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Takeaways From Tuesday's Primaries     06/29 06:20

   

   NEW YORK (AP) -- A rare Republican who supports abortion rights found 
success in Colorado in the first primary elections held since the Supreme Court 
overturned Roe v. Wade, while New York's first female governor positioned 
herself to become a major voice in the post-Roe landscape.

   In Illinois, Democrats helped boost a Republican gubernatorial candidate 
loyal to former President Donald Trump in the hopes that he would be the easier 
candidate to beat in November. And in at least two states, election deniers 
were defeated, even as pro-Trump lightning rods elsewhere won.

   Takeaways from the latest round of primary elections:

   ABORTION IS ON THE BALLOT

   The abortion debate consumed the nation this week, but there was no race 
where it mattered more than Colorado's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, 
where businessman Joe O'Dea became one of the only abortion-rights-supporting 
Republicans in the nation to win a statewide primary this year.

   O'Dea beat back a stiff challenge from state Rep. Ron Hanks, a Trump 
loyalist who opposed abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life 
of the mother.

   O'Dea will face Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in November, and if he wins, 
he would become just the third Senate Republican -- and the only male -- to 
support abortion rights.

   He said he backs a ban on late-term abortions and government funding of 
abortions but that the decision to terminate a pregnancy in the initial months 
is "between a person and their God."

   Democrats had spent at least $2.5 million on ads designed to boost O'Dea's 
opponent by promoting, among other things, that he was "too conservative" for 
backing a complete abortion ban.

   Democrats hoped that the Roe decision would give them an advantage in 
several swing states, including Colorado. But, at least for now, O'Dea's 
victory would seem to complicate the Democrats' plans.

   A WIN FOR TRUMP OR THE DEMOCRATS?

   In the final weeks of a campaign, Trump once again attached himself to a 
Republican who was leading the race. This time, it was farmer Darren Bailey in 
Illinois, who easily cruised to the GOP nomination in the governor's race.

   But while Trump can add Bailey to his endorsement record, Democrats are 
betting that his victory may be short-lived.

   Bailey now goes on to face Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the November 
general election, which is just what Pritzker and his allies wanted. Pritzker, 
the billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, and the Democratic Governors 
Association spent heavily on advertising to help Bailey win the GOP nomination. 
Among other things, the ads reminded the state's Democratic-leaning electorate 
that he is "100% pro-life."

   It's a risky gamble. While Bailey may look like an easier opponent in the 
general election, it's feasible that he could ride a red wave -- if it 
materializes -- to the Illinois governor's mansion. Pritzker's predecessor in 
office was a Republican.

   Bailey showed off political acumen by besting the early Republican 
front-runner Richard Irvin, the mayor of Illinois' second-largest city, Aurora. 
Irvin lost despite being the beneficiary of a staggering $50 million investment 
from billionaire Ken Griffin. Irvin, who is Black, refused to say whether he 
voted for Trump and largely avoided talking about abortion, delivering the kind 
of moderate message that could have cut across ideological lines in a general 
election.

   Instead, Republicans nominated Bailey, a Trump loyalist who reads from Bible 
verses in campaign videos and proudly touts his anti-abortion policies in a 
state Trump lost by 17 percentage points in 2020.

   HOCHUL'S OPPORTUNITY

   The scandals of the men around her did not derail New York Democratic Gov. 
Kathy Hochul, who overcame primary challengers on the right and left to win her 
first election test as the state's chief executive.

   Now, Hochul, New York's first female governor, is positioned to emerge as a 
leading voice in the Democratic Party as it navigates the post-Roe landscape.

   The low-profile Hochul stepped into one of the nation's most prominent 
governorships last fall after Andrew Cuomo resigned in the midst of a sexual 
harassment scandal. She had promised to restore New Yorkers' faith in their 
government, only for her handpicked lieutenant governor to be arrested this 
spring in a federal corruption probe.

   Hochul was either "consistently shamefully out of the loop, or shamefully 
enabling through her inaction," charged one of her primary challengers, New 
York City's elected public advocate, Jumaane Williams.

   The attack ultimately didn't land in the primary. But don't expect such 
criticism to disappear as the race for New York governor enters its next phase.

   Rep. Lee Zeldin emerged from a crowded Republican field to earn the GOP 
nomination for governor. He defeated Andrew Giuliani, the son of New York 
City's former mayor Rudy Giuliani, among others.

