On Super Tuesday, the race for the Democratic Party 2020 nomination wasn’t the only game in town. There were several congressional primaries for both Senate and House seats in various states across the country. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) is vying for a return to the Senate. Former House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R), who retired as the representative of a California district that was turning steadily blue, looks set for a return to Capitol Hill as well.
In Alabama, Sessions is fighting to reclaim his old seat currently occupied by Doug Jones (D), who is widely considered to be the most vulnerable Democrat up for re-election in 2020. It is not all smooth sailing for Sessions, though, as he was forced into a runoff with former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville. With 100% of precincts reporting, Tuberville managed to beat Sessions 33.4% to 31.6%. Since neither candidate won a majority of the votes, a runoff will take place on March 31.
Some people never know when to quit. Roy Moore (R) also ran for the Alabama Senate seat. It appears that most people have already had enough of the outspoken former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, though, and he failed to come even close to cracking 10% of the vote.
Another Sessions – former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions – pulled off a big win in the primary for the 17th congressional district in Texas, though he fell short of gaining the majority needed to avoid a May 26 runoff. Sessions previously served 11 terms in the House of Representatives and is now hoping to replace Bill Flores (R), who is not seeking re-election in 2020.
In another high-profile House contest in Texas, Rep. Henry Cuellar – who CNN describes as “one of the most conservative Hispanic Democrats” in the country – fought off a primary challenge from progressive Squad wannabe Jessica Cisneros. The race for the state’s 28th congressional district was seen as a test of how the Democratic Party’s radical wing matches up against the more centrist bloc. Cuellar was primaried because he has a record of voting in favor of President Trump’s legislative agenda.
California’s 50th congressional district is up for grabs, and Darrell Issa is positioned well for the 2020 general election. Previously represented by disgraced former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R), this is a solidly Republican district. Though Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar topped the primary with 34.4%, it was a victory made possible only by a split in the Republican vote: Issa came in second with 24.9%, but two other Republican candidates, Carl DeMaio and Brian Jones, claimed 21% and 10.8%, respectively. Between them, the three Republicans shared almost 70,000 votes to Campa-Najjar’s 42,337.
California uses a two-party primary system – commonly known as a “jungle primary” – in which all candidates appear on the same ballot. The top two vote-winners, regardless of party, face off in the general election.
In California’s 16th, 21st, and 39th districts, incumbent Democrats were runners-up to Republican challengers. Two of those defeats – for Gil Cisneros (D) in the 39th district and TJ Cox (D) in the 21st – were by significant enough margins to indicate trouble ahead for the incumbents in November.
With 94% of precincts reporting, a runoff seems likely between Lynda Bennett and Jim Davis in the contest to succeed Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) for the state’s 11th district seat. Democrat Moe Davis scored a decisive victory to set up a challenge to either Davis or Bennett in November.
With a second term for Trump looking like a strong possibility, the struggle for dominance on Capitol Hill is crucial for a Democratic Party determined to bring down – or at least reign in – the current White House incumbent. From the Senate, 23 Republicans and 12 Democrats are up for re-election in 2020. Depending on the forecasts upon which one chooses to rely, seven or eight of those Republicans and perhaps three or four Democrats are vulnerable, but this next general election could prove to be the least predictable of the last two or three decades.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.