June primary fights set stage for Dems’ hopes to take over House

June primary fights set stage for Dems’ hopes to take over House
© Getty Images

Republicans and Democrats are bracing for a busy June of primary fights that will go a long way toward determining how competitive the race for the House majority will be this fall.

While Democrats face a steep hill to win back control of the lower chamber — they’d need to net 30 seats — party leaders see a chance if Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE proves to be a weak presidential candidate for the GOP in the fall.

ADVERTISEMENT

And a handful of contests this month will be some of the first chances for Democrats to select the strongest challengers in toss-up or Democratic-leaning congressional districts held by Republicans.

Here are five of the most important primary fights to watch this fall in the battle for House control:

 

Iowa’s 1st District

Freshman Rep. Rod Blum (R) has had a target on his back since winning the seat formerly held by Democratic Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE in 2014, after Braley vacated his seat to run for Senate.

The seat’s Democratic primary sets up a rematch on June 7 between Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon and former Speaker of the Iowa House Pat Murphy.

 Murphy edged out four opponents, including Vernon, in the 2014 Democratic primary but ultimately lost to Blum by less than 3 points amid a wave of Republican victories that year.

But this cycle, the tables have turned. Vernon, who came in second in 2014’s primary, has shored up support from many Democrats and has a huge fundraising advantage.

According to fundraising reports, Vernon goes into Tuesday with $420,000 cash on hand compared to Murphy’s less than $50,000.

Blum’s campaign has been touting an internal poll from April that shows him with a substantial lead over both Vernon and Murphy.

But Blum, who’s a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, recently created controversy by saying Washington, D.C., “needs a recession.”

 

Iowa’s 3rd District 

Freshman Rep. David Young’s (R) seat is another prime opportunity for Democrats in Iowa.

In March, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved the race from “lean Republican” to “toss-up” when it looked as if Trump or Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias GOP lawmaker delays House for second week GOP lawmaker delays House for second week MORE would top the GOP ticket. Former Rep. Tom Latham (R) held the Des Moines-area seat for decades, but voters there backed Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump takes credit for passing veterans bill that passed under Obama Orlando Sentinel declines to endorse Trump in 2020 Progressive activist: Democratic nominee will 'need to ride a little bit to the center' MORE narrowly in the last two presidential elections.

The Democratic primary field includes Jim Mowrer, an Iraq War veteran who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Steve King (R) in 2014; and businessmen Desmund Adams and Mike Sherzan.

Mowrer has landed endorsements from prominent Iowa Democrats including Rep. David Loebsack and influential labor unions such as the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters.

But Sherzan has largely self-funded his campaign to keep pace with Mowrer, according to fundraising reports. The two have nearly the same amount of cash on hand. Adams lags behind, with less than $4,000 in the bank. 

Young faces his own primary challenge on June 7 from retired teacher Joe Grandanette, who lost in this district’s GOP primary in 2014. But Grandanette, who received less than 2 percent of the vote then, likely won’t pose a strong threat to Young.

 

Nevada’s 4th District

Vulnerable GOP freshman Cresent Hardy’s seat is a top Democratic target. The district was created ahead of the 2012 election, and Hardy defeated Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford during the 2014 GOP wave.

The main rivals in the crowded Democratic primary field are state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, philanthropist Susie Lee and former state Assemblywoman Lucy Flores.

Kihuen, backed early by Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTrump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Impeachment will reelect Trump MORE (D-Nev.), has recently highlighted his support from Reid in a TV ad. He’s also enjoyed support from other prominent groups and unions.

EMILY’s List, which backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, endorsed Lee.

But Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Five takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Sanders tears into Trump in response to campaign kickoff rally MORE’s foray into the primary has shaken up the already competitive race.

Flores, running in the progressive lane, says she got a huge boost following Sanders’s fundraising email to his supporters on her behalf.

According to first-quarter fundraising reports this year, Flores still lags behind her two opponents, but she reportedly raised $428,000 in April after Sanders’s pitch — more than three times what she had collected for the year so far.

The primary, which will be held June 14, sets up a showdown between the establishment and the outsider.

 

New York’s 19th District

Both parties are eyeing the toss-up race for retiring Rep. Chris Gibson’s (R) open seat.

The once-crowded GOP field has narrowed to a bitter battle between businessman Andrew Heaney and former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso.

Republicans will choose the candidate to best represent the party as it seeks to hold on to the Hudson Valley district Obama won in 2008 and 2012.

Faso has consolidated support from nearly all of the local Republican county committees and from the state’s Conservative Party. Mike Long, that party’s state chairman, has been critical of Heaney and called his attacks against Faso “dishonest.” 

Heaney has sought to paint Faso as a political insider and highlights his work as a lobbyist. His recent strategy has been tying himself to Trump in a new TV ad as Republicans start to fall in line behind the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

“Donald Trump and I represent everything that John Faso and his cronies hate. We don’t take special interest money and we can’t be bought,” Heaney says in the spot.

But Faso and Heaney have nearly identical fundraising hauls in this year’s first quarter.

There’s also a contested Democratic primary that pits former gubernatorial candidate and law professor Zephyr Teachout and Livingston town Councilman Will Yandik. 

Teachout, a progressive firebrand, was also endorsed by Sanders and benefited from his fundraising pitch to supporters. She has also shored up many endorsements from influential Democrats in the district.

The primaries will be held on June 28.

 

New York’s 24th District

Freshman Republican Rep. John Katko’s seat is another New York race that will be a critical pickup opportunity for Democrats.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) recently added the race to its “Red to Blue” program, which targets specific House districts it thinks the party can flip. Obama won the district in 2008 and 2012.

Democrats seeking to defeat Katko have flocked to Colleen Deacon, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use Overnight Health Care: Democrats attack after Trump revives talk of ObamaCare replacement | Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control face major obstacles | CVS investing M to fight teen e-cig use Trump's 2020 campaign strategy is to be above the law MORE (D-N.Y.). The DCCC in early May decided to weigh in on the primary and back Deacon as she faces Syracuse University social work professor Eric Kingson and lawyer Steve Williams.

Deacon is running a TV ad through the June 28 primary that touts her former boss’s endorsement.

Williams won the support of Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.). But Deacon has attracted the groundswell of support from prominent Democrats in the state, including Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Ex-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis MORE (N.Y.) and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Katko faces a difficult political climate in an unpredictable election cycle and is attempting to be the first incumbent to win reelection there since then-Rep. James Walsh (R) in 2006, according to The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y.