Menendezes and rematches: Takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries

Voters in Iowa, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico settled the House and Senate primaries on Tuesday. South Dakota also voted, but there was no contest from either party for the sole House seat.

In addition to nominating a senator’s son for a new term in his father’s old seat in the House of Representatives, voters also lined up for several November runoffs in battleground districts and chose nominees for open seats that almost certainly will appear in the next Congress.

Here are 10 takeaways from the races.

1. The senator’s indictment does not harm Rep. Menendez

In New Jersey’s 8th District, voters did not punish the son for the father’s alleged crimes.

Democratic Rep. Rob Menendez is on track to win a second term in his father’s old seat in the House of Representatives after defeating Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla in North Jersey’s deep blue district. Menendez had less than 54 percent of the vote when The Associated Press called the race at 9:19 p.m. Bhalla had 36 percent, and a third candidate, businessman Kyle Jasey, had almost 11 percent.

Menendez got a primary challenger months after his father, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, was indicted in a corruption case for which he is currently on trial in Manhattan federal court. The younger Menendez has not been charged with any crimes or linked to the alleged scheme to bribe the senator for his influence.

Rob Menendez, unlike his father, has retained much of his support among New Jersey Democrats. Although Bhalla was the largest fundraiser on May 15, outside groups stepped in and spent $1.8 million, 75 percent of which went to Menendez. That included the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC which spent $486,000 supporting his campaign, and another super PAC called BOLD America which spent $570,000 opposing Bhalla and supporting Menendez.

In November, Menendez will face Republican Anthony Valdes, who was unopposed in Tuesday’s Republican Party primary. The race is rated Solid Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

2. Downing to vie for Rosendale’s seat

In Montana’s open 2nd District, Republicans voted to appoint State Auditor Troy Downing from a field of nine candidates, including former Rep. Denny Rehberg.

Downing, who received President Donald Trump’s endorsement Monday night, received about 36 percent of the vote and Rehberg 17 percent, with an estimated 89 percent of the votes counted. The AP called the race at 11:27 PM Eastern Time.

Incumbent Rep. Matt Rosendale ultimately decided not to seek re-election after initially saying he would run for the Senate and then saying he would run again for the House of Representatives.

Downing will face former Democratic state lawmaker John Driscoll, who won 34 percent of the vote in a four-candidate race called at 1:55 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.

The race is rated Solid Republican, so the GOP nominee has a strong chance of winning the seat in November.

3. Bashaw faces Kim

Rep. Andy Kim officially secured the Democratic nomination for Menendez’s Senate seat in New Jersey, receiving 80 percent of the vote against two opponents when the AP called the race at 8:14 p.m.

“I took the opportunity to run for Senate eight months ago because I believed that people are tired of our broken politics and are ready for a new generation of leaders fighting for change,” said Kim, who is in his third term sits in the House of Representatives. said in a statement. “New Jersey has a choice: the chaos and corruption of Bob Menendez and Donald Trump, or the politics that work for families struggling to make ends meet.”

He will face hotelier Curtis Bashaw, who won the Republican primary despite Trump endorsing rival Christine Serrano Glassner, the mayor of Mendham. Bashaw had 56 percent of the vote to Glassner’s 28 percent when the AP called the race at 9:08 p.m. Two other candidates shared the rest of the votes.

Menendez did not run in the Senate primary as he battles corruption charges, but on Monday he filed to run in the November election as an independent.

Inside Elections rates the New Jersey Senate race as solidly Democratic. But Kim warned that Menendez’s independent run could be a spoiler and give Republicans a chance to flip the seat. Yet Republicans have not made the Garden State part of their strategy to overthrow the Senate.

4. No surprises in Montana’s key Senate race

In Montana, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and his leading Republican opponent, Tim Sheehy, quickly dismissed their primary opponents on Tuesday and kept their focus on the general election.

Tester, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents, fended off a challenge from Navy veteran Michael Hummert, while Sheehy defeated former Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson and environmental contractor Charles Walking Child in the Republican primary.

Tester has already amassed one of the largest campaign war chests of any incumbent Democratic candidate: He had about $11.8 million on hand as of May 15, far more than Sheehy’s $2.2 million.

But Sheehy is a top Republican Party recruit, and Republicans are hopeful that the businessman and former Navy Seal can use his personal wealth to dethrone Tester, who was first elected in 2006. Trump won the state by more than 16 points in 2020.

The battleground race, which will help determine which party controls the Senate, is rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections.

