Election News

Primary Tuesday: Senators in Alabama, Maine and Texas Draw Opponents; House Primaries and Runoffs

This week, there are congressional primaries in Maine and primary runoff elections in Alabama and Texas.  The largest share of attention is expected to fall on the U.S. Senate races; we've grouped those together in their own section below. In each case, the winner will challenge an incumbent in November. All three races - to varying degrees - are on the competitive radar in November.

Most of the polls across the three states close at 8:00 PM ET; check back for live results after that time.

Polls Close (Eastern Time)

Your individual polling place may have different hours. Do not rely on this schedule to determine when to vote. 

8:00 PM Alabama*, Maine, Texas (CT)
9:00 PM Texas (MT)

* A very small portion of the state along the Georgia border observes Eastern Time. Those polls close at 7:00 ET.


Results 

U.S. Senate Maine U.S. House Runoffs (AL & TX)

 

U.S. Senate

Alabama (Runoff): One of Donald Trump's earliest supporters, Former Sen. Jeff Sessions would like his old job back. Unfortunately for Sessions, the president is no longer a fan. As Attorney General, he recused himself from Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, earning the president's enmity. Sessions would be forced out in late 2018. 

Trump is actively supporting former Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville.  The runoff was necessitated when no candidate received 50% of the vote in the March 3 primary. Tuberville finished first with 33%, Sessions was about two points behind.

Tuberville has led most runoff polling since the primary, although there's been only one recent survey released. He was up by 16 points in that one. The winner will meet Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November, in what represents the best GOP pick-up opportunity on this year's Senate map.  Jones has trailed both men in polling for the general election, which has a consensus rating of Leans Republican. 

Maine:  This is expected to be the least competitive of Tuesday's Senate primaries, but will lead into one of this fall's most fiercely contested general election races. Sara Gideon, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, is expected to win the nomination.  Gideon has had a small lead in limited polling against incumbent Republican Susan Collins, who will be seeking her 5th term. Collins, a moderate in the party, has seen her approval ratings drop significantly. The November election is seen as a Toss-up.

Texas (Runoff):   Twelve Democrats competed in the March primary to challenge incumbent GOP Sen. John Cornyn. The party's voters did not coalesce behind anyone - five candidates received over 10% of the vote, and only one received 20%. Retired Air Force pilot MJ Hegar finished first with 22%, while state Sen. Royce West came in second with just under 15%. A poll released Sunday gave Hegar a 35-22 lead in the runoff. That leaves a lot of undecided voters still deciding between the two candidates.

Cornyn will start as the favorite to win a 4th term; the consensus rating is Likely Republican. Cornyn has led in all general election polls. Neither of the Democratic candidates has strong statewide recognition (which might explain the 43% undecided in the aforementioned poll).  In addition, no Democrat has won a statewide office here since 1994. Countering that is polling that shows a highly competitive race at the top of the ticket, and an increasingly high correlation between the results of presidential and Senate elections.

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Maine

House:  Democrat Jared Golden ousted incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin in 2018, winning by one point. Golden became the first person to win a congressional seat in a ranked-choice voting runoff.   Three Republicans are vying for the nomination.  In a recent poll, former state Rep. Dale Crafts led with 37%. Adrienne Bennett, press secretary for former Gov. Paul LePage had 25% and former State Sen. Eric Brakey had 19%. Brakey was the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018, losing to incumbent independent Angus King. 

Notably, none of those numbers is over 50%. If that ends up being the case in the actual vote, ranked-choice voting will be used to decide the party's nominee.   The second choice of voters for the third place candidate will be allocated to the candidates that finished 1-2. That will push one of them over 50%, making him or her the nominee.

Looking ahead to November, the GOP will be making an effort to retake this district; whether that happens may ultimately depend on how Donald Trump does here. Trump won this district by over 10% in 2016, becoming the first Republican to win an electoral vote in Maine since 1988. 

All Maine Results >>

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Other U.S. House Runoffs (Alabama and Texas)

Alabama: Incumbent Republicans Bradley Byrne (AL-1) and Martha Roby (AL-2) did not seek reelection. Byrne ran for U.S. Senate, but finished third, missing that runoff. There are GOP runoffs in both of these districts. The winners will be heavily favored in November. There's also a Democratic runoff in District 1.

Texas:  15 U.S. House runoffs were necessitated when no candidate received 50% during the March 3 primaries.1 1 A 16th runoff was avoided when Elisa Cardnell dropped out of the Democratic primary in District 2, endorsing Sima Ladjevardian, who had finished first with almost 48% of the vote.

Some of the more interesting contests are discussed below.

District 10:  This district stretches west-northwest from suburban Houston to the Austin area. Eight-term incumbent Republican Michael McCaul faced his tightest reelection in 2018, winning by about 4.5% over Democrat Mike Siegel, an attorney. Siegel is back for another try, but first must win the runoff with physician Pritesh Gandhi. Most forecasters see this as a Leans Republican race in November.

