Seven primaries to watch on Tuesday

Tuesday is one of the biggest primary days of 2018.

In West Virginia, Republicans are wringing their hands over the possibility that Don Blankenship — the former coal executive imprisoned for violating mine safety standards after a mining explosion that killed dozens — will win the Senate primary. Blankenship, who has personally attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Poll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump MORE (R-Ky.) and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ Taiwan’s President Tsai should be invited to address Congress White House announces reduced delegation to travel to Davos amid shutdown MORE, is seen as putting a winnable race in jeopardy if he emerges victorious on Tuesday.

In Ohio, the high-profile race is on the Democratic side, where former Rep. Dennis Kucinich is seeking a comeback as Ohio’s governor against Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayOn The Money: Consumer bureau proposes scrapping borrower safeguards from payday loan rule | Negotiators running out of time to avert shutdown | Trump nominates World Bank critic as its next chief Consumer bureau proposes scrapping borrower safeguards from payday loan rule Supreme Court should do what Congress won’t: Rein in the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection MORE, the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a key ally of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night MORE (D-Mass.).

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Here are seven key races to watch on Tuesday.


GOP primary for West Virginia Senate

Blankenship’s surge over the weekend has scrambled West Virginia’s high-stakes GOP primary in the final days.

Two internal Republican polls showed Blankenship jumping into the lead over his two main rivals, Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Blankenship has spent the bulk of his campaign railing against the establishment and McConnell. The West Virginia Republican ran an ad attacking McConnell as a “swamp captain” who has received money from his “China family.”

Blankenship’s momentum is a political headache for Republicans, who see the race as a top pickup opportunity this fall. Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGabbard cites ‘concerns’ about ‘vagueness’ of Green New Deal Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE is a top target for Republicans after President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE won the state by more than 40 points in 2016.

Republicans fear that a Blankenship victory on Tuesday would imperil their chances of unseating Manchin and expanding their slim Senate majority. Strategists are comparing the primary to Alabama’s special election, when Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreDoug Jones gets challenger in Alabama Senate race Republican state official faces pushback for comments on Sinema's attire Hillicon Valley: Dem blasts groups behind Senate campaign disinformation effort | FCC chief declines to give briefing on location-data sales | Ocasio-Cortez tops lawmakers on social media | Trump officials to ease drone rules MORE won the Republican nomination with an anti-establishment primary campaign, only to blow what should have been a safe GOP seat to Sen. Doug Jones (D) after Moore was accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers.

Mountain Families PAC, a super PAC with ties to the national party, poured more than a million dollars into ads meant to soften up Blankenship. But Blankenship rebounded, prompting Trump to make an eleventh-hour plea for voters to reject him in favor of either Jenkins or Morrisey.

Jenkins and Morrisey have largely ignored Blankenship. But in the final days of the race, Morrisey turned up the heat on Blankenship, arguing that he’d cost Republicans a winnable seat in November.

GOP primary for Indiana Senate

Indiana also features a fierce, three-way primary to take on Democratic Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE, one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection.

Unlike in West Virginia, though, Republicans feel good about any of the three leading candidates advancing out of the primary to square off against Donnelly.

The primary was initially a two-person race between Reps. Luke MesserAllen (Luke) Lucas MesserYoder, Messer land on K Street House GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office Indiana New Members 2019 MORE and Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations House passes year-end tax package Indiana New Members 2019 MORE. But wealthy businessman and former state legislator Mike Braun’s entrance into the race upended the primary.

Braun, who has sought to position himself as an outsider, spent $5.4 million of his own money on the race. His self-funding has enabled him to wage a competitive campaign against Rokita and Messer.

Loyalty to Trump has been a huge factor in GOP primaries across the country, and the Hoosier State — which Trump won by 20 points — is no exception. Each of the three candidates has competed to position himself as the most dedicated Trump supporter in the race.

Messer, for example, introduced a resolution calling on Trump to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. And Rokita introduced a resolution to end special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s Russia probe — unless evidence of collusion is produced — within 30 days.

Whoever wins the nomination will likely get Trump’s endorsement. The president plans to hold a campaign rally in Indiana two days after the primary.

GOP primary for Ohio Senate

Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciGOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ House Ethics Committee extends probe into Renacci Sherrod Brown says he has 'no real timetable' for deciding on 2020 presidential run MORE is poised to clinch the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHarry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal MORE. But there’s been little public polling, making it hard to know where the primary race stands.

Renacci faces a challenge to the right from businessman Mike Gibbons, who has framed himself as the outsider in the race.

Trump, who won Ohio by 8 points in 2016, has endorsed Renacci — a big boost for the congressman.

But Renacci has recently endured a slew of unflattering headlines, including the news that he failed to disclose political donations while registered as a lobbyist.

