WASHINGTON (AP) — After years of irking his colleagues, a longtime moderate Democratic congressman faces his stiffest primary challenge yet in Oregon.
In North Carolina, a rising Republican star beset by personal and professional scandals is looking to eke out a win in his GOP-leaning district.
And across the U.S., an exodus of House Democrats has put a half dozen congressional seats up for grabs.
The outcomes of House primary contests held in Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania are not likely to offer hints of which party will control the chamber next year. But they will offer insight about the direction in which each party is headed after two years of unified Democratic control of Washington.
A rundown of races to keep track of:
RAFT OF RETIREMENTS
Six open congressional seats up for grabs Tuesday were vacated by Democrats who opted to retire or seek higher office rather than run again.
Mass exoduses from Congress are not uncommon before midterm elections, when voters have historically punished the party of the sitting president. But this year, an unusually high 31 House Democrats have announced they will not run again.
Most are safe Democratic seats, or at least lean that way. That means they likely won’t play a role in determining which party controls the House next year. But the retirements represent a major loss of experience, knowledge and influence at the Capitol for House Democrats and underscore the party’s deep sense of pessimism about their prospects in November.
A western Pennsylvania seat held by Rep. Conor Lamb is one of the few that is viewed as competitive. He opted to run for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat rather than seek reelection.
In Louisville, Kentucky, state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey and progressive state Rep. Attica Scott are vying to replace retiring House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth, who was first elected in 2006.
In Oregon, the retirement of House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio has set off a scramble. State Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle is a front-runner for the safe Democratic seat.
Madison Cawthorn’s unexpected 2020 win made him the youngest member of Congress and a rising Republican star. Then the scandals started to pile up.
The 26-year-old conservative has drawn condemnation from senior GOP leaders in Washington as well as North Carolina. He now faces an intense primary challenge as he seeks reelection to his western North Carolina district.
The race has drawn over a half-dozen candidates, who could split the anti-Cawthorn vote. But Cawthorn has the support of the Republican whose opinion may carry the most influence.
“Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don’t believe he’ll make again,” former President Donald Trump said in a statement on Monday. “Let’s give Madison a second chance.”
A TEST FOR MODERATES IN OREGON
U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, a moderate Oregon Democrat, has often been at odds with his party. He likened Trump’s second impeachment trial to a “lynching,” voted against Nancy Pelosi for House speaker in 2019, and helped contribute to the collapse of President Joe Biden’s social spending agenda with his opposition to parts of it.
Despite that, Schrader, a seven-term congressman, won Biden’s endorsement ahead of Tuesday’s primary in his newly redrawn district. The district is slightly less Democratic than before and contains only about half of the voters who previously elected him to Congress.
Progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner has the backing of the local Democratic parties in all four counties covered by the seat. If she wins, she could face a tough general election campaign against the Republican victor.
Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho faced conservative attorney Bryan Smith on the ballot in 2014 and smoked him by more than 20 percentage points. This time could be different.
Simpson has inflamed some hard-line conservatives because he supported an investigation into the origins of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. He also called Trump “unfit to be president” back in 2016.
Now the 12-term congressman has drawn a handful of primary challengers, including Smith, for the 2nd Congressional District that he’s represented since 1999.
One of the biggest issues in the race is local. Simpson advocated for breaching dams along the Snake River to help protect salmon. Smith says it would devastate the state.
“He’s basically declared war on farmers, ranchers and families,” Smith told the Idaho Falls Post Register.
CRYPTOCURRENCY IN CONGRESS
Big spending by a cryptocurrency billionaire helped catapult political newcomer Carrick Flynn to front-runner status in the crowded Democratic primary for Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District, near Portland.
Flynn has said he does not have strong feelings about cryptocurrency, a industry that has spent big this year to elect their preferred candidates. But he’s been the beneficiary of a $10 million advertising campaign from the group Protect Our Future and is the rare primary candidate to win the backing of House Democratic leadership.
Loretta Smith, a Carrick rival who wants to be the first Black woman from Oregon elected to Congress, said it is “disrespectful and it’s wrong” for Pelosi’s campaign arm to get involved.
She and other Democrats in the race criticized the move during a joint news conference where they decried it as an insult to Oregon voters.
In the nine-person primary, Carrick appears locked in a close race with state Rep. Andrea Salinas, a three-term state lawmaker who would become Oregon’s first Hispanic woman in Congress if elected.
Brian Slodysko, The Associated Press