District 13: This safe Republican district became open when 13-term incumbent Mac Thornberry opted to retire.  The GOP runoff is notable because it includes an endorsement by the president of Ronny Jackson, former White House physician. Trump nominated him to be Secretary of the Veterans Administration in February, 2018. He withdrew in April of that year. Jackson finished second - in a field of 15 - to lobbyist John Winegarner in the March primary. Winegarner had 39% of the vote, Jackson 20%.  Trump continues to support Jackson, including holding a virtual town hall meeting with him on the eve of the runoff. 

District 17: The seat is open with the retirement of Republican Bill Flores. The runoff includes former Rep. Pete Sessions, who served 11 terms in the House, most of which was in the Dallas-area 32nd district. Sessions was defeated by Democrat Colin Allred in 2018. He will try to return to Congress in this central Texas district that is much safer GOP territory.  Sessions received about 32% of the vote in the March primary; businesswoman Renee Swann finished second with 19%.

District 22:  Although Republican Pete Olson won a 6th term in 2018, it was a narrow win in this rapidly diversifying Houston-area district. Olson subsequently decided not to run for reelection. The Democratic nominee in 2018, Sri Preston Kulkami is back for another try.

15 competed for the Republican nomination in March. Fort Bend County sheriff Troy Nehls finished first with about 40% of the vote. Technology consultant Kathaleen Wall was second with about 19%. She edged out Pierce Bush, grandson of President George H.W. Bush, who finished third with 15%. 

Absent an incumbent, many analysts see a closely-contested general election.

District 23:  In 2018, incumbent Republican Will Hurd narrowly (0.5%) defeated Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones to win a 3rd term representing this large district in the southwestern part of the state. Ortiz Jones won renomination and Hurd is retiring. The GOP primary runoff features Navy veteran Tony Gonzales and Air Force veteran Paul Reyes.  Gonzales came in first in the March primary with 28%, and has the support of President Trump. Reyes, with 23% in the primary, was recently endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz. The dueling endorsements have added some drama to this runoff. 

The general election consensus is that the district has a better than even chance to flip, with an overall Leans Democratic rating.

District 24: Eight-term Republican Kenny Marchant is retiring from this suburban district between Dallas and Forth Worth. Marchant's margin of victory in 2018 fell to 3% from 17% in 2016 and 33% in 2014. Absent an incumbent, the general election is seen as a Toss-up.  The Republican nominee is Beth Van Duyne, former mayor of Irving.

Tuesday's Democratic runoff features retired Air Force colonel Kim Olson and Candace Valenzuela, a local school board member. In the March primary, Olson finished first with 41% followed by Valenzuela with 30%.

District 31:  In 2018, Republican John Carter won a ninth term in this Austin area district. He defeated MJ Hegar, who is in Tuesday's Democratic U.S. Senate runoff.  Hegar held Carter to a three point win. That may have been a bit of a shock to the incumbent: it was the first time Carter had won an election with a margin under 20 points. 

The Democratic primary runoff is between Christine Eady Mann, a physician and Donna Imam, an engineer.  While Hegar made things close last time, that may not translate into further improvement for Democrats here in 2020. Most analysts see the well-funded Carter as the favorite in November.

All Alabama & Texas Runoff Results >>

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Sabato's Crystal Ball Moves Seven States from Safe to Likely Republican

In its latest analysis of the electoral map, Sabato's Crystal Ball has moved seven states out of the 'safe' column for Donald Trump. Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Utah are all now rated Likely Republican.

Trump remains the favorite in all of them, but Sabato says the "ratings represent something of a hedge between a Trump comeback and Biden maintaining or expanding his large national lead."

Their current electoral map is below; click or tap for an interactive version.

The Road to 270: New Mexico

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Drew Savicki, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Drew via email or on Twitter @DrewSav.

New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, is one of the most demographically unique states in the nation. At 49% Hispanic, 37% white, and 11% Native American, there is truly no other place in the country like New Mexico.

Valencia County: The Great Bellwether

Located in central New Mexico is one of the nation’s most reliable bellwether counties – Valencia County. With an unbroken streak going back to 1952, Valencia County has consistently chosen the winner of the presidential election. This is currently the longest such streak in the country. At 61% Hispanic, Valencia is not the kind of place you’d expect to be a bellwether. At the state level, Valencia’s track record is more mixed.

