Tuesday is primary night for two vacant House seats on opposite ends of the country: Rhode Island's 1st District, which Democrat David Cicilline departed at the end of May, and Utah's 2nd District, where Republican Chris Stewart remains in office but triggered a special election by notifying Gov. Spencer Cox in June that he would "irrevocably resign" effective the evening of Sept. 15.
Given the respective lean of each district—Joe Biden took Rhode Island's 1st 64-35, while Donald Trump carried Utah's 2nd 57-40—the primaries will likely be dispositive in both cases. It'll still be a little while, though, before either state sends a new member to Congress: The general election in Rhode Island will take place on Nov. 7, while Utah's is set for Nov. 21. Below, we preview both contests.
• RI-01: A total of 12 Democrats are on the ballot to replace Cicilline, though one of them, businessman Don Carlson, dropped out over the weekend amid a scandal.
The main contenders for this dark blue constituency are former Biden administration official Gabe Amo, state Sen. Sandra Cano, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, and former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg. Also running are Navy veteran Walter Berbrick, state Rep. Stephen Casey, Providence City Councilman John Goncalves, and state Sen. Ana Quezada.
Amo, Cano, Goncalves, Matos, and Quezada would each have the chance to make history as the first person of color to represent the Ocean State in Congress.
The only poll we've seen in the last month was a mid-August internal for Amo that showed Regunberg leading him 28-19 as Matos and Cano took 11% each. The survey, which found Carlson taking 8%, did not ask about the rest of the field by name and instead found 8% opting for "another candidate not mentioned here." However, there are further indications that Regunberg, who touts endorsements from prominent national progressives like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is the frontrunner going into Tuesday.
Regunberg, who is the nephew of Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider, was on the receiving end of more attacks than any of his opponents at Tuesday's debate. A group called Committee for a Better Rhode Island followed up days later by making Regunberg its target in the first negative TV ad of the entire race, though WPRI says it's only putting $81,000 behind its offensive. The spot attacks the candidate over his May declaration that he would have voted against Biden's debt ceiling deal with Speaker Kevin McCarthy; Regunberg said at Tuesday's debate that he'd have supported the agreement if he'd been the decisive vote.
Amo, for his part, picked up an endorsement Thursday from former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who represented prior versions of this seat from 1995 to 2011 but has since moved out of the state. Kennedy, who is the son of the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, also appeared in a commercial for Amo and touted his work in the Biden administration.
Matos, meanwhile, looked like the frontrunner until July, when multiple local election boards asked the police to probe allegations that her campaign had turned in forged signatures in order to get on the ballot. State election authorities have reaffirmed that the lieutenant governor submitted a sufficient number of valid petitions, but the state attorney general's office is continuing to investigate the matter. Matos' allies at EMILY's List and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus remain in her corner, however, as she's benefited from more outside spending than any of her rivals.
Cano has trailed her opponents in fundraising and hasn't received any third-party help, but she has several influential labor groups on her side. The rest of the field has raised little money and hasn't picked up many notable endorsements.
• UT-02: The GOP contest to succeed Stewart is a three-way battle between Celeste Maloy, the congressman's former legal counsel; former state Rep. Becky Edwards; and former RNC member Bruce Hough. The winner will face Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, who has no intra-party opposition, for a seat located in central and western Salt Lake City and southwestern Utah.
Maloy, who has Stewart's support, earned her spot on the primary ballot by winning the support of delegates at the GOP's convention in June. Just days later, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that she'd last voted in Utah in 2018 before taking a job in D.C. to work for Stewart, which led election officials to move her voter registration to inactive status. Maloy's detractors unsuccessfully argued in court that she'd violated state law because she only became an active voter again after she filed to run for Congress, but they've continued working to portray her as an interloper.
Edwards, meanwhile, infuriated conservatives in 2020 when she endorsed Joe Biden (she has since expressed "regret"), a move she followed by waging a failed primary challenge to far-right Sen. Mike Lee in which she portrayed herself as a more pragmatic option. However, the one poll anyone has released finds voters may not be holding it against her: A mid-August survey from Dan Jones & Associates showed Edwards beating Hough 32-11, with Maloy at 9%. However, half of respondents were undecided, so if this survey is accurate, the race remains up for grabs.
Unlike in Rhode Island, there has been little outside activity in this contest. Hough and Edwards had each spent about $450,000 as of mid-August, while Maloy had spent about half that.
The far-right justices on Wisconsin's Supreme Court just can't handle the fact that liberals now have the majority for the first time in 15 years, so they're in the throes of an ongoing meltdown—and their tears are delicious. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," co-hosts David Nir and David Beard drink up all the schadenfreude they can handle as they puncture conservative claims that their progressive colleagues are "partisan hacks" (try looking in the mirror) or are breaking the law (try reading the state constitution). Elections do indeed have consequences!