Five primary races to watch on Tuesday

Congressional candidates are gearing up for primaries on Tuesday that will play a key role in November’s battle for the Senate, while others determine whether some House Democrats are too progressive or not progressive enough.

In Michigan, first-term lawmaker Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibProgressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias Omar: I wasn't equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries Omar feuds with Jewish Democrats MORE (D), a member of the so-called squad, is looking to defend her seat against a strong challenge from former Rep. Brenda Jones (D-Mich.), who defeated Tlaib in a special election two years ago.

In Kansas, Republicans are trying to prevent former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach from running under the party's banner in November’s Senate race, instead throwing their support behind Rep. Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallRepublicans grill Biden public lands agency pick over finances, advocacy Senate passes resolution urging probe into COVID-19 origins Republicans seek vindication amid reemergence of Wuhan lab theory MORE (R).


Three other key contests will help gauge the sentiment of each party’s voters as November draws near.

Here are the five races to watch.

Tlaib fights to fend off challenge from former congresswoman

Tlaib faces off against Jones in hopes of defending her seat in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. This will be the third time Tlaib and Jones have gone head to head in the past two years. Jones defeated Tlaib in the race to replace the late Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersCalifornia comes to terms with the costs and consequences of slavery Democrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote House panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations MORE Jr. (D) in 2018, even though Tlaib outspent her. Jones served in Congress for just over a month before Tlaib defeated her in a six-way primary for a new two-year term.

Tlaib is the front-runner in Tuesday’s primary, leading Jones 52 percent to 24 percent in a Target-Insight survey released last month. She also has a massive fundraising advantage, raising $777,000 during the second quarter, bringing her fundraising total to $2.9 million. Jones raised $98,000 during the same period, bringing her total to just $140,000.

But some experts say Jones still has a shot. The former congresswoman defeated Tlaib two years ago despite being outraised. Additionally, Jones beat Tlaib with mail-in voters. If Jones were to garner more absentee voters this time around, it could be a huge advantage given the coronavirus pandemic. Other political watchers, however, say Tlaib’s record in Congress, the community and her name recognition will be enough to win her the absentee ballot vote and overall primary.


Kobach and Marshall battle it out for Senate GOP nomination in Kansas

Republicans are on edge in the Sunflower State, where Marshall and Kobach are battling it out for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 Lobbying world MORE (R).

Marshall is by far the preferred candidate among GOP leaders, who fear that a win for Kobach on Tuesday could cost them the Senate seat in November. Democrats have largely rallied behind state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a former Republican and the heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination.

Kobach remains a controversial figure in GOP circles. He’s been elected to statewide office in Kansas before, serving eight years as Kansas secretary of state, but he also has a penchant for stirring controversy. His loss to Democrat Laura Kelly two years ago in the gubernatorial race frustrated Republican leaders, who argue that he is unable to build the broad coalition needed to win the Senate seat in November.

Republicans believe that Marshall has the advantage heading into the primary, though multiple GOP operatives concede that the race has tightened considerably in recent weeks and that Kobach may be within striking distance of the nomination. For now, the seat is in the “Lean Republican” column, according to the Cook Political Report.

Watkins enters primary after being charged in criminal case

Rep. Steve WatkinsSteven (Steve) Charles WatkinsOn The Trail: GOP's tyranny of the minority House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Republicans hold on to competitive Kansas House seat MORE (R-Kan.) is heading into a competitive primary on Tuesday with felony charges hanging over his head.

The first-term congressman was charged last month with three felonies related to voter fraud. Those charges stem from a 2019 investigation into his use of a UPS store in Topeka as his residential address on a voter registration form.

Watkins is facing two primary opponents, former state and county official Dennis Taylor and state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who dropped a Senate bid last year to take on Watkins in this year’s primary for the 2nd Congressional District. LaTurner has a financial edge over Watkins, who calls the charges against him politically motivated.

Whoever wins the primary will likely face Democrat Michelle De La Isla, who has more than twice as much cash on hand as Watkins.

Clay looks to defend seat from progressive challenger in Missouri

Rep. Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayLobbying world Ex-Rep. Clay joins law and lobbying firm Pillsbury Liberal advocacy group stirs debate, discomfort with primary challenges MORE (D-Mo.) is preparing to defend his seat from a challenge mounted by progressive Cori Bush in a primary that has pitted the left flank of the Democratic Party against more establishment forces like the Congressional Black Caucus.


The seat, held by Clay for 10 terms, was previously held by Rep. Bill Clay (D), Clay’s father, dating back to the 1960s. Bill Clay was a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Progressives are rallying behind Bush, a nurse and Black Lives Matter activist. She has the backing of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Biden seeks to reassert US climate leadership | President to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass | Administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale On The Money: Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal, warn of time crunch Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives MORE (I-Vt.) and Justice Democrats. Bush gained name recognition when she appeared in the 2019 Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House.” The race has been compared to progressive candidate Jamaal Bowman’s recent win over 16-term Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelDemocrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department Lawmakers on hot mic joke 'aisle hog' Engel absent from Biden address: 'He'd wait all day' Bowman to deliver progressive response to Biden's speech to Congress MORE (D) in New York.

Democrat Mark Kelly poised to clinch Senate nomination in Arizona

Former astronaut Mark Kelly is on a glide path to the Democratic nomination in Arizona’s Senate race. He faces no serious opposition from candidates in his party and he’s already proven himself to be one of the top Democratic fundraisers of the 2020 election cycle.

When he clinches the nomination on Tuesday, it will officially set the stage for a contentious general election campaign against Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMcGuire unveils Arizona Senate campaign On The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly welcome first grandchild MORE (R-Ariz.). McSally is already in a weakened position: She has less than half as much cash on hand as Kelly and is the lone GOP incumbent whose seat is in Cook’s “Lean Democrat” column.

Republicans have sought to weaken Kelly by going after his business and investment record, but McSally has a significant polling deficit to overcome. She trails Kelly in the RealClearPolitics average by nearly 7 percentage points, and an NBC News/Marist poll released in late July showed Kelly with a 12-point advantage.