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What to expect for June 12th primary in Nevada, Maine, South Carolina, Virginia, North Dakota


© Sean Rayford, Getty Images Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting March 18, 2017 in Hilton…

By Eliza Collins, USA TODAY

Voters in five states — Nevada, North Dakota, Maine, South Carolina and Virginia — will head to the polls Tuesday to determine their general election candidates in a slew of races. There are two open races for governor, a sitting governor facing primary challengers and a handful of House seats that, come November, Democrats think they’ve got a chance to take — just as long as they get the right candidate Tuesday. And while we’ve known the general election lineups for some time now, Wednesday morning Senate campaigns in North Dakota, Nevada, Virginia and Maine will officially have moved into general election mode.

Here’s what we’re watching on Tuesday:


Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is term-limited, opening up his seat for the 2018 election to a crowded field. Republican Adam Laxalt, the state's attorney general, is likely to come out as the GOP candidate. But the race is close on the Democratic side — either Steve Sisolak or Christina Giunchigliani, both Clark County Commissioners, is expected to take the nomination. Open races in Nevada’s 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts have made for competitive primaries in both parties. Both seats are currently held by Democrats, but are considered competitive come November.

While the state’s Senate race will be a marquee event in November, the general election matchup is pretty much decided. Sitting Sen. Dean Heller a Republican is likely to keep his party’s nomination and face off against Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen. Heller was facing a real primary threat from Republican Danny Tarkanian, a conservative, pro-Trump businessman until Tarkanian dropped out of the race at the president’s urging. Trump asked Tarkanian to leave the primary — which was becoming increasingly bitter — and to run for the state’s 3rd Congressional District. Tarkanian  came within one point of winning the general election in 2016.


Voters in Maine will be using a new system to elect their general election candidates Tuesday and they’ll be the first state in the nation to do so. The state passed Instant Runoff Voting in 2016 which allows voters to rank their choices.  First-choice votes are counted and if no one got the majority the candidate with the lowest number of votes is removed from the race. Those who gave that candidate their first-choice pick have their votes redirected to their second choice. The process is repeated until a candidate has a majority of the vote and is declared the winner in a procedure similar to an instant runoff. The system is used in some cities to elect mayors but has never been used on such a large scale and the implementation has been controversial, with Republicans being particularly critical. Critics of the law say they worry about how it will be implemented and that there could be errors. But advocates say it will ensure the winner received a majority of the vote and not just a plurality.

We’re watching how the governor’s matchup shakes out. Voters — on both sides of the aisle — will head to the polls to choose their general election candidates for governor. Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, is term-limited so the race is open for the first time since 2010 and the field is crowded.

GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, is watching which Democrat will come out of the primary Tuesday. The district has traditionally gone for Democrats and President Obama carried it twice but Poliquin won the seat in 2014 and President Trump won the seat comfortably in 2016. Democrats think voters could go back to their roots with the right candidate. State House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden is a Marine veteran who has been recruited by national Democrats. He faces off against businessman Craig Olson and Lucas St. Clair who leads a land conservation organization. Independent Sen. Angus King is also facing re-election and has challengers in both the Democratic and Republican parties, though he’s expected to win the general.

North Dakota

Like Nevada, North Dakota’s Senate race is likely to be a nailbiter come November, but the results of Tuesday’s primaries are pretty much already known. Democratic incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is expected to face off against the state’s one sitting congressman, Rep. Kevin Cramer, who is the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. The open seat to replace Cramer is also one Democrats think they could have a chance to take in November — particularly if voters turn out for Heitkamp. Tuesday will cement that general election lineup.

South Carolina

South Carolina has multiple intra-party feuds that — likely — will be resolved on primary night. The state’s GOP governor Henry McMaster is facing two primary challengers. McMaster has gotten a boost from the president and appears to be leading the field, but if he doesn’t get over 50% of the vote Tuesday the race will go into a runoff later this month.

Rep. Mark Sanford will see if his criticism of Trump can be overlooked by primary voters in the state’s 1st Congressional District. Sanford has proven to be a talented campaigner, despite being notoriously frugal. He resigned as governor in 2009 over an extramarital affair only to win back his old House seat in a 2013 special election. But the conservative lawmaker is now facing a challenge from state Rep. Katie Arrington who is hammering Sanford for being disloyal to Trump.

Democrat Archie Parnell was within striking distance of winning South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District during a special election last year. He’s running again for his party’s nomination but this time allegations that he struck his his ex-wife with a tire iron in 1973 have surfaced; he has not denied the allegations. Parnell has lost support from the state and national party but he’s defiantly remained the race.


Democrats see flip opportunities in several House races in Virginia, with GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock at the top of the list because Clinton won the district by 10 points. Tuesday will determine which Democrat faces off with Comstock.  State Sen. Jennifer Wexton appears to have the edge for the Democratic nomination, but a crowded field means this isn’t a sleeper primary.

Establishment Republicans are also hoping to avoid a Roy Moore situation in their quest to pick their nominee to face off against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. While Kaine is presumed to be safe, his state went for Clinton and Kaine — who was on the ticket as her pick for vice president — by single digits and Republicans are hoping to make it competitive. That job could be harder if Prince William County Board of Supervisor Chair Corey Stewart or Rev. E.W. Jackson win Tuesday. Stewart has staked out hard-right positions in a moderate state and made his support for confederate monuments part of his unsuccessful run for governor in 2017. Jackson lost his bid for lieutenant governor in 2013 over derogatory comments about gays and compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan. State Del. Nick Freitas is the most “establishment” GOP pick, but even he has made controversial comments about school shootings.

Contributing: Associated Press and Elizabeth Beyer


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Politics - U.S. Daily News: What to expect for June 12th primary in Nevada, Maine, South Carolina, Virginia, North Dakota
What to expect for June 12th primary in Nevada, Maine, South Carolina, Virginia, North Dakota
Politics - U.S. Daily News
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