LOS ANGELES (AP) – Primaries in eight states bolstered Democrats’ hopes for a “blue wave” in November, but President Donald Trump put his own spin on the races, declaring Wednesday “the Trump impact” had delivered a “great night” for Republicans.
In California, Republicans avoided an embarrassing setback Tuesday in the race for governor. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, easily advanced the general election, with business executive John Cox coming in second.
Cox’s strong finish put to rest GOP fears that no Republican would qualify for the deeply Democratic state’s top office this fall and the party’s other candidates would suffer from a resulting lack of voter interest on election day.
“Great night for Republicans!” Trump tweeted Wednesday, hailing what he called “the Trump impact.”
“So much for the big Blue Wave, it may be a big Red Wave,” he added. “Working hard!”
That remains to be seen, as voters in seven other states went to the polls. Neither party immediately appeared to suffer major setbacks. And the winners and losers in California’s most competitive races could take days to sort out given the state’s unique election laws.
But Trump saw the night as a repudiation of “Fake News”
“Many more Republican voters showed up yesterday than the Fake News thought possible,” Trump tweeted. “The political pundits just don’t get what is going on out there – or they do get it but refuse to report the facts! Remember, Dems are High Tax, High Crime, easy to beat!”
Overall, it was a big night for women, as female candidates for governor advanced, including Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico and Republican Kristi Noem in South Dakota. Female Republican governors in Alabama and Iowa will vie for their first full terms after succeeding men who resigned.
California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein also fared well, fending off challenges from the left. It was still unclear whether a Republican would earn enough votes to oppose her on California’s November ballot.
The governor’s race was one of many drawing attention to California, a state not accustomed to being a national political battleground. But its handful of competitive House races – more than a half dozen Republican-held seats may be in playa – have made it hotly contested territory in the fight over control of the House, drawing big money and the spotlight on the biggest primary night of midterms. Democrats need to pick up 23 seats nationwide to retake the House.
Much of Tuesday’s drama focused on women, including former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill, who bested a field of Democratic rivals to replace retiring New Jersey Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. The favorite of Washington Democrats will take on GOP Assemblyman Jay Webber in one of several New Jersey races Democrats view as possible pickups.
In Alabama, four-term Republican Rep. Martha Roby was forced into a runoff election next month after failing to win 50 percent of her party’s vote. She will face former Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright in Alabama’s conservative 2nd district – where Trump loyalty has been a central issue.
Roby was the first member of Congress to withdraw her endorsement of the Republican president in 2016 after he was caught on video bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.
In New Mexico, Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham won her party’s nomination in the race to succeed outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. If Grisham wins, she’ll be the state’s second Latino state executive.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey fended off three GOP challengers, while South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem became the first female nominee for governor in her state.
In Iowa, 28-year-old Democratic state Rep. Abby Finkenauer was trying to become the youngest woman to serve in Congress.
And in New Mexico, former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland, a tribal member of Laguna Pueblo, won her primary and could become the first Native American woman in Congress if she wins this fall.
Haaland said in her primary victory statement: “Donald Trump and the billionaire class should consider this victory a warning shot: the blue wave is coming.”
Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker won his primary contest as did New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat who faced federal bribery charges last year. The jury deadlocked, but Republicans hope to use Menendez’s legal troubles to tar other Democrats like Sherrill across the state.
Republican businessman Bob Hugin claimed the Republican nomination to face Menendez this fall.
In California, national Democrats spent more than $7 million trying to curb and repair the damage inflicted by Democrats attacking each other in districts opened by retiring Republican Reps. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa, and the district where Republican Dana Rohrabacher is facing challenges from the left and the right.
In two of the three Southern California districts, Democrats were coming in second place behind Republicans, but the races were too close to call early Wednesday, leaving Democrats at risk of being locked out. In another, Issa’s district, Republican Diane Harkey was leading in early returns, as two Democrats vied for the second slot.
Republican Rep. Mimi Walters easily advanced to the November election in her Orange County district that has been targeted by Democrats. The second spot remained up for grabs.
And to the north, House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican, qualified for the general election ballot as well. Nunes is a polarizing figure in national politics given his support for Trump in one of the many investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
A key Senate race took shape in the heart of Trump country as well.
Montana Republicans were picking a candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, one of the most vulnerable senators in the nation. State Auditor Matt Rosendale won the GOP nomination.
Associated Press writers Amy Taxin in Huntington Beach, Sophia Bollag in Sacramento, David Porter in Montclair, New Jersey, and Kevin McGill in Picayune, Mississippi, contributed to this report.
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