5 key races to watch on Tuesday

Three key Senate matchups are on the line as voters in Alabama, Maine and Texas cast their ballots Tuesday.

In Texas, two Democrats are vying in a runoff for the nomination to take on Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCOVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (R) in November after neither managed to clinch their party’s nomination outright in a March primary. In Alabama, former Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign MORE (R) is locked in the race of his political life as he looks to regain the seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D).

And in Maine, Democrats will nominate a candidate to take on Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R) this fall in one of the closest-watched Senate matchups of the year.


Races for the House will also take shape Tuesday with two runoffs in Texas taking the spotlight.

Here are five races to watch Tuesday:

Democrats look to take on Susan Collins

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon is the heavy favorite to take on Collins in November. But first, she’ll have to overcome primary challenges from two progressive rivals: lobbyist Betsy Sweet and attorney Bre Kidman.

Gideon is far better funded than either of her primary rivals. In the pre-primary period of the race, which covers almost all of the second quarter of 2020, she brought in more than $8.1 million. Sweet, by comparison, raised about $229,000 while Kidman pulled in a scant $2,600.

If national Democrats get their way, Gideon will run away with the nomination Tuesday, setting her up for a fall election battle against Collins, one of the most vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection this year.


Democrats are particularly eager to do away with Collins, arguing that she is no longer the independent voice in the Senate that she has long claimed to be. Energizing Democrats is Collins’s 2018 vote to confirm Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMcConnell has 17-point lead over Democratic challenger McGrath: poll Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket Kavanaugh urged Supreme Court to avoid decisions on Trump finances, abortion: report MORE to the Supreme Court, which came as he faced a sexual assault allegation dating back to his high school days.

Jeff Sessions fights for his political life

Sessions stepped down from the Senate seat he had held for 20 years in 2017 to become President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE’s attorney general. But his relationship with the president soured after he recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Sessions eventually resigned at Trump’s request.

Now, the conservative firebrand is locked in a challenging primary runoff as he seeks to regain his old seat. He’s facing off against Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach who has Trump's endorsement.

Polls show Tuberville leading Sessions in the runoff, and the former football coach also outraised him in the pre-runoff period spanning April 1-June 24. At the same time, Trump’s endorsement of Tuberville — and the president's attacks on Session — are likely to go a long way with Alabama Republicans; the president carried the state in 2016 by nearly 28 points and his net approval rating there is higher than in any other state, according to Morning Consult polling data.

A loss for Sessions on Tuesday would be a major blow to a Republican heavyweight whom Alabama voters have already elected to the Senate four times in the past.

A bitter Democratic Senate runoff in Texas

Former Air Force helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar was the favorite of the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm to win the party’s nomination in Texas. But a crowded primary field left her short of the 50 percent threshold needed to clinch the nomination outright. Now, she’s locked in a runoff against longtime state Sen. Royce West that has grown increasingly contentious.

The winner will take on Cornyn in November. Texas Democrats are increasingly optimistic about their prospects in the Lone Star State, believing that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D) near miss in his 2018 bid against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOn The Trail: Pence's knives come out Pat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE (R) and the state’s rapidly changing demographics presage a sea change in Texas’s historically conservative politics.

Polling in the race has been scarce, though a survey from the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler conducted in April showed Hegar leading West 32 percent to 16 percent. She also has a sizable fundraising advantage, pulling in $1.8 million in the second quarter of the year.

Still, Cornyn may prove difficult to unseat in November. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as “likely Republican" and Cornyn announced Monday that he had raised $3.5 million the second quarter of the year, making it his best single fundraising period to date.

Former GOP congressman seeks comeback


Former Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsThe Hill's Campaign Report: New polls show Biden leading by landslide margins The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - In Rose Garden, Trump launches anti-Biden screed Pete Sessions wins GOP runoff in comeback bid MORE (R-Texas) was ousted from his Dallas-based House seat by Democrat Colin Allred in 2018. After that, he moved 100 miles south to Texas’s 17th District, where he’s now seeking a return to Washington.

He’s locked in a primary runoff against businesswoman Renee Swan, who has the endorsement of the seat’s current occupant, retiring Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresPete Sessions wins GOP runoff in comeback bid The Hill's Campaign Report: Key races take shape in Alabama, Texas, Maine 5 key races to watch on Tuesday MORE (R-Texas). In fact, Sessions’s decision to run in the 17th District drew the ire of Flores, who said that Sessions had become detached from his constituents and was merely seeking office for political gain.

Sessions has sought to use his experience in Washington to his advantage, arguing that if he is elected, he’d start his new term from a position of seniority. Swann, however, has dismissed Sessions’s experience, saying that her career in the private sector would prove more valuable.

But Swann was taken away from in-person campaigning earlier this month after she announced that she and her husband had tested positive for COVID-19. She tweeted last week that she had not experienced any symptoms.

Trump-backed candidate faces off against Cruz-backed candidate

The Republican primary runoff in Texas’s 23rd District has put the endorsing power of two GOP heavyweights against one another. Trump has endorsed Tony Gonzales, while Cruz threw his support behind Raul Reyes in the race to replace retiring Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDemocrats go big on diversity with new House recruits Texas Democrats plan 7-figure ad buy to turn state blue Republicans face worsening outlook in battle for House MORE (R).


National Republicans believe that Gonzales has the best chance of winning the general election in November, arguing that Reyes is too conservative for a district that represents one of the best pick-up opportunities for Democrats this year. But Cruz backed Reyes despite objections from House GOP leaders, saying that the district “deserves strong conservative representation.”

The dueling endorsements from Trump, who won Texas in 2016 with 52 percent of the vote, and Cruz, who won reelection in 2018 with 51 percent of the vote, threatens to tear open a rift among Republicans in the 23rd District, potentially easing Democrats’ path to flipping the seat.

Trump recently suffered setbacks with his endorsements after his endorsed candidates lost House primaries in North Carolina and Colorado.

Democrats nominated Gina Ortiz Jones for the seat back in March. Jones previously ran against Hurd in 2018, losing by half a point. Now, the district appears to be shifting in her favor; The Cook Political Report rates the race as “lean Democrat."