The biggest primary day of 2018 is on Tuesday, when voters—take a deep breath—head to the polls in Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota.
It takes a simple plurality to win the nomination in Montana, New Jersey, and New Mexico. Alabama and Mississippi require runoffs if no one takes a majority, while South Dakota holds a runoff if no one clears 35 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, if no one wins more than 35 percent in Iowa, the parties pick their nominees at a convention. You can find the dates for all of these potential second-round events on our eminently bookmarkable calendar.
The most important programming note, however, involves California. In the Golden State, all candidates from all parties run on the same ballot in what’s known as a "top-two primary," and the two candidates with the most votes advance to the November general election, regardless of party. (Candidates cannot avoid the general election in California by winning a majority in June.) This unusual and chaotic system has Democrats worried that they'll fail to field a candidate in the fall midterms in three competitive House districts—the 39th, 48th, and 49th—while Republicans could get locked out of both the race for Senate and governor.
Voting by mail is also particularly popular in California: One expert estimates that 70 to 75 percent of all ballots will be cast by mail. Ballots must be postmarked by June 5, but they will still be counted as long as election officials receive them no later than three days after Election Day. As a result, we might not know the outcome in all races until well after primary day.
The polls first close at 8 PM ET in Alabama, Mississippi, and New Jersey. They close at 9 PM ET in New Mexico and the portion of South Dakota in the central time zone; at 10 PM ET in Iowa, Montana, and the remainder of South Dakota; and 11 PM ET in California.
Our guide to the key races to watch Tuesday is below. We also invite you to join us at Daily Kos Elections that night for our liveblog of all of the races on the docket, and to follow our coverage on Twitter as well.
● CA-Sen: Sen. Dianne Feinstein has long been on the outs with California progressives, and she made things worse in August when she urged an audience to show Trump more patience. State Sen. Kevin de Leon, who recently finished a stint leading the chamber, announced in October that he would challenge the longtime incumbent, who was first elected in 1992, the original “Year of the Woman.” (De Leon was term-limited in the legislature.) Republicans, meanwhile, only managed to put forth a heap of Some Dudes.
There's no doubt that Feinstein will advance to the November general election, but we don’t know whether de Leon will be her opponent. De Leon has attracted some prominent labor support, but he began the race with little name recognition, and he’d only raised about $1 million for his bid as of mid-May—not a lot for state this big and expensive. De Leon has taken second place in almost every poll of the race, but it’s tough to accurately survey a contest with 32 names on the ballot.
● MT-Sen (R): Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is once again a top GOP target, and four Republicans are competing to take him on. The frontrunner appears to be state Auditor Matt Rosendale, who has the support of the anti-tax Club for Growth and a good relationship with national Republicans. Former state Judge Russ Fagg has the support of several local Republican politicians, and he narrowly outspent Rosendale. Also in the running are state Sen. Albert Olszewski and businessman Troy Downing.
Rosendale has benefited from at least $1.6 million in spending from the Club for Growth. However, the Club has continued to attack Fagg through the final days of the race, a potential sign they don't think Rosendale has this primary locked up. Rosendale moved to Montana from Maryland in 2002, and the depth of his ties to his new state have been questioned, leading Fagg to try to frame this race as a battle between a "fourth-generation Montanan" and a guy supported by wealthy outsiders.
● AL-Gov (R & D): Republican Kay Ivey was elevated from lieutenant governor to the top spot last year after incumbent Robert Bentley resigned in disgrace. Several Republicans were already planning to run to succeed Bentley, who was to be termed-out this year, and a few of them decided to stay in the race even after Ivey announced she would seek a full term. Ivey's main primary foe looks like Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, while evangelical minister Scott Dawson and state Sen. Bill Hightower also in the mix.
