Primary Day Roundup

Wisconsin isn’t the only state going to the polls today. There are primary elections in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. Here’s a quick round-up of what to look for tonight.


California will be putting its new “open primary” system to the test, where all candidates appear on the ballot together, with the top two finishers advancing to the general election.

In the Senate race, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is expected to easily make the general election ballot; an April SurveyUSA poll showed Feinstein receiving 51 percent of the primary vote, with no other candidate over 2 percent. Autism activist Elizabeth Emken has been endorsed by the Republicans, but 14 other Republicans have filed for the seat, including birther gadfly Orly Taitz. Six Democrats appear on the ballot, as well as two Peace & Freedom Party candidates, an American Independent Party candidate, and a Libertarian Party candidate.

In California’s 11th District, which is being vacated by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., eleven candidates are on the ballot, including seven Democrats. The favorite in the race is State Asm. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. But in the split race, any one of a number of candidates, from Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams to author Norman Soloman, could sneak through to have a chance in the general election.

In the 15th district, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., also faces some electoral danger, with Dublin City Councilmember Eric Swalwell, a Democrat, trying to get through to the November ballot. If Swalwell can get past Republican Chris Pareja, he would set up a race in which he could credibly run against Stark, the 5th-most-senior member of the House of Representatives, without raising fears of a switch to the GOP.

California will face a shake-up regardless of what happens; the map has changed this year, as a non-partisan commission took over drawing districts. In theory, that means more competitive districts, and closer races in the fall.

Californians also will decide the fate of two ballot initiatives. The first, Proposition 28, would change the term limit structure from 6 years in the Assembly and 8 in the Senate to a combined 12 years in both bodies. The second, Proposition 29, would raise taxes on cigarettes.


Montana will be selecting a candidate to challenge Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. Rep. Denny Rehnberg, R-Mont., is expected to win the primary, setting up a very close race in November. Dennis Teske, a farmer, also appears on the GOP ballot.

Three Republicans and seven Democrats have filed to run for Montana’s at-large seat in the House of Representatives. Businessman Steve Daines, who ran for Lt. Governor in 2008, is the favorite to win the GOP nomination, though author Eric Brosten and student Vincent Melkus also appear on the ballot.

For Democrats, the favorite is State Sen. Kim Gillan, D-Billings. Other candidates with a chance include businesswoman Diane Smith, Missoula City Council Member Dave Strohmeier, and State Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman.

Six Republicans will compete to succeed Gov. Brian Schweitzer. Fmr. Rep. Rick Hill, R-Mont., is considered the favorite, but former State Sen. Ken Miller, R-Laurel, and analyst Neil Livingstone are also in the mix. On the Democratic side, Attorney General Steve Bullock is considered the favorite, and is challenged by activist Heather Margolis.

New Jersey

The biggest race in New Jersey is the battle in the newly-configured 9th District, where Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., and Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., will face each other to see who can remain in the House. The other race to watch is in the 10th District, where candidates are running to replace the late Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., who died in March. Payne’s son, Donald Payne, Jr., is on the ballot, as well as State Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex, Newark City Councilmember Ron Rice, Jr., and Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith.

The candidates appear on the ballot twice; the November election will select a replacement to fill Payne’s seat from November to January, while a separate ballot will be taken for the member taking office in January. The 10th is considered very safe for the Democrats.

New Mexico

Republicans and Democrats are selecting candidates to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. Sate Auditor Hector Balderas and Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., are vying to hold the seat. Former Rep. Heather Wilson, D-N.M., and businessman Greg Sowards are competing for the GOP nomination.

Heinrich will be retiring from the 1st District, leading to a scramble to replace him. Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez, State Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque, and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham are all competing to hold the seat. Fmr. State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Albuquerque, is running unopposed on the Republican side.

South Dakota

Two Democrats are trying to oust Rep. Kristi Noem, D-S.D., from her at-large seat. Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth and Matt Varilek, a staffer for Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., are running to try to reclaim the seat Noem won in 2010.


With Mitt Romney essentially assured of the GOP nomination, and Barack Obama completely assured that the Dems will pick him, the primaries for president in these states are essentially an afterthought. While each state will select delegates to the national conventions, their makeup should have minimal impact on the endorsement process.

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Image Credit: alan_cleaver2000/Flickr


Carl Oerke
Carl O5 years ago

Yesterday was a depressing day for progressives. Not just becasue of the Scott Walker tragedy in Wisconsin nut becuase so very good candidates did not win. Eric Griego for on in New Mexico a progressive candidate who would have fought hard for the middle class. And Franke Wilmer in Montana. As a country we would have been stronger with them in Congress. Thank you for tossing your hats in the ring and campaigning so hard.

Troy G.
Troy Grant5 years ago

If voting decided anything, it would be illegal.
Emma Goldman