Primaries 2018: Can Grimm go from prison to Congress? Will Oklahoma OK pot? June 22, 2018
By Herb Jackson | USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Voters on Tuesday will decide if former Rep. Michael Grimm can make a run for his old seat after spending seven months in prison. Whether Mitt Romney can go from being a candidate for president to one for U.S. Senate. And even whether Okies can start toking.
Battles will also be settled between the establishment and activist wings of the Republican and Democratic parties as voters head to the polls for primaries in Colorado, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma and Utah, and for runoff elections in Missisippi and South Carolina.
Here are key races to watch in each state:
Republican Rep. Mike Coffman's seat in the 6th District, in which Hillary Clinton beat Trump by nearly 9 percentage points in 2016, is high on the Democrats' target list. But before they can take him on, they have to pick a challenger and that battle has gotten so heated it overflowed from Colorado into Washington.
Levi Tillemann, an inventor and former Energy Department adviser supported by the progressive group Our Revolution, sparked a mini-rebellion against Democratic leaders in the House when he released a secret recording in which House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland urged him to drop out of the race.
Hoyer said a decision had been made to back Jason Crow, an attorney and Iraq veteran who has been tapped by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "red to blue" program, and raised more than five times as much money as Tillemann.
There are also four candidates in each of the Democratic and Republican primaries for governor, an unusually large field of candidates for Colorado. Among them is Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, who is giving up his seat in the 2nd District.
To replace Polis, Republican Peter Yu has no primary but there there's a Democratic contest to succeed him that pits Joe Neguse, an elected member of the University of Colorado board of regents who also ran the state's consumer protection agency, against Mark Williams, a former Air Force pilot and founder of a training company that combines meditation skills "with the high-performance mindset of flying fighter jets."
Ballots for the election were mailed to voters, with registered members getting their respective party's ballot. Those who are not affiliated with either party received both ballots, but can only vote and return one. Ballots have to be returned by 7 p.m. MDT, and voters can search for drop-off locations online.
Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin faces eight challengers, including Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman and former U.S. Army private who was convicted of leaking more than 700,000 classified documents. There are also 11 Republicans on the ballot vying for the Republican Senate nomination.
But most attention in the state has been focused on the governor's race, where eight Democrats are vying to challenge incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who has maintained his popularity within his party — he has no primary challenger — even as he distanced himself from Trump, most recently by pulling the state's National Guard back from the Mexico border to protest the separation of families.
Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who served about seven years in federal prison for leaking government documents to Wikileaks, speaks at the C2 business conference Thursday, May 24, 2018, in Montreal. (Photo: Ryan Remiorz, AP)
On the Democratic side, polls in the primary have shown a tight contest between former NAACP executive director Ben Jealous and Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, who are both African American and have stirred suggestions Maryland could elect its first black governor. Also in the field is state Sen. Rich Madeleno, who aired a campaign ad showing him kissing his husband of 16 years before he says, "Take that, Trump."
Jealous has been endorsed by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey. Baker is backed by much of the Maryland party establishment, including Sen. Chris Van Hollen.
There are also primaries in both parties in the 6th District in western Maryland, where incumbent Democrat John Delaney will be giving up his seat to run for president.
Among the Democratic candidates is liquor store owner David Trone, who spent $13 million in a losing bid for the nomination in a different district in 2016 and had spent $9.5 million through June 6 this year. On the Republican side, former Pentagon official Amie Hober has the backing of a Super PAC affiliated with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Democrats also have a contest in the 1st District on the Eastern Shore, which the DCCC, the political arm of House Democrats, put on its list of targeted races even though Trump won there by 29 percentage points in 2016 and Republican incumbent Rep. Andy Harris is favored for re-election by handicappers.
Three candidates are are in the running, including Army veteran Jesse Colvin. Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College in Towson, said Colvin has been running as a moderate similar to Conor Lamb, who won a special election in Pennsylvania in March in a district where Trump won by 20 points.
Maryland's primaries are open only to people registered in the Democratic or Republican parties. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT.
Mississippi voters will decide two congressional primary runoffs on Tuesday.
Democrats state Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis and California-native venture capitalist Howard Sherman will face off for a U.S. Senate nomination to challenge incumbent Republican Roger Wicker.
Republicans Michael Guest, a district attorney, and business consultant Whit Hughes are vying for the open 3rd District U.S. House seat.
Sherman, 63, squeezed out the lead in the June 5 primary against Baria, Rep. Omeria Scott, D-Laurel, and three other long-shot candidates. Sherman received nearly 32 percent of the vote to Baria's 31 percent and Scott's 24 percent.
Howard Sherman, Democratic candidate for his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, and his wife, actress Sela Ward, pose with a couple of employees at Gloria's Family Restaurant in Jackson, Miss., during a campaign working lunch on June 5, 2018. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, AP)
The winner of the runoff will face Wicker in November.
