the Clinton and Russia investigations was delayed because it was being "changed and made weaker." (Paola Chavez and Benjamin Siegel)

    Biggest primary night of 2018 yet offers clues, questions ahead of midterms. Some 85 congressional districts, five governorships and five U.S. Senate seats are up this cycle in the eight states that held primaries Tuesday in what was arguably the most consequential night of the 2018 election cycle thus far. Read up on the breakout stories from last night. (John Verhovek, Shushannah Walshe and Adam Kelsey)

    Primary elections held in California, 7 states across the country. Dive into ABC's play-by-play coverage of Tuesday's primary elections. (John Verhovek, Adam Kelsey and Shushannah Walshe)

    On 'sanctuary cities' issue, California's resistance to Trump facing local resistance. "It's obscene; it's ridiculous. We are going back to the Civil War era," said Mike Willoughby, a white, middle-aged lawyer in Costa Mesa, arguing that the state of California was defying federal authorities and crossing a line with its new law passed last year. Last month, Costa Mesa became the latest in a growing number of cities in Orange County to officially oppose the state's California Values Act, which expands protections for undocumented immigrants. (MaryAlice Parks)

    New Mexico candidate hopes to be first Native American congresswoman. Deb Haaland — a Native American woman running for Congress in New Mexico — has never seen anyone who looks like her in elected government. But if she wins in the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary election Tuesday, she might be able to change that, for herself and for Native American women across the country. (Cheyenne Haslett)

    Printing error omits 118,000 names from voting rosters in Los Angeles County. Residents left off the lists were given provisional ballots and assured that their votes would be counted at a later time, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's Office said. (Karma Allen)

    As a teen, Zach Wahls once spoke out for marriage equality. He could now become one of Iowa's youngest state lawmakers. Wahls won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday for Iowa State Senate District 37 at age 26. He first found his way into America's conscience in 2011 when a video of his passionate speech to Iowa lawmakers about his lesbian parents went viral. (Benjamin Siu)

    Mueller accuses Manafort of attempted witness tampering. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is seeking to revoke the bail of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, for allegedly tampering with witnesses in the year-long probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to a court filing Monday night. In February, within days of Mueller's filing a 32-count superseding indictment against Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman allegedly contacted two individuals who worked with him on a lobbying scheme to aid his Kremlin-backed Ukrainian clients. (John Santucci, Trish Turner and James Hill)

    Treasury Secretary urged Trump to exempt Canada from steel and aluminum tariffs: Sources. Steven Mnuchin presented the option to President Trump in a meeting of the administration's most senior economic policymakers, including director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Trade advisor Peter Navarro, trade representative Robert Lighthizer and chief of staff John Kelly. But not all of the advisers were in agreement. (Tara Palmeri)

    First lady Melania Trump set to break streak of no public events. First lady Melania Trump, who as of Tuesday has not attended a public event in 26 days, is set to join the president for a hurricane briefing at Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters on Wednesday, according to her office. The last time Mrs. Trump attended a public event was on May 10. (Jordyn Phelps)

    House edges closer to immigration debate after 2 more Democrats sign effort to force floor fight. Two holdout Texas Democrats – Reps. Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez – have announced they are signing a discharge petition to mandate a debate on immigration reform, leaving the appeal just three signatures short of the 218 it needs to force an immigration floor fight later this month. (John Parkinson)

    Trump holds 'Celebration of America' event in lieu of Eagles celebration. Re-igniting his feud with NFL players who have sought to protest police brutality toward African Americans, President Donald Trump appeared on the White House South Lawn Tuesday afternoon for less than seven minutes for a ‘Celebration of America,' intended as patriotic counter-programming to his abrupt decision to dis-invite the Philadelphia Eagles from their Super Bowl victory celebration. (Jordyn Phelps and Alexander Mallin)

    Rep. Keith Ellison running for Minnesota attorney general. "Today I am announcing my candidacy to be the People's Lawyer, and to protect and defend all Minnesotans as your next Attorney General," the Minnesota Democrat tweeted Tuesday. Ellison's decision comes a day after Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, made a last-minute bid for Minnesota governor. (Deena Zaru)

    'I got hot under the collar': Bill Clinton clarifies his comments about Lewinsky apology. "I think what was lost were the two points that I made, that are important to me: the suggestion was that I never apologized for what caused all the trouble for me 20 years ago," the former president said, referring to his interview on NBC's Today Show that aired Monday. "So first point is that I did…The second is that I support the #MeToo movement and I think it's long overdue and I have always tried to support it in the decisions and policies that I've advanced." (Meghan Keneally)

    Aide who dismissed McCain with 'he's dying' remark no longer at White House. Kelly Sadler, a White House communications aide who drew heavy criticism after making callous remarks about Sen. John McCain's health - leading critics, including some Republicans, to demand her firing - is no longer working in the West Wing, a spokesman confirmed Tuesday. (Alexander Mallin and Benjamin Siu)

    Tuesday's primaries "might be considered Super Tuesday for female candidates," writes Kate Zernike in the New York Times, with more women "on ballots for congressional and statewide executive offices than on any other single primary day in 2018—a total of 122 women."

    ABC News partner FiveThirtyEight had a live blog of their own Tuesday night. Dig into their real-time analysis.

    The Washington Post reports Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended separating immigrant parents and children: "We've got to get this message out." Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who admitted he was "disturbed" by the separations, pressed Sessions during a lengthy interview on Tuesday.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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