Primary Takeaways: A liberal newcomer ousts top Dem leader
An ambitious senior Democrat in the House lost his job Tuesday in a stunning primary upset. Mitt Romney moved closer to an office in Washington, just not the oval one. That’s still occupied by President Donald Trump, who declared victory as voters across seven states continued pushing the two major parties on divergent paths in a turbulent era.
Key takeaways from the latest round of voting ahead of the November midterms.
THE PROGRESSIVE LEFT: A NEW YORK STUNNER, BIG MARYLAND VICTORY
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ouster of Rep. Joe Crowley was more evidence that the Democratic Party’s left wing is going to be a force to contend with for years to come.
The 28-year-old community organizer has never held political office and ran a shoestring campaign. But she managed to defeat a top Democratic House leader who had eyes on the speaker’s gavel from his safe New York City seat Tuesday.
Ocasio-Cortez’s win is a sign that Democrats are hungry for generational change and some are open to unabashedly liberal policies. Ocasio-Cortez backed single-payer health insurance, a federal jobs guarantee and abolishing ICE as the nation’s immigration policing agency. She cast Crowley, a 56-year-old white male with plenty of Wall Street campaign cash, as elitist and disconnected from his diverse constituents.
Her message won’t necessarily play everywhere. The Queens district is far more liberal than the moderate areas Democrats are hoping to flip in November. But it’s likely to embolden the left as the Democratic Party tries to strike the right balance between harnessing the energy of progressive activists while putting up candidates with broad enough appeal.
Other New York Democrats, including Rep. Yvette Clarke, faced close calls. In Maryland, former NAACP chief Ben Jealous’ nomination for Maryland governor wasn’t an upset, but gave progressives another momentous win. With backing from liberal icon Bernie Sanders, Jealous outpaced Prince George’s County executive Rushern Baker.
DEMOCRATIC ESTABLISHMENT HOLDS ELSEWHERE
Tuesday was huge for the progressive movement, but it still doesn’t reverse what Democratic primary voters have been doing for weeks: choosing nominees, particularly for the House, who come from the party’s mainstream and often enjoy party backing.
That trend mostly continued Tuesday, including in GOP-held districts that will determine which party controls the House.
Upstate New Yorkers coalesced around state lawmaker Anthony Brindisi, the Washington establishment choice, to try to unseat vulnerable Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney. Suburban Denver Democrats took the same course, giving former Army Ranger Jason Crow the nod to take on Rep. Mike Coffman in a district that is a battleground every two years. Trump lost there by 9 percentage points in 2016. In a neighboring liberal Colorado district, Rep. Diana DeGette withstood a primary challenge from the left.
WHITE HOUSE HAS A GOOD NIGHT ...
President Donald Trump went all in for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, returning the favor of McMaster’s early 2016 support with an election-eve rally that presaged McMaster’s comfortable-but-competitive primary runoff win over political newcomer John Warren.
It was vintage Trump. McMaster is a three-decade mainstay in South Carolina, the kind of political creature Trump lambastes in Washington. But McMaster, then the lieutenant governor, was the first statewide elected official anywhere to back Trump over myriad GOP presidential rivals.
Two other candidates backed by Trump also won Tuesday. Mitt Romney became the GOP nominee and likely November victor for a Senate seat from Utah. New York Rep. Daniel Donovan dispatched former Rep. Michael Grimm, who sought to regain his old seat after completing a federal prison stint for felony tax evasion.
... BUT TRUMP’S ENDORSEMENT IS STILL COMPLICATED
The results further solidify Trump’s hold on the Republican Party, but it doesn’t necessarily clarify what that means.
In choosing McMaster, South Carolina Republicans who love Trump opted for a near-career politician over a self-made businessman who styled his outsider bid after the president’s path to the White House. In New York, Donovan won despite having voted against the GOP tax cuts that rank as Trump’s biggest domestic policy achievement thus far. And Romney, though he’s toned down his criticism of Trump considerably from when he called him a “con artist” in 2016, has maintained that he won’t be a silent rubber stamp for a president who still gives him pause.
So it’s still an open question as to whether it’s more important simply to have Trump’s endorsement or to share his profile and show voters an authentic alliance.
A DEEPLY CONCERNED, UNHAPPY ELECTORATE
Associated Press interviews with voters around the country Tuesday suggested a predictably divided midterm electorate, but perhaps even more starkly, one that is profoundly uncomfortable with the course and tone of national politics.
In Colorado, independent Vincent Clouse, 32, said Trump’s overall approach leaves him looking for candidates interested in “healthy communication and working together” instead of playing “games on this ‘false news.’”
Baltimore contractor James Dorsey said “this political air we’re breathing, it’s not good for us.” A black man who grew up in Alabama, Dorsey called particular attention to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave a restaurant in Virginia over the weekend, and compared it to discrimination against African-Americans. “That’s like some Jim Crow stuff,” Dorsey said.
Of course, both parties typically view midterms as base elections decided by which side turns out more of its core supporters. So that, in combination with Trump’s tendency toward blood sport, almost certainly means voters wanting polite policy debate won’t find it in 2018.
That’s enough for 27-year-old Jalen Rosedale not to cast a Maryland ballot at all. “If I saw these politicians fixing things, hey, maybe I’d think different,” he said outside a Baltimore polling place. Instead, he said, “all I see is their face on a sign.”
IN THE YEAR OF THE WOMAN, MARY JANE IS ON THE MARCH
In the first cannabis ballot referendum of the year, Oklahomans voted to make it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Now it’ll be up to Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled government to set the regulations for the broadly worded statute. The referendum continues a two-decade trend of voters in Democratic- and Republican-controlled states — from California and Arkansas to Maine and Massachusetts — using ballot referenda to legalize cannabis in some form. Marijuana votes are scheduled for later this year in Michigan and Utah.
Associated Press writers Brian Eason in Denver, Sean Murphy in Oklahoma and Randall Chase and David McFadden in Maryland contributed to this report.
Find all of our primary coverage here: https://apnews.com/tag/Primaryelections