Valencia County split its ticket in 2018, opting for Republicans in three statewide races (Governor, Treasurer, and Land Commissioner) despite Democrats winning all those offices. There are a large number of swing voters in this county, with the Democratic win margin as high as 21% and a Republican win almost at 10 points. The map above demonstrates how swingy the county can be, with the Republican share of the vote ranging from 37% all the way up to 52%,

Congressional politics

New Mexico's small, three-member House delegation has undergone quite a few changes in recent years. Its three U.S. House seats have all been open at least once over the past decade or so. In an extreme case, 2008, all its congressional districts saw open-seat contests. With the retirement of the late Sen. Pete Domenici, a Republican who had dominated state politics since the 1970s, sitting GOP Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce gave up their seats to run for Senate. Pearce narrowly won the primary but was clobbered in the general contest by then-Rep. Tom Udall.

A bit more recently, in 2012, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), from the Albuquerque-based 1st District, retired to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2012 and was succeeded by former state Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham, who in turn ran for Governor in 2018. Once dominated by Republicans, the 1st District has moved off the competitive list over the years as the GOP brand in urban America has declined. When Lujan Grisham retired to run for Governor, she was succeeded by former state Democratic Party Chair Deb Haaland. Haaland is the first Native American to represent New Mexico in Congress and one of just four Native Americans in the body overall.

Looking at Deb Haaland vs Michelle Lujan Grisham, a few things stand out. Haaland was generally stronger in the areas containing or bordering Indian Reservations. With both candidates being from Albuquerque, there was no clear overperformance for one candidate in the city. Lujan Grisham seemed to do better in the more traditionally Republican eastern portion of the city.

Encompassing the state's southern half is the sprawling 2nd Congressional District.1 1It is the fifth largest district in the country, with a land area larger than the total area of 33 other states. It is also the largest district in a state with more than one at-large district.Although it has long been the most Republican district in the state, the 2nd District has shown an occasional friendliness towards Democrats. Representing NM-2 since 2019 is Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. A Hispanic water rights attorney from Las Cruces, Torres Small struck a moderate tone in her 2018 race and she was endorsed by the centrist Blue Dog Coalition. Her opponent was State Rep. Yvette Herrell, from mostly rural Otero County. In contrast to Torres Small’s moderate image, Herrell is a steadfast conservative and is once again the GOP nominee for the seat this year, after winning a heated three-way primary earlier this year. Torres Small is an excellent fundraiser and fits the district well for a Democrat -- but Trump is likely to carry this district again, so Sabato’s Crystal Ball is maintaining the ‘Toss-up’ rating for now. Regardless of the outcome, New Mexico's three Representatives in the House next year will all be women of color.

Steve Pearce served two non-consecutive tenures representing NM-2, from 2003-2009 and then again from 2011-2019. A founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, Pearce was one of the most conservative members of Congress during his tenure but proved highly popular in this district. The two times this district has flipped in recent years, it’s been when Pearce sought statewide office. As mentioned earlier, when he vacated NM-2 in 2008 to run for Senate, the district flipped blue, though Pearce himself reclaimed it in 2010. Ten years later, in 2018, he unsuccessfully sought the open governorship against fellow Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Pearce’s political instincts have proven to be somewhat questionable, as his recent bids for statewide office were in Democratic wave years -- he also ran for Senate in 2000, but lost the primary.

Representing the 3rd District in the northern half of the state is Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D). This heavily Hispanic district is home to Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and the bulk of the state’s Native American population. Once staunchly Republican, Los Alamos County, home to the famed laboratory of the same name, has strongly trended leftward in recent years thanks to its high education level. Although Luján has risen up through the ranks of House Democratic Leadership, he has chosen to follow the same path of now Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who was in House Leadership but ran for Senate in 2016. Early last year, Sen. Tom Udall announced he was retiring rather than seeking a third term in the Senate. Frustrated with the logjam at the highest levels of Democratic leadership, Van Hollen and Luján have figured they have better shots at advancing in the Senate than in the House. The Crystal Ball rates the open 3rd District as ‘Safe Democratic.’

Sen. Udall has had a long career in New Mexico politics. In the 1990s, Udall served two terms as New Mexico’s Attorney General before running for Congress in 1998. With the resignation of Rep. Bill Richardson (D) to become President Clinton’s Ambassador to the United Nations, the 3rd District flipped to Republican Bill Redmond. Redmond’s tenure would prove to be ephemeral, as Udall easily dispatched him, and Democrats have held the seat ever since.

Tom Udall is part of the famous Udall political family, which has been active in western politics since the late 19th century. Two of Udall’s cousins served alongside him in Congress: Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO). In 2008, both Tom and Mark Udall were elevated to the Senate, but Smith, a Republican, lost in that wave year. Although not technically a Udall, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is a second cousin of Tom’s. Additionally, though not related, one of Mitt Romney’s ancestors was connected to the Udalls.

