Tuesday marked one of the wildest non-presidential primary days so far, with a slew of strong challenges to incumbents in New York and a big showdown in Kentucky between D.C. establishment candidate Amy McGrath and state representative Charles Booker, a favorite not just of left-wing Democrats nationally but also, apparently, the Kentucky Democratic establishment.
In a normal Primary Post on a normal timeline, we’d have plenty of final results to talk about today. But because of the coronavirus and the dramatic increase in mail-in voting, it’s likely that we’re not going to have official results until next week. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t take a couple of lessons from tonight.
The New York machine is crumbling.
Few final results are available, but everything is pointing to a huge night for the left in New York. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez crushed Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a Wall Street prop who was espousing the Tea Party line a decade ago. New York Democrats (like Hakeem Jeffries) who’ve beefed with Ocasio-Cortez and the left in the past would’ve loved nothing more than for Caruso-Cabrera to keep it close in hopes that Ocasio-Cortez might play nice, but that did not happen.
By the same token, a number of incumbents in the city appear to be in deep shit. Chief among them is congressman and occasional visitor to his district Eliot Engel. Engel is currently losing badly enough to leftist educator Jamaal Bowman that some experts have already called the race for Bowman. This is despite virtually the entire Democratic establishment, along with pro-Israel groups and even some Republicans, mobilizing behind Engel.
Engel is not alone. Carolyn Maloney, who, like Engel, has been in Congress for decades and chairs a powerful House committee, is in a tight race with Suraj Patel, the challenger she beat by 20 points in 2018.
The state’s open primaries have also trended leftwards, and some of them appear poised to make history. In the 15th Congressional District, New York City councilman Ritchie Torres is widely assumed to have clinched the race, and in the 17th Congressional District, Bernie Sanders-backed Mondaire Jones has all but declared victory in a crowded field. If elected, Torres and Jones will be the first openly gay Black members of Congress.
Torres has a much more strained relationship with the AOC wing of the party than Jones, but he was seen as the chief alternative to notorious homophobe and Trump supporter Ruben Diaz Sr. The other telling thing about the race might be that former city council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is currently in sixth place, with fewer than a third of the number of votes as DSA candidate and community organizer Samelys Lopez.
The left was also having a good night on the state level.
Assuming that the New York GOP continues to be a huge joke, post-Cuomo New York is going to provide one of the biggest opportunities to be a model for what government with a substantial leftist influence could look like.
Virginia is a Democratic state.
Is this even a controversial opinion anymore? Regardless, you could be forgiven for waiting for the other shoe to drop for a Republican resurgence in Virginia for any number of reasons: The state’s scandal-ridden Democratic leadership, the Democratic legislature’s inaction on Virginia’s draconian labor laws, the vicious police response to protests in Richmond, and so on.
After all, Hillary Clinton couldn’t even get a majority there in 2016.
But if any of what’s happened in the past few years will have a long-term impact on the Democrats’ newfound grip on the state’s politics, it hasn’t revealed itself so far. Sen. Mark Warner, one of the Senate’s foremost moderates, looks likely to walk to re-election after barely hanging on six years ago. The Republicans nominated Daniel Gade, a veteran and amputee who has a fraction of the cash on hand that Warner does, and whose key quality seems to be that he’s not as outwardly embarrassing as Corey Stewart.
And even though the Democrats already have seven out of the state’s 11 congressional districts, they have a great shot at picking up one more which stretches from Charlottesville in the north to Danville in the South, after a local right-wing activist ousted incumbent Denver Riggleman because he…officiated a same-sex wedding. Truly some 2014 shit.
On Tuesday, the Democrats nominated Cameron Webb, an internal medicine doctor, Obama White House fellow, and director of health policy and equity at the University of Virginia. Webb seems like he’d be a median House Democrat, which is more than you’d expect from a district like this. (Leslie Cockburn, the 2018 Democratic candidate, lost to Riggleman by six points.)
Is anyone listening to Trump anymore?
It used to be conventional wisdom for Republicans that if they drew enough of Trump’s ire to be publicly targeted by him, it could kill their political careers. And there’s reason to believe that’s sometimes still the case, given the fact that Jeff Sessions is struggling against an old Auburn coach right now.
But on Tuesday, Kentucky GOP Rep. Thomas Massie destroyed his primary challenger despite Trump wanting him thrown out of the GOP. And in the GOP primary runoff to replace Trump’s new chief of staff Mark Meadows in North Carolina, the candidate Trump endorsed was beaten by a 24-year-old named Madison Cawthorn, who will probably be the youngest member ever elected to Congress.
Cawthorn’s not taking any chances. “I want to make something clear: I support our great president,” he said in a statement following the win. “I do not believe this election has been a referendum on the president’s influence.”
Amy McGrath is cooked.
Like New York, we’re not going to know about Kentucky’s results for a while, but early on, the DSCC’s chosen candidate and the biggest Senate fundraiser in the country is not even winning a majority in her primary, holding about a 10-point lead over state representative Charles Booker in early voting without anything in from the two largest counties in the state, Jefferson (home to Louisville, where Booker lives) and Fayette (which contains Lexington).
It didn’t help that the largest county in the state had exactly one polling place open on Tuesday. Who could’ve possibly predicted something like this happening?
We got into this last week, but to summarize, it appears that no one at the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm bothered to talk to anyone in Kentucky about the best candidate to run against Mitch McConnell. A ton of legislative Democrats as well as 2014 Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes endorsed Booker, and zero elected officials from Kentucky appear to have endorsed McGrath—and rather just assumed that a pro-Trump candidate was the only option they had.
And so now, even if McGrath ends up with a relatively comfortable win, she looks shockingly weak heading into a general election against Mitch McConnell, which was already going to be an uphill battle in the first place.
There are no shortage of Senate races where the Democrats could spend money in the hope of riding Joe Biden’s coattails (I cannot believe I just said that) to a surprise win or two in November. That they would spend it on another carbon copy of Joe Manchin in order to scare McConnell into playing defense and not spreading his remarkable campaign coffers around, rather than just, I don’t know, trying to win winnable seats, should be evidence enough that Chuck Schumer isn’t up to the job. As if you needed the reminder.
The United Nations needs to send in election observers.
I mean, just look at this shit.
Where’s the Organization of American States when you need them?