There’s a key special election in Ohio and other races that are central to Democrats’ efforts to spur a “blue wave.”
All eyes are on a critical special election in Ohio’s 12th District as voters in five states head to the polls on Tuesday.
The Ohio race is the last planned special election ahead of the midterms this fall, and it’s widely considered a key bellwether for Democratic efforts to spur a possible “blue wave.” Republicans are keen to avoid a repeat of the Pennsylvania 18th special election earlier this year, when Democrat Conor Lamb pulled off a narrow upset in a district that Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are among the Republican leaders who have waded into the race to ensure that the GOP candidate — state Sen. Troy Balderson — and the broader party, walks away with a win on Tuesday.
Polls suggest however, that Democratic candidate Danny O’Connor has a real shot of flipping the district — which Cook Political Report considers less conservative than Pennsylvania’s 18th in several ways. If Democrats win here, it’s likely that energy will only further buoy their efforts to retake the House in the coming months — an outcome Republicans are eager to prevent.
Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, and Washington are holding primary races as well. Live results, powered by Decision Desk, are below.
Ohio 12th Congressional District, special election: Democrats try to break a 30-year losing streak
A Democrat has a good shot at winning in a special election Tuesday in an Ohio congressional district surrounding Columbus that hasn’t elected a Democrat since the 1980s.
Danny O’Connor is running against Republican Troy Balderson to replace retiring Rep. Patrick Tiberi in Ohio’s wealthiest congressional district. So far, polling has the race in a dead heat, and Trump campaigned for Balderson in the days before the special election, a sign of GOP concerns about the race.
The 12th, covering parts of suburban Columbus as well as Appalachian areas, always sends a Republican to Congress. Trump won the 12th by 9 points in 2016. Cook ranks it as R+7.
But this district is a little better educated than Ohio as a whole, which might favor Democrats, and O’Connor has positioned himself to have a fighting chance. Recent polls have found him trailing by just a point or two, and the Democratic campaign feels good about the early voting numbers they’ve seen.
Given the overall environment, and Democratic performances in prior special elections, election forecasters like Cook have rated the 12th special election as a toss-up.
Michigan governor primary elections: a tight race on both sides for an open governor’s seat
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is retiring with dismal approval ratings during the Flint water crisis. In a recent NBC/Marist survey of the GOP primary, Attorney General Bill Schuette (36 percent) had built a decent lead over Lt. Gov. Brian Calley (26 percent), with lots of voters undecided.
On the Democratic side, former state Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer has narrowly led in the polling. She looks like the slight favorite, while prominent progressives like Alexandria Oscaio-Cortez are trying push Abdul El-Sayed to an upset victory.
Both parties still need to get through their August primaries, but NBC/Marist polled a hypothetical general election matchup with the leading candidates and found Whitmer leading Schuette 47 percent to 38 percent. Cook Political Report thinks the governor’s race is a toss-up.
Michigan Senate primary elections: Stabenow is expected to sail through
Executive and veteran John James and Sandy Pensler, an executive and Yale economics lecturer, are considered the Republican frontrunners. Polls have shown James, one of the few black Republicans in big races this year, with a slight but persistent lead.
Stabenow should be fine; polls put her up by a lot over her potential challengers. Cook puts this in the Likely Democratic camp.
Michigan Sixth Congressional District: a packed field angles to take on Rep. Fred Upton
Four Democrats are on the ballot. Matt Longjohn, a former YMCA and public health official, has raised a lot of money and might have the most compelling story, having jumped into the race after Rep. Fred Upton’s vote for Obamacare repeal legislation. David Benac is a Western Michigan history professor trying to run as a grassroots candidate. Rich Eichholz is a scientist arguing for evidence-based policy. George Franklin, a former Kellogg lobbyist also raising a lot of money, rounds out the field.
The Sixth, like the First, is more of a long shot for Democrats. Cook has it as Likely Republican and rates the district as R+4. Upton is an entrenched incumbent.
But Trump’s margin of victory was narrower here — 8 points — and the district has elected the more moderate Upton for decades. It seems at least conceivable that an anti-Trump wave could sweep him out of office, if Democrats successfully tie him to the president. But the wave would probably need to be significant.
Michigan Seventh Congressional District: a seasoned Democrat and a “Berniecrat” seek to topple a Republican incumbent
Gretchen Driskell was put on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue list, meaning Washington Democrats like what they’ve seen from her campaign. She comes from a Navy family and has served as a mayor and now in the state legislature. She has run here before, having lost to Rep. Tim Walberg in 2016 by 15 points.
Her only competition on the ballot is Steven Friday, running as a self-identified “Berniecrat.”
This is another Likely Republican district; according to Cook, it’s R+7. Trump won by 17 points, and the district is very white and not particularly well educated.
