Liberal Democrat Gavin Newsom, California's current lieutenant governor, will be facing off against Republican businessman John Cox, who has repeatedly been endorsed by Donald Trump. The president's support may have rallied the Republican base around the candidate, getting Cox over the primary hurdle, but the association might hurt in the general election where the Republican candidate needs to win over more moderate voters, said former Republican strategist Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.
The Newman recall campaign is the first in California since a failed effort against a Republican state senator in 2008 and the first on the state level anywhere in the nation since 2013, Joshua Spivak, author of the Recall Elections Blog, said in an email. In seven key California House races - now Republican-held districts that voted for Hillary Clinton - Democrats were able to secure a place on the ballot and a shot at flipping them in November. Democrat state Sen. Kevin de Leon and Republican James Bradley are now running two and three.
Neither party immediately appeared to suffer major setbacks, yet the winners and losers in California's most competitive races could take days to sort out given the state's unique election laws. In those seven districts, the returns aren't all final yet but show a candidate from each made the top two, which means that there will be no guaranteed victory for either party in any of those seven races.
"Democrats were expecting one result out of California, but actually results out of California were more positive for Republicans than anything else", he told reporters Wednesday. The party establishment's preferred candidates won nominations in Iowa and New Mexico.
But in at least five of them, progressive candidates could split the vote, leaving a path for Republicans to make the November runoff. To win a ranked-choice election, a candidate needs 50 percent of the vote plus one.
The dynamic followed a trend from recent primaries in other states, indicating that while Trump is enjoying unwavering sway in the Republican party and among conservative voters, his controversial policies are sparking a strong backlash from Democratic voters and independents. One hundred and eighty Republicans filed to run in state house races this year, down from a peak of 207 in 2010, when the tea party swept state races nationwide.
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Voters on Tuesday also went to the polls to choose candidates in primaries in Iowa, Mississippi, Alabama, Montana, South Dakota and New Mexico. Fox News even salivated over the possibility of two Republicans running against each other in California.
Republicans are counting on an improving economy and the local roots of their incumbents, buttressed by a financial advantage among outside fund-raising groups. Splitting of the Democratic vote could have led to two Republicans running in the general election. The second and third place finishers are both Democrats, Harley Rouda and Hans Keirstead, with about 70 votes separating them. Trump tweeted on Wednesday. It's expected to drive up Republican turnout that could benefit candidates in tough races for Congress and the Legislature. According to NBC, Trump's approval has been inching up among Trump voters, Republicans, rural voters and whites.
CORRECTION (June 6, 2018, 11:02 a.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly described a Republican candidate for the U.S. House seat in South Dakota as the chief of staff to the governor.
But in California, home to the most closely watched races on Tuesday, Republican incumbents largely came out on top in several key districts.
National Democrats spent more than $7 million trying to curb and fix the damage inflicted by Democrats attacking each other in districts opened by retiring Republican Reps.
While support for the Dems has surged across the state since Donald Trump was elected President, there were fears that having too many candidates on the ballot in some districts would splinter the vote, allowing Republicans to take the top spots. Jon Tester, a vulnerable Democrat.