What to Watch for in Tuesday's Primaries

Monday, 25 Aug 2014 06:44 AM

By John Gizzi

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In what is the next-to-the-last Tuesday in which political parties select candidates for office in November, three states will pick candidates for governor, U.S. House and state offices: Arizona, Florida, and Vermont.

In addition, Oklahoma's 5th U.S. House District will hold a run-off to determine the Republican nominee to succeed outgoing Rep. (and GOP Senate nominee) James Lankford.

Here are some of the key contests to watch.

Arizona — Anyone’s Game


With Republican Jan Brewer stepping down after six years as governor, the rock 'em, sock 'em, six-candidate race for the GOP nomination is anyone’s game.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith has the backing of Brewer, a national figure for both clashing with the Obama administration on illegal immigration and supporting Medicaid expansion.

Tea party conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and the SixtyPlus Seniors Association and more "establishment" figures such as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce are behind State Treasurer Doug Ducey.

The "wild card" in the race is Christine Jones, former top executive at the Internet services company GoDaddy. She is the lone woman in the race in a state that first nominated a woman for governor in 1950 and has had three female governors in the last 28 years.

The certain Democratic nominee is Fred DuVal, former member of the Arizona Board of Regents. He is clearly hoping to benefit from Republican infighting and the rise of independent voters, who now outnumber registered Republicans and Democrats in the Grand Canyon State.

Also being watched by national political reporters is the bid of former State GOP Chairman Randy Pullen, a hero to tea partiers and conservative activists, for his party’s nomination as state treasurer.

Florida — Is Governor's Race Turning Around?

It is a foregone conclusion that Republican Gov. Rick Scott will emerge as a candidate for renomination and be facing his predecessor, former Republican Gov.-turned-Independent-turned Democrat Charles Crist in November.

For a time, polls showed stalwart conservative Scott going down and Crist poised to follow in the footsteps of the late Govs. Mills Godwin of Virginia and Fob James of Alabama — both of whom served separate stints as governors, each with one term as a Democrat and one as a Republican.

But where Godwin and James were Democratic governors first and later Republican governors, recently-minted Democrat Crist — who left the GOP to run unsuccessfully for the Senate as an independent in 2010 — was expected to achieve the same feat the other way around.

Now, however, as the Sunshine State’s economy keeps improving, a just-completed Florida Chamber of Commerce poll of likely voters statewide shows Scott beating Crist by a margin of 44 percent to 41 percent. When Libertarian Adrian Wyllie was included in the race, the same poll showed Scott beating Crist 41 percent to 35 percent, with 4 percent for Wyllie.

Republicans are sure to target freshman Democratic Reps. and narrow 2012 winners Patrick Murphy and Joe Garcia. In Murphy’s 18th District (Palm Beach), the likely Republican nominee is former State Rep. Carl Domino, a close ally of former GOP Gov. Jeb Bush. In the Miami-based 26th District, the GOP will almost certainly be nominee Carlos Curbelo.

Oklahoma — Classic Clash in the 5th District


About the only thing one can say with any certainty about the open 5th District is that whoever wins the Republican run-off Tuesday will be its next congressman. The district has sent a Republican U.S. representative to Washington without interruption since 1976.

Topping the crowded primary in May were State Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, who has the endorsement of the state Chamber of Commerce, and former state Sen. Steve Russell,  a onetime U.S. Army Ranger who led the team that captured Saddam Hussein when the former Iraqi strongman was at large.

In so many ways, their contest is a microcosm of the division within the modern Republican Party. Although Douglas has a conservative record and has taken a free market approach in regulation of oil, gas and utilities, Russell is clearly the "outsider" and has tea party backing. Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee have come out strong for him.

Vermont — Who’s Who

With candidates of small parties cross-filing for office in major party primaries, two of the contests for nomination to statewide office are bizarre.

Dean Corren of the Progressive Party is seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and actually has no opposition. He will face incumbent GOP Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

Dan Feliciano, a Libertarian, is seeking the Republican nomination for governor as a write-in contender against three candidates with more established GOP credentials. The favorite is businessman Scott Milne, a centrist Republican who has the endorsement of much-loved former four-term GOP Gov. Jim Douglas.

The eventual GOP nominee will face Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who champions universal health coverage





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