Key Races to Watch in Tuesday’s Primaries


Voters in five states and Washington, D.C., head to the polls Tuesday to decide on various presidential and congressional primaries.

Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota voters will participate in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, though President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have already secured their nominations.

In South Dakota’s GOP primary, Trump is unopposed. Republicans in the capital have already held their presidential primary this year, but Democrats will cast their votes on Tuesday.

Iowa voters have already selected Biden and Trump as their 2024 nominees, but still have House primaries to decide next week.

Here are the key races to watch:

Iowa Republican incumbents fight to keep their districts

Iowa Republican Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Randy Feenstra are both facing primary opposition.

Miller-Meeks, representing the 1st Congressional District, faces advertising executive David Pautsch, although she has a significant financial advantage. The GOP primary winner will face Democrat and former state Rep. Christina Bohannan in the general election.

Bohannan lost the district to Miller-Meeks by six percentage points in the 2022 midterms.

In the 4th Congressional District, Feenstra is up against former CIA officer Kevin Virgil. Feenstra has far outraised Virgil in the primary. Former Iowa Rep. Steve King supports Virgil.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Democratic candidates Melissa Vine and Lannon Baccam are vying to challenge first-term Rep. Zach Nunn (R-IA), in the most competitive district in Iowa. This seat will play a role in determining whether Republicans maintain their slim House majority or if Democrats can take control.

Nunn won his seat in 2022 by less than one percentage point. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted the race as a prime opportunity to flip.

Biden and Trump protest votes could continue

Democratic voters dissatisfied with the Biden administration have been voting “uncommitted” or staging write-in campaigns during the primaries.

In Michigan, over 101,000 Democratic voters chose the “uncommitted” option, resulting in two delegates.

Some Montana voters have already indicated they will vote no preference in the state’s Democratic primary.

New Mexico voters can vote for an “uncommitted delegate” if they wish to snub Biden, and D.C. residents can write in a candidate, while New Jersey voters have an uncommitted option.

Following Trump’s conviction on 34 counts of falsifying records by a New York jury, all eyes are on how many voters will choose Nikki Haley, who continues to pull in double-digit results despite no longer running for president.

Republicans to decide on who will take on Sen. Jon Tester

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., speaks with reporters about the border security talks, outside the chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. Any bipartisan border deal could be doomed because of resistance from former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), one of the most vulnerable Democrats, is fighting for his political future as Republicans aim to flip his seat.

Republican and ex-Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy, backed by Sen. Steve Daines, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is the likely GOP candidate to face Tester. Sheehy’s rivals include former Montana Public Service Commissioner Brad Johnson and past congressional candidate Charles Walking Child.

Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) announced his candidacy in the primary but withdrew after Trump endorsed Sheehy.

Tester, a centrist Democrat, has highlighted his efforts to oppose Biden, whose poll numbers are underwater in a state Trump won in 2020.

Democrats need Tester to win in November to help maintain Senate control.

Who will replace Rep. Matt Rosendale?

After exiting the Montana Senate race, Rosendale announced he wouldn’t seek reelection to Congress.

The crowded Republican primary to replace Rosendale in the 2nd Congressional District includes former Rep. Denny Rehberg, state auditor Troy Downing, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.

Downing and Rehberg have emerged as the top two candidates among the Republicans running for the seat.

Four Democrats are running in the primary, including former pharmaceutical sales representative Ming Cabrera, former Public Service Commissioner John Driscoll, business owner Kevin Hamm, and rancher Steve Held.

The Cook Political Report rates the seat as “Solid Republican.”

Gov. Greg Gianforte faces primary challenge

Incumbent Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) is running for a second term but faces a primary challenge from state Rep. Tanner Smith.

Smith has criticized Gianforte for allowing marijuana proliferation and claimed that Gianforte is not a real conservative.

On the Democratic side, Ryan Busse is the front-runner but faces considerable odds to flip the governorship in a state that went for Trump by nearly 17 percentage points in 2020.

Democrats battle to replace indicted Bob Menendez

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, leaves the Manhattan federal court after the second day of jury selection in his trial, Tuesday, May, 14, 2024, in New York. The Democrat has pleaded not guilty to bribery, extortion, fraud and obstruction of justice, along with acting as a foreign agent of Egypt. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

All eyes are on New Jersey as Democrats battle to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who has held the seat for nearly 20 years.

The primary battle comes as Menendez bows out of contention while facing a criminal indictment for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to use his official position to protect and enrich others and benefit the Government of Egypt. Menendez is considering an independent run in the November election.

Three Democrats are vying for the party’s nomination, including Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), the frontrunner. He’ll face Lawrence Hamm, a former campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign in New Jersey, and workers’ rights advocate Patricia Campos-Medina.

The Democratic primary winner is favored in November, as New Jersey has not elected a Republican senator in over 50 years.

Menendez’s son faces primary troubles of his own

Further down the ballot, troubles continue for the Menendez family.

Sen. Menendez’s son, Rep. Rob Menendez (D-NJ), is facing a primary challenge after initially being expected to secure a second term without much trouble. Rob Menendez has not been accused of any wrongdoing nor connected to his father’s case.

However, challengers see his father’s indictment as an opportunity to make him vulnerable.

Rob Menendez will face Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and real estate finance company CEO Kyle Jasey.

The primary winner is favored in November as New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District is rated D+22.

Republicans turn focus to Democratic senator in New Mexico

Although New Mexico’s Senate seat isn’t considered competitive, Republicans are focusing on Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to force Democrats to allocate resources while defending seven other vulnerable seats in November.

Voters will choose Nella Domenici as the Republican candidate, running unopposed for the party nomination. Domenici benefits from name recognition from her father, who held the Senate seat until 2009.

Domenici also benefits from personal wealth and corporate connections, which Republicans hope will secure large donations to fuel her campaign.

It’s unlikely Domenici will pose a serious threat to Heinrich’s reelection, as the seat is considered “Solid Democrat,” according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. But Republicans hope her campaign will force Democrats to stretch their resources thin as they aim to maintain their slim Senate majority.

New Mexico Republicans vie to challenge Vasquez in tossup race

New Mexico voters will also choose their nominee to take on Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-NM) in one of the most competitive races of the 2024 cycle.

Former Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) is the only GOP candidate, setting the stage for a rematch with Vasquez in November. They previously faced off in 2022 when Vasquez defeated Herrell by less than 1 point.

The race, deemed a “tossup,” is one of the most closely watched in November, potentially determining which party controls the House. The district is rated D+1.

Cami Mondeaux
Cami Mondeaux
Congressional Reporter. A Utah native, Cami graduated from Westminster College in Salt Lake City in 2021 and covered state government as a breaking news reporter for KSL News Radio.

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