12 pivotal primary races to watch this year

Many of the races still don’t have a clear frontrunner.

J. D. Vance speaking with attendees at the 2021 Southwest Regional Conference hosted by TPUSA. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

(Daily Caller News Foundation) — As the midterm elections approach, a number of important party primary races have yet to determine a nominee.

Many of the races still don’t have a clear frontrunner, despite fast-approaching election dates and millions of dollars spent, increasing the importance of every decision made until voting begins.

1. Ohio Senate (GOP Primary – May 3)

No candidate has been able to secure a sustainable lead in Ohio’s contentious primary for retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s seat. While investment banker Mike Gibbons and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel have been the two frontrunners, President Donald Trump’s endorsement of author J.D. Vance has reshaped the race.

Vance’s portion of the vote doubled in a Fox News poll released Tuesday, surpassing his competitors. With 25% of primary voters undecided in the poll, there is still a large portion of the vote for any candidate to win over.

2. Pennsylvania Senate (GOP Primary – May 17)

Trump similarly waded into the competitive GOP primary for retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat, endorsing former talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz. Similar to Vance, Oz received a polling bump after the endorsement.

Mehmet’s opinions prior to running as a Republican have concerned some conservatives. In the past, Oz has discussed red flag laws and said a fetal heart is not beating at six weeks gestation. Fox News host Laura Ingraham asked former Trump-era senior counsel Kellyanne Conway if the move was a mistake.

“I think that it confused many Republicans and conservatives in Pennsylvania because they’ve seen Oz at his own words on video about [being] against guns, for abortion, praising Hillary Clinton as one of the most brilliant women, smartest women he’s ever met, being for Obamacare and so on and so forth,” Conway said.

Prior to Trump’s endorsement, David McCormick, former U.S. under secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs and CEO of Bridgewater Associates, led most polling.

3. Pennsylvania Senate (DEM Primary – May 17)

On the opposite side of the aisle, Rep. Conor Lamb, a moderate Democrat, is struggling to compete with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a progressive. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party chose not to endorse any candidate this election cycle after Lamb fell short of receiving two-thirds of the state committee votes, which was needed to secure its backing, Politico reported.

Fetterman defended himself against heavy criticism during an April debate after his primary opponents said a 2013 incident where the lieutenant governor pulled a shotgun on an unarmed black man was disqualifying, Politico reported.

“I heard a burst of gunfire with my young son. I made a split-second decision to call 911, get my son to safety, and intercept an individual, the only individual out running from where the gunfire came,” Fetterman said at the debate, Politico reported.

4. Georgia Governor (GOP Primary – May 24)

Incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp normally would not be facing a stiff primary challenge, but former President Donald Trump’s frustration with him for refusing to overturn President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election has put a spotlight on the race.

Trump endorsed former Sen. David Perdue, but Kemp has thus far maintained a solid lead. An April poll from Emerson College commissioned by The Hill showed Kemp leading with 43% percent of the vote, compared to Perdue’s 35%.

The winner will most likely face off against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who lost to Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial race and has since built a national profile.

5. Texas Attorney General (GOP Runoff – May 24)

Republican Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush will face incumbent state Attorney General Ken Paxton in a runoff because neither candidate was able to secure a majority of the March primary vote. Despite his family’s contentious relationship with Trump, Bush sought the former president’s endorsement, but it was ultimately given to Paxton.

6. South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District (GOP Primary – June 14)

Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, who said Trump needed to face “accountability for his actions” in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, faces a primary challenger in her first attempt at reelection. While Mace never voted to impeach Trump, the former president endorsed Katie Arrington over her.

Arrington released internal polling in March that showed Mace with a 15-point lead. However, Mace trailed by 18 points after voters were informed that Trump supported her opponent.

“I’m gonna win without him,” Mace told The State in February.

7. Arizona Governor (GOP Primary – August 2)

Former news anchor Kari Lake, who earned Trump’s endorsement in September, has consistently led in the polls, but Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, has closed the gap in recent weeks. In an April poll from OH Predictive Insights, Lake led Taylor Robson 29-22%.

Lake said she would not have certified Biden’s Arizona victory in the 2020 presidential election while speaking to One American News Network and has echoed Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the state’s results were “fraudulent” and “corrupted.”

The winner of the race will likely face off against Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who rose to notoriety on the left in 2020 for criticizing the attempts of some Republicans to overturn the state’s election results, Politico reported.

8. Missouri Senate (GOP Primary – August 2)

A wrench was thrown into Missouri’s Republican primary when former Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, the leading candidate in the race, was accused by his ex-wife of physically abusing her and their young children. Greitens was already considered a risky candidate, even in a solidly red state like Missouri, because a sexual misconduct scandal forced him to resign from the governorship in 2018.

In the aftermath of Greiten’s ex-wife’s accusations, both Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler have led in a poll. Trump is reportedly considering endorsing Greitens, while his son, Donald Trump Jr., threw support behind him in an April 19 appearance on the conservative Marc Cox Morning Show.

9. Wisconsin Senate (DEM Primary – August 9)

President Joe Biden won Wisconsin against Trump in the 2020 presidential election, but the state has a Republican senator up for reelection in November. Sen. Ron Johnson is the only Republican incumbent whose race is rated as a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report.

While Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has been the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, his campaign has faced criticism from the left after it moved towards the center, such as when it came out against the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42, Politico reported. Our Wisconsin Revolution, a Bernie Sanders-aligned group, endorsed Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson on Thursday.

10. Wyoming At-Large Congressional District (GOP Primary – August 16)

Rep. Liz Cheney, arguably the face of Republican opposition to Trump in Congress, is fighting to keep her seat after the former president, alongside Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and numerous other Republicans, endorsed her challenger.

However, Cheney raised a record $2.94 million in the first quarter of 2022 and has consistently beat her own fundraising record each quarter since the beginning of 2021.

11. Alaska Senate (GOP Primary – August 16)

Trump is also attempting to oust incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. He has thrown his support behind Kelly Tshibaka, who was shown to be leading Murkowski by two points in a March poll commissioned by her campaign.

The state, however, has done away with party primaries and will instead allow the top four candidates to move on to the general election, meaning Murkowski could theoretically win reelection with enough support from Democrats and independents, New York Magazine reported.

12. Florida Governor (DEM Primary – August 23)

While Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is considered to be a major 2024 presidential contender, he is still running for reelection in the Sunshine State. Raising a massive $100 million for his reelection campaign, DeSantis is seen as an extremely formidable opponent, with Cook Political Report rating the race as “likely Republican.”

The two major contenders for the Democratic nomination are Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor himself who switched parties, and Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, the only Democrat currently elected statewide. Crist has consistently led in the polls against Fried, but both trail DeSantis by a considerable margin.


Sebastian Hughes