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

June primary fights set stage for Dems’ hopes to take over House
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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 TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE proves to be a weak presidential candidate for the GOP in the fall.


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 CruzMichael Bennet declared cancer-free, paving way for possible 2020 run Booker, Harris have missed most Senate votes O'Rourke sweeps through Virginia looking to energize campaign 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 ObamaObama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Trump hits Romney for Mueller criticism Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' 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 ReidSanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan Glamorization of the filibuster must end Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster 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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris Wage growth shaping up as key 2020 factor for Trump Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' 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 GillibrandCory Booker has a problem in 2020: Kamala Harris Booker to supporter who wanted him to punch Trump: 'Black guys like us, we don't get away with that' 2020 Dems ratchet up anti-corporate talk in bid to woo unions 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 SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference 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.