US elections: Five key takeaways from New York, Florida primaries

Contests across key states offer preview of midterm elections as Republicans will push to regain control of Congress.

Val Demings
Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings will try to unseat key Republican Senator Marco Rubio in November [Octavio Jones/Reuters]

A round of primary elections has cemented the political trends that have been taking place in the United States this year – with former President Donald Trump tightening his grip on the Republican Party and Democrats making abortion a central issue to their campaigns.

Voters in New York, Florida and Oklahoma cast their ballots on Tuesday, less than three months before the general midterm elections in November that will decide the makeup of Congress for the following two years.

Democrats chose their nominees to take on Florida Republicans Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Ron DeSantis. The latter has been gaining national fame and is considered a possible 2024 presidential candidate.

In New York state, a Democratic candidate defeated a Republican rival in a special election campaign that focused on abortion rights.

Here are five key takeaways from the primaries:

A major victory for Democrats in New York

Democrat Pat Ryan, a county executive, prevailed in a contested special election against a Republican candidate in a swing district in Upstate New York.

Ryan’s victory over Republican Marc Molinaro, an executive of a neighbouring county, may spell out good news for Democrats in November.

With Tuesday’s results, Ryan will serve the rest of Democratic Congressman Antonio Delgado’s term until early next year. Delgado had vacated the seat earlier after being appointed lieutenant governor of New York earlier this year.

But the election was not just about one partial term in Congress. Ryan, who will run again in a newly drawn district in November, tried to make the election a referendum on abortion – and won.

The race was seen as an early test of Democrats’ strategy of centring reproductive rights in elections after the conservative US Supreme Court revoked the constitutional right to abortion in June.

It follows a major victory for abortion rights advocates in Kansas early in August, when the Republican-leaning state voted overwhelmingly to protect the right to the procedure.

“Choice was on the ballot,” Ryan wrote on Twitter early on Wednesday, referring to a woman’s right to have control over her own body.

Trump-supporting Republicans win primaries

Despite the recent FBI search at his home and other continuing legal issues, Trump’s appeal to Republican voters does not seem to be waning.

In this round of elections, Trump largely endorsed incumbents who did not face serious competition on Tuesday. But in open primaries where he did not make an endorsement, candidates were vying for his support and pledging to back him.

Trump-backed Congressman Matt Gaetz, who is under federal investigation related to sexual misconduct allegations that he has vehemently denied, easily fended off a primary challenge.

Anna Paulina Luna, a conservative activist who was endorsed by Trump, also won an open congressional primary in a crowded field.

In a district in the Orlando area, US Army veteran Cory Mills – who previously said he does not view Joe Biden as a legitimate president – won the Republican primary.

That district – which has been redrawn and now leans Republican – is currently represented by Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, a Democratic member of the congressional committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot, who is not seeking reelection.

In a neighbouring district, far-right provocateur Laura Loomer who has a history of anti-Muslim activism, came within a few thousand votes of defeating Republican incumbent Daniel Webster, who won with 51 percent of the votes. Trump did not make an endorsement in that race.

“Looks like a fantastic evening of ALL WINS – Great Candidates!!!” Trump wrote on his platform Truth Social on Wednesday.

Democrats nominate candidates to take on top Florida Republicans

As the largest swing state, Florida is one of the most politically important corners in the country.

But the southeastern state has been trending Republican in recent years. Democrats will try to reverse that trajectory in November when they take on Governor DeSantis and Senator Rubio.

On Tuesday, Congresswoman Val Demings, a former police chief of Orlando who served as a House manager during Trump’s first impeachment, comfortably won the Democratic Senate nomination to face off against Rubio.

“I’m running to serve the people of Florida, and I’m running to win,” she said in a social media post after the election results.

Charlie Crist, a former Florida Republican governor and current Democratic congressman, who switched parties in 2014, will try to get his old job back. He won the Democratic nomination for governor with nearly 60 percent of the votes.

Crist will take on DeSantis, a rising Republican star nationally who signed a 15-week abortion ban earlier this year.

Crist has promised to sign an executive order protecting reproductive rights on his first day in office if elected. “I’m Charlie Crist and I’m proud to be your Florida Democratic nominee that will defeat Ron DeSantis this November,” he wrote on Twitter late on Tuesday.

Nadler beats Maloney in New York

In one of the most closely watched primaries, Congressman Jerrold Nadler defeated fellow powerful House incumbent Carolyn Maloney after redistricting pitted them against each other – and it was not close.

Nadler, 75, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, received 55 percent of the votes. Maloney, the 76-year-old chair of the House Oversight Committee, got 24 percent. Suraj Patel, a 38-year-old lawyer, came in third with 19 percent.

Nadler and Maloney share similar left-of-centre ideologies, so the race between them did not play out as a centrist-versus-progressive contest.

But Nadler received the endorsement of the left-wing Working Families Party, a major group in progressive electoral politics.

Tuesday’s result will likely end Maloney’s 30-year career in Congress.

“I’m so deeply grateful for your continued support and trust – I promise to keep on fighting for New Yorkers in Congress. Onwards!” Nadler said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Former Trump prosecutor wins crowded race in New York

Daniel Goldman, House Democrats’ top counsel for Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, narrowly won in a crowded congressional primary on Tuesday.

With the progressive vote in the deeply Democratic district in New York City split among several candidates, including incumbent Mondaire Jones and left-wing state Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, Goldman came on top with 26 percent of the votes.

Niou was second with 24 percent and Jones third with 18 percent.

The result is a blow to the progressive movement that has largely struggled this cycle to grow its contingency of left-wing lawmakers in Congress.

Elsewhere in New York, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chair, easily defeated State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, who was endorsed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Similarly, House progressive Jamaal Bowman cruised to the Democratic re-nomination for his seat, fending off two primary challengers.

Source: Al Jazeera