Whoever wins the GOP nomination, Republicans acknowledge that their nominee will face an uphill fight against Brown, a populist progressive who polls well in his state.

Primaries for Ohio House special election

With Arizona’s unexpectedly close special election in the rearview mirror, both parties are turning their attention to the next high-profile special election: The fight to replace ex-Rep. Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiOhio New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress GOP Rep. Balderson holds onto seat in Ohio MORE (R-Ohio).

Democrats believe they can put another GOP stronghold into play, positioning themselves for an upset victory in a Republican district. Ohio’s 12th District — the most affluent and highest educated in the state — encompasses Columbus suburbs, but also extends to rural areas. Trump won the district by 11 points.

The high-stakes race has drawn candidates on both sides.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Troy Balderson has drawn support from the establishment wing — including Tiberi, a close ally of House leadership. Meanwhile, Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan has earned support from leading conservative figures including Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Rod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power MORE (Ohio), who founded the House Freedom Caucus.

Other GOP candidates who have the potential to break through in the wide-open race include veteran Tim Kane, Delaware County prosecutor Carol O’Brien and state Sen. Kevin Bacon.

Meanwhile, a few leading candidates have emerged on the Democratic side.

Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor has earned local support and endorsements from Ohio Reps. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanTim Ryan ‘seriously considering’ 2020 bid Baseball legend Frank Robinson, first black manager in MLB, dies at 83 House Democrat warns ethics committee about Steve King promoting white nationalism website MORE and Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyDem rep says lower tax refunds are 'bad news' for the economy Dem rep says refunds are low because GOP tax policy doesn't benefit most Americans House Dems worry about lack of women of color in leadership MORE. Other candidates include former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, who’s running as more of a moderate, and progressive activist John Russell.

Primaries for Ohio governor

The most high-profile contest for Democrats on Tuesday is the primary in Ohio’s open-seat race to replace GOP Gov. John Kasich, who is term-limited out of office.

Kucinich and Cordray are battling it out in a state that trended red in 2016. Both men have fashioned themselves as progressive populists, with the race pitting prominent progressives against one another.

While Cordray has earned support from more establishment parts of the party, Warren’s endorsement has also given him a big boost among liberals. Warren, who founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has campaigned for Cordray.

Meanwhile, Our Revolution, the outgrowth of Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night MORE’s (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, has gotten behind Kucinich — though Sanders himself has stayed on the sidelines. Kucinich, a former presidential candidate, is trumpeting his support for progressive ideals such as single-payer health care.

On the Republican side, state Attorney General Mike DeWine is running ahead of Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. Both Republicans have sought to align closely with Trump, while keeping their distance from Kasich, an outspoken Trump critic.

GOP primary for Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesHouse pays tribute to Walter Jones GOP leader presses Trump to agree to border deal House passes resolution honoring Walter Jones MORE’s seat

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), a longtime thorn in GOP leadership’s side, is facing a tough primary as he seeks to win one more term before retirement.

Jones has built a career on his willingness to break with the party. But while that independent streak isn’t new, opponent Scott Dacey is trying to frame Jones’s votes as an attack on the president’s agenda.

Dacey has hammered Jones for refusing to vote for the tax-reform bill and ObamaCare repeal — two bills Jones said raised concerns about fiscal responsibility — to try to frame Jones as anti-Trump.

But Jones has struck back by pointing to Dacey’s previous work as a federal lobbyist, questioning the challenger’s own commitment to Trump.

Available polling puts Jones ahead in the race, and he’s expected to win reelection in what he’s said will be his last race. But low-turnout primaries like these are difficult to predict, and the presence of a third candidate adds uncertainty to the race.

GOP primary for Rep. Robert Pittenger’s seat

Rep. Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerFight over North Carolina race set to drag on for months NC GOP calls on board to certify House race unless it can prove fraud changed results North Carolina on cusp of House race reset MORE (R-N.C.) is facing another primary challenge from Republican Mark Harris, who nearly beat him in 2016. This time, though, the GOP congressman is expected to overcome the challenge more easily.

Harris, a conservative Baptist pastor, nearly defeated Pittenger the last time they faced off, losing by just 134 votes.

But recent polling shows Pittenger with a comfortable double-digit lead over his challenger.

The race has largely hinged on support for Trump, and both Pittenger and Harris have accused the other of disloyalty to the president. Both supported other Republican presidential candidates in the 2016 contest before ultimately backing Trump.

If Pittenger emerges from the primary, though, he’ll have another tough race ahead of him. He’ll likely face Democrat Dan McCready, a veteran and businessman who has outraised him. Democrats are heavily targeting the district, which Trump won by 11 points.

Ben Kamisar contributed.