Heart of the Primaries 2022, Democrats-Issue 26 (June 9, 2022)

Welcome to The Heart of the Primaries, Democratic Edition

June 9, 2022

In this issue: Takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries and the Massachusetts Democratic Party picks primary candidates

Primary results roundup

California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota held primaries on Tuesday.

The big stories of the night: Franken defeats Finkenauer, Caruso and Bass in runoff

U.S. Senate election in Iowa: Michael Franken defeated Abby Finkenauer and Glenn Hurst. As of Wednesday morning, Franken led Finkenauer, 55% to 40%.

Franken is a retired U.S. Navy admiral whose policy priorities include lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 50. Franken says he appeals to “that middle segment who want logical, pragmatic, smart, dedicated, national servants to work for them.” Franken unsuccessfully sought the state’s Democratic Senate nomination in 2020. 

Finkenauer, who served in the U.S. House from 2019 to 2021, campaigned on her support for term limits in Congress and what she called a record of bipartisanship. 

Franken will face Sen. Chuck Grassley (R). Three forecasters rate the general election Safe or Solid Republican

Mayoral election in Los Angeles: Karen Bass and Rick Caruso advanced to a runoff as no candidate received more than 50% of the vote. As of Wednesday morning, Caruso had 42% to Bass’ 37%.

Though the election was officially nonpartisan, both candidates are registered Democrats. Caruso, a real estate developer and former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, said he changed his party registration from no party preference to Democrat in January 2022. Bass has held elected office as a Democrat since 2005 and has served in the U.S. House since 2011.

The New York Times‘ Jennifer Medina wrote that the race is “poised to become a test of whether voters this year favor an experienced politician who has spent nearly two decades in government or an outsider running on his business credentials.”

Other marquee primary results

California’s 27thIncumbent Mike Garcia (R) and Christy Smith (D) advanced from a seven-candidate, top-two primary. Garcia had 50% of the vote and Smith had 35% as of Wednesday morning. 

In 2020, Garcia defeated Smith in the general election by 333 votes, making it the third-closest U.S. House race that year. Brianna Lee of LAist said the 2022 race should be more competitive because redistricting “jettisoned the district’s most conservative outpost in Simi Valley, giving Democratic voters even more of an edge.”

California Attorney General: Incumbent Rob Bonta (D) is likely to advance from the top-two primary. Who will join him in the general is TBD. Bonta had 55% of the vote as of Wednesday morning. Republicans Nathan Hochman and Eric Early had 19% and 17%, respectively, and independent Anne Marie Schubert had 8%.

State legislative incumbents defeated

The figures below were current as of Wednesday morning. Click here for more information on defeated incumbents.

At least 13 state legislators—two Democrats and 11 Republicans—lost in primaries on June 7. Including those results, 91 state legislative incumbents have lost primaries this year. This number will likely increase: 58 primaries featuring 59 incumbents remain uncalled.

Across the 17 states that have held state legislative primaries so far this year, 5.3% of incumbents running for re-election have lost

Ninety-one primary defeats and a 5.3% loss rate are the largest number and highest incumbent loss rate in these 17 states since 2014.

Of the 17 states that have held primaries so far, three had Democratic trifectas, 11 had Republican trifectas, and three had divided governments with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. Across these 17 states, there are 2,189 seats up for election, 36% of the nationwide total this year.

Media analysis

Politico‘s Ally Mutnick and Jeremy White wrote about how the issue of crime played out in several California races:

San Francisco voters ousted incumbent District Attorney Chesa Boudin before he completed a full term — a ringing repudiation of a broader criminal justice reform movement.

Meanwhile, the fact that Los Angeles’ mayoral contest is as competitive as it is testifies to a fraught public mood — as well as the power of a well-funded campaign.

Democratic Rep. Karen Bass and ex-Republican magnate Rick Caruso are neck and neck in the vote count so far, with Caruso making his mark on the race by spending millions of dollars to amplify his message of tackling crime and homelessness. Polls have shown Angelenos feel markedly more pessimistic about the status quo on both issues.

