Tuesday’s primaries test Democrats on crime, GOP on eligibility, Trump

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In San Francisco, voters will decide on Tuesday whether to remove a liberal prosecutor whom critics have accused of being too lenient. In the deep blue of Los Angeles, a billionaire ex-Republican in the mayoral race is betting voters want tough talk on crime.

And in California farm country, the GOP’s most eligible candidate is under fire for his vote to impeach President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

Primaries spread across California and six other states on Tuesday will further shape the identities of Democrats and Republicans midterm, as established GOP candidates — some of whom have stood up to Trump — try to fend off challengers from the right. and that Liberal candidates are counting with a backlash over their party’s policies and messaging on public safety and growing concerns about an increase in violent crime.

From the Deep South to the Mountain West, voters will choose candidates in municipal, congressional and statewide contests with significant midterm implications in November. Their picks will offer clues about the direction of both parties heading into an election in which Republicans are expected to make gains across the country.

Many of Tuesday’s primaries — in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota — won’t be competitive. But some have been heated and sent signals to the battle lines this fall.

GOP strategists hammered Democrats on rising costs and violent crime, arguing to voters that their opponents are guilty of the trends that have worsened under their watch as the ruling party in many major cities, as well as in Congress and the White House. Tuesday’s vote poses a new test for Democrats on crime, an issue they have struggled to manage. Even in left-leaning areas, voters are signaling an appetite for a new leadership.

“Democrats, for some reason, tend to take a little longer than their Republican counterparts to wake up to political realities,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist. If San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin is decisively recalled, he said, and if businessman Rick Caruso does well in the Los Angeles mayoral race, “it will wake up a lot of people.

Boudin rose to national prominence in 2019 as a “progressive prosecutor” promising to fight mass incarceration. Now he’s at the center of anger over rising crime during the pandemic, as Democrats have gotten tough on crime nationwide and Republicans continue to draw attention to some calls from the far left to “defund the police”. President Biden and other party leaders have vigorously attempted to distance themselves from this idea, calling for increased police funding alongside other proposals to improve public safety.

Supporters of Boudin and Caruso’s main opponent, Rep. Karen Bass (D-California), say these more liberal candidates offer nuanced solutions on public safety rather than sound bites. Bass, a well-known lawmaker with a history in community organizing, emphasized social interventions to prevent crime and said different neighborhoods want different things from the police. “We have already tried to stop our way out of the problem – it doesn’t work,” says his campaign website.

“Karen Bass understands that you have to go beyond talking tough and being smart and comprehensive about how you deal with these complicated issues,” former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who endorsed Bass, said in an interview. Monday. ” Poverty. The mental health crisis. The gun violence we see in our cities. These problems cannot be solved with a magic wand.

But Bass could be in for a long and difficult race against Caruso, a real estate developer and former chairman of the city’s police commission. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, as some polls have suggested, it could happen in the crowded race, the top two would move to a showdown in November.

Caruso has spent tens of millions of his own money to portray himself as the candidate for change that will tackle crime and homelessness. He became a Democrat this year, moving from “no party preference”, but sought to signal that he would not be a prototypical member of his new party.

Some analysts say Caruso’s best shot at winning the mayoral race may be Tuesday’s primary. The higher turnout expected in a runoff would likely help Bass, they said.

Bass’s campaign was intended to suggest that Caruso is underperforming despite the massive spending. “He should be 20 points above us for the spend differential,” said Anna Bahr, spokeswoman for Bass’ campaign, attributing Caruso’s success in part to his deep pockets and notoriety as a shopping center developer.

Peter Ragone, an adviser to Caruso’s campaign, responded in an interview Monday that past California campaigns have shown that “money without a message isn’t very effective.” Former assistant to the governor of California, Gavin Newsom (D), argued that Caruso has “emphasized public safety and how people think about their public safety more than the other candidates.

Boudin, meanwhile, appears to be at serious risk of a recall. An impeachment attempt by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon (D) is also underway.

If recalls are successful in such Democratic strongholds, said Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist Mike Trujillo, “then you need to make solid, hard assessments that in swing districts and states, things are in a more dire place.” .

Republicans faced their own challenges.

In Orange County, a super PAC dedicated to keeping the Republican majority in the House of Representatives sought to boost incumbent Rep. Young Kim (R) as she faces a challenge to her right from the retired fighter pilot Greg Raths. In California, the two leading voters are leaving the primary regardless of party affiliation, and Democrats have said they see the National Republicans’ spending money attacking Rath as a sign of nervousness that Kim may not step forward.

“Whichever Republicans manage to win their primaries will be forced to explain their extreme positions and out-of-touch records to voters in the Battleground District,” said Helen Kalla, spokeswoman for the Congressional Campaign Committee. democrat.

Matt Gorman, former communications director for the Republican National Congressional Committee, said the outside help shows Kim is well regarded among House Republicans. “Keeping her in Congress is a huge, huge priority,” he said, speaking optimistically about his chances. Republicans are expected to regain control of the House and also hope to regain a majority in the Senate.

A similar test of Republican preferences is unfolding in the state with Representative David G. Valadao, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year. Trump has not endorsed a challenger in Valadao, unlike other races where he recruited candidates and sought to punish officials who helped certify the 2020 presidential election. But Valadao’s Republican opponent, Chris Mathys, has always campaigned on the incumbent’s split with Trump.

“I will do everything in my power to defeat Congressman David Valadao who voted to impeach President Donald Trump! reads an important quote on Mathys’ campaign website.

Elsewhere on the California ballot, Newsom is expected to pick up victory after fending off a recall effort last year.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (right) has no opposition in her primary and has Trump’s support. On the other side, Democrat Deidre DeJear, a small business owner and suffrage activist, also has no primary competition. DeJear would be Iowa’s first black governor if she won in November. Reynolds would start as a heavy favorite, according to nonpartisan analysts.

In South Dakota, the Republican primary poll gives a significant advantage to incumbent Governor Kristi L. Noem, the potential 2024 presidential candidate.

Another U.S. House Republican rookie, Gorman said, is New Jersey’s Tom Kean, who narrowly lost to Rep. Tom Malinowski (D) in 2020 and now faces more right-wing primary contenders as he is looking a revenge. “I think he can get through this primary, and if he does, he has a good chance of winning” in November, Gorman said.

Some holders are subject to scrutiny after ethical investigations. Ryan Zinke, who served as interior secretary in the Trump administration, is seeking the Republican nomination for Montana’s new House seat. The Justice Department declined to press charges this year after a government watchdog found Zinke violated federal rules.

In Mississippi’s 4th District, Republican Rep. Steven M. Palazzo has a slew of challengers a year after the Congressional Ethics Office found “substantial reason to believe” he misspent his money. countryside.

Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.

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