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Incumbents Under Pressure With Primary Season in Full Swing

June 7, 2022 by Reece Nations
Incumbents Under Pressure With Primary Season in Full Swing
Rep. Michelle Steel

SAN ANTONIO — Election season is heating up as seven states will hold primary elections on Tuesday to determine which candidates will square off in November.

By the time polls close throughout the states of California, South Dakota, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana, Mississippi and Iowa, fates will be sealed in many make-or-break elections. 

Here’s a rundown of some of the most vulnerable incumbents facing tough matchups:

Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Calif., will contend with three candidates in California’s nonpartisan primary for U.S. House District 45. In these elections, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election. Steel’s opponents are Democratic former Navy reservist and small business owner Jay Chen, Republican nuclear scientist Long Pham, and independent write-in candidate Hilaire Fuji Shioura.

Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report each rated the race a toss-up in their respective House primary analyses. The district underwent a significant facelift following the 2020 redistricting cycle, going from encompassing much of Irvine and Mission Viejo to now wrapping around Anaheim into Garden Grove and parts of Huntington Beach.

As of May 18, Steel had over $2 million in on-hand cash while Chen held roughly $1.5 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Steel currently represents California’s 48th District while the 45th’s incumbent, Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., is on the ballot for the state’s Democrat-leaning 47th District.

Another toss-up is set to play out on Tuesday to fill former GOP Rep. Devin Nunes’ seat, which he vacated in order to become chief executive officer of former President Donald Trump’s social media company, as previously reported by The Well News. There, a trio of Republicans and a lone Democrat are vying for voters’ approval.

Current 21st District Rep. David Valadao, one of only 10 Republicans to vote in favor of Trump’s impeachment, is running to replace Nunes’ vacant 22nd District seat — as are Republican challengers Chris Mathys and Adam Thomas Medeiros. Mathys has hit Valadao hard over his impeachment vote on the campaign trail and has stated baselessly that Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

Valadao has received around $792,000 in financial backing from the Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy-affiliated Congressional Leadership Fund to help fend off Mathys’s candidacy, according to FEC data. Democratic assemblymember Rudy Salas will also appear on the Tuesday primary ballot after serving in the state Legislature for nine years. No Democrat has won the district since Rep. Lois Capps last held the seat in 2003.

Meanwhile, seven candidates are running in the state’s 27th Congressional District, which Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., currently represents. After redistricting, the 27th District was redrawn to encompass Lancaster, Palmdale and Santa Clarita, just north of San Fernando, possibly enhancing Republicans’ chances of flipping the seat.

The candidates for that district are Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif, who currently represents the 25th District, former assemblywoman Ruth Luevanos, conservative Mark Pierce, Democratic former Naval intelligence officer John Quaye Quartey, Republican Marine Corps veteran David Rudnick, former assemblywoman Christy Smith, and longshot independent write-in candidate Fepbrina Keivaulqe Autiameineire.

Garcia was endorsed by the California Republican Party while Smith received the California Democratic Party’s endorsement. Garcia previously defeated Smith in a close race for the 25th District in 2020 before its boundaries were redrawn during redistricting.

Another close matchup is taking shape in Iowa’s 3rd District where three Republican candidates are competing for the nomination to face Democratic incumbent Rep. Cindy Axne. Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report each ranked this race a toss-up as well.

Farmer and venture capitalist Gary Leffler, businesswoman Nicole Hasso and state Sen. Zach Nunn are competing for the Republican nomination. Each candidate has voiced support for the perpetrators of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack and characterized the Jan. 6 committee as a partisan ploy. Leffler was pictured at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but claims he didn’t enter the building, according to local media.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, endorsed Hasso while Nunn was endorsed by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas. Axne beat out former Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, in 2020 by just over 6,000 votes to win the district she now defends.

 In New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District matchup, two Democrats are trying to punch their ticket to the November general election against incumbent GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell. Herell defeated former Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., in 2020 for the office in a rematch of their 2018 contest.

Rural physician Darshan Patel and former Las Cruces City Councilmember Gabe Vasquez will appear on the ballot. Patel was endorsed by the Service Employees International Union while Vasquez received endorsements from U.S. Reps. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District race pits one challenger against incumbent Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski and seven Republican challengers. Production mechanic technician Roger Bacon is Malinowski’s sole primary challenger, while Republicans Kevin Dorlon, John Flora, John Isemann, Tom Kean, Erik Peterson, Philip Rizzo and Sterling Schwab appear on the Republican primary ballot.

Malinowski previously defeated Kean, a former state senator, by a slim margin of just over 5,300 votes in 2020. Kean, who also served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 2001 to 2003, must contend with a much more crowded field this time around. As of May 18, Kean had roughly $1.2 million cash on hand in comparison to Malinowski who held over $3.6 million for his campaign, according to FEC data.

Despite the fundraising discrepancy, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report rated the election as Republican-leaning while Inside Elections rated it a toss-up.

Reece can be reached at reece@thewellnews.com and https://twitter.com/ReeceNWrites

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