Although Republicans have made noise about competing in New Mexico at both the presidential and Senate levels, they lack a top tier recruit for the Senate race. The Republican nominee is former TV meteorologist Mark Ronchetti. If he were running for the House, Ronchetti would be considered a decent fundraiser but for a Senate candidate, his numbers are not terribly impressive. Democrats do not seem concerned about Luján’s candidacy, as representing 1/3 of the state in Congress has its perks. The Crystal Ball rates the Senate race as ‘Likely Democratic’ though other forecasters like Inside Elections rate the race as ‘Safe Democratic.’

Given the challenging national environment and the sheer number of Republican senators on defense, it seems quite unlikely Ronchetti will receive substantial outside help. With the party focused on defending Senate seats in Montana, North Carolina, Iowa, and other states, it doesn’t seem like New Mexico will get much attention. Perhaps if the President’s approval ratings were higher, things might be different but in the current environment little suggests this will be a competitive race.

New Mexico’s junior Senator is Martin Heinrich. First elected to the House in 2008 when Rep. Heather Wilson unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, Heinrich has maintained a low profile in Congress. After two terms in the House, Heinrich saw an opportunity for promotion when longtime Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman announced his retirement in 2011. Bingaman and Domenici served together from 1983 to 2009, giving the state stature in the chamber that it lacks now -- but with Heinrich and Luján each 48, amassing that type of longevity again may be possible.

State politics

New Mexico has produced a number of prominent governors in recent years, two of whom have run for President. In 1994, businessman Gary Johnson defeated Democratic Governor Bruce King who was seeking a fourth term. Johnson, a libertarian conservative, ran for President in 2008 as a Republican. By the early 2010s, Johnson felt increasingly out of step with a party that had abandoned its belief in fiscal conservatism, so he switched to the Libertarian Party. In fact, Johnson was the Libertarian nominee for President in 2012 and 2016, with New Mexico being his best state in both elections. In 2016, when third parties did well across the board, Johnson claimed 9% there. Johnson was also the Libertarian Party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018, in which he received 15% of the vote statewide.

Succeeding Johnson as governor was Clinton-era Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. A former Congressman, Richardson governed as a sort of libertarian Democrat, signing bills legalizing medical cannabis and outlawing capital punishment in the state. In 2008, Richardson launched a largely ignored campaign for President. In a crowded field featuring candidates with much higher name recognition, Richardson failed to stand out from the crowd.

Although New Mexico has recently elected Republicans, 2018 seems to have been a realigning election in the state. Democrats flipped three statewide offices: Governor, Auditor, and Commissioner of Public Lands. Governor Susana Martinez (R) was increasingly unpopular by Election Day 2018 and Lujan Grisham won the office by a solid 14 point margin. In the race for State Auditor, former state Democratic Party Chair Brian Colón defeated Wayne Johnson (R). Johnson had been appointed by Governor Martinez, when Auditor Tim Keller (D) resigned to become Mayor of Albuquerque. 

New Mexico has an unusually strong Libertarian Party. In January 2018, Public Lands Commissioner Aubrey Dunn announced he was leaving the Republican Party and joining the Libertarians. A rancher, Dunn already had a reputation as a libertarian Republican, so his switch was not entirely surprising. His switch gave the party their only statewide office in the nation. At the time, Dunn had already announced he was running for the open U.S. House seat in New Mexico’s 2nd District but was thought to have been eyeing a run against Senator Martin Heinrich. Dunn did get in the Senate race but dropped out when it became clear that Johnson was interested in running. The Public Lands Commissioner was Democrats’ closest statewide race in 2018. State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D) defeated Public Regulations Commissioner Patrick Lyons by an eight point margin and became the first woman to hold the office.

Democrats have made gains in the legislature in recent years and cemented control of the State Supreme Court, which will give them complete control over redistricting after the Census. In this year's primary, a number of conservative Democrats in the State Senate were ousted by progressive challengers. The list of incumbents defeated includes the Senate President. Unlike many states, New Mexico has a strictly volunteer legislature, which means they don't receive a salary and meet for only a very small portion of the year.

Presidential politics

New Mexico Polls >>

Throughout the 20th century, New Mexico generally voted Republican for President but changing demographics shifted it into the Democratic corner when Bill Clinton came along. By the early 2000s, New Mexico was one of the most closely-contested states in the nation. Despite all the post-attention election attention Florida received, New Mexico was actually the closest state, by raw votes, in the 2000 election. Gore won here by just 366 votes. With his message of compassionate conservatism, Bush very narrowly flipped it in 2004, but Republicans have struggled there since. 

The Trump campaign has insisted it can compete in New Mexico but it is hard to take such a claim seriously given his unpopularity nationwide. Polls show Joe Biden a bit weaker with Hispanics than Hillary Clinton in 2016 but it is quite unlikely New Mexico is in play this cycle.


Next Week:  Virginia

Going forward, we will use the model powering the 2020 presidential election simulator to determine the following week's state. Specifically, we will look at the 'Battleground 270' results of 25,000 simulations run late Sunday afternoon.  Of the states remaining, the next to be covered will be that with the highest likelihood of a Trump or Biden win as of that date. View the current state-by-state probabilities in the table at the bottom of the Battleground 270 page.


