2 States Had Primary Elections This Week. Here’s What We Learned.
Posted September 7, 2018 5:52 a.m. EDT
Labor Day has come and gone, the children are all back to school, and primary season is finally winding down. There are still a few states left to vote next week — we see you, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island — but the contours of this year’s nominating contests have been well formed.
Throughout the primary season, Republicans rewarded fidelity to President Donald Trump, voting for candidates who had the president’s endorsement and echoed his hard-line nationalism.
No Republican senators lost their primaries — so much for Steve Bannon’s grand plans for a purge of the upper chamber — but one of the two House Republicans who failed to win renomination was beaten in part because of his lack of support for Trump. When Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina was defeated in June, it helped ensure that Republicans facing primaries thought twice before criticizing the president.
The biggest story of the Democratic primaries was the defeat of two House veterans, Reps. Joseph Crowley of New York and Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts, by two women of color: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley.
Those two races — along with the nominations of gubernatorial hopefuls Andrew Gillum in Florida last week and Stacey Abrams in Georgia in May — showed the surge of progressive energy on the left among nonwhite voters and white millennials.
Here is a look at the two states that held primaries this week: Massachusetts on Tuesday and Delaware on Thursday.
— Massachusetts embraces a chance for change
What was so striking about Pressley’s victory Tuesday is that Capuano was hardly caught by surprise. Unlike Crowley in his race, Capuano did not avoid debating his opponent. He lives full time in his district, also unlike Crowley, and he campaigned aggressively to retain his seat. But that, and his years of relationships over 20 years in Congress and as mayor of Somerville, Massachusetts, did not mean enough to voters.
The district, which includes parts of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, is now majority-minority, and the candidacy of Pressley represented an opportunity to make history. But she was not the only black Democrat who found success in a city with a painful racial history: Rachael Rollins won the nomination for district attorney in Suffolk County, which includes Boston, and Nika Elugardo will represent parts of Boston after defeating the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
— A progressive challenge is stopped in Delaware
Despite all the attention on progressive insurgents this year, their success has been uneven. They have found the most success in districts or states where they could harness support from a cross-racial coalition of people of color and younger white voters.
That is a sparse coalition in Delaware, as Kerri Evelyn Harris discovered Thursday night. Harris, an Air Force veteran who is biracial and a lesbian, challenged Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware institution, from the left but captured only about 35 percent of the vote. She was vastly outspent by Carper, who has won 13 consecutive statewide races since 1976.
The Delaware results indicated that the rebellion on the left is taking place somewhat narrowly — and is not its own version of the Tea Party, which defeated several Republican senators and unnerved others during the Obama administration. It is highly likely that all 24 Democratic senators up for re-election will have been renominated by the end of next week.