Ivey has largely kept a low profile on the campaign trail while decisively outspending her opponents, and she seems to have avoided making any major mistakes. There's little doubt that Ivey will take the most votes, so the real question is whether she can win the majority she needs to avoid a runoff. A late April poll from Leverage Public Strategies for the Alabama Daily News gave her a 47-11 lead over Battle, while a late May Ivey internal showed her taking 58 percent of the vote.
The Democratic primary, meanwhile, is a duel between former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, though there are a few other Democrats on the ballot who could keep either of the top contenders from taking a majority. Local Democrats have mentioned Maddox as a rising star for a while, while Cobb has antagonized what remains of the Democratic power structure in the state. Both candidates have spent comparable amounts of money, and there has been little polling.
● CA-Gov: Every single poll over the last few months has shown Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom comfortably in first place, so all we’re wondering is who his general election opponent will be. Recent surveys have found Republican businessman John Cox, whom Donald Trump endorsed a few weeks ago, taking the second place spot. Still, wealthy pro-charter school allies of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, also a Democrat, have continued to spend heavily to boost him. Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang and Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen are also in the hunt.
● IA-Gov (D): Several Democrats are competing to take on GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds, who became governor last year after Terry Branstad was confirmed as Trump’s ambassador to China. Wealthy and well-connected businessman Fred Hubbell began airing ads last year, and he's outspent his opponents by hefty margins. Two May polls showed Hubbell far ahead of his rivals, but it remains to be seen whether he can take the 35 percent of the vote he needs to win the nomination without a party convention.
A big late development may have improved Hubbell's prospects. Both recent polls showed state Sen. Nate Boulton running in second place, but he dropped out of the race two weeks before Election Day after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. It's not clear where Boulton's supporters will go, but Hubbell should have an easier time getting to 35 percent with one fewer opponent in the contest. Also running are local SEIU president Cathy Glasson; former state party chair Andy McGuire; and John Norris, a former chief of staff to then-Gov. Tom Vilsack.
● NM-Gov (D): GOP Gov. Suzanne Martinez is termed-out, and three Democrats are competing to succeed her. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been the frontrunner from the beginning, and a recent poll for the Albuquerque Journal confirmed her status, giving her a massive 57-15 margin over former Univision executive Jeff Apodaca, while state Sen. Joe Cervantes took just 9. The Democratic nominee will be favored in November against far-right Rep. Steve Pearce, who has no primary opposition.
● SD-Gov (R): The GOP primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Dennis Daugaard pits Rep. Kristi Noem, who represents the entire state in the House, against Attorney General Marty Jackley. Only two polls have been released over the last month, and they each gave one of the candidates just a 1-point edge. Republicans have controlled the governorship since the 1978 election, and whoever wins will be the heavy November favorite against the presumptive Democratic nominee, state Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton.
● AL-02 (R) (65-33 Trump, 63-36 Romney): GOP Rep. Martha Roby pissed off local conservatives in 2016 when she said she wouldn't vote for Trump after the Access Hollywood tape emerged, prompting her detractors to launch a general election write-in campaign. Roby ended up beating her Democratic foe just 49-41, with the rest going to write-ins. Since then, the congresswoman has largely kept her head down and loyally voted with Trump, but her detractors hope she's alienated enough Trump fans to at least force her into a runoff.
The congresswoman's best-known and best-funded primary foe is Bobby Bright, a former mayor of Montgomery who won this seat in a 2008 upset as a conservative Democrat and narrowly lost the 2010 general election to Roby—but whether a party-switching ex-Democrat offers greater appeal to disgruntled Trump admirers remains to be seen. A few other candidates, including state Rep. Barry Moore and Rich Hobson, a longtime aide to disgraced former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, are also running, but they've spent little money.
● CA-10 (49-46 Clinton, 51-47 Obama): Several Democrats are competing to take on GOP Rep. Jeff Denham in this Modesto-area swing seat. Beekeeper Michael Eggman, who lost to Denham 52-48, began the race with the most name recognition. However, venture capitalist Josh Harder outspent Eggman by a lopsided $638,000 to $182,000 margin from April 1 to May 16 (which the FEC defines as the “pre-primary” period). National Democrats reportedly recruited Eggman because they feared that Harder's Silicon Valley connections wouldn't play well in a district with a large working-class population, but the DCCC never spent money in this race.