Hollywood A-listers Robert De Niro and Alec Baldwin are among those who've hosted a fundraiser for Sherman, who is married to Meridian native and Emmy-award winning actress Sela Ward.
In a crowded field of six Republican candidates and relatively low voter turnout, neither Guest nor Hughes earned 50 percent of the vote in the June 6 GOP primary.
Michael Guest, left, and Whit Hughes (Photo: Special to Clarion Ledger)
Guest, 48, serves as district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties. He was elected to the position in 2008, after 12 years as an assistant district attorney. In addition to his position as DA, Guest is president of the Foundation for Rankin County Public Schools and serves on the board of the state and central Mississippi Crime Stoppers.
On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Bryant endorsed Guest, saying, "President Trump will make America great again, and Michael will be part of that team."
Hughes, 42, of Madison, was a member of one of Mississippi State University's standout basketball teams and served as former Gov. Haley Barbour's finance chairman in his 2003 gubernatorial campaign. He has since served as deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority, then created his own business and development consulting firm.
The seat is being vacated by longtime Republican Rep. Gregg Harper who is not seeking re-election. While Harper has not publicly endorsed Guest, he did donate to Guest's campaign. Many of Harper's top campaign aides also joined Guest's team.
Democrats will pick challengers to a handful of Republican House members who might be vulnerable in November, including Reps. Lee Zeldin, John Faso and John Katko, whose races could be bellwethers of whether a national wave is building. On the GOP side, the big question is whether Michael Grimm, who resigned his seat before pleading guilty to tax fraud and serving seven months in prison, can make a comeback.
Grimm is trying to take his seat back from Rep. Dan Donovan, a fellow Republican who was backed by Trump in a somewhat awkward tweet that said Donovan voted for the tax overhaul in December when he didn't.
Grimm has said his prosecution was politically motivated and questions Donovan's commitment to the president's priorities. He also recently attacked him for receiving a contribution from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said this week he would spend tens of millions of dollars to help Democrats take control of Congress.
Rep. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., arrives for a briefing on the GOP's far-reaching tax overhaul on Capitol Hill in Washington Nov. 2, 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)
Along with Trump, Donovan has the backing of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political arm of the House GOP caucus.
Democrats have a six-way primary to pick a challenger for Grimm or Donovan. And there are competitive primaries in a half-dozen other districts up and down the state.
In the Democratic primary to pick a challenger to Katko in the 24th District, for example, Syracuse University professor Dana Balter had the support of Democratic leaders in the district and activist groups including Indivisible and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and the group Our Revolution founded by backers of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. But Juanita Perez Williams, who lost the race for Syracuse mayor last year, was recruited by Washington Democratic leaders and is part of the “red to blue” program run by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Under New York's system, some candidates can run for the endorsement of multiple parties, meaning someone could lose a major-party primary and still run in November as the nominee of the Conservative Party or Working Families Party, for example.
New York has a closed primary, which means voters must be enrolled as a member of a party to participate. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT in New York City and the counties of Dutchess, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Erie, and open from noon to 9 p.m. Eastern in all other counties.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, right, greets Speaker of the Oklahoma House, T.W. Shannon, center, R-Lawton, as Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, left, looks on, before her State of the State address in Oklahoma City Feb. 4, 2013. (Photo: Sue Ogrocki, AP)
Oklahoma's biggest contest is the Republican primary for governor, and the unpopularity of Gov. Mary Fallin and the rivalry between Oklahoma City and Tulsa are factors that could lead to an election that only winnows the field and forces a runoff, said Bill Shepard, director of the Sooner Poll.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb's bid to move up is being dragged down by Fallin, who Shepard said is "one of the most unpopular governors in Oklahoma history in modern times." Lamb's chief challengers are former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and mortgage banker Kevin Stitt, who is running as a millionaire outsider in the mold of Trump, Shepard said.
Trump, whose approval is close to 80 percent among Republicans in the state, has not gotten involved, but Donald Trump Jr. came into the state to help Lamb in May.
Voters will also be asked if they want the state to legalize issuing licenses to use medicinal marijuana. People who claim to have a medical condition and do not have a license would be subject to a $400 fine if found with marijuana.
There are also contested Republican primaries in four of the state's five districts, one of which, the 1st District, has drawn the attention of the Club for Growth, a low-tax, small government group that has mounted challenges around the country to Republicans who were not seen as conservative enough.
The 1st District seat is open since Rep. Jim Bridenstine became director of NASA, and the Club for Growth is backing Iraq veteran Andy Coleman and running ads accusing competitor Kevin Hern, a McDonald's franchise millionaire, of not being a true conservative. Hern responded on Twitter with a video denouncing the club as a leader of the "never Trump" movement in 2016.
Shepard said there has been no public polling, but he assumes that Hern, who has spent more than $1 million already, has done some.
"Since he's not put out any polling publicly, you can assume it doesn't show him in the lead," Shepard said.
Oklahoma primaries are only open to registered Democrats or Republicans. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT.