On the biggest primary day of the year, with voters going to the polls in eight states on Tuesday, the national Democratic establishment got the last laugh.
• It cost millions of bucks, but Democrats appear to have avoided their nightmare of getting locked out of competitive House races in California. The state’s quirky jungle primary system means the top two finishers face each other in November, and the national party apparatus mobilized to make sure a Democrat finished in the top two. California is notoriously slow at counting ballots, so several races have not been called yet and it may take days to know the final results, but with nearly every precinct counted in Orange County, Democrats are confident Wednesday morning they’ll have a nominee in all the winnable races in SoCal.
“In California’s 39th, 48th and 49th congressional districts, Democrats at least ended the night in second place,” The Post’s Dave Weigel reports. “In the 39th, lottery winner and Navy veteran Gil Cisneros led a Republican candidate in the battle for the No. 2 spot by more than 3,000 votes. In Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s 48th, two Democrats — Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda — were battling for second place, both were roughly 1,000 votes ahead of Republican Scott Baugh. And in the 49th, Democrats Mike Levin, Sara Jacobs and Doug Applegate were more than 3,000 votes ahead of the nearest Republican.”
• Cisneros, who was backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, benefited from an 11th-hour truce with another wealthy candidate.
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• The DCCC-backed Rouda ran fourth in early votes but trailed only Rohrabacher in votes cast closer to Election Day — a period when the DCCC had been on the airwaves, trumpeting its endorsement.
• Democratic strategists are most worried Wednesday morning about a lockout in the Central Valley’s 10th Congressional District, where investor Josh Harder was clinging to second place by less than 1,000 votes: “That race had combined all of the DCCC’s danger signs — a second credible Democrat (Michael Eggman, who had run and lost the district twice), two female candidates, and a Republican who entered the race late and attracted some voters unhappy with Republican Rep. Jeff Denham over his support for immigration reform,” Weigel notes.
Democrats increased their odds of picking up three House seats in New Jersey, as candidates favored by the DCCC beat back more liberal alternatives. Former assistant secretary of state Tom Malinowski won a three-way primary to take on Rep. Leonard Lance, R. Navy veteran Mikie Sherrill won in the seat opening with GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s retirement after 24 years. And in the open seat of retiring GOP congressman Frank LoBiondo, Democratic voters nominated conservative state legislator Jeff Van Drew, who has been recruited for years. Republicans picked an unknown local politician with basically no money in his coffers.
• Democrats need to flip 23 seats to win the House in November, and California and New Jersey alone could theoretically get them about a third of the way there. Democrats are credibly targeting a half dozen of the 14 Republican-held House seats in the Golden State.
• Back in California, despite all the hullabaloo on the left, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D, crushed her primary challenger. There was so much buzz among Indivisible-type activists and the MoveOn crowd when California state Senate leader Kevin De León announced his campaign against the veteran senator, who has often shown an independent streak. Feinstein has used her perch as the top Democrat on the powerful Judiciary Committee to block or slow President Donald Trump’s agenda, but the netroots was outraged when she expressed a willingness during a forum in San Francisco to work with Trump on areas of common ground. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, though, De León garnered just 11 percent. Because of the jungle primary, the two may face off again in November. Three Republican candidates are in the mid-to-high single digits. If it winds up a head-to-head matchup, because he’s running at her from the left, many Republicans will vote for Feinstein.
• Get ready for Gavin Newsom to be a figure on the national stage again. The California lieutenant governor will face Republican John Cox because former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, D, finished a distant third in the race for governor. Facing Cox instead of another Democrat means that Newsom is more likely to prevail in November. The Democrat, who got 15 minutes of fame by legalizing same-sex marriage as mayor of San Francisco, offered a new slogan during his victory speech: “Resistance with results.” Watch for him to seek a much higher D.C. profile than outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown, D, and to maybe even try fanning the flames of 2020 presidential talk. Not that it will happen, but he is likely to be the chief executive of the nation’s most populous state.
• On the other side, unblinking support for Trump really has become the ultimate litmus test in Republican primaries. In Alabama, Rep. Martha Roby, R, was forced into a runoff because she could not get more than 50 percent in her primary in her quest for a fifth term. The only reason why is that she withdrew her support for Trump and called on him to drop out after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out in October 2016. In the Montgomery-area district, former congressman Bobby Bright — who Roby defeated in 2010 — ran ads that accused her of turning “her back on President Trump when he needed her the most.”
Politics makes for strange bedfellows. Roby’s rebuke of the president nearly two years ago now — for, let’s not forget, saying he can get away with groping women because he’s a celebrity and boasting about making passes at a married woman (while he himself was married to Melania) — drove Trump loyalists into the arms of a longtime Democrat who voted to make Nancy Pelosi the speaker of the House and only recently became a Republican.
Roby has been a reliable conservative vote, and she’s bent over backward to emphasize her fealty to Trump’s agenda, specifically on tax cuts and the border wall.
In California, Cox was able to get the second spot because Trump came out strongly and repeatedly for him on Twitter. This is toxic in a general election out West, but it helped gin up GOP turnout. Cox, an accountant, previously lost three elections in Illinois and a random presidential bid. Ironically, Cox didn’t support Trump either in 2016. But now he’s an outspoken booster. “It wasn’t Donald Trump who made California the highest tax state in the country,” he said Tuesday night.
• Speaking of taxes, a Democratic state senator in Orange County got recalled over his vote for a new gas tax. Freshman Josh Newman went down because he supported a 12-cent-per-gallon tax. The race wasn’t even close. The recall passed by 20 points. This means that Democrats have lost their supermajority in the state legislature, at least until the end of the year. That’s not a huge deal because there’s not really much else on the agenda. But it’s a reminder that taxes can be a super potent issue. Republican strategists still hope to use the national tax bill passed in December as a winning issue in the midterms, warning that people’s taxes could go up if Democrats win the House.
• For the first time in 87 years, a California judge was recalled from the bench thanks to the #MeToo movement. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to just six months in jail after his conviction for sexually assaulting an unconscious student. The case became a cause célèbre for sexual assault survivors.
Persky, 56, had served on the court since 2003. He argued that it would set a bad precedent to remove a judge from office over a decision that was lawful. His supporters warned that ousting Persky would prompt judges elsewhere to impose lengthier sentences for sex crimes so they can keep their seats.
For victims and their advocates, that sounds just fine. The recall campaign was chaired by Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber, and many students at Stanford — where the assault took place — got engaged in local politics for the first time.
• It was another night of firsts: The New Mexico governor’s race will put two members of Congress against one another. Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham will face Republican Rep. Stevan Pearce. But women won the nominations for both parties in both open House primaries.
Debra Haaland, who won the Democratic primary for Lujan Grisham’s seat, may become the first Native American woman to ever serve in Congress.
If Lujan Grisham wins, and she is the front-runner despite a few damaging stories in the past few days, it would be the first time in U.S. history that a woman has succeeded another woman as governor.
South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem won the GOP primary for governor, putting her on a glide path to becoming her state’s first female governor.
And a 28-year-old state legislator in Iowa, Abby Finkenauer, won the Democratic nomination to take on vulnerable GOP Rep. Rod Blum in a battleground district. She would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
• More evidence that the environment is bad for the GOP: In Missouri, Democrats flipped a GOP-held state Senate seat in a special election. Perhaps because of voter disgust with Trump or Eric Greitens, the Republican governor who recently resigned in disgrace, Democrat Lauren Arthur walloped a Republican state representative in the Kansas City suburbs by 19 points. Trump won the district by four points two years ago. That’s a 23-point swing.