Two other notable Democrats are also running. Former Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno spent $146,000 during the pre-primary period, and her allies at EMILY's List have spent almost $300,000 for her. The other candidate to watch is emergency room nurse and former local school board member Sue Zwahlen, who spent $158,000. Former Turlock Councilor Ted Howze is running as a Republican, but state and national Democrats aren't acting at all worried he's in a position to lock Team Blue out of the general election.
● CA-25 (50-44 Clinton, 50-48 Romney: Fortunately for Democrats, they aren't in any danger of a top-two lockout in this district, since GOP Rep. Steve Knight is the only Republican on the ballot. Four Democrats are competing for this northern Los Angeles County seat. The two main contenders are attorney and 2016 nominee Bryan Caforio, who lost to Knight 53-47, and nonprofit head Katie Hill.
Hill outspent Caforio about $500,000 to $330,000 during the pre-primary period, and she's gotten $234,000 in outside support from EMILY's List. However, Caforio has name recognition from his last campaign and plenty of labor support. Also running are scientist Jess Phoenix, who spent $82,000 in the pre-primary period, and little-known candidate Mary Pallant.
● CA-39 (51-43 Clinton, 51-47 Romney): This open seat is one of three Southern California districts where Democrats are seriously worried about being locked out of the top-two primary. Longtime GOP Rep. Ed Royce decided to retire in January, and he quickly endorsed former Assemblywoman Young Kim to succeed him. National Democrats seem to have decided that Kim will be the top GOP vote-getter, and they've spent heavily to try to weaken two other Republicans, Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson and former state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff. The GOP group American Future Fund has also spent $400,000 to help Kim.
The DCCC is supporting Navy veteran Gil Cisneros, and they and their allies at House Majority PAC have spent a combined $2.3 million, both with ads boosting him directly and spots hitting Nelson and Huff. But while Cisneros, who won $266 million in a 2010 lottery drawing, has outspent the entire field, he has plenty of well-funded rivals. They include wealthy businessman and former teacher Andy Thorburn; Herbert Lee, a physician who launched some heavy ad buys in the final weeks of the race; and pediatrician Mai Khanh Tran. Former Commerce Department official Sam Jammal has spent considerably less than his fellow Democrats, but every little bit could matter in a race this crowded.
● CA-45 (50-44 Clinton, 55-43 Romney): Rep. Mimi Walters is the only Republican on the ballot, so, as in the 25th, there’s no chance of a top-two lockout for Democrats in this Orange County seat. Four Democrats are running: UC Irvine Law professors Dave Min and Katie Porter; former Obama administration technology adviser Brian Forde; and former Senate aide Kia Hamadanchy.
Porter is the only woman on the Democrat side, and she has the backing of Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and EMILY's List, which has spent $240,000 for her. Porter outspent Forde $530,000 to $356,000 during the pre-primary period, while Min spent a smaller $341,000, but he has the California Democratic Party's endorsement; Hamadanchy spent just over $100,000. Porter has emphasized her support for Medicare for all, which Min has argued would be unpopular in this traditionally Republican seat that swung sharply against Trump in 2016.
● CA-48 (48-46 Clinton, 55-43 Romney): Democrats have been looking forward to targeting GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher—aka Vladimir Putin’s no. 1 fan in Congress—but they have to get through the top-two first. That task unexpectedly became a lot more difficult days before the filing deadline when former Orange County Republican Party Chair Scott Baugh entered the contest. Baugh had raised money in 2016 for a future campaign to succeed Rohrabacher (the two former friends had a public falling out later that year), so he began the contest with a hefty war chest.