Reports in this series:

Puerto Rico Democratic Presidential Primary Results

Joe Biden won Puerto Rico's Democratic presidential primary Sunday.  Originally scheduled for March 29, the primary was first moved to April 26 and then indefinitely postponed.  

After today, only Connecticut remains on the presidential primary calendar.  Voters there go to the polls on August 11.  Plenty of downballot primaries remain, however.  14 states vote in August, with another 4 during the first half of September.

On Tuesday, there are runoffs in Alabama and Texas, along with congressional primaries in Maine.  Among other things, we'll learn who the general election challenger to the incumbent U.S. Senator in each of these three states is going to be. All are on the competitive radar (to varying degrees) in November.

Louisiana Presidential Primary Results

Louisiana holds its presidential primaries Saturday.  Originally scheduled for April 4, the primary was first moved to June 20 before being postponed a second time.  Polls are open until 9:00 PM Eastern Time.  Results will appear below after that time.

Puerto Rico holds its Democratic presidential primary Sunday. On Tuesday, there are runoffs in Alabama and Texas, along with congressional primaries in Maine.  Several interesting races that night; we'll have an overview as it gets closer.

Louisiana has a unique system for elections other than president.  There are no party primaries, but instead all candidates in a race appear on a single ballot. This open primary takes place on Election Day, November 3. If one candidate gets a majority, they are the winner. Otherwise, the top two advance to a December 5 runoff.

 

Eight Senate Ratings Changes from Inside Elections

On Friday, Inside Elections made eight changes to its 2020 Senate ratings.  All moved in the direction of Democrats challenging GOP incumbents seeking reelection.

Alaska and South Carolina move from Safe to Likely Republican

Georgia (special) and Texas move from Likely to Leans Republican

Georgia (regular) moves from Likely to Tilt Republican

Iowa and Montana move from Leans Republican to Toss-up

Arizona moves from Toss-up to Tilt Democratic

Interactive Map

Here's the Inside Elections map reflecting these changes. Click or tap for an interactive version.

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Delaware and New Jersey Primaries: Overview and Live Results

July is a quiet month on the election calendar. Tuesday brings us the Delaware and New Jersey presidential primaries, rescheduled from April 28. There are also congressional primaries in New Jersey.  

Looking ahead, Louisiana and Puerto Rico1 1Democrats only have scheduled presidential primaries this weekend. That wraps up the presidential primary calendar, except for Connecticut (August 11).

Next Tuesday, July 14, there are congressional primaries in Maine and primary runoff elections in Alabama and Texas. 

14 states hold non-presidential primaries in August, with another four closing out the calendar in the first half of September.  

While you are waiting for the results, try out our new 2020 presidential election simulator.

Polls Close (Eastern Time)

Your individual polling place may have different hours. Do not rely on this schedule to determine when to vote. 

8:00 PM Delaware, New Jersey

 


Results by State

Delaware New Jersey

 

Delaware

President: There are 21 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

There's also a GOP primary.  

Delaware's downballot primaries are scheduled for September 15.

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New Jersey

President: There are 126 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary. 

On the Republican ballot, Donald Trump is unopposed.

Senate: Cory Booker has drawn a nominal primary challenge. He should have little trouble winning both that and another six-year term in November.

House: On the way to taking control of the House, Democrats flipped four seats here in the 2018 midterms.2 2Trailing only California, where Democrats gained seven seats. That temporarily left the delegation with just a single GOP representative, Mike Smith (NJ-4).  Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew switched parties in the wake of impeachment late last year, making the current count ten Democrats, 2 Republicans. There are several interesting races to watch, starting with Van Drew's 2nd district.  

District 2: The district covers South Jersey and is the largest by land area in the state. Van Drew was elected (as a Democrat) by 8%, flipping a district Donald Trump won by about 5%.  Although Van Drew has Trump's support, he has drawn a primary challenge from conservative Bob Patterson. It is worth noting that the last House Democrat to switch, Parker Griffith (AL-5) in 2009, lost the 2010 GOP primary and was unsuccessful in subsequent efforts to regain public office.

Van Drew's defection has created an opening on the Democratic side, with several vying for the nomination.  The general election is seen as competitive, with a consensus rating of Leans Republican.

District 3: This district stretches across the south-central part of the state, including both Philadelphia suburbs and coastal areas.  Another Democratic gain in 2018, Andy Kim won by just 1% over incumbent Republican Tom MacArthur. It was the closest House race in the state that year. Kim is unopposed for renomination. Two Republicans are looking to take him on in this district that Trump won by 6 points in 2016. One of them, David Richter, was originally going to run in District 2. He shifted to this race after Van Drew joined the GOP and earned Trump's support.

