Three US states hold primaries ahead of crucial November midterms

Contests in New York, Florida and Oklahoma feature ideological showdowns and early previews of general elections.

New York voters
Voters submit ballots for New York's primary election at a polling station in Brooklyn, New York City, the US on August 23, 2022 [Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Voters in New York, Florida and Oklahoma are heading to the polls in one of the last primaries ahead of the crucial midterm general elections in November that will determine the political makeup of the United States Congress for the following two years.

Key races in the three states feature ideological contests within the major parties as well as an early glimpse of the electoral battles to come in November.

In New York state, voters are casting ballots on Tuesday in the first competitive congressional election since the US Supreme Court overturned national abortion rights, a contest that could prove a bellwether for November.

In a special election, Democrat Pat Ryan and Republican Marc Molinaro are vying for an open seat in the House of Representatives, vacated by Democrat Antonio Delgado who is currently serving as lieutenant governor of New York. Ryan has highlighted abortion as a key issue in the race.

Florida Democrats will choose party nominees to take on the state’s top two Republicans in November – Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio, who face no primary opponents.

US Representative Val Demings leads a field of four Democrats vying to oppose Rubio. Florida state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Congressman Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor, are the leading contenders in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

A runoff primary in Oklahoma will determine whether Congressman Markwayne Mullin or former state House Speaker TW Shannon gets the Republican nomination to replace retiring Senator Jim Inhofe. Mullin and Shannon are both loyalists of former President Donald Trump, and the winner will likely succeed to office in the conservative-leaning state in November.

With the general elections 77 days away, Democrats have been widely seen as the underdog party up to now, with their prospects weighed down by historical trends, inflation, and President Joe Biden’s low job approval numbers.

Republicans are favoured to take control of the House, putting them in a position to scupper Biden’s legislative agenda.

But their chances of capturing the Senate have been cast into doubt by the weakness of Trump-endorsed candidates in the key swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

While the Ryan v Molinaro race in New York will provide a preview of the upcoming debates ahead of November, other races in the state will bring to light the ideological struggle between progressives and centrists in the Democratic Party.

Newly drawn congressional districts have pitted incumbents against each other and made some sitting members of Congress more vulnerable to primary challenges.

The primaries include unusual intraparty contests for Democrats, including a New York City battle between longtime powerful House incumbents Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, who are both in their 70s. The race also includes a third Democratic candidate, 38-year-old Suraj Patel.

Nadler is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee; Maloney is the chair of the House Oversight Committee; and Patel is a lawyer who worked on former President Barack Obama’s campaigns.

In a suburban New York primary contest, Sean Patrick Maloney, a five-term Democratic incumbent and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chair, faces challenger Alessandra Biaggi, seen as a proxy battle between the party establishment and its progressive wing. Biaggi is endorsed by leading House progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Progressive Congressman Jamaal Bowman, who unseated longtime incumbent Eliot Engel in a primary that made national headlines in 2020, is facing tough primary challenges from Westchester County legislators Vedat Gashi and Catherine Parker.

A crowded primary for an open seat in New York City is providing another ideological showdown. Daniel Goldman, House Democrats’ top counsel for Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, is facing off against several more progressive candidates, including incumbent Mondaire Jones and left-wing state Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters