Last week’s down-ballot primary action in Kentucky and New York still isn’t settled, but it’s time for three more states — Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma — to host primaries Tuesday, and there’s at least one contest in each state that could help shape the balance of power in Congress next year.
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(CNN) — Last week’s down-ballot primary action in Kentucky and New York still isn’t settled, but it’s time for three more states — Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma — to host primaries Tuesday, and there’s at least one contest in each state that could help shape the balance of power in Congress next year.
The Democratic Senate primary in Colorado has garnered the most national attention. Democrats need to flip three seats (if they win the White House) or four seats (if they don’t) to control the Senate next year. Colorado, which voted for Hillary Clinton by 9 points in 2016, may be their biggest target. The national party has already settled on its candidate to take on GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, but on Tuesday, voters will have their say.
Whereas Democrats are on offense in the Senate, they’re mostly playing defense in the House, trying to hold onto their historic gains from the 2018 midterms. Democrats flipped seats that President Donald Trump carried in 2016, including one in Oklahoma and Utah, and now Republicans want them back.
Here’s what to watch on Tuesday:
Will the national Democratic party’s pick be the nominee in the Colorado Senate race?
Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado’s first-term Republican senator, is one of the most vulnerable incumbents facing reelection in the fall. Tuesday’s primary will decide who’s taking him on and what that November match-up could look like in a state that’s shifted blue.
Former two-term Gov. John Hickenlooper, who ran a short-lived campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is the national party’s pick to take on Gardner, one of two Republicans facing reelection in a state Clinton carried in 2016.
Andrew Romanoff is no stranger to campaigns. The former state House speaker unsuccessfully challenged newly-appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in a 2010 Democratic primary. Four years later, he lost a bid for a Denver-area House seat. Now he’s running for the Senate nod, campaigning on “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal.
Hickenlooper has recently tried to clean up past remarks. He said he “tripped” when he said that “Black Lives Matter” means that “every life matters” — a description activists say discounts the systemic discrimination against Black people. He apologized for resurfaced comments he made in 2014 comparing politicians to slaves being whipped to row “an ancient slave ship.”
But it’s Hickenlooper’s ethics violations that Republicans have been hammering him on. The state’s Independent Ethics Commission first found him in contempt for defying a subpoena to show up for a remote hearing. Then after he did testify virtually, the commission fined him earlier this month for twice violating the rule against accepting gifts when he was governor, even though it dismissed most of the allegations against him.
“Whatever momentum existed for Romanoff got stalled about a week ago, 10 days ago,” Colorado-based Democratic strategist Rick Ridder, who’s not working for either candidate, said on Monday.
Hickenlooper had spent about $6.7 million by the end of the pre-primary reporting period on June 10 — more than three times what Romanoff had spent — and that’s independent of the millions of dollars national Democratic groups have spent for him. Hickenlooper ended the period with nearly $6 million in the bank, compared to Romanoff’s $792,000, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
It was the 2018 upset Republicans didn’t see coming. Who will try to avenge the loss this year?
Horn barely won — she defeated Russell by 1 point — and nine Republicans are competing on Tuesday to try to take her on. If no one gets a majority of the vote, the top-two finishers will advance to a runoff on August 25.
Among the most competitive candidates are two women, which is in itself noteworthy in a GOP primary, where women have long faced difficult odds but are seeing more success this year. State Sen. Stephanie Bice had raised more than a million dollars by the end of the pre-primary reporting period on June 10. Businesswoman Terry Neese loaned her campaign $450,000 and had raised about $532,000.
The Club for Growth hasn’t endorsed in the race, but its super PAC has been attacking Bice in TV ads in recent weeks. It tried to tie her to Harvey Weinstein because she voted to expand a tax incentive for the film industry to come to Oklahoma and it questioned her support for Trump because in 2016 she backed Carly Fiorina, who recently said she’d vote for Biden in 2020. (The Club, which now backs the President, initially opposed Trump in the 2016 primary.)
“There are too few Republican women in Washington right now,” Bice said in a Facebook live message to her supporters on Saturday. “Sexism in attacks from groups like this is one of the biggest reasons why.”
Club for Growth Action President David McIntosh responded by attacking her support for what he called “the largest tax increase in Oklahoma state history” and “her support for never-Trumper Carly Fiorina.”
“There are other women and men in this race who don’t support higher taxes or using taxpayer money to support Hollywood,” McIntosh said in a statement.
Republicans choose nominee for another possible House pick-up
Four candidates are running. Former NFL player Burgess Owens, a Fox News commentator, has raised the most money as of the pre-primary report, followed by state Rep. Kim Coleman. Both are on the lowest level of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” list for competitive candidates.
Will Huntsman get his old job back in Utah?
Four Republicans are also vying for the nomination to succeed outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert in Utah, a red state that votes by mail.
This story has been updated to include a statement from the Club for Growth Action president.
CNN’s Fredreka Schouten contributed to this story.