Primary Season Opening Day (May 9)

Update 270 — Primary Season Opening Day
Yields Robust Crop of Progressive Nominees

Last night saw results come in from the country’s first round of primary contests this cycle. While there were few surprises, a number of promising Democratic candidates for the U.S. House emerged successful and will mount strong challenges to their GOP opponents in November.

We’ll cover the most signal and salient primary races and results over the course of the primary season, highlighting some of the most compelling  candidates and campaigns with an eye towards economic policy.





Sen. Brown to Face Trump-Endorsed Renacci

Last night, Sen. Sherrod Brown, seeking a third term, learned that he will face Rep. Jim Renacci in November. Renacci, who serves on House Ways and Means, rode an early endorsement from President Trump to victory in the Buckeye state.  In an election that pits two populists, we foresee the campaign focusing on the pensions crisis, banking deregulation, and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a product of Renacci’s main Committee.


Key House Races

OH-01: Pureval (D) v. Rep. Chabot (R)
• 2016 Pres. Results: Trump 51/Clinton 44
• 2012 Pres. Results: Romney 52/Obama 46
• 2016 House Results: Chabot (R) 59/Young (D) 41
• Cook PVI: R+5

Aftab Pureval will challenge long-time Republican incumbent Steve Chabot in Ohio’s first district. Pureval, a Democratic county clerk from Hamilton County, Ohio, ran uncontested in the Democratic primary and is on the DCCCs “Red to Blue” program list. A former federal prosecutor, Pureval will seek to paint Chabot as a rubber stamp for President Trump in this urban Cincinnati district.

While Pureval faces an uphill battle against Chabot, he has experience playing the underdog in Ohio.  His 2016 come-from-behind county clerk victory landed the Democrats a seat they had not controlled for over 100 years.  Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley proclaimed Pureval the Democrats’ best chance to reclaim OH-01 in a decade.

OH-12: O’Connor (D) v. Balderson (R)
• 2016 Pres. Results: Trump 53/Clinton 41
• 2012 Pres. Results: Romney 54/Obama 44
• 2016 House: Tiber (R) 67/Albertson (D) 30
• Cook PVI: R+7

This district will likely be looked to as an early bellwether for the ‘18 elections as there will first be a special election in August before the General three months later.  Danny O’Connor won the Democratic special election and general election primaries handily, while Troy Balderson won each Republican contest by one percent. Balderson ran close to, but not fully aligned with Trump relative to his opponents.  O’Connor was a hand-picked Democratic candidate. Republicans have controlled the northeastern Ohio district for 35 years, but being an R+7 district may not be enough to prevent O’Connor, a progressive former prosecutor, from ending that streak.

OH-14: Rader (D) v. Rep. Joyce (R)
• 2016 Pres. Results: Trump 53/Clinton 42
• 2012 Pres. Results: Romney 50/Obama 47
• 2016 House Results: Joyce (R) 63/Wagner (D) 37
• Cook PVI: R+5

Some progressives are enthusiastic about flipping OH-14, others are uncertain about this mixed suburban-rural Cleveland district which has not had a Democrat represent it since 2002.  Democrats are placing their hope in Betsy Rader, a civil rights attorney who spent much of her young life in poverty. Rader will face Rep. Dave Joyce, a moderate Republican serving on the House Appropriations Committee.

Rader would bring a progressive bend to the Ohio delegation.  She is running on a platform emphasizing investment in a bold economic infrastructure plan and job training programs, stringent enforcement of antitrust laws, and initiatives to increase wages to help working families escape poverty.

OH-15: Rick Neal (D) v. Rep. Stivers (R)
• 2016 Pres. Results: Trump 53/Clinton 40
• 2012 Pres. Results: Romey 52/Obama 46
• 2016 House Results: Stivers (R) 66/Warton (D) 34
• Cook PVI: R+7

Rick Neal, an international aid worker, won over 63 percent of the Democratic primary vote in Ohio-15 yesterday and will face incumbent Rep. Steve Stivers, the GOP’s Congressional Committee Chair, in the general.

Neal’s primary focuses have been on increasing the minimum wage, defending unionized labor, and investing in infrastructure. Neal also intends to expand Medicare and CHIP, lower drug prices, and protect Social Security. This south-central Ohio district will be difficult to win, but a victory for Neal over a leadership Republican would mean an overwhelming blue wave in the fall.



Senate Bout Decided: Donnelly v. Braun

Mike Braun, a wealthy businessman from Indiana, won in a stunning upset over two strong Republican Representatives, Rep. Luke Messer and Rep. Todd Rokita.  His prize: facing Senator Joe Donnelly. The primary race came down to who was more loyal to President Trump. Braun, Messer and Rokita each took pains to convey how they would demonstrate fealty to the President. Expect Senator Donnelly to run again as a “common-sense hoosier” in the tradition of former Senators Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh.