But the Seventh District has swung in prior wave elections (see 2008 and 2010), and Driskell profiles as the kind of candidate Democrats think can compete in areas like the Seventh. Her 2016 loss to Walberg was actually a little narrower than Clinton’s, too, if you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic about her chances.
Michigan Eighth Congressional District: a former CIA officer strives to flip this toss-up district to blue
Elissa Slotkin is another name on the DCCC’s Red to Blue list. She is a former CIA officer who worked on the White House National Security Council under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. She definitely has the look that Democrats like for these swing districts: a history of military and public service. Women are also cleaning up in Democratic primaries, as Vox has documented.
Her only competition is Chris Smith, a Michigan State University public policy professor running on good government and Medicare-for-all.
The Eighth is a toss-up, according to Cook, and the district is just R+4. Clinton lost to Trump by less than 7 points here in 2016. The district covers an area near Lansing, the state capital, and its constituents are a little better educated — all ingredients that could give Democrats an edge.
Michigan 11th Congressional District: a competitive primary for both sides of the aisle
Rep. David Trott is retiring, so it’s an open seat. The GOP primary is very competitive, with a lot of credible candidates. Among them are former US Rep. Kerry Bentivolio and several state lawmakers: Sen. Mike Kowall, Rep. Klint Kesto, and former Rep. Rocky Raczkowski. Self-funding business executive Lena Epstein rounds out the field for Republicans.
It’s also a wide-open field for the Democrats. Suneel Gupta, brother of doctor and CNN personality Sanjay Gupta, has the most money. Former Obama auto rescue official Haley Stevens has some union support and Hillary Clinton’s endorsement. Fayrouz Saad is angling to be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress, and she received the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsement. Current Michigan Rep. Tim Greimel is also on the ballot.
The 11th looks like a toss-up. Trump beat Clinton by just 4 points here, and the district profiles as R+4. It’s pretty diverse and very well educated.
Having no incumbent could be an advantage for Democrats, but it’s hard to know exactly how the race will look until we see who wins the primaries on Tuesday. But the 11th should be a focus for both parties in the battle for the House.
Michigan 13th Congressional District, special election: Conyers’s great-nephew is among those vying for his old seat
Rep. John Conyers retired after sexual harassment allegations. His successor will be picked in this Democratic primary, barring something unforeseen.
His great-nephew, state Sen. Ian Conyers, is running. So is Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. She is the subject of a strong campaign to elect an African-American woman for this city district.
Westland Mayor Bill Wild and left-wing former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib make up the rest of the field, with Talib raising a lot of money and both running progressive platforms. Because of a Michigan election law quirk, there will be in November both a special election to fill the last few months of Conyers’s term, then a regular election for the term starting in 2019.
Whoever wins the primary will be the next representative for this 57 percent black district.
Missouri Senate: Sen. Claire McCaskill goes up against Republican upstart Josh Hawley
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is the favorite in a massive field of 11 Republican primary candidates. The state’s Republican Party effectively granted Hawley the nomination when it gave the Republican National Committee the go-ahead to spend money backing Hawley’s campaign before he had even won the primary.
If Hawley prevails, he will likely face two-term Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats but with an independent streak. McCaskill has some competition in the Democratic primary, but her real focus is on Hawley. You can read more in Vox’s explainer.
McCaskill has faced Republican challenges in 2006 and 2012 — and prevailed each time. But 2018 is expected to be close in the general election, with polls vacillating between the two candidates.
Missouri’s Second Congressional District: Rep. Ann Wagner could face a serious Democratic challenger
Five Democrats are competing on Tuesday to see who will challenge Republican Rep. Ann Wagner, in office since 2013. Wagner also has a primary challenge from a relatively unknown candidate named Noga Sachs, but in all likelihood, Wagner will win.
Out of the crowded field of Democrats, the frontrunners appear to be attorney Cort VanOstran and Army veteran Mark Osmack. VanOstran has the most campaign cash, but Osmack is also fundraising and has endorsements from VoteVets and politicians including Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (both veterans). Osmack is positioning himself as the progressive choice, running on a platform that includes Medicare-for-all, while VanOstran supports shoring up the Affordable Care Act.
Cook rates the district R+8, but if Democrats can field the right candidate and the blue wave ends up materializing, this conservative Missouri district has a chance of becoming blue.
Missouri ballot question on union dues and right-to-work law
In addition to key races, Missouri voters across the state will vote on Proposition A, a ballot question that will decide whether to keep or scrap the state’s current right-to-work law.
Right-to-work laws allow workers to be in a bargaining unit without having to pay dues to the union; it’s a conservative initiative that many GOP-controlled state legislatures have passed in recent years. Organized labor groups say the laws are tantamount to union-busting and are just another way to weaken unions.
