(WASHINGTON) — As Tuesday’s primaries get underway, the influence of big money, the “big lie” and some Democratic groups have meddled in some of the races.
Primaries in several states, including Colorado, Illinois and New York, will also be held against the backdrop of the latest — surprise — Jan. 6 hearing in the House.
Republican candidates remain divided on Donald Trump’s evidence-free election denialism across Colorado’s congressional and statewide GOP nominating contests, which are further complicated by Democratic efforts to boost the seemingly more right-wing candidates — assuming those choices would then backfire in the general election.
Two GOP politicians are on the ballot in the Republican Senate primary hoping to unseat Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. Businessman Joe O’Dea, the moderate in the race, has focused his campaign on public safety and economic reform.
In stark contrast, Ron Hanks has centered his campaign around the “big lie,” baselessly disputing the last presidential race. Hanks attended Trump’s infamous Jan. 6 rally in Washington ahead of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol.
In this GOP Senate primary, some Democrats have directed their money toward supporting Hanks, the election denier in the race. Democratic Colorado, a super PAC, has run ads highlighting Hanks’ conservative values; and ProgressNow Colorado has simultaneously campaigned against O’Dea. Their thinking — as yet unproven — is that Hanks will ultimately be less appealing to much of the electorate even if the conservative base embraces him.
Meanwhile four Republican candidates are vying for the nomination in Colorado’s newly minted 8th Congressional District. Whoever wins will face off against Democratic Nominee Rep. Yadira Caraveo. This highly competitive election could help decide who controls Congress in 2022, where Democrats hope to preserve their fragile majority.
The candidates in that race include state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine and political newcomer Tyler Allcorn.
While there is no front-runner in this four-way primary, Lori Saine, the most conservative candidate on the ballot, may likely prove the easiest for Democrats to beat, given past trends.
The House Majority PAC has run ads featuring Saine. Though the ad does not deliberately promote her, it characterizes her as a “conservative warrior” with strong popular Republican stances. A political action committee backing Democratic candidates has also run ads against Saine’s opponent Kirkmeyer.
For the governor’s race, two candidates are facing off in Colorado’s Republican primary to unseat Democratic incumbent Jared Polis: Heidi Ganahl, the establishment favorite, and Greg Lopez, an outspoken election denier who has emphasized that, if elected, he would pardon Tina Peters, an accused election worker there. (She has said she is innocent.)
The Democratic Governors Association sponsored ads raising Lopez’s profile, emphasizing his staunch conservative stances on issues like abortion access and gay marriage.
Against the backdrop of Trump’s election lies, Democrats play a risky game — potentially advancing election deniers further in the race for elected office.
In New York, the Democratic primary for governor features a three-way race between a favored incumbent who has yet to serve a full term and two challengers on her left and right.
Gov. Kathy Hochul is considered a front-runner after she stepped into the position (and became New York’s first female governor) in 2021, following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
Her two primary opponents are Rep. Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Four candidates are fighting for the nomination in the New York GOP gubernatorial primary: Rep Lee Zeldin, Rob Astorino, Andrew Giuliani (son of Rudy Giuliani) and Harry Wilson.
Zeldin was first elected to the House in 2014 after serving in the state Senate; he is a member of the House Financial Services and House Foreign Affairs committees. Zeldin also voted in 2021 to sustain objections to certifying the 2020 election results even after the Jan. 6 attack.
The younger Giuliani’s dad is a former New York City mayor and adviser and attorney for former President Trump. Andrew Guiliani recently had to join a gubernatorial debate from a separate studio, instead of appearing alongside the other candidates, because he refused to provide proof of being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Astorino is a consultant and former county executive of Westchester County while Wilson is a businessman who emphasizes his working-class roots. Notably, Wilson supports abortion rights, according to Politico, which could appeal to liberal-leaning voters in a general election in light of the reenergized national conversation around abortion after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
In Illinois, the governor’s race is becoming a heated battle between billionaires as candidates enter the last leg of the primary.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker — whose family controls the Hyatt Hotel enterprise — is running for reelection. A billionaire in his own right, Pritzker is expected to succeed in his party’s primary.
Two Republicans are fighting for the chance to go head-to-head with Pritzker in the general election.
Richard Irvin was the first Black mayor of one of Chicago’s largest suburbs, Aurora. Irvin and his campaign have heavily focused on crime and taxes, while the former mayor has avoided mentioning other pressing issues such as abortion.
Pritzker’s nemesis — Billionaire Ken Griffin of Citadel, a hedge fund and financial services company — has helped fund Irvin’s campaign: According to the Illinois State Board of Elections website, Griffin has donated $50 million. Griffin also poured millions in 2018 against Pritzker during his first run for governor of Illinois.
Pritzker and the DGA have spent millions trying to ensure that Irvin is not the GOP nominee in the race.
Another candidate is Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey, who received an endorsement from Trump on Saturday during the former president’s rally in Illinois.
Bailey fought against COVID-19 restrictions, is against abortion access and is an avid supporter of the Second Amendment and Trump.
Bailey has also garnered support from billionaire Richard Uihlein — a mega GOP donor who has thrown millions behind Bailey’s run for governor. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections website, Uihlein has donated $9 million to Bailey’s campaign.
The Illinois primary will also display some of the most heated battles involving incumbent candidates drawn into the same congressional district.
GOP Reps. Mary Miller and Rodney Davis will face off against each other in Tuesday’s primary.
Davis voted to certify the 2020 election and supported a proposal for a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission. On the other hand, Miller voted against certifying the 2020 election results.
Trump endorsed Miller in the race earlier this year and held a rally for her last weekend where Miller spoke on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, saying that it was a “historic victory for white life.”
“President Trump, on behalf of all the MAGA patriots in America, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday,” Miller said.
A spokesperson for Miller told the Associated Press the line was a “mix up of words.”
Davis tweeted to criticize Miller, saying her initial comments were part of a “disturbing pattern of behavior she’s displayed since coming to Congress.”
In January 2021, Miller had quoted Adolf Hitler during a rally in Washington. She said then: “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future."”
Davis has also outraised Miller, $3.4 million to $1.4 million. In addition, the Club For Growth has supported Miller during her reelection.
Over in Illinois’ 6th Congressional District, incumbent Reps. Marie Newman and Sean Casten will face off against one another.
As a member of the progressive caucus, Newman is facing an ethics probe into whether or not she bribed someone into not running for office. She has denied wrongdoing.
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