There's little question Rohrabacher will take first place, but Democrats are afraid Baugh will grab second. To avoid this fate, the DCCC and House Majority PAC have spent about $1.8 million mostly to attack Baugh, though the DCCC made a late attempt to boost little-known Republican John Gabbard in an effort split the GOP vote. The conservative American Future Fund has countered with $725,000 to help Baugh secure a place in the general.
There are two major Democrats running. The DCCC is supporting real estate company owner Harley Rouda, while the state Democratic Party endorsed stem cell researcher Hans Keirstead. The problem is they aren’t the only Democrats running: Attorney Omar Siddiqui has done some self-funding, while a trio of candidates who dropped out after the filing deadline will still appear on the ballot. Even if they only take a fraction of the vote, that could make all the difference.
● CA-49 (51-43 Clinton, 52-46 Romney): This is the third Southern California seat where national Democrats are spending heavily to forestall a top-two catastrophe. Retiring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa is supporting Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey, and Democrats seem to have decided that she'll make it to the general. Consequently, the DCCC and House Majority PAC have spent a combined $1.6 million to kneecap Assemblyman Rocky Chavez. The GOP group American Future Fund in turn has spent $344,000 to help Chavez; curiously, they've also spent $122,000 to attack a different Republican, San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, whom Democrats have left alone.
While the DCCC has made it clear which Republican they oppose, they have not endorsed any of the Democrats running here, nor did the state party. Retired Marine Doug Applegate narrowly lost to Issa last cycle, and he began the race with the most name recognition. However, Applegate has struggled to raise money this time around, and he's been badly outspent by his three main intra-party rivals.
Real estate investor Paul Kerr outspent former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign policy adviser Sara Jacobs $2.4 million to $1.2 million during the pre-primary period, but EMILY's List has deployed a massive $2.3 million to help Jacobs; environmental attorney Mike Levin has spent much less. Polling has shown a very tightly packed race, and many different pairings are possible for the general election.
● CA-50 (55-40 Trump, 60-38 Romney): GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter is currently under FBI investigation for allegedly putting campaign money to his personal use, including a $600 flight for his family's pet rabbit. While Hunter has easily won in the past, he's attracted some noteworthy opposition from both parties this time.
There are two major Democratic candidates. Josh Butner, a retired Navy SEAL and local school board member, has received donations from some senior House Democrats, while former U.S. Labor Department official Ammar Campa-Najjar has the endorsement of the state Democratic Party. On the Republican side, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells is also running, but he's raised very little money. Still, his candidacy means that an all-GOP general election is possible in this inland San Diego County seat, but national Democrats have focused their attention on more competitive districts.
● IA-01 (D) (49-45 Trump, 56-43 Obama): The DCCC, EMILY's List, and several local unions have consolidated behind state Rep. Abby Finkenauer's campaign against GOP Rep. Rod Blum in this eastern Iowa seat. Finkenauer's main primary foe is former Labor Department official Thomas Heckroth, but he's spent considerably less money and has much less support from major players than she does.
● IA-03 (D) (49-45 Trump, 51-47 Obama): Three Democrats are competing to take on GOP Rep. David Young in this swingy Des Moines-area seat. The only recent poll we've seen was a Selzer & Company survey for the Des Moines Register that give insurance company owner Eddie Mauro a bare 27-26 edge over businesswoman Cindy Axne, while longtime political operative Pete D'Alessandro was far back at 11 percent. Mauro, who outspent Axne $379,000 to $210,000 during the pre-primary period, hails from a well-known South Side Des Moines political family, while Axne has the backing of EMILY's List, which has spent over $300,000 on her behalf. D'Alessandro, who spent $160,000, has the support of Bernie Sanders.
● MS-03 (R) (61-37 Trump, 60-39 Romney): There's a very crowded field to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Gregg Harper, and it's likely this will go to a runoff. The top two spenders by far are Michael Guest, who serves as district attorney for Rankin and Madison counties, and Baptist Health Foundation President Whit Hughes, a one-time campaign finance chair for former Gov. Haley Barbour. Morgan Dunn, who is managing director of a rural health care service provider, and state Sally Dotty are also running.