The Missouri legislature passed a right-to-work bill last year, and it was signed into law by former Gov. Eric Greitens, but labor groups stopped it from going into effect with a petition to put the measure on the ballot and let the voters decide.
Voting in favor of Proposition A would keep right-to-work in the state; voting against it would repeal the measure. If voters reject the measure, it would be a major victory for unions.
Kansas governor: one of Trump’s biggest allies hopes to walk away with a win
Current Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach are leading the pack of Republicans for governor. Jim Barnett and Ken Selzer are also part of a larger group that will be on the ballot.
Colyer — who took over the governor’s position after Sam Brownback became ambassador at large for international religious freedom earlier this year — has painted himself as the more low-key alternative to Kobach, whose close ties to Trump and broader controversy precede him. Kobach has long been known for touting hardline anti-illegal immigration policies and is among those most associated with the president’s theories on voter fraud, having led Trump’s election commission.
Several Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination. Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, state Sen. Laura Kelly, and former state Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty are among the contenders.
Kelly is seen as the leading candidate given her strong fundraising numbers, though she’s recently been snared in a controversy over a vote supporting voter ID laws. Kelly was recruited to the race by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
Cook Political Report rates the race as Likely Republican.
Kansas’s Second Congressional District: a rare open seat that Democrats are hoping to flip
There are a lot of Republicans competing in this district, including state Sens. Steve Fitzgerald, Dennis Pyle, and Caryn Tyson, state Rep. Kevin Jones, and former state Rep. Doug Mays. Rounding out the list are Basehor City Council member Vernon Fields and Army vet Steve Watkins. Throughout the primary election, there’s been no clear frontrunner in the bunch.
Whoever wins will face off against former state Rep. Paul Davis, who unsuccessfully ran for governor against former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in 2014.
Cook Political Report rates this district R+10, but if Democrats are hoping to flip a House seat in conservative Kansas, this may be their best shot. Davis has already far outraised all of the Republican candidates, has the backing of the DCCC, and is saving all of his money for his general election competitor.
Kansas’s Third Congressional District: can a Bernie-style progressive win in the conservative Plains?
There are seven Democrats running in this primary, but four names stand out: mixed martial arts fighter Sharice Davids, former Bernie Sanders staffer Brent Welder, teacher Tom Niermann, and business leader Sylvia Williams.
The winner will compete against incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder, in office since 2011 (Yoder isn’t facing a primary challenger).
Welder, in particular, is looking to test the theory of whether a Sanders-style progressive can win a primary in a conservative state. Cook rates the district R+4, and it also went for Clinton in 2016, so there’s a definite chance it could flip this year.
Washington’s Third Congressional District: could this heavily Republican district swing left?
Washington state has a top-two primary system, which means Democratic and Republican candidates are on the primary ballot together. The top two vote-getters will face off in the November general election.
This historically conservative district is among those that Democrats are trying to flip this cycle, although incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has swept her reelection races by double digits in the past. Washington State University professor Carolyn Long has garnered the backing of national groups like Emily’s List and is seen as the Democratic frontrunner.
While the district went for Trump by 8 points, Cook Political Report downgraded the district from Solid Republican to Likely Republican this past spring, suggesting that Democrats might have more of a fighting chance. Earlier this year, Long released an internal poll that indicated she is within 5 percentage points of Beutler.
Washington’s Fifth Congressional District: a Republican giant faces down the rumbling of a blue wave
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican leader in the House, is facing one of the toughest reelection fights of her career.
While it’s uncommon for Republican leaders like McMorris Rodgers to lose their bids for reelection, it’s not without precedent. Democrats think momentum could be on their side: Trump captured a little more than 52 percent of the vote in the district in 2016, and constituents have hammered McMorris Rodgers for hewing too close to the president.
The Cook Political Report has shifted its rating on the eastern Washington district from Likely Republican to Lean Republican, though polls suggest that McMorris Rodgers maintains a slim lead over challenger Lisa Brown, a former state Senate majority leader.
Washington’s Eighth Congressional District: a slew of Democrats attempt to retake the district
Democrats see incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert’s retirement as a potential opportunity to capture the district, which Cook rates as a toss-up.
The district is also one of more than 20 held by Republicans that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Interestingly, it’s backed Democratic presidential candidates for numerous races in the past, while favoring Republicans for the House seat.
An expansive field of candidates including pediatrician Kim Schrier, former prosecutor Jason Rittereiser, and doctor Shannon Hader has emerged, each lining up for the chance to turn the district blue. The Republican frontrunner is former state Sen. Dino Rossi, who’s previously mounted failed bids for a Senate seat and the governorship.