(AP) — Ahead of the fall midterm elections, Democrats have contested primaries around the country that will help shape their general election matchups against Republicans this fall.
A look at some of the hot spots:
TEXAS: MARCH 6
Democrats have candidates running in every congressional district for the first time since the Republican wave of 1994. But there are contested primaries in every Republican-held House district that national Democrats are targeting.
A Houston-area congressional seat, now held by Republican John Culberson, pits national liberal groups against Democrats’ House campaign arm in Washington. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a memo blasting one candidate, Laura Moser, as a “Washington insider” and a carpetbagger. Moser, who has the backing of Our Revolution, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ political organization, is angling for a spot in an almost certain runoff. Since the national party’s move, some polls show her surging — just what DCCC leaders wanted to prevent.
Other Texas Democrats, including Moser’s opponents, say national players should stay out. “We can’t have national Democrats in here attacking our own candidates,” says Texas party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “That’s just dumb.”
ILLINOIS: MARCH 20
Rep. Dan Lipinski has never been popular among many party activists because of his opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He also voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Now he has primary opposition in the district that reaches from the edge of Chicago southwest into downstate Illinois. Marie Newman supports abortion rights and has endorsements from the women’s group Emily’s List, unions and other influential groups on the left. In a neighboring Chicago district, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is trying for another promotion after losing the 2015 mayor’s race against Rahm Emanuel. Sanders has campaign for Garcia, a Cook County commissioner.
Separately, Our Revolution, the offshoot of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, has endorsed a state senator, Daniel Biss, in a crowded gubernatorial primary. Democrats are trying to unseat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, one of several Republicans who claimed governor’s offices in Democratic-leaning states in 2014.
OHIO: MAY 8
Ohio voters have since the 1982 midterms elected governors from the party that lost the White House two years earlier. But they’ve got a long list of Democratic candidates. Former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich sets the left flank with his calls for universal health care. One establishment favorite is Richard Cordray, who ran the federal consumer protection agency launched under President Barack Obama. Party leaders are hoping for a strong contrast to a Republican primary that has been a race to right. Republican Gov. John Kasich is term limited.
GEORGIA: MAY 22
Georgia Democrats will nominate a woman for governor for the first time. Two former state lawmakers — Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans — aren’t that far apart ideologically, but they have obviously different campaign approaches that reflects the national party’s internal debate over identity and strategy.
Abrams, an African-American lawyer from Atlanta, says it’s a fool’s errand for Democrats to keep trying to win elections in Georgia by going after white voters who’ve abandoned Democrats in recent decades. The only path, she says, is to grow the Democratic base, concentrating on nonwhites, young voters and other liberal-leaning Georgians who haven’t been voting. Evans, a white attorney who lives in the Atlanta suburbs, says she can eat into Republican advantages in the suburbs and even small towns. Abrams has support from liberals nationally, including an Our Revolution endorsement. Evans is drawing key support from Georgia Democrats’ old guard, including former Gov. Roy Barnes.
CALIFORNIA: JUNE 5
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s re-election attempt has stirred passions in California, with rank-and-file party liberals assailing the 26-year incumbent as too moderate. The state Democratic Party last month endorsed her more liberal opponent, state Senate leader Kevin de Leon. Feinstein still holds a wide leads in polls, however, and should benefit from California’s so-called jungle primary system, which that places every candidate, regardless of party, on the same ballot. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election.
The senator’s name strength with independents and even moderate Republicans should ensure at least a runoff spot — though that could still set up a two-candidate battle with de Leon.
While the jungle primary format could benefit Feinstein, it’s not so clear cut for Democrats in several House races. Democrats are trying to flip a gaggle of Republican-held districts, particularly in southern California, where Reps. Darrell Issa and Ed Royce are retiring, while Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Mimi Walters, among others, must defend themselves in districts that President Donald Trump lost in 2016. The risk for Democrats is dividing their votes among so many candidates that a weaker Democrat manages to qualify for a runoff against a Republican. The worst-case scenario for Democrats is that two Republican candidates qualify for a runoff, shutting them out completely.