Key Primary Races in California and North Carolina to Follow on Super Tuesday

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Follow for live updates on Super Tuesday as voters in more than a dozen states head to the polls.

Typically, Super Tuesday looms large on the political calendar as the moment the presidential race moves from one-state-at-a-time contests into more than a dozen states, all at once. The delegate haul is immense, representing as much as one-third of each party’s total. The contest is expensive and sprawling and, quite often, consequential.

Not this year.

In 2024, Super Tuesday notably lacks much electoral drama. Donald Trump is widely expected to capture a series of lopsided victories. President Biden faces no substantial primary challenges. While neither man is expected to clinch their party’s nomination when ballot tallies are reported tomorrow night, the primaries will put them well on their way.

But wait! All is not lost for political watchers tomorrow evening. Down the ballot from the presidential race, several states are hosting consequential primary contests. These races lack the high profile of the presidential campaign, but they can give us hints about the kind of race the country may face in November.

Here are three worth watching:

The California Senate primary was expected to be a titanic clash over the future and ideology of the Democratic Party. Things haven’t quite worked out that way.

The unusual nature of California politics has effectively transformed the contest into a race for second place. The state’s so-called jungle primary system means that the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. Representative Adam Schiff is the front-runner, likely to nab one of two winning spots. What’s less certain is whom he will face.

A key part of his strategy has been to pour $10 million into an effort to elevate one Republican opponent, Steve Garvey, a 75-year-old former baseball star. Garvey has held few campaign events and not bought a single campaign ad. And yet, with help from Schiff, he now appears poised to advance to the general election.

Recent polls suggest that Garvey could beat Representative Katie Porter for second place. If that happens, Schiff could all but coast to a Senate seat in November, given the long odds of a Republican winning a general election in deep-blue California. If Porter captures a surprise victory tomorrow, the race will become a choice between an establishment Democrat and a younger liberal challenger.

Super Tuesday will kick off one of the most pivotal governor’s races this fall in North Carolina. As my colleague Eduardo Medina reported today, the race features two candidates with starkly different views in one of the country’s most contested swing states.

Josh Stein, the state’s attorney general, is a traditional Democrat who rose through the ranks of the party establishment. If he wins Tuesday’s primary, as polls suggest, he’s likely to face off in November against Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a right-wing culture warrior, whose political rise stemmed from comments he made defending gun rights that went viral in 2018.

Given North Carolina’s swing state status, the race will inevitably be a referendum on the national parties. Republicans will link Stein to Biden, seeking to tie the Democratic candidate to a president with underwater approval ratings. Democrats, meanwhile, have already begun painting Robinson as an extremist on issues like abortion rights.

Either way, the race is likely to make history: Stein would be the state’s first Jewish governor, and Robinson would be the first Black governor.

Much of the race for control of the House in November will run through two states, neither of which are considered presidential battlegrounds: California and New York. We’ll get our first glimpse into the contours of some of those crucial races on Tuesday, with primaries in key districts in California.

The state is a linchpin of Democratic plans to retake control of the House. Of the eight Republican-held seats rated as tossups, three are in California. That’s more than in any other state, according The Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

But the jungle primary has complicated Democratic plans for dominance in the Golden State. As my colleague Jonathan Weisman reported over the weekend, a fierce battle between two Democratic candidates in a Republican-held Central Valley district is dividing the party’s vote. The seat is held by Representative David Valadao, a Republican. Much of the state’s Democratic establishment has thrown their support behind former Assemblyman Rudy Salas. But he is challenged by another member of his party, State Senator Melissa Hurtado.

Some Democrats fear the contest between the two Democratic candidates could boost Valadao and another Republican challenger, Chris Mathys, into the two top spots. Such an outcome would prompt a Republican vs. Republican race in November and remove a crucial seat from the board for Democrats next fall.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that states may not bar former President Donald Trump from running for another term, rejecting a challenge to his eligibility that threatened to upend the presidential race by taking him off ballots around the nation.

Though the justices provided different reasons, the decision was unanimous. All the opinions focused on legal issues, and none took a position on whether Trump had engaged in insurrection.

All the justices agreed that individual states may not bar candidates for the presidency under a constitutional provision, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, that forbids insurrectionists from holding office. Four justices would have left it at that.

But a five-justice majority, in an unsigned opinion, went on to say that Congress must act to give Section 3 force.

“The Constitution makes Congress, rather than the states, responsible for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates,” the majority wrote, adding that detailed federal legislation was required to determine who was disqualified under the provision.

In a joint concurring opinion, the court’s three liberal members — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — expressed frustration at what they said was the majority’s needless overreach. They said it was meant to insulate the court and Trump “from future controversy.”

Adam Liptak

Read the full article here.

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