IN-02: Hall (D) v.  Rep. Walorski (R)
• 2016 Pres. Results: Trump 59/Clinton 36
• 2012 Pres. Results: Romney 56/Obama 42
• 2016 House Results: Walorski (R) 59/Coleman (D) 36
• Cook PVI: R+11

In a wave year, IN-02 is a district to watch. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s former district was Democratic as recently as 2010 but has since shifted to the Republicans. Mel Hall, an entrepreneur and business owner from South Bend, will hope to reclaim the district for Democrats.  Labeled “must watch” by many Indiana Democrats, Hall will take on Representative Jackie Walorski, a member of the influential Ways and Means Committee, who played an integral role in the creation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Hall was the presumptive primary victor from the word go. He staked out a more moderate  stance than his opponents on healthcare reform, but also took more liberal positions on the economy, especially regarding pro-union and workers’ rights issues. Hall also advocates for increased wages and benefits for workers.

IN-09: Watson (D) v. Rep. Hollingsworth (R)  
• 2016 Pres. Election Results: Trump 61/Clinton 34
• 2012 Pres. Election Results: Romney 57/Obama 40
• 2016 House Results: Hollingsworth (R) 54/Yoder (D) 41
• Cook PVI: R+13

An historic swing district, IN-09 is another race to watch closely for signs of an impending blue wave. The progressive community is excited about nominee Liz Watson, a former Labor Policy Director for congressional Democrats, who coasted to victory in last night’s primary.  She will face-off against incumbent Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, a member of House Financial Services who has repeatedly advanced legislation to destabilize capital markets and destroy the regulatory framework for Wall Street banks.

Watson, as her previous experience suggests, is a staunch pro-labor candidate, advocating for a $15 minimum wage and the right to organize.  She also supports specific infrastructure revitalization programs, raising the low income housing tax credit, and expanding and strengthening Medicare for all Americans.



WV-03: Ojeha (D) vs. Miller (R)
• 2016 Pres. Results: Trump 73/Clinton 23
• 2012 Pres. Results: Romney 65/Obama 33
• 2016 House Results: Jenkins (R) 68/Detch (D) 24
• Cook PVI: R+23

The southernmost West Virginia Congressional District is the most winnable for Democrats in the Mountain State. While this coal country turf embraced Donald Trump in 2016, Democrat Richard Ojeha’s brand of working class populism could spell success in a district that was ground zero for the teacher’s strike. Ojeha, who admitted to voting for Trump and now openly regrets it, possesses a unique opportunity to express the frustrations of West Virginians. He has centered his campaign around West Virginia teachers, who carried posters of him during the strike. He will take on State Senator Carol Miller, who narrowly won the GOP primary with less than 30 percent of the vote.

Ojeda is staunchly pro-labor and has lined up strong support among the state’s most powerful coal miners union. In the state senate, Ojeha introduced legislation to give teachers a tax break for buying classroom supplies, stabilize health care premiums for public employees, and give public employees a $5,000 raise over three years. We expect he will argue for raising taxes on wealthy corporations, which he insists are getting undue breaks from legislators without giving anything back for West Virginia residents.


NC-09: McCready (D) vs. Harris (R)
• 2016 Pres. Vote: Trump 54/Clinton 43
• 2012 Pres: Romney 55/Obama 45
• 2016 House: Pittenger (R) 58/Cano (D) 42
• Cook PVI: R+7

In 2018’s first congressional casualty, incumbent Republican Robert Pittenger lost a close primary fight to Republican challenger Mark Harris. Harris’ victory demonstrates that the anti-establishment rift that brought President Trump to power in 2016 is very much alive among Republican voters. This will be welcome news to Democratic primary winner Dan McCready who can now turn his attention to the general election without having to worry about battling an incumbent.

McCready, a former Marine and solar energy entrepreneur, is a top candidate on the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program. McCready will hope that a platform which includes protection of Social Security and Medicare, early childhood education, and fiscal responsibility will be enough to woo voters in this historically red district.  Should the impending blue wave materialize, McCready stands a real chance. He starts the race with a significant financial advantage over Harris, and the dramatics in the Republican primary reveal a party that remains deeply divided.

NC-13: Manning (D) vs. Rep. Budd (R)
• 2016 Pres. Vote: Trump 53/Clinton 44
• 2012 Pres: Romney 53/Obama 46
• 2016 House: Budd (R) 56/Davis (D) 44
• Cook PVI: R+6

Kathy Manning, another Red to Blue program designee, likely represents the Democrats’ best chance of flipping a district in North Carolina. The lawyer and philanthropist decidedly won last night’s primary against fellow Democrat Adam Coker, and hopes to maintain this momentum heading into a general election fight against incumbent Republican Ted Budd.  Manning has an impressive professional record of providing job retraining, mortgage assistance, and healthcare to people who lost work after the 2008 financial crisis. He has also worked extensively on economic development projects in Greensboro. Manning is using this experience to run on a platform that focuses on job creation, affordable healthcare, and increased education funding.

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