And statewide, California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s bid for a full term will also test whether anxiety about public safety has voters ready to reevaluate their embrace of criminal justice reform. Bonta has been a champion in that movement, backing policies like lesser sentencing and bans on cash bail and for-profit prisons. But polls show Californians are feeling markedly more concerned about crime — a dynamic Bonta’s opponents are trying to exploit.

The outcome will also show whether an unaffiliated candidate can break through. Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a Republican-turned-independent, could be Bonta’s toughest opponent in November but early returns had Schubert far behind Republicans Nathan Hochman and Eric Early.

The Associated Press‘ Thomas Beaumont wrote that Franken’s defeat of Finkenauer in Iowa was a surprise: 

Franken’s primary win is something of a surprise, given Finkenauer was better known throughout the state after her 2018 victory over a Republican congressman that made her the second-youngest woman elected to Congress. Finkenauer lost in a reelection bid in 2020 but was a frequent presence on cable television and raised millions of dollars toward her Senate run.

But Franken campaigned in more than 50 of Iowa’s 99 counties, touting his upbringing in rural, northwest Iowa where Democrats have all but vanished from public office. And yet Franken beat Finkenauer soundly in the state’s most populous areas including the Des Moines metro area, as well as in the liberal bastion of Iowa City, next door to Finkenauer’s eastern Iowa base.

Franken will nonetheless face stiff headwinds going into the general election against Grassley, who has served seven terms. A state that Democrat Barack Obama won in two presidential elections has steadily shifted to the right in recent years, part of a broader transformation that has spread through the Northern Plains that has made it increasingly difficult for Democrats to compete statewide.

… Finkenauer’s campaign faced an unexpected stumble in April when she nearly didn’t make the primary ballot. Republican activists claimed she hadn’t gathered enough signatures from enough counties. A district judge ruled Finkenauer hadn’t qualified for the ballot, a ruling she called “deeply partisan.” The Iowa Supreme Court overruled that decision and allowed her to run.

Still, the episode turned off a number of veteran state Democratic activists, former candidates and officeholders, prompting some to give Franken a second look. He posted stronger first-quarter fundraising figures than Finkenauer and earned endorsements from some well-known former Finkenauer supporters bothered by her declining to accept responsibility for the filing mistakes.

The first-ever top-four congressional primary is on Saturday

Alaska will conduct the first top-four congressional primary in U.S. history on June 11—a special U.S. House primary election held in the wake of former Rep. Don Young’s (R) death. 

The special general election will be on Aug. 16, the same day as the regular primary election. The special election winner will serve until Jan. 2023, when the regular election winner—if someone different—will take office for a full two-year term.

Forty-eight candidates are on the special election ballot. The regular primary features 31 candidates, including 24 who are also running in the special election. All primary candidates for each election run on the same ballot with their affiliation listed next to their names. On the special primary ballot are:

  • 22 candidates running as nonpartisan or undeclared 
  • 16 Republicans
  • 6 Democrats
  • 2 Libertarians
  • 1 American Independent Party member
  • 1 Alaskan Independence Party member

Here’s the sample ballot from the Alaska Division of Elections:

As we wrote last month, an Alaska Survey Research poll found former governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (R), Nick Begich III (R), and 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross (I) in the top three spots. A cluster of independents, Democrats, and Republicans were tied within the margin of error for fourth. 

The New York Times‘ Emily Cochrane wrote, “Most observers here believe that Mr. Young’s seat is likely to remain in Republican hands given the state’s conservative slant, but the new ranked-choice system, which tends to advantage candidates in the center, could upend the conventional wisdom.”

Young was first elected Alaska’s U.S. representative in 1973, when he defeated Emil Notti (D) in a special election. Notti is running in the 2022 special primary election. Young also ran for the House in 1972, when Nick Begich Sr. (D) defeated him. Begich Sr. is Begich III’s grandfather.

Alaska voters approved the top-four primary/ranked-choice voting general election system via ballot measure in 2020. Maine is the only other state that uses ranked-choice voting for federal and state-level elections, though several other states have jurisdictions that use the voting system. Learn more here.