The general election is expected to be competitive with a consensus of Leans Democratic.

District 5: The Democratic primary in this far North Jersey district may be more interesting than the general election. In 2016, Democrat Josh Gottheimer ousted seven-term Republican Scott Garrett by 5 points; he won reelection in 2018 by about 14 points. A relatively conservative Democrat, Gottheimer has attracted a primary challenge from the left. That progressive challenger, Arati Kreibich, has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders. Gottheimer has a 10-1 fundraising advantage and is favored, but it is one to keep an eye on.

The general election is seen as Likely Democratic at this time.  

District 7:  Republicans have recruited a marquee name in an attempt to win back this district in the north-central portion of the state.  Assuming he wins Tuesday's primary, Senate minority leader Tom Kean, Jr. will meet incumbent Democrat Tom Malinowski in November. Kean is the son of former Gov. Tom Kean, and part of a political family that goes back many generations.

Malinowski defeated Republican Leonard Lance by 5% here in 2018.  The general election consensus is Leans Democratic.

District 8: This oddly shaped, deep blue district runs along the Hudson River to points west including parts of Newark and Elizabeth. Albio Sires won his 8th term by a 60 point margin in 2018. This year, he's facing a primary challenge from progressive lawyer Hector Oseguera, whose campaign has picked up momentum in recent weeks.  As in District 5, the incumbent is favored, but the race bears watching. 

All New Jersey Results >>

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Unanimous Supreme Court Says States Can Punish or Replace Faithless Electors

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can require Electoral College members to cast their vote for the candidate to whom they were pledged to support. The decision was unanimous

Recent court decisions, in cases arising out of the 2016 presidential election, had come to opposite conclusions about this issue. That year, Donald Trump won states (and a district in Maine) worth 306 electoral votes; Hillary Clinton won states with 232 electoral votes.  When the actual vote of Electors took place on December 19, ten electors attempted to cast votes for others.  Two of the Clinton electors (one each in Colorado and Minnesota) were replaced, a third (in Maine) ultimately changed their vote to Clinton. 

Ultimately, seven faithless electoral votes were recorded, a historically high number. Four were in Washington, two in Texas and one in Hawaii. History recorded a 304-227 Electoral College win for Donald Trump.

In our opinion, this is a welcome decision. The presidential election process in this country is contentious enough. In modern times, acting as an elector is essentially an honorary role and the actual vote of electors is largely symbolic. That being the case, there's no good reason for an individual elector to place his or her judgment in front of the decision the people of that state made on Election Day.  While these faithless electors have been a harmless diversion through American history, imagine the chaos that would ensue in a close - or even tied - election where one or more electors vote in a way that changed the outcome.  

For those unfamiliar with the process, each party on the ballot in a state names its own slate of electors - mostly party loyalists. After the election, the state appoints the slate of electors associated with the candidate that wins the popular vote to cast the actual votes in the Electoral College. Each voting elector casts one vote for president, one for vice-president. The voting electors then sign a Certificate of Vote enumerating that vote. A corresponding document, the Certificate of Ascertainment, is created by the state, listing the slates of electors and (usually) the popular vote associated with each candidate/party. View the 2016 documents here

The Road to 270: South Carolina

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Drew Savicki, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Drew via email or on Twitter @DrewSav.

In many ways, South Carolina is the state that’s most shaped the trajectory of the Democratic primary this year. After struggling in three earlier states, Joe Biden -- from his strength with Black voters and after a critical endorsement from Rep. Jim Clyburn -- routed his opponents in the state. Biden’s win in the Palmetto State set him up for a strong performance on Super Tuesday, and gave him momentum for contests beyond that.

Although South Carolina won’t be as critical in the general election, it’s seen some realigning political trends that may carry on in 2020.

The South Carolina Primary

Every four years, South Carolina is a major battleground in the race for both parties presidential nominations. On the Republican side, South Carolina is the first state home to a significant evangelical population. Evangelical whites are a prominent constituency in the Republican Party and appealing to them is necessary in order to win the nomination. On the Democratic side, South Carolina is the first state with a majority Black electorate. The first two states in the nominating process, Iowa and New Hampshire, are overwhelmingly white, though Nevada, with its large Hispanic population, also holds an early caucus. 

South Carolina's history as an early primary state in the primaries is relatively recent. Its status as a pre-Super Tuesday contest begins with the 2000 Republican primary. In 2000, the South Carolina primary occurred in February after Alaska, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Delaware. South Carolina in 2000 was a particularly acrimonious fight between then Texas Governor George W. Bush and Arizona Senator John McCain. Fresh off a win in the New Hampshire primary, McCain was looking for momentum in the Palmetto State. McCain was on the receiving end of a vicious smear campaign towards his wife and their adopted daughter. Bush ultimately won the primary 53-42% and went on to steamroll McCain in most of the remaining contests. McCain's brand of conservatism was a poor fit for the primary electorate of the time.

