Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky are holding primaries Tuesday to nominate candidates for the fall midterm elections. Texas is also holding primary runoffs Tuesday, including in several House districts that could be competitive in November. Here’s a guide to some of the most interesting races:
Democratic divide in Georgia’s governor’s race
The Democratic gubernatorial primary in Georgia has drawn national attention as a showcase of the party’s progressive-establishment split. Stacey Abrams, a former Democratic leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, is running against state Rep. Stacey Evans, who has been in office since 2010. Abrams, who is black, has courted minority and progressive Democrats, while Evans has focused more on winning centrist Democrats and white voters.
Abrams’ approach appeared to be working ahead of primary day. She entered Tuesday with a large lead in the polls, in a state with a large black electorate and where Hillary Clinton lost by just five points in 2016. Evans has argued that she is more electable to voters from both parties in the fall, when Democrats will try to take control of the seat being vacated by Georgia’s term-limited Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
Democrats will be watching Tuesday’s primary closely to see which strategy comes out on top. If Abrams wins, it could push other Democrats to embrace the party’s progressive wing and focus more on the coalition of minorities, women and college-educated liberals that were at the core of Barack Obama’s two successful presidential campaigns.
With either candidate, Democrats have a chance to make history in November if they can elect the state’s first female governor. (Abrams would be Georgia’s first African-American governor).
Can Republicans hold the suburbs?
Last year, Rep. Karen Handel, R-Ga., beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in a high-profile race for a moderate suburban House seat north of Atlanta. Handel is now running for a full term, and will face off in November against the winner of Tuesday’s four-way Democratic primary. Handel’s victory brought a measure of relief for Republicans, who had worried about the party’s ability to retain moderate voters under President Donald Trump.
None of the Democrats on the ballot Tuesday have generated as much excitement as Ossoff, who raised millions in out-of-state donations. But EMILY’s List, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and other prominent left-leaning groups have spent money on the race, a strong indication that Democrats remain hopeful they can beat Handel this fall. The party will need to pick up a handful of moderate suburban districts like Handle’s in November to win control of the House.
Texas is holding runoffs Tuesday for the 17 House primary races in which no candidate won a majority of the vote in the state’s primaries earlier this year. The runoffs feature the top two finishers from each district in the March elections.
In 2018, Democrats are fielding a candidate in all of the state’s 36 congressional districts — the first time that’s happened in 25 years. Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who represents the El Paso area, is also running a surprisingly strong race for Senate against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The Democratic wave has turned Texas into a key battleground in the midterms. But the party still face challenges in trying to chip away at the GOP’s hold on the state congressional delegation.
Right now, House Democrats in Texas largely represent the state’s urban areas. The party will need to expand its map to pick up House seats this fall, and compete in other parts of the state — including suburban and rural districts — where Republicans have dominated for years. Watch for results Tuesday in the Democratic runoff for the state’s 7th and 32nd congressional districts, which are currently held by eight-term GOP Reps. John Culberson and Pete Sessions. Both Republicans could be vulnerable this fall.
The 23rd congressional district is another important race for both parties. The West Texas seat switched party hands every two years from 2004 to 2014, when Republican Rep. Will Hurd beat incumbent Democrat Pete Gallego. Hurd broke the pattern by winning re-election in 2016 and is now seeking a third term in office. Hurd, a former CIA officer, has emerged as a prominent GOP voice on intelligence and national security issues in Washington. Hurd would likely be the frontrunner in the general election, but Democrats are expected to target his district, anyway.