What to watch in Tuesday’s primary elections

Voters head to the polls in five states Tuesday for a new round of primary contests, and women are once again poised to take center stage. In fact, in one state, women are likely to capture Democratic nominations in a majority of key races.

Here’s what to watch on Tuesday night:

Turning LePage in Maine

Crowded fields of Democrats and Republicans are vying for the right to replace term-limited Gov. Paul LePage (R) — but there’s a wrinkle: This year marks the first time Maine will use a ranked-choice voting system that allocates votes based on a voter’s preference.

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That means it will be days before we know who has won either party’s primary, unless one candidate unexpectedly takes more than half the first-place votes.

Democrats expect Attorney General Janet Mills (D) to lead the first-place voting on their side. Outsider Adam Cote (D), a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and former state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) are also in the running, and the ranked-choice format makes the outcome a true toss-up.

On the GOP side, all four major contenders have cast themselves as successors to LePage’s legacy, but LePage’s wife has appeared in advertisements backing state university system trustee Shawn Moody (R). Mary Mayhew, a former state Health and Human Services commissioner, is banking on support from Maine’s not-inconsequential Catholic population. Two legislative leaders, state House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R) and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R) are also in the race.

Nevada’s Golden Knight?

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak (D) engineered the deal that brought the Las Vegas Golden Knights to town, something he has reminded voters of in paid advertising during the team’s improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals. He also helped secure funding for a stadium that will host the NFL’s Raiders when they move.

But Sisolak faces a tough challenge from a fellow commissioner, Chris Giunchigliani (D), who has run to his left. An internal survey for Giunchigliani’s campaign recently showed a virtually tied race. 

The outcome will make a difference, sources say, because Sisolak has tighter connections with the casino moguls who play an important role in funding Nevada campaigns. Giunchigliani angered the Strip bosses — and endeared herself to liberals — by opposing the stadium, the funding for which she wants to use for education.

The winner will likely face Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), a conservative who has feuded with outgoing Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) over taxes and spending. Sandoval has not committed to backing Laxalt, another hurdle for a Republican in a state that has been prone to Democratic waves in recent years.

South Carolina headed for runoffs

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) finally got the job he’s been angling for for years when his predecessor, Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyFederal watchdog recommends Conway be removed from role for Hatch Act violations Federal watchdog recommends Conway be removed from role for Hatch Act violations Pavlich: Debunking common smear against pro-life movement MORE (R), left to become ambassador to the United Nations. Now he has to keep it, and that’s proving more difficult than anticipated.

McMaster is likely to finish first in Tuesday’s Republican primary, but he’s unlikely to win the 50 percent he needs to avoid a runoff. Both Catherine Templeton, a former member of Haley’s Cabinet, and businessman John Warren are polling in the low-to-mid 20s, and both would have a shot against McMaster in a runoff.

However, neither Templeton nor Warren will have a lot of time to make their case against the incumbent: South Carolina’s runoffs are set for just two weeks after the primary, meaning either candidate will face an all-out sprint to take advantage of a weakened McMaster.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. James Smith (D) leads the field over political strategist Phil Noble (D) and attorney Marguerite Willis (D). Willis has run television spots recently, and insiders say she is on the rise. Democrats may be headed to a snap runoff as well.

Virginia GOP face a fork in the road

Virginia Republicans aren’t likely to knock off Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTexas raises age to purchase tobacco to 21 Texas raises age to purchase tobacco to 21 Democrats push to make national security a 2020 wedge issue MORE (D) this year, but the candidate they choose to run against him will say a lot about the future of the Old Dominion’s Grand Old Party.

The frontrunner in the race is Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Supervisors who fell just short of beating Ed Gillespie (R) in the 2017 gubernatorial primary.

Stewart has been a lightning rod for controversy during his political career — defending Confederate statutes as part of state history, even though he is a Minnesota native, and viciously attacking his political foes.

More establishment-minded Republicans have rallied around state Del. Nick Freitas, the former Army Special Forces sergeant and libertarian-leaning lawmaker whose viral speech on gun rights earned him praise in conservative circles. 

Pastor E.W. Jackson, the party’s 2013 nominee for lieutenant governor, is also running but is not expected to win. 

Most Virginia Republicans admit that the race is unlikely to become competitive, no matter who wins. But the clash will send a message as to how Virginia Republicans plan to win back a leftward drifting commonwealth — embracing the controversial, Trumpian style of Stewart, or hanging onto a candidate with a more familiar brand of politics.

Lock, (Com)stock and barrel

Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers GOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door Ex-lawmakers face new scrutiny over lobbying MORE (R-Va.) finds herself in Democratic crosshairs, again, after Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally It's about the delegates, stupid MORE won her Northern Virginia district by 10 points in 2016.

But which Democrat will she face? Four well-financed candidates have run television advertisements in the pricey Washington media market ahead of Tuesday’s primary. 

State Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D), the only candidate who has won elected office, is the front-runner. She represents a district in Loudoun County, home to a significant portion of voters in the 10th District.

But Wexton faces well-funded rivals who have seized on her voting record. The other Democrats running are anti-human trafficking activist Alison Friedman, Army veteran Dan Helmer and Lindsey Davis Stover, who worked as a senior adviser on veterans policy in the Obama administration.

