Establishment wilts, diversity thrives in primaries

National News

August 29, 2018 - 10:47 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump got his man in battleground Florida, but he watched a prominent immigration ally fall in Arizona in what was another eventful night in the 2018 midterm season.
Arizona and Florida held primaries Tuesday, both of which tested Trump’s influence. There were also new signs of diversity on the Democratic side.
Takeaways from one of the final rounds of voting ahead of midterm elections:
FLORIDA ESTABLISHMENT FAIL
The political establishment in both parties had a bad night in Florida’s high-profile race for governor.
On the Republican side, Trump got his man, Republican congressman Ron DeSantis, who beat out the establishment favorite, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Despite Trump’s support, DeSantis was not the strongest general election candidate in the race, operatives in both parties suggest.
The three-term Republican congressman who makes frequent Fox News appearances is known as an immigration hard-liner in a state where Hispanic voters hold outsized sway. And lest there be any question about his allegiance to Trump’s divisive immigration policies, DeSantis encourages his toddler to “build the wall” with blocks in one campaign ad.
That’s a message that may play well among a general electorate in West Virginia, where Trump won by more than 40 percentage points in 2016, but Trump carried Florida by only a single percentage point.
On the Democratic side, liberal champion Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, bested a crowded field that included establishment favorite Gwen Graham, the former congresswoman and daughter of Florida political icon Bob Graham.
Graham, who was considered a centrist, was viewed as a more attractive general election candidate in the purple state. Gillum is more liberal, having earned the backing of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and billionaire Tom Steyer.
To win the governor’s office for the first time since 1999, Democrats will have to come together quickly.
McSALLY’S CHALLENGE
Martha McSally won the GOP nomination for Arizona Senate, but the results show how divided the party is and the challenge that lies ahead.
A significant number of Republicans backed former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and fellow immigration hard-liner Kelli Ward.
Now McSally has to bring together the party — including some of Trump’s most devoted supporters — going into the fall against Democrat Krysten Sinema, who is widely considered well-positioned. The race gives Democrats one of their best pickup opportunities in the nation.
Meanwhile, it would be wrong to assume that McSally’s win is a repudiation of the tough rhetoric of her challengers, who essentially split the conservative vote.
The 86-year-old man known nationwide as Sheriff Joe, who personifies the tough immigration policies that define the modern-day Republican Party, may never serve in public office again after his loss Tuesday.
DIVERSITY WAVE GROWS
In his upset victory, Gillum joins two other African-American gubernatorial nominees on the November ballot, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams and Maryland Democrat Ben Jealous, in what may be the party’s most diverse midterm class in history.
No state is currently represented by a black governor.
The nominations, of course, do not mean the candidates will continue to re-write history.
Republicans have cast Gillum, like the other black nominees, as part of the Democratic Party’s far-left fringe. Indeed, in all three cases, the candidates were backed by Sanders. Progressive billionaires Steyer and George Soros invested heavily in Gillum’s primary campaign as well.
Diversity may help win Democratic primaries in 2018, but it’s unclear if it’ll help Democrats pick up seats among a broader general election audience.

Related
August 5, 2020
August 4, 2020
July 9, 2020
March 4, 2020