This week's primaries have Democrats optimistic about a 'blue wave' in the midterms

  • Five states held congressional primary elections on Tuesday.
  • The results show promise for Democrats, but a wave is not guaranteed.
  • Female candidates did exceptionally well in the elections held.

On Tuesday, a series of mostly primary elections were held in California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Alabama, and South Dakota.

Democrats came away feeling optimistic, but cautiously so, for their chance for a blue wave to take back the House of Representatives. In order to regain control of the House, they must win back 23 seats, which is sure to be challenging, despite promising signs so far.

Here are the five big takeaways from this week’s elections:

Democrats prevailed in California’s open primary system

In California’s “top-two” system for primaries, the two candidates who receive the first and second highest numbers of votes advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

Both political parties were concerned about being “locked out” of several key congressional races, with no one from their party on the ballot for the general. While California is a largely Democratic state, Democrats worried of being left off the general election ballot in key races in Orange County, a Republican stronghold.

While absentee ballots are still to be counted, it appears Democrats will not be locked out of any races, while there will be no Republican candidate running in the general for 11 congressional races. One of the races in which there will be no GOP candidate is Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s re-election bid. Feinstein, a formidable five-term senator beloved by voters, will face a progressive challenger in former California state senate president Kevin De Léon.

While Democratic candidates have secured a spot on the ballot in every race, it will be a tough and expensive road ahead to flip heavily Republican districts in Orange County won by President Donald Trump.

It was a banner night for female candidates

Trump’s election inspired record numbers of women to run for federal and statewide office, most of whom are running as Democrats. Those who had primaries on Tuesday were largely successful.

The results so far show that out of 117 federal and statewide primary contests with one or more female candidate, 59 primaries were definitively won by women, 34 were lost, and 18 female candidates are trailing in California races that have not yet been called, as California doesn’t count absentee ballots until after the day of the election.

Some of these winning women could make history if they win their general election contests.

Deb Haaland, who secured the democratic nomination for congress in New Mexico’s first congressional district, will likely be the first-ever Native-American woman to serve in Congress, as her district is a safe seat for Democrats.

Also in New Mexico, gubernatorial nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham could be the country’s first Democratic Latina governor, and GOP congresswoman Kristi Noem is poised to become South Dakota’s first female governor after winning a bitter primary contest. They are among four female gubernatorial candidates advancing to the general across the country.

In New Jersey, the GOP could lose control of key House seats

Despite New Jersey being a relatively blue state, Republicans have managed to maintain control of the governorship for Chris Christie’s two terms and five House seats out of New Jersey’s 12. But last year, they lost the governorship to Democrat Phil Murphy, and could be poised to lose three House seats.

Long-term Republican incumbents Frank LoBiondo in the 2nd District and Rodney Frelinghyusen in the 11th both served 24 years each in the House before deciding to not to run for re-election, making those seats attainable for Democrats for the first time in years.

Strong Democratic candidates backed by the party won their primaries in each district – long-time state senator Jeff Van Drew in the 2nd, and former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor Mikie Sherill in the 11th.

In New Jersey’s 7th District, won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, Republican incumbent Leonard Lance will face a tough general election against former Obama staffer Tom Malinowski.

Democrats flipped another seat in a special election

In Missouri’s 17th state senate district, two-term state representative Lauren Arthur beat her Republican opponent by a 19-point landslide in a district Trump won by five points.

Arthur’s election marks the 42nd state legislative seat flipped from Republican to Democratic control since Trump’s election, in addition to a governorship and two congressional seats that flipped to Democrats in special elections. In that same time, only seven seats at any level have gone from Democratic to Republican.

GOP voters punished anti-Trump Republicans

For Republican politicians, openly disavowing Trump has consequences.

Rep. Martha Roby, a five-term congresswoman from Alabama, is paying the political price of withdrawing her support for Trump in 2016 after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he seemingly bragged about assaulting women.

After securing just 38% of the vote, below the 50% threshold required to automatically advance to the general, Roby will enter a run-off against fellow GOP candidate Bobby Bright in July.

In New Jersey, GOP candidate Steve Lonegan, an activist who harshly criticised Trump in 2016, lost the Republican primary in the 5th Congressional District after his opponent used footage of Trump calling Lonegan a “loser” in his campaign ads.

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