5. An ex-senator’s daughter will try to flip the Senate seat

Neither party’s candidate for Senate in New Mexico — Democratic incumbent Martin Heinrich and Republican challenger Nella Domenici — faced a primary challenge.

The race is rated Solid Democratic and Biden won the state by nearly 11 points in 2020.

But the GOP hopes Domenici — the former chief financial officer of the world’s largest hedge fund and daughter of Pete Domenici, New Mexico’s last Republican senator — will make the contest competitive.

6. Conaway supported Kim’s chair

Herb Conaway Jr., a member of the New Jersey Assembly, defeated fellow Assembly member Carol Murphy in the Democratic primary for the 3rd District seat left vacant by Kim’s Senate run.

Conaway had 48 percent of the vote, compared to Murphy’s 26 percent when the AP called the race at 9:22 p.m. Three other candidates shared the rest of the votes.

Conaway was endorsed by outside groups including VoteVets, New Politics and Moms Demand Action, which spent $570,000 to support his campaign, according to FEC filings.

Conaway will face Republican winner Rajesh Mohan, who won a four-way primary with 39 percent of the vote. That race was called at 10:28 p.m

Kim rejected a Republican-held seat when he was first elected in 2018, but the district became more Democratic when the state map was redrawn after the 2020 census. Inside Elections rates the November race as Solid Democratic.

7. Kean and Nunn face races rated Tilt Republican

Matchups were scheduled for races in New Jersey’s 7th District and Iowa’s 3rd District, which are high on both parties’ list of key battlegrounds this year.

In New Jersey, the expected race is between Republican Rep. Thomas H. Kean Jr. and Democrat Sue Altman now official.

Kean easily won his primary against Roger Bacon on Tuesday. He had 74 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 8:15 p.m. Altman was unopposed.

Rated by Tilt Republican, the 7th District will have the most competitive House race in the state this fall and could be one of the most watched races nationally. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with House GOP leaders, has already spent $85,000 supporting Kean and opposing Altman.

Kean, the son of a former governor who remains popular, flipped the seat in 2022. Altman led the state’s Working Families Party, a progressive group that pressured Democrats who control the state government, before resigning to run to present to Congress.

In Iowa’s Third District, Lanon Baccam, the son of Laotian refugees who served in the Iowa National Guard, easily won his primary Tuesday and will face freshman Republican Rep. Zach Nunn.

Baccam defeated business owner Melissa Vine with 85 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 9:13 p.m. Eastern time, shortly after the polls closed.

The district is also rated Tilt Republican, and Trump won there by about half a percentage point in 2020.

Altman and Baccam are part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program, which provides challengers with access to additional resources and training.

“This could once again be one of the closest races in the country, and there is no better candidate than Lanon Baccam to flip this seat,” DCCC President Suzan DeBene said in a statement.

8. Iowa rematch set

In Iowa’s First District, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks handily rejected a primary challenge from fellow Republican David Pautsch, an advertising executive whose son, an Army corporal, was killed in Iraq in 2009.

Miller-Meeks, who was first elected in 2020 when she won by just six votes, won the renomination by 12 points, although early returns had pointed to a closer race against advertising company owner Pautch.

Miller-Meeks’ nomination sets the stage for another showdown in November with Democratic former state Rep. Christina Bohannan, who had no primary. Miller-Meeks defeated Bohannan by almost 7 points in 2022.

Miller-Meeks and Bohannan each had about $1.8 million on hand as of mid-May. The race is rated Lean Republican by Inside Elections, and Trump won the district by 2 points in 2020.

9. Montana Rematch Set

In Montana’s 1st District, Rep. Ryan Zinke handily defeated fellow Republican Mary Todd, capturing 75 percent of the vote in a race the AP called at 10:39 p.m. Eastern Time.

Zinke will again face Democrat Monica Tranel, a lawyer who competed twice in the Olympics as a member of the U.S. women’s rowing team. Tranel, who had no primary, lost to Zinke by about 3 points in 2022.

Tranel had about $1.5 million on hand as of mid-May; Zinke had $2.5 million.

Inside Elections rates the race Lean Republican. Trump won the 1st District, which covers part of western Montana from Kalispell to Bozeman, by 8 percentage points in 2020.

10. New Mexico Rematch Set

Neither candidate faced a primary challenge in the upcoming rematch in a battleground in southern New Mexico. Democratic Rep. Gabe Vasquez will again face Republican former Rep. Yvette Herrell for the right to represent the state’s Second District.

In 2022, Vasquez ousted Herrell by 1,350 votes, or less than 1 percentage point. Both parties are expected to devote significant resources to the race, which is rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections.

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