   And while Hochul has a serious reelection test ahead, look for her to step 
into the national spotlight as the abortion debate rages.

   The Democratic governor said in recent days that New York would be a "safe 
harbor" for those seeking abortions.

   ELECTION DENIERS GO DOWN

   They celebrated their allegiance to Trump's baseless conspiracy theories on 
the campaign trail. But on Tuesday night, a handful of these so-called election 
deniers had nothing to cheer about.

   In Colorado, Republican voters did not reward secretary of state candidate 
Tina Peters for championing Trump's lies about election fraud. She was bested 
by Pam Anderson, a former county clerk who previously led the state clerks' 
association and defends the state's mail-in elections system.

   Some officials in both parties worried that Peters would win the primary. 
That's even after Peters, the Mesa County clerk, was indicted for a security 
breach spurred by conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential 
election. The state GOP had called on her to suspend her campaign.

   Now, Anderson, not Peters, will take on incumbent Democratic Secretary of 
State Jena Griswold, who's led the national fight against 2020 election deniers.

   Elsewhere in Colorado, Senate candidate Hanks had also promoted lies about 
the last presidential election. In addition to being an outspoken opponent of 
abortion rights, he had attended the "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the 
attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

   And in Mississippi, Trump loyalist Michael Cassidy lost a runoff election to 
incumbent Rep. Michael Guest, who had voted to create an independent commission 
to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. Cassidy said in campaign speeches that Guest 
had done nothing to stop "the persecution of Jan. 6 political prisoners."

   LIGHTNING RODS WIN

   Two Republicans familiar with controversy tested for the first time whether 
Republican voters deemed them too extreme to go back to Congress. They both 
prevailed.

   First-term Rep. Mary Miller, who campaigned alongside Trump over the 
weekend, defeated five-term Rep. Rodney Davis, who was considered more 
moderate. The primary victory all but ensures Miller will return to Congress 
for another term given the heavy Republican advantage in her 15th Congressional 
District, which is the most Republican district in the state.

   Miller won just days after describing the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. 
Wade as "a victory for white life." A spokesperson later said she had intended 
to say the decision was a victory for a "right to life."

   Miller is no stranger to provocative statements. Soon after joining the 
House, Miller quoted Adolf Hitler, saying he was right to say that "whoever has 
the youth has the future."

   And in Colorado, Trump loyalist Lauren Boebert defeated a moderate state 
representative who had run a primary campaign focused on Boebert's extremism. 
It didn't work.

   Boebert's controversial moves are many. She vowed to carry a handgun on the 
House floor. She faced calls for her censure last year after being caught on 
video making Islamophobic comments about Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. And she 
heckled President Joe Biden in his first State of the Union address.

   But after winning her primary, she is almost certain to return to Congress 
for another two years. Her GOP-leaning 3rd Congressional District in western 
Colorado became even more Republican after redistricting.

   A ROE SHIFT IN NEBRASKA?

   Nebraska's low-profile special election to fill the remainder of former Rep. 
Jeff Fortenberry's term was not supposed to be close. Republicans have held the 
district for nearly 60 years.

   Yet Republican Mike Flood defeated Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks by only 4 
percentage points on Tuesday.

   The specific cause of the margin wasn't immediately unclear, although there 
was evidence of higher turnout in one Democratic-leaning county that could be 
related to the Roe decision.

   Heading into election day, Flood appeared to have a strong edge in the 
district, which includes Lincoln, parts of suburban Omaha and dozens of 
smaller, more conservative towns. The district has nearly 68,000 more 
Republicans than Democrats and hasn't elected a Democrat to the House since 
1964.

   What happened? Lancaster County, home to the state capital and the 
University of Nebraska, offers some clues.

   In 2020, Fortenberry won the district by nearly 22 percentage points, but he 
lost Lancaster County by less than 1 percentage point. In Tuesday's special 
election, the Republican Flood lost Lancaster County by more than 13 percentage 
points.

   In the end, the swing wasn't enough to move a heavily-Republican district, 
but Democrats could look to the results for hope that the Roe decision will be 
a significant motivator for the Democratic base.

   Incidentally, Fortenberry was sentenced to two years of probation on Tuesday 
for lying to the FBI. Flood and Pansing Brooks are expected to face off again 
in the November general election.

 
 
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