● MT-AL (D) (56-35 Trump, 55-42 Romney): Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte infamously won a May special election last year 50-44 the day after he physically attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, and Democrats hope he'll be vulnerable this year. Former nonprofit director Grant Kier outspent attorney John Heenan $369,000 to $334,000 during the pre-primary period, while former state Rep. Kathleen Williams spent $118,000.
● NJ-05 (R) (49-48 Trump, 51-48 Romney): Democrat Josh Gottheimer defeated GOP Rep. Scott Garrett last cycle, and Team Red is hoping to target him, but their recruitment has been sub-par. The primary pits former Bogata Mayor Steve Lonegan, a well-known movement conservative who has lost several high-profile races, against attorney John McCann, who is closer to local Bergen County power players. Lonegan has decisively outspent McCann, and he recently released a poll giving him a 46-27 lead, but McCann recently fired back with a TV ad featuring footage of Donald Trump mocking Lonegan as "a loser."
● NJ-11 (R) (49-48 Trump, 52-47 Romney): GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is retiring from this ancestrally red North Jersey seat, and while there's little question that former federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill will be the Democratic nominee, things are much less certain on the GOP side.
Assemblyman Jay Webber is an ardent Trump supporter who hails from populous Morris County, and he's likely the primary frontrunner. However, he faces a possible threat at home from wealthy businessman Peter De Neufville. That could give investment banker and Army Reserve JAG officer Antony Ghee an opening. Ghee has the support of powerful party leaders in Essex and Passaic Counties, and while those two areas make up only about a third of the vote, he could win if the vote in Morris County winds up sufficiently split. Ghee, though, has barely spent any money, and he caused himself some problems when he refused to say whom he'd voted for in the last three presidential elections.
● NM-01 (D) (52-36 Clinton, 55-40 Obama): Three notable Democrats are seeking this reliably blue Albuquerque seat: retired University of New Mexico law school professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez; former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez; and former state party chair Deb Haaland, who would be the first Native American woman to serve in Congress.
Sedillo Lopez is close to outgoing Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (though the congresswoman has not endorsed anyone), and she decisively outspent her two main rivals during the pre-primary period. However, several outside groups are spending heavily on ads to help Martinez: VoteVets, With Honor Fund, and Forward Not Back, a group that's affiliated with the "radical centrist" organization No Labels. A new group called 7Gen Leaders has also been spending to help Haaland. EMILY's List has not endorsed either Sedillo Lopez or Haaland, but they've been airing ads attacking Martinez.
● NM-02 (R) (50-39 Trump, 52-45 Romney): The GOP primary for this open southern New Mexico seat has largely turned into a duel between state Rep. Yvette Herrell and former state party chair Monty Newman. Herrell has a reputation as one of the most conservative members of the legislature, and she pulled off a surprise 58-26 win against Newman at the February state party convention. While Herrell had trouble raising cash for months, he convention victory seems to have helped her improve her fortunes, and she recently picked up an endorsement from the NRA.
Both Republicans began airing negative ads in the final days of the campaign, but it's notable that Newman struck first, which could be a sign he thinks he's trailing. The winner will likely take on Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, a water rights attorney, in a conservative seat that Democrats held for a single term from 2009-2011.
● SD-AL (R) (62-32 Trump, 58-40 Romney): Three Republicans are competing to replace Kristi Noem in this conservative seat. A Mason-Dixon poll released in the final week of the campaign gave former Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson, who is backed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a wide 41-23 lead over Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, with state Sen. Neil Tapio is a distant third with 13. Johnston and the anti-Krebs No Labels affiliate Citizens for a Strong America Inc. have been decisively outspending the secretary of state, while no one has spent much for or against Tapio.