Florida, New York primaries set up midterm battles for control of Congress

Voters headed to the polls Tuesday in Florida, New York and Oklahoma with several highly anticipated races offering a window into midterm matchups. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins Amna Nawaz with more on the primary races that may have the biggest impact in Washington.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, voters have been heading to the polls today in Florida, New York, and Oklahoma.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins is here with more on the races that may have the biggest impact in Washington.

    Lisa, good to see you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Good to see you.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So let's talk about these.

    There could be some incumbents in trouble tonight, right? Tell us about those races and what we should understand about those.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You mentioned a couple of these earlier.

    The real thing going on here in large part is redistricting, Amna, especially in New York state, where the district, the maps governing congressional elections were drawn by a special master, not by legislators.

    Now, what's happened there, that marquee race you talked about, let's look at it. Two members of the House Democratic Party who are chairmen, both of them, Jerry Nadler, chairman of Judiciary Committee, Carolyn Maloney, chairman, chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, this is incredibly unusual.

    They also are, both of them, in the top 20 most senior members of the House. And they are facing also a third opponent that's worth noting, Suraj Patel, a progressive. So all of these dynamics are in play. I understand low turnout there in that New York City race that we're going to be watching very closely. They're not the only incumbents that were watching tonight.

    Also in New York state, Mondaire Jones, star in the party. You see him there on the left. He was redistricted in a way that made him decide to move one hour away from where he currently lived to try and face a new opponent in a very crowded, rather than face the man in the middle, Sean Patrick Maloney, who himself is the leader of Democrats' efforts nationwide congressionally.

    He faces a progressive challenger, who has been endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We're watching him tonight.

    Then, in Florida, we see the congresswoman there on the right. That is Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. She faces a rematch with her special election opponent. She won that special election just by five votes. And that is a very fraught, difficult race that she faces. Republicans, also, there are a couple of incumbents that we're watching tonight.

    Matt Gaetz, some of our viewers may be familiar with that name, Trump supporter, a man who has faced legal troubles, and also reportedly under investigation, he is someone we are watching tonight. And Dan Webster there on the right for different reasons. He has an opponent in the Tampa area from the right side, the Trump side of the party. We're watching them.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So that's one Republican race there.

    But, broadly speaking, when you look at Republicans, are there other particular races or particular candidates that stand out for them tonight?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This theme of people who call themselves disrupters, who their opponents would say could be dangerous because they are election deniers, is something we're watching tonight as well.

    I want to point out a couple of candidates tonight we're watching it. Anthony Sabatini is the first one. He's the man there on your left. He is someone calling for underfunding of the FBI. He's in a Florida race that could be close tonight. Laura Loomer there on the right, a very outspoken Trump ally, but someone who has described herself as an Islamophobe, she is the one running against that congressman I mentioned a minute ago, Daniel Webster. She's more of a longshot, but we're still watching that race.

    Then also in New York, there's a man, Carl Paladino. He was a candidate for governor before. He has since then said things, including that he believes Hitler is someone who is the kind of leader we need today because of his ability to draw crowds.

    So his race vs. the state Republican Party chair is one we're watching tonight as well.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A lot of high-profile races.

    In Florida, there's another big race we're watching, not just people in Florida, people nationwide, I think it's fair to say. What do we need to know about that?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    OK, this is a big race because of who, Ron DeSantis. He is, of course, rising very quickly in the conversation about 2020 and the White House itself. He's up for reelection, the Republican governor of Florida. You see him right there, someone who's really changing a little bit of how Republicans handle cultural policy.

    Now, trying to oppose him, the Democrats have to choose between these two candidates, by and large, Charlie Crist, former governor of Florida, and Nikki Fried, as you reported. She is the current state agriculture commissioner. She's the only Democrat who is elected statewide right now.

    And this is kind of a generational question, Amna, really, about what Democrats want and who they think can win against Ron DeSantis.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    What about when you look ahead to the fall? Are there any races you're tracking that could be bellwethers for the midterms?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes. Yes.

    I want to talk about New York again. We're going back and forth between these two gargantuan states. But New York's 19th race, we're talking about the Hudson Valley, people who know New York. There it is right there.

    There is a Democrat, Pat Ryan, vs. Republican Marc Molinaro. I could say a lot about them. But I honestly think their ads speak for themselves in this special election that will determine who wins the seat, at least temporarily.

    Listen to how their ads kind of convey what they are trying to say.

  • Announcer:

    Pat Ryan graduated from West Point and risked his life and combat. He fought for our families, for our freedom.

    Pat Ryan (R), New York Congressional Candidate: And freedom includes a woman's right to choose.

    How can we be a free country if the government tries to control women's bodies. That's not the country I fought to defend.

  • Announcer:

    Who's to blame for inflation? Liberal Washington Democrats. Their spending feeds higher prices at the grocery store, while their energy policies drive up prices at the pump. More terrible ideas from Biden/Pelosi Democrats.

  • Announcer:

    Republican Marc Molinaro, a record of listening, problem-solving. He will keep spending under control.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So, see what they did there?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Abortion on the one hand, inflation the other end, and the tones were also very different.

    This is a swing district. This is a place that President Biden won by just one point or a few points last time. And I do have to say the map is going to change. So we will have a different race in November, but it's still a gauge of who is voting and how they're voting right now.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We will be tracking that and so much more.

    Thank goodness you're staying on top of it for all of us. Lisa Desjardins, thank you so much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And don't forget, online, you can see all of today's election results as they come in. Go to PBS.org/NewsHour for more.

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