Working Families Party backs Nadler over Maloney in NY-12

The Working Families Party (WFP) of New York endorsed Rep. Jerry Nadler over Rep. Carolyn Maloney in New York’s 12th Congressional District

We wrote in March that the WFP endorsed Rana Abdelhamid over Maloney in the 12th. That was before a special master redrew the state’s congressional district map, resulting in Nadler and Maloney running in the same district and Abdelhamid withdrawing from the race.

New York uses fusion voting. More than one political party can support the same candidate, and that candidate appears on the same ballot multiple times under different party lines (for example, the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party).

Both Nadler and Maloney are campaigning as progressives and are members of the House Progressive Caucus.

In other New York endorsement news, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) endorsed state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi against Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in New York’s 17th

The primaries are Aug. 23.

Massachusetts Democratic Party convention determines party endorsements and ballot access

At the June 4 Massachusetts Democratic Party convention, delegates chose primary candidates and party endorsees. Attorney General Maura Healey advanced to the gubernatorial primary with 71% of the delegate vote. Because she received more than 50% of the vote, Healey also won the party’s endorsement. State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz received 29% of the vote, surpassing the 15% threshold to advance to the Sept. 6 primary.

Boston NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan won the party’s endorsement for secretary of state over seven-term incumbent William Galvin, 62% to 38%. Galvin didn’t receive the party’s endorsement during his last re-election bid in 2018. He won that primary with 68%.

In the lieutenant gubernatorial race, three candidates qualified for the primary: Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll with 41% of the vote, state Rep. Tami Gouveia with 23%, and state Sen. Eric Lesser with 21%. 

Politico’s Lisa Kashinsky wrote, “Lesser and Galvin’s flush coffers will help them get on the airwaves and reach more voters as their primaries move beyond party activists. But they could lose that edge if their rivals are able to build more financial support following the convention.”

For attorney general, former state Assistant Attorney General Quentin Palfrey won the party’s endorsement and will face former Boston City Councilwoman Andrea Campbell and labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan in September. 

Former Assistant Secretary of Transportation Chris Dempsey won the endorsement for state auditor with 53% of the vote, setting up a two-way primary with state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, who received 47%.

Political consultant Anthony Cignoli told MassLive’s Jim Kinney, “Convention delegates are a specific universe of activists who don’t always represent the voters who ultimately decide the actual September primary. A larger group of Democrats with broader views and issues important to them will be the decision-makers then, not to mention the unenrolled and independent voters who get to weigh in.” 

Massachusetts holds semi-closed primaries, meaning voters who are unaffiliated can vote in the primary of their choice.

Percentage of each congressional caucus not seeking re-election

Fifty-five members of Congress are not running for re-election this year, including 32 Democrats and 23 Republicans. For Democrats, this is the largest percentage of the party’s House and Senate caucuses to retire in one cycle—11.9%—since 2014. For Republicans, this represents 8.8% of the party’s caucuses.

The highest recent percentage of Republicans retiring was in 2018, when 12.6% of the party’s caucus—37 members—didn’t run for re-election. That year, Republicans gained two Senate seats and lost 35 House districts.

The lowest recent percentage of Democrats retiring was in 2020, when 10 members—3.6% of the caucus—didn’t run. Democrats gained three Senate seats and lost 10 House districts. 

The lowest recent percentage of Republican congressional retirements was in 2016. Twenty-six Republicans retired—8.6% of the caucus. Republicans lost two Senate seats and five House districts.

Competitiveness data: Maine and North Dakota

Maine and North Dakota hold primaries on June 14. We’ve crunched some numbers to see how competitive the primaries will be compared to recent election cycles.


North Dakota

Notes on how these figures were calculated:

  • Candidates per district: divides the total number of candidates by the number of districts holding elections.
  • Open districts: divides the number of districts without an incumbent running by the number of districts holding elections.
  • Contested primaries: divides the number of major party primaries by the number of possible primaries.
  • Incumbents in contested primaries: divides the number of incumbents in primaries by the number seeking re-election in the given election cycle.