Helmer and Friedman have attacked Wexton for supporting a 2016 gun control compromise signed into law by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), which among other things expanded rights for concealed-carry permit holders. But Wexton defended her record and has highlighted her support for an assault weapons ban and universal background checks. 

Friedman has been the strongest fundraiser and also gave herself $1 million to help stay on the airwaves through the final week.

Meanwhile, Helmer has sought to differentiate himself through flashy ads. He released an undercover video of himself buying a semi-automatic rifle at a gun show without a background check. And he stoked controversy in an ad where he compared President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE to Osama bin Laden.

Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTrump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Impeachment will reelect Trump MORE’s revenge

Danny Tarkanian is one of only a few Republicans to have Trump’s blessing before a general election.

Tarkanian, a perennial candidate who mounted an initial challenge to Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R-Nev.), opted instead to run for an open seat currently held by Heller’s likely general election opponent, Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenFemale senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster Female senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster Lawmakers introduce legislation to improve cyber workforce funding MORE (D) — at Trump’s urging.

Tarkanian, the son of legendary University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, lost to Rosen by a single percentage point in 2016, while Trump carried the district by about the same margin.

He’s likely to face philanthropist Susie Lee, an ally of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is still active in Nevada politics. Lee ran last year in the neighboring 4th District, where she came in third in the Democratic primary.

Vegas fight night, round two?

Two familiar combatants are likely to survive crowded Nevada primaries on their way to another showdown in November, four years after Republicans captured what on paper is a Democratic-leaning seat.

In 2014, former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R) beat out former Rep. Steven HorsfordSteven Alexander HorsfordT.I., Charlamagne Tha God advocate for opportunity zones on Capitol Hill Dems warn against deporting former Trump golf course workers Ten Dem lawmakers added to House Ways and Means Committee MORE (D). Hardy lost to Rep. Ruben KihuenRuben Jesus KihuenMembers spar over sexual harassment training deadline Members spar over sexual harassment training deadline Nevada Dem sanctioned for sexual misconduct announces city council bid MORE (D) in 2016, but Kihuen is stepping down after accusations of sexual misconduct.

Following Kihuen’s exit, Horsford jumped into the race in January, making him the instant favorite. He earned a de facto endorsement from national Democrats as well as a significant endorsement from the Culinary Union, a big power player in Nevada politics.

Hardy is also expected to easily win his primary. In November, Horsford should be the favorite to reclaim his old job in a district Clinton won by 5 percentage points in 2016.

Another Maine event

Rep. Bruce PoliquinBruce Lee PoliquinMaking the case for ranked-choice voting Making the case for ranked-choice voting The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE (R-Maine) has been a top Democratic target since he first ran for Congress in 2014. This year, he will face one of two Democratic rivals: State House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden or environmentalist Lucas St. Clair, whose family started the popular Burt’s Bees skin care line.

Golden has the fundraising edge, and many national Democrats believe his record makes him the strongest candidate in the field. 

But St. Clair has won traction touting his support for the environment, a key issue in parts of the geographically sprawling district that includes Acadia National Park. And he received a late assist from a friendly outside group running advertisements to boost his campaign. 

Poliquin has vanquished tough foes in the past and Trump won the district by 10 points in 2016. But Democrats hope that with the right candidate, this can finally be the year they win back a seat long held by ex-Rep. Mike MichaudMichael (Mike) Herman MichaudRecord number of LGBT candidates running for governor What to watch in Tuesday’s primary elections Democrats need an experienced leader on House VA committee MORE (D).

Abuse allegations rock Rock Hill

The Democratic primary here was supposed to be a coronation for Archie Parnell, after he came surprisingly close to beating Rep. Ralph NormanRalph Warren NormanSteve King vows to fight his way back onto committees: 'I had to let the blood cool' Steve King vows to fight his way back onto committees: 'I had to let the blood cool' 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill MORE (R-S.C.) in a 2017 special election.

But recent revelations that Parnell hit his ex-wife decades ago have crippled his candidacy and have likely taken the race off of the map entirely.

Democrats both in Washington, D.C., and South Carolina have called for Parnell to withdraw his candidacy. He’s refused, and his name is still on Tuesday’s ballot.

Parnell is still considered the favorite thanks to a combination of strong name identification won from his 2017 race and an uncompetitive field.

Yet, if he limps across the finish line, Democrats will be stuck with him no matter what. His name will still appear on the November ballot even if he quits the race.

The year of the woman, cont’d.

As with last week’s primaries in New Mexico, Iowa, New Jersey, South Dakota and California, a common thread running through this week’s contests is the number of women likely to capture party nominations.

Nevada will be ground zero for the emerging year-of-the-woman narrative. State Democrats will almost certainly nominate women for a U.S. Senate seat, a swing congressional race and the lieutenant governorship, and Giunchigliani has a good shot at winning the gubernatorial nomination as well.

Democrats are also likely to nominate women in two Virginia swing districts, while South Carolina Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE’s chief challenger is a woman. Add in Mills in Maine’s governor’s race and Tuesday is likely to add to the growing storyline about women running ahead of expectations.

Already this year, the two parties have nominated more women for governor’s races than any previous year, by far. Democrats have nominated women candidates in Georgia, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Idaho. Republicans have women on the gubernatorial ballot in South Dakota, Alabama and Idaho.

There are likely more women to come: Florida Democrats and Tennessee Republicans appear poised to pick women in their upcoming primaries as well.