The 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday
While Democratic presidential candidates scrap for delegates in 14 states across the country on Tuesday, voters in five of those states will kick off the battle for the House and Senate by choosing down-ballot nominees.
Forget the presidential contest, here are the key races to watch as the polls close Tuesday:
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants his seat back, but he’s likely headed to a runoff with one of two main Republican rivals before any of them earns the right to face off against Sen. Doug Jones (D).
Sessions faces former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R), both of whom have tied themselves as closely as possible to President Trump. Sessions’s relationship with Trump is more complicated, but it appears he hasn’t lost any love for his old boss even after being summarily canned following the 2018 midterms.
If no one reaches 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, the two leading Republicans will face off in an April 14 runoff. The winner of that contest gets to face Jones in a state President Trump carried easily. But Jones isn’t going to roll over: He’s got $7 million in the bank as of the last reporting period, money he will use to pound his eventual rival.
Alabama open seats
None of the five Republicans running to replace Byrne in Congress is likely to clear the 50 percent barrier on Tuesday. But former state Sen. Bill Hightower (R), who ran for governor in 2018, is the best known of the bunch. Expect him to claim one of the two runoff positions in a safe Republican district that Trump carried by an almost two-to-one margin in 2016.
In the southeast corner of Alabama, moving company executive Jeff Coleman (R) is in the driver’s seat to win the Republican nomination to replace retiring Rep. Martha Roby (R). If he’s forced into a runoff, it would likely be against Troy King, Alabama’s former attorney general, or Jessica Taylor, a newcomer to the political scene. The second district is just as heavily Republican as the first.
California voters will take a first step toward choosing former Rep. Katie Hill’s (D) replacement in Tuesday’s all-party primary. Those voters will cast ballots in two distinct elections — a special election and the regular primary — with a runoff coming in November.
The leading contender on the Democratic side is Christy Smith, a state assemblywoman who has garnered most establishment support. Cenk Uygur, the host of the Young Turks series, has also raised a decent sum of money. But he may be shut out by former Rep. Steve Knight (R), who lost to Hill in 2018 and wants another shot at his seat.
In San Bernardino County, Rep. Paul Cook (R) is leaving Congress to run for a local office. State Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R) is favored to win a spot in the runoff, but it’s not clear who is most likely to earn the second spot. Three Democrats and four other Republicans — including former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R), who ran for governor in 2014 — are running in a district that gave President Trump 55 percent of the vote in 2016.
Former Rep. David Valadao (R) wants another shot at Rep. T.J. Cox (D) after losing in 2018 by fewer than a thousand votes. Hillary Clinton won the district by almost 16 points in 2016, but Valadao won that year, making this contest potentially competitive.
And former Rep. Darrell Issa (R) is hoping to return from Congress just two years after retiring. He’s running in a different district, one formerly held by disgraced ex-Rep. Duncan Hunter (R). He faces former San Diego city councillor Carl DeMaio (R) and state Sen. Brian Jones (R), all of whom are hunting for what’s likely to be a second runoff spot behind Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Democrat who narrowly lost to Hunter in 2018.
A huge field of 11 Democrats are running for the right to replace retiring Rep. Susan Davis (D) in San Diego. San Diego City Council president Georgette Gomez (D) is probably the best known in the field. Three Republicans are also running, but the district went for Clinton by a more than two-to-one margin in 2016.
North Carolina Senate
Former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) is likely to win the right to face Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in November, but neither candidate faced the easiest path to their own nominations.
Cunningham, running for statewide office a second time, faces state Sen. Erica Smith (D), an African American woman with a liberal political base in Raleigh. Smith didn’t raise a lot of money, but an outside group funded by the largest Republican super PAC ran ads on her behalf. Even that super PAC believes Cunningham will win the primary now, but their spending made Democrats drop a ton of early ads on his behalf.
Tillis, seeking a second term, faced his own prospects of a contentious primary race against a rich businessman. But Tillis worked to earn Trump’s endorsement, which he made the subject of his first statewide television ad. The businessman, Garland Tucker, dropped out shortly after the ad started running, and Tillis’s team scared Rep. Mark Walker (R) out of mounting his own challenge.
North Carolina Governor
It is not often that a sitting governor faces off against a sitting lieutenant governor, but that’s what will happen this year in the Tar Heel State. Gov. Roy Cooper (D), elected as a centrist, will face Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R), who sits firmly on the right of the Republican spectrum.
Cooper is the only Democratic governor running for reelection in a state President Trump won in 2016, though Trump only won there by 3.6 percentage points. North Carolina is in the crosshairs again this year, presenting a big challenge to both Cooper and Forest if they are tied too closely to their side’s presidential nominees.
North Carolina open seats
Three Republican members of Congress are not seeking reelection this year. Rep. Mark Meadows (R) is almost certain to be replaced by a Republican and state Sen. Jim Davis (R) appears to be leading a crowded field. If he can’t top 30 percent of the vote, he would face his second-place rival in a May 12 runoff.
Two other Republicans are likely to be replaced by Democrats after a state court ordered the GOP-led legislature to redraw district boundary lines. The legislature opted to preserve eight Republican seats, and seats held by Reps. George Holding (R) and Mark Walker (R) were the casualties.
In Holding’s second district, former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) is the favorite. She is making a political comeback after losing a race against Sen. Richard Burr (R) in 2016.
A crowded Democratic field is vying for Walker’s sixth district. Keep an eye on Kathy Manning, a University of North Carolina-Greensboro trustee, and Rhonda Foxx, a former congressional aide, two women lapping the rest of the field on the fundraising circuit.
Two yeas after former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) came oh-so-close to upsetting Sen. Ted Cruz (R), Democrats hope lightning strikes twice with Afghan war veteran M.J. Hegar (D).
Hegar narrowly lost a bid against Rep. John Carter (R) in 2018, pulling in millions after a campaign video went viral. She’s been endorsed by national Democrats who want to see her matched up against Cornyn, who is seeking his fourth term.
Before Hegar gets her shot, she will have to beat back several other rising stars. The liberal group Justice Democrats has endorsed Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, a civil rights activist.
Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards (D) and Dallas-area state Sen. Royce West (D) are both trying to corner the market on Texas’s not-insubstantial African American vote. And former Rep. Chris Bell (D), last seen running unsuccessfully for mayor of Houston, is also in the race.
The winner faces an uphill slog against Cornyn, even as Texas becomes more competitive. The incumbent has more than three times as much money in the bank, $12 million, as the leading Democrat, Hegar, has raised altogether.
Two years after California was the epicenter of the battle for control of the House, focus has now shifted to Texas, where half a dozen seats are up for grabs. The battlefield is broad: here is a a separate story on the fights to watch.