On May 22nd, primaries will be held in the states of Arkansas, Georgia, and Kentucky, and runoffs will be held in Texas. These primaries can help us model what November might look like, through candidate strength, overall turnout, and other factors; however, primaries shouldn’t be taken for more than their worth, and there are factors that contribute to primary turnout that may not equate to general election turnout. In this post, we’ll look at some of those factors, as well as a closer look at the primaries in the states mentioned.
What do Primaries Mean?
Primaries are generally non-predictive of general election results. They give more of a wide moat of possibilities, rather than a narrow guideline of what will happen. One of the things we can look at in primaries is party turnout. Because primaries include only a vote for one party, they can’t predict a contest between two separate candidates. However, we can look at how many total voters from each party votes, regardless of which candidate they vote for. For example, in the recent West Virginia primaries, Joe Manchin and Paula Jean Swearengin combined got nearly 160,000 votes, while all Republicans combined just got 136,000 votes. This doesn’t mean Democrats have a near 4:3 advantage in West Virginia, it just means Democrat voters there are more active and more likely to vote, especially given how competitive the Republican field was compared to the Democratic side. Again, primaries aren’t predictors of what will happen, they’re a predictor of what won’t. Through primaries, we can also get a sense of the likability of a candidate and the mood of the voters in an area. Take Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District as an example. Brad Ashford, a moderate who had been elected to the seat before, lost his primary in a stunning defeat to Kara Eastman, a progressive. This doesn’t mean Nebraska’s 2nd District is all of a sudden progressive, it just means the active Democrats prefer a progressive over a moderate. [Side note: This upset is probably bad for Democrats, and would have been even if Ashford won. Here’s why.
- If Ashford has won narrowly, we would have to somehow unify the evenly split Democratic voters to support him, as well as flip some Republican voters. To do this, he’d have to appeal to both further left voters and further right voters. This is extremely difficult, as partisanship is so severe its almost impossible to please both sides.
- Since Ashford lost, Eastman will have to flip some moderate Republicans in order to flip the seat. With Eastman being a progressive Democrat, this seems improbable. Moderates are more likely to just support a Republican that’s an incumbent, rather than vote for a new progressive. This is a worse problem than if Ashford had won, simply because voters on far edges of the spectrum have an easier time moving in than voters in the middle move out.
End side note]
I’m not going to go too far into what primaries mean, I’ll save that for another article. What I really want to look at is what the May 22nd primaries mean. Let’s take a look at those, state by state.
Arkansas will be holding primaries for their Governor and their House Representatives. Their gubernatorial primaries seem like a sure thing- incumbent Asa Hutchinson is almost certain to win the nomination and re-election. All of their House seats, except for AR-02, seem like a sure thing for Republicans. The only truly competitive races in this state tomorrow will be out of AR-02, which is rated as likely-Republican in my (outdated) House predictions. Look at the bottom of this article for a preview on my updated House predictions, which will come out soon. Arkansas’ second Congressional district is not the best of targets for Democrats, but it’s worth taking a look at the turnout for both sides.
Georgia will prove to be the most interesting state in tonight’s primaries. It’s quickly becoming a swing state, and the Governor’s race here could prove that. On the Democrat side, Stacey Evans and Stacey Abrams are launching attacks on one another to win the nomination. Abrams is the favorite according to polling and has been endorsed nationwide. If elected, she could become the first black female Governor in America. Stacey Evans could still pull it off, as polling has been slim at best. On the Republican side, a large number of candidates are running, including one who went viral for his “deportation bus.” We won’t name him here as to not give him undeserved publicity. The frontrunner, Casey Cagle, is a moderate in the group, but the nomination is in no way a sure thing for him. While he may be polling ahead, he’s still well short of the nomination. He will most likely face a runoff against Brian Kemp, assuming Kemp gets second. Both primaries here are competitive, so looking at the total voter turnout could be interesting.
In addition to the gubernatorial race, Georgia also has 1 competitive House seat: GA-06 (yes, that GA-06). There’s a lot of candidates running for the Democratic nomination after Jon Ossoff nearly flipped the seat last summer. Total party vote won’t be interesting here, but rather who wins the nomination and, more importantly, by how much. Democrats need to be unified in support of a moderate if they want to kick out Karen Handel.
In Kentucky, their 6th Congressional District Democratic primary will be very interesting. Two prominent Democrats are running, along with a lesser known progressive. Gray and McGrath, the frontrunners, are both strong candidates, although Gray is the Mayor of Lexington and has held the district before, even carrying it in his Senate run. McGrath, on the other hand, has outraised Gray by hundreds of thousands of dollars. As we’ve seen, money doesn’t mean everything, but it could keep this race close. We have no reliable polls of this race, so really anything could happen.
There is a whole slew of Congressional districts to watch in Texas tonight, but the most important one, at least for now, is the 7th district Democratic primary. This is the race where Laura Moser, a progressive and #resist Democrat, was vocally opposed by the DCCC. She came within a 5 point margin of the first place candidate. If she wins the primary, it’ll be a continuation of last Tuesday’s wins for progressives.
My updated House predictions will be out soon. In the meantime, here’s a preview of one possible scenario in which Republican’s keep the House.