In 2004, South Carolina again held its primary in February but not as a standalone contest. It was on held what was dubbed 'Mini Tuesday', with a number of other states. North Carolina Senator John Edwards carried the state fairly easily against Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. A homespun southerner, Edwards charmed South Carolina voters.

2008 is the first cycle where the current early state schedule began. The modern order of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina was first used that year. With significant support among Black voters and two candidates dividing up the white vote, Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary in a landslide.

On the Republican side that year, John McCain won the Palmetto state by just 3%, with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee finishing a close second. Four years later, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich romped to victory in the state with 40% of the vote and captured 23/25 delegates in the state. In 2016, Donald Trump was fresh off a victory in New Hampshire and swept the state, taking all 50 delegates with him.

On the Democratic side, both 2016 and 2020 were landslide wins for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. With their strong support among Black voters, both candidates won every county in the state. If you want to be the Democratic nominee, competing in South Carolina is a must. There is no path to the Democratic nomination without the support of Black voters.

Congressional Politics

As a southern state with a racially polarized electorate, South Carolina has seen few competitive congressional elections over the last decade. The most recent case, though, was in 2018. Rep Mark Sanford (R) -- who was at times critical of President Trump -- lost renomination in South Carolina's 1st District to fellow Republican Katie Arrington. Democrats nominated ocean engineer Joe Cunningham, who flipped the seat later that year. After Georgia Rep. John Barrow’s 2014 loss, Cunningham became the first white Democrat elected to the House from a Deep South state.

Based in Charleston, the 1st District is a predominately suburban, traditionally Republican district that has trended leftward in the Trump era. The President carried it by 13% in 2016, down from Mitt Romney’s 18-point win four years earlier. Cunningham’s opponent is State Rep. Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of South Carolina’s Citadel, the famous military academy. Political forecasters like Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report rate the race as a tossup and one of the most vulnerable Democratic held seats. Given the suburban nature of the seat, it seems likely Trump’s margin will decrease this year and Cunningham could certainly win reelection.

South Carolina’s congressional delegation also includes two of the most prominent Republican Senators. Representing South Carolina in the Senate since 2003, Lindsey Graham came to fame during his time in the House. In the late 1990s, he served as an impeachment manager during the trial of President Clinton. Regarded as a mainline conservative with his hawkish foreign policy and pro-immigration stances, Graham has long been viewed with suspicion by his party’s right flank; Graham was especially known for his long friendship with the late John McCain. As two of the most prominent proponents of a hawkish U.S. foreign policy, Graham and McCain sometimes differed on domestic policy -- in one of McCain’s last votes in the Senate, he sunk the GOP’s repeal effort of President Obama’s healthcare law, but Graham supported repeal.

In 2016, Graham briefly ran for President but found little success in a party that is now more skeptical of interventionism and immigration. In the primaries, Graham was a staunch critic of then-candidate Donald Trump, but with Trump’s election and Graham’s own primary coming up, he quickly changed his tune. His speech defending now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 confirmation hearings went viral. His abrupt and fierce embrace of the President turned heads but the reality is Graham represents a state where Trump is very popular, especially with Republican partisans. Graham’s right turn paid off, as he was renominated last month.

Graham must still run in the general election later this year and, despite the red tint of the state, his political transformation has turned him into a Democratic target. Political forecasters such as Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate his race as ‘Likely Republican.’ The Democratic nominee is former South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison. Harrison has been an extraordinary fundraiser, but this race is an uphill battle for him. An upset can’t be completely ruled out, especially if Joe Biden’s strong national numbers persist, but Graham has the clear advantage. Harrison is South Carolina Democrats’ best Senate candidate in many years, and could be a plausible successor to Democratic House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn when he eventually retires.

The Palmetto State’s junior Senator in Tim Scott. Appointed by then Governor Nikki Haley following the resignation of Senator Jim DeMint (R), Scott is the lone Black Republican in the Senate. As just one of two African American Republicans in Congress, Scott occupies a unique spot in his party. In a party heavily dominated by older white men, the burden often falls on Scott to explain racial issues to his fellow Republicans. Of the two Senators, Scott is the more conservative, though not to the extent of his predecessor. Prior to his appointment to the Senate, Scott represented South Carolina’s 1st District in the House. He was elected to that seat in 2010, when longtime Rep. Henry Brown (R) retired.

For decades, South Carolina was represented by two legendary Senators: iconic Democrat Fritz Hollings and the archconservative Republican Strom Thurmond. The two men had relatively similar political beginnings. In 1958, Hollings was elected Governor of South Carolina. Like most South Carolinians at time, Hollings opposed integration of public schools. By the end of his tenure as Governor, Hollings like many Americans, reversed himself on the issue. By the early 1960s, public support for civil rights was growing. The Civil Rights movement was in full swing, slowly inching towards the passage of a Civil Rights bill by Congress.

