Originally published on FiveThirtyEight on 2020 06 09 by Geoffrey Skelley and Nathaniel Rakich https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-you-need-to-know-about-todays-elections-in-georgia-nevada-south-carolina-and-west-virginia/Election season once again forges ahead on Tuesday, as five states — Georgia, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and West Virginia — hold their down-ballot primaries.1 So here’s a look at today’s key races — including whom Democrats will nominate in a crucial Senate race and whether a party-switching governor will go down in defeat in West Virginia:
Races to watch: U.S. Senate; 7th, 9th and 14th congressional districts
Polls close: 7 p.m. Eastern
Georgia has two competitive Senate races this year, but only one holds its primary today.2 It’s a crowded race, too, with seven Democrats vying for the right to take on Republican Sen. David Perdue; however, only three are serious contenders. Election junkies will be intimately familiar with one of them: Jon Ossoff, the investigative filmmaker who grabbed national attention in 2017 as the party’s candidate in a closer-than-expected congressional special election. Ossoff raised more money for that campaign than any House candidate in history, and he’s the party’s top fundraiser in this year’s Senate race too, raking in $4.1 million through May 20 (including half a million left over from his congressional bid).
However, Ossoff faces some stiff competition for the nomination. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson raised $2.5 million and has touted her two terms as mayor of Georgia’s third-largest city against Ossoff’s lack of experience. A third contender, 2018 lieutenant governor candidate Sarah Riggs Amico, has raised $1.7 million, although $933,400 of that was self-funded. Amico has tried to build on her past profile, running ads tying herself to former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and their most prominent 2018 endorser, former President Barack Obama.
Under Georgia law, the race will go to an Aug. 11 runoff if no one gets a majority of the vote today, but two recent polls suggest Ossoff could do just that. He received 42 percent support in a Landmark Communications poll for WSB-TV and 49 percent in a Cygnal poll for an unspecified client. Meanwhile, Tomlinson received 14-16 percent and Amico 8-9 percent in both surveys, making Tomlinson the likeliest to find herself in a runoff with Ossoff if it happens.
Both parties will also choose their nominees in the 7th Congressional District, a suburban Atlanta seat that is a prime example of the Sun Belt’s emerging swing districts: According to calculations by Daily Kos Elections, it went from supporting Mitt Romney by 22 points in 2012 to supporting President Trump by 6 points in 2016 to being the closest U.S. House race in the entire country in 2018. After winning by just 433 votes, GOP Rep. Rob Woodall quickly announced his retirement, and a crowded field is now jockeying to succeed him. Like Georgia’s Senate race, it seems there’s a good chance of a runoff, too.
On the Democratic side, public policy professor Carolyn Bourdeaux, the candidate who almost beat Woodall in 2018, has the inside track with her preexisting name recognition and $1.7 million raised. However, two big names in Georgia Democratic politics — former Sen. Max Cleland and former Gov. Roy Barnes — caused a stir when they unendorsed Bourdeaux in order to support Air Force veteran and state Sen. Zahra Karinshak. And don’t count out activist Nabilah Islam, who raised more than $619,000 and enjoys the endorsement of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, considered a rising star in the state party.
For Republicans, military veteran Dr. Richard McCormick leads the “anti-establishment conservative” lane: He’s been endorsed by the political arm of the House Freedom Caucus and the Club for Growth, which has poured almost half a million dollars into the race. His main opponent, state Sen. Renee Unterman, is hard to peg ideologically: She has a terrible relationship with Republican leadership after being ousted as chair of the Senate Health Committee, but she was also a leading supporter of Georgia’s new law to ban abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected. And former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich has nearly matched McCormick and Unterman on the fundraising front — all three have amassed around $1 million (including varying levels of self-funding). A May poll by WPA Intelligence sponsored by the Club for Growth (so take it with a grain of salt) gave McCormick 41 percent, Unterman 23 percent, Homrich 7 percent and all other candidates 5 percent.
In addition, there are two open seats — the 9th District and the 14th District — with wide-open Republican primaries. However, they are two of the reddest districts in the entire House and will likely remain GOP territory, but they have not been without drama. Republican primary candidates state Rep. Matt Gurtler in the 9th and businesswoman Marjorie Greene in the 14th both faced controversy after photos emerged of them posing with a notorious local white supremacist. Facebook also recently took down one of Greene’s campaign videos that showed her arming a semi-automatic rifle and telling “antifa terrorists” to “stay the hell out of Northwest Georgia.”
