And statewide, California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s bid for a full term will also test whether anxiety about public safety has voters ready to reevaluate their embrace of criminal justice reform. Bonta has been a champion in that movement, backing policies like lesser sentencing and bans on cash bail and for-profit prisons. But polls show Californians are feeling markedly more concerned about crime — a dynamic Bonta’s opponents are trying to exploit.
The outcome will also show whether an unaffiliated candidate can break through. Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a Republican-turned-independent, could be Bonta’s toughest opponent in November but early returns had Schubert far behind Republicans Nathan Hochman and Eric Early.
Endangered House incumbents
The all-party primary system has placed a squeeze on Valadao and Kim in California. Thanks to redistricting, 80 percent of people in Kim’s district are new to her and Mission Viejo Council Member Greg Raths, a strong Trump supporter, is looking to block her from the top two. National Republicans had to pour some $1.5 million in the race to aid Kim.
But Kim was in position early to advance to the November runoff, leading Raths by a double-digit margin on the strength of early returns.
Valadao also faces a challenger to his right, businessman Chris Mathys. National Republicans and Democrats both meddled in this primary in the hopes of keeping or blocking the incumbent from the general election. Valadao was holding Mathys off early, though many votes remained to be counted.
In South Dakota, Johnson defeated state Rep. Taffy Howard. The challenger ran to Johnson’s right, citing his vote for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks and his support for Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to remain in House Leadership as proof he is not an ally of Trump.
Palazzo will be in a runoff, but The Associated Press has not yet called which of his opponents will advance to the one-on-one contest. Mike Ezell and Clay Wagner are battling for the second spot. Guest is facing a tough challenge from former US Navy pilot Michael Cassidy.
Battleground House districts
Iowa’s primaries will lock in nominees for three swing districts, though Democrats’ two open primaries are uncontested. State Sen. Liz Mathis is set to take on GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson and Democratic state Rep. Christina Bohannon will face Republican Rep. Marianne Miller-Meeks.
Republican, meanwhile, thing state Sen. Zach Nunn to face Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne this fall in a district that twice went for Donald Trump. Nunn, an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, defeated Nicole Hasso, a self-described outsider who grew up poor in the south side of Chicago.
In New Jersey, form state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. clinched the nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski in a rematch in the most competitive district in the state. Republicans will also choose candidates in two more Democratic-leaning districts held by Reps. Andy Kim and Josh Gottheimer.
Former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez will take on Rep. Yvette Herrell in a New Mexico district that became more blue in redistricting.
And California will host a series of all-party primaries for both Democratic and Republican-held swing seats. Democrat Jay Chen is the likely opponent of GOP Rep. Michelle Steel in Orange County. Democratic state Assemblyman Rudy Salas is running for Valadao’s seat in the Central Valley and physician Asif Mahmood is running for Kim’s seat in Orange County.
In a battleground seat near Los Angeles, two Democrats are vying to take on Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) in one of their party’s best pickup opportunities this cycle. Former State Assemblymember Christy Smith, the favorite of the California state party, was leading newcomer Quaye Quartey, a Navy intelligence officer who’s picked up endorsements including Rep. Katie Porter’s (D-Calif.). That would set up a third faceoff between Garcia and Smith.
Republicans will tap nominees to take on Porter and fellow Democratic Rep. Mike Levin in two southern California seats that favor Democrats. Former San Juan Capistrano Mayor Bryan Maryott led Orange County Board Lisa Bartlett Bartlett early.
Farther north, both parties will choose nominees in two open seats vacated by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Josh Harder (D-Calif.). Neither are retiring, but both thing to run in less competitive districts in the state.
Newsom’s less-contested campaign
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is a heavy favorite to win re-election after crushing a recall attempt last year. He will face Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle, who faces a steep fight given Newsom’s cash advantage and California’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.
GOP state Sen. Brian Dahle won the nomination, having become Newsom’s principal Republican foe after other GOP hopefuls — and donors — decided to sit this one out. Some Newsom detractors had instead gravitated toward Michael Shellenberger, a Democrat-turned-independent who has become a prominent critic of how Newsom is managing California’s persistent homelessness crisis.
Safer open seats
Former congressman — and Trump-era Interior Secretary — Ryan Zinke is seeking a comeback in Montana, though he faces a contested Republican primary for one of the state’s newly drawn seats.
And another well-known local name—Robert Menendez Jr., the son of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez — is the leading contender to succeed retiring Rep. Albio Sires in New Jersey.
In California, redistricting and retirements spawned a number of opportunities that turned into crowded primaries. In the open 13th District, voters are very familiar with both Assemblymember Adam Gray and 2020 House candidate Phil Arballo, who are both hoping to represent the newly drawn district with a 14-point Democratic registration advantage. Gray was ahead of Arballo early in a race that had turned acrimonious, with Arballo attacking Gray, one of Sacramento’s most moderate Democrats, for his ties to the oil industry. Whichever Democrat prevails will likely face Republican John Duarte, who has secured the national Republican Party’s backing.
Rep. Jackie Speier joined the retirement wave this year by announcing she would not again seek her Bay Area seat. Democrats immediately lined up to represent the safely blue 15th District. Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, who won Speier’s endorsement — no surprise given that he had worked for her — and San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa were positioned to match up for the seat in a race that looks likely to yield a Democrat-on-Democrat runoff in November.
Democrats are also competing for Bass’ open Los Angeles-area seat and another newly drawn seat left open by retiring Reps. Alan Lowenthal and Lucille Roybal-Allard. Major national super PACs, including one created by AIPAC to back pro-Israel candidates and another funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, have pumped in money supporting Democrats in both districts.
Statewide races on the edges of the battlefield
New Mexico was a solidly blue state in 2020, but Republicans still want to try to challenge Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham there after selecting TV personality Mark Ronchetti as their nominee in Tuesday’s primary.
Meanwhile, Democrats’ fall from competitiveness in Iowa has pushed Gov. Kim Reynolds’ and Sen. Chuck Grassley’s re-election campaigns to the sides of the national battleground map. But Democrats have a competitive Senate primary nonetheless, with Michael Franken defeating former Rep. Abby Finkenauer for the Democratic nomination.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this article.