Strom Thurmond was elected Governor of South Carolina in 1946. With the Democratic Party adopting a civil rights plank of the platform in 1948, Thurmond broke with the party and formed an offshoot dubbed the ‘Dixiecrats.’ Thurmond ran under the Dixiecrat banner that year on a pro-segregation platform, ultimately carrying four southern states (including his home state) and 39 electoral votes. In 1954, Sen. Burnet Maybank died while seeking reelection unopposed. The state Democratic Party rushed to choose a replacement nominee but this move displeased activists and prompted Thurmond to run a successful write-in campaign for the seat. Two years later, Thurmond resigned so as to honor activists desire for a proper primary. He won the seat back that year and would go on to be reelected seven more times.

During his early time in the Senate, Thurmond was one of the most outspoken supporters of segregation, though he eventually tried to build bridges with the Black community in his state -- by the 1970s, he was hiring Black staffers. In 1964, Thurmond announced he was switching parties and supporting Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s campaign for President. South Carolina was one of the few states Goldwater carried that year despite his sweeping loss nationwide.

State level politics

Republicans dominate South Carolina at the state level, holding all state executive offices. Gov. Henry McMaster has been a fixture in South Carolina politics, dating back to his time as a legislative assistant for Sen. Thurmond. McMaster served as a U.S. Attorney for South Carolina under President Reagan in the 1980s, before making an unsuccessful Senate bid in 1986 against Hollings. From 1993-2002, McMaster served as Chair of the South Carolina Republican Party until he was elected Attorney General in 2002. McMaster was the last separately elected Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, elected in 2014. He became Governor upon the resignation of Nikki Haley to become UN Ambassador under President Trump.

In the legislature, Republicans lack supermajorities but are hoping to gain them this year. Democrats hold a number of rural seats that haven’t voted Democratic for President in some time. The Democratic nominee for Governor in 2010 and 2014, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, represents a district that voted for President Trump by double-digits and for 2020, drew a Republican opponent for the first time in many years. The low pay and part time nature of the South Carolina legislature means many seats go uncontested every cycle. Rural Democrats such as State Rep. Mandy Powers-Norrell have gone uncontested multiple cycles in a row but are now facing Republican opponents. It seems likely Republicans can finally capture supermajorities this cycle.

Redistricting should be largely uneventful though Republicans will want to shore up the 1st Congressional District, so expect a decent number of majority Black precincts to be shifted into the 6th District.

Presidential politics and 2020 outlook

South Carolina Polls >>

Like every other state, the broader national trends have been seen in South Carolina. Despite its suburban nature though, the Greenville-Spartanburg area has long been a reliable source of votes for Republicans in the state. Charleston County was reliably Republican until 2008 but has voted Democratic since. Democrats receive most of their votes from the Black Belt but Clinton couldn’t garner the enthusiasm President Obama had with Black voters -- and she lost support among rural whites as well. South Carolina is inelastically red and Democrats have been stuck between 41 and 45% of the vote in the past five presidential elections. Still, given Joe Biden’s strength with Black voters and college educated whites, it seems quite likely he’ll at least narrow the margin from Clinton’s 14 point loss in 2016.

Editor's Note

South Carolina is the 34th report (33 states + DC) in The Road to 270 series. The remaining 17 states were all decided by a single-digit margin in the 2016 presidential election.  As this year's most competitive states may differ from those in 2016, we wanted to have an objective way to get from here to the final report on November 2.

Going forward, we will use the recently launched 2020 presidential election simulator to determine the following week's state. Specifically, we will look at the 'Battleground 270' results of 25,000 simulations run late Sunday afternoon.  The next state to be covered will be the least competitive state - as of that date - of those remaining. You can see the state-by-state breakdown in the table at the bottom of the Battleground 270 page.

Based on yesterday's simulations...

Next Week: New Mexico

Reports in this series:

Rep. Scott Tipton Ousted in CO-3 GOP Primary

In a major upset, five-term incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton was defeated by restaurateur Lauren Boebert in the GOP primary for Colorado's 3rd congressional district.

Boebert will meet Democrat Diane Bush in November. Bush was the party's nominee in 2018, losing to Tipton by about 8%. While Boebert will start the race as the favorite in this GOP-leaning district on the state's Western Slope, her positions may create an opening for Democrats. Sabato's Crystal Ball changed its rating of the race from Likely to Leans Republican after Boebert became the nominee.

Tipton becomes the fifth House incumbent to lose this year, joining Republicans Steve King (IA-4) and Denver Riggleman (VA-5). Democrats Dan Lipinski (IL-3) and Eliot Engel (NY-16) have also lost.