Races to watch: 1st Congressional District
Polls close: 7 p.m. Eastern
In South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, the Republican primary is the race to watch. The winner will face Rep. Joe Cunningham, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the House, in a seat that voted for Trump by 13 points. If Republican front-runners state Rep. Nancy Mace or Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Kathy Landing go on to win in November, it could help the GOP expand its small base of female House members.
Mace looks to have a leg up on Landing, with support from House Republican leadership and the Club for Growth, which has spent just over $500,000. Mace has also raised more than twice as much as Landing — $1.4 million to $630,000 — and she led Landing by 29 points in an April WPA Intelligence survey, though the poll was sponsored by the Club for Growth. As the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, the military college located in Charleston, Mace has a compelling story, too, but don’t discount Landing — she has the endorsement of former Sen. Jim DeMint and national groups such as the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC, Right Women PAC and House Freedom Fund. Landing has attacked Mace for failing to oppose abortion, arguing that Mace is “not much different” from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because Mace didn’t join other South Carolina politicians in signing a legal brief to call for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Previously, Mace supported rape and incest exceptions in South Carolina’s bill to ban abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, sharing in a floor speech that she had been raped at 16.
Races to watch: Governor
Polls close: 7:30 p.m. Eastern
Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who switched parties in 2017 after winning as a Democrat in 2016, is seeking renomination now as a Republican. And back in April, he appeared vulnerable because of mediocre approval ratings, a spluttering response to the coronavirus pandemic and public opposition from some GOP county committees. But he seems to be on firmer footing now due to his performance in daily news conferences on the health crisis, public exposure his rivals cannot easily counter.
The billionaire coal magnate has touted himself as a “straight shooter” in an ad where he’s skeet shooting. Justice also has Trump’s endorsement, which can’t hurt in a state the president carried by 42 points in 2016. But even though Justice has largely self-funded his campaign, he’s actually been outspent nearly two to one by former West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher, who’s almost entirely self-funding. Like Justice, Thrasher is a former Democrat, and he actually served in Justice’s administration until 2018. The other candidate making some noise in the race is former state Del. Mike Folk, who also happens to be the lone GOP contender to win an election as a Republican. Yet Justice appears to be in good shape: A Triton Research & Polling/WMOV poll in late May found Justice at 53 percent, well ahead of Folk (15 percent) and Thrasher (14 percent).
Conversely, the Democratic primary looks very competitive, as the Triton survey found Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango at 30 percent, community organizer Stephen Smith at 27 percent and state Sen. Ron Stollings at about 10 percent. The relatively moderate Salango, who has Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s endorsement, and the more progressive Smith have similar fundraising numbers that put them well ahead of Stollings. But given West Virginia’s rapid shift to the right in recent years, the Democratic winner will be a long shot in the general election.
Races to watch: 3rd and 4th congressional districts
Polls close: 10 p.m. Eastern
A fractious GOP race featuring former wrestler Dan Rodimer and former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz will decide who faces Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in the swingy Nevada 3rd District. At this point, Rodimer looks favored to some extent. He’s raised around $750,000 ($165,000 of which is his own money) and earned support from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the National Rifle Association. But Schwartz, who lost badly in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary, has loaned his campaign nearly $580,000 and run ads attacking Rodimer for a past battery arrest. Meanwhile, ESAFund, a conservative super PAC, is running ads accusing Scwhartz of being a career politician, calling him “swamp Dan Schwartz.” But whichever Republican wins today, he will enter the general election campaign as an underdog against Lee, who has $2 million in her campaign account.
Lastly, in the 4th District, Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford could be vulnerable in November after admitting to an extramarital affair last month, as such scandals can hurt a candidate’s vote share. It’s not clear which of the eight GOP candidates will win today’s primary — perhaps former state Assemblyman Jim Marchant or businesswoman Lisa Song Sutton, both of whom were identified by the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program as potentially competitive candidates — but even still, Horsford will likely start the general election campaign as a favorite.
We’ll be watching to see how these closely watched races play out tonight. And although we won’t have a live blog, make sure to check back for our reactions to what happened in these key primary contests and what the results might mean for November.