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What to watch in the primaries in 7 states

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Primary elections in seven states on Tuesday will set the stage for U.S. House and Senate races this fall, with many contests shaped by political fissures in the two major parties and the lingering shadow of former President Donald Trump.

With control of Congress at stake, a slew of Republican House incumbents are facing challenges from the political right, and some rivals are embracing Trump’s baseless allegations of voter fraud during his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.

No sitting governor or senator appears to be in imminent danger. In Iowa, several Democrats are vying for the chance to face seven-term Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, with the campaign highlighting the rift between the progressive and establishment wings of the Democratic Party.

Former Trump cabinet member Ryan Zinke is seeking a GOP nomination in a newly created House district in Montana.

What to watch in Tuesday’s primaries in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota:

CALIFORNIA

California is a Democratic stronghold where the party holds all statewide offices and its voters outnumber registered Republicans by nearly 2 to 1. Governor Gavin Newsom and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla face to little-known competitors.

But Republicans retain pockets of strength in some U.S. House districts that are expected to be among the most competitive races in the nation.

In a heavily Democratic district in the state’s Central Valley agricultural belt, Republican U.S. Representative David Valadao is seeing a rollback for his vote to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol uprising. Republican Chris Mathys has made Valadao’s vote a centerpiece of his campaign to oust him.

In a Democratic-leaning neighborhood north of Los Angeles, several Democrats are hoping to take on Republican Rep. Mike Garcia, who is expected to run through November with one of the Democrats as the top two in the race. Garcia rejected Arizona and Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for Biden and opposed Trump’s impeachment after the Capitol uprising.

The packed race for mayor of Los Angeles is shaping up to be a fight between Rick Caruso, a Republican-turned-Democrat pro-business billionaire who sits on the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, and U.S. Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, who was on Biden’s shortlist for vice president. If no candidate gets 50%, the top two qualify for a second round in November.

In another closely watched election, voters in San Francisco are considering recalling District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a progressive Democrat who critics say has failed to prosecute repeat offenders, amid widespread frustration against crime and homelessness.

IOWA

Republicans have gained an edge in the state over the past decade, and the Democratic Senate primary provides insight into the minority party’s battle for relevance.

Retired Navy Vice Admiral Michael Franken is leading a contest with former US Representative Abby Finkenauer in a bid to take on Grassley, 88, who has been endorsed by Trump.

Finkenauer is a 33-year-old former state representative who argues that her youth and more recent experience in Iowa make her better suited to challenge a Republican first elected to the Senate in 1980. She has made boundaries of mandate a centerpiece of his campaign.

Franken, 64, is promoting a progressive agenda, including adding a public insurance option to the Affordable Care Act. He hails from conservative western Iowa and argues he could be more competitive against Grassley by sneaking into the senator’s margins in heavily Republican areas.

To the left of Finkenauer and Franken is running physician Glenn Hurst, a small town councilman in western Iowa and chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party for its rural caucus.

Meanwhile, three Republicans are vying for a chance to run against Iowa’s only Democratic congresswoman, Rep. Cindy Axne.

MISSISSIPPI

Republican U.S. Representative Steven Palazzo faces his most challengers after a congressional ethics watchdog raised questions about his campaign spending.

A 2021 report from the Congressional Ethics Office found “substantial reason to believe” that Palazzo, a military veteran who sits on the Appropriations and Homeland Security committees, abused his office by spending campaign funds. , doing favors for his brother and enlisting personnel for politics and personal errands. His spokeswoman at the time, Colleen Kennedy, said the investigation was based on politically motivated “false allegations”.

His six opponents include a sheriff, Mike Ezell, and a state senator, Brice Wiggins. If no candidate obtains a majority of votes, a second round will take place on June 28.

The other two Republican congressmen from Mississippi, Trent Kelly and Michael Guest, face leading opponents who support Trump’s bogus claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

MONTANA

It’s the first time since 1993 that the state will have two seats in the House, after one was added to accommodate Montana’s growing population.

Zinke, Trump’s former Interior Department secretary, is technically in an open race for the new seat. But the former Navy SEAL is widely seen as the de facto incumbent, as he twice won elections for the state’s other House seat before stepping down in 2017 to join the Trump administration.

His opponents point to Zinke’s troubled tenure at the agency, which has been marred by multiple ethics investigations. An investigation determined that Zinke lied to an agency ethics officer about his ongoing involvement in a commercial real estate transaction in his hometown. He faced a smear campaign over his military service from his party’s far-right and questions about his residency following revelations that his wife declared a home in California as her primary residence.

His opponents in the GOP primary include former state senator Al “Doc” Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon and hardline conservative who has tried to portray Zinke as a “liberal insider.”

Three Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination: public health attorney Cora Neumann, Olympic rower and lawyer Monica Tranel and former state Rep. Tom Winter.

In the state’s other district, first-term Rep. Matt Rosendale, who has Trump’s endorsement, will seek to fend off three main Republican challengers.

NEW JERSEY

A dozen House constituencies are on the ballot.

Trump said in 2021 he would back a challenger to longtime Republican Rep. Chris Smith, but that never happened. The lack of endorsement didn’t stop conservative talk show host Mike Crispi, one of Smith’s Republican challengers, from claiming Trump’s mantle.

In northern New Jersey, former state Senate minority leader Tom Kean Jr. has a fundraising advantage and establishment support over five rivals. Kean, the son of former Republican Gov. Tom Kean Sr., is hoping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, who won a close contest two years ago.

On the Democratic side, US Senator Bob Menendez’s son, Rob, is running for a seat vacated by incumbent Democratic Representative Albio Sires. Menendez, a commissioner for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, blocked party support by entering the race.

NEW MEXICO

Five Republican candidates are competing to face Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The incumbent is privileged to keep her job in a state where Democrats control all state offices and dominate the Legislative Assembly.

Former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti and State Representative Rebecca Dow are leading GOP candidates in a contest over concerns about US border security, urban crime, inflation and education of race and ethnicity in a heavily Latino and Native American state.

Democratic voters are deciding on a candidate for the state’s top law enforcement official to succeed Attorney General Hector Balderas. Albuquerque-based District Attorney Raúl Torrez is competing with State Auditor Brian Colón in a fierce campaign with few ideological divisions.

SOUTH DAKOTA

A trio of Republican incumbents face primary challengers running on their political right.

Gov. Kristi Noem, who is seen as a potential White House prospect, is favored to win the GOP nomination. A rival, state legislator Steve Haugaard, argued that Noem was spending more time trying to build a national political profile than focusing on his work at home. She mostly ignored him.

US Senator John Thune faced Trump’s wrath after he dismissed the former president’s claims of voter fraud. However, no well-known challengers have emerged in Thune’s re-election bid. One of his opponents, Mark Mowry, was among the crowds who demonstrated near the Capitol on January 6.

In the House, Republican state legislator Taffy Howard is trying to unseat GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson in the state’s only district. Johnson touts his Conservative voting record while maintaining an ability to work across party lines, but Howard has tried to cast him as a foot soldier for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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Associated Press writers Tom Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi; Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana; Michael Catalini in Trenton, NJ; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, SD, contributed to this report.

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