Labor Day is typically considered the traditional start to the campaign season, but here in 2023, it marks the end of the competitive phase of two heated special elections. Neither Rhode Island’s 1st nor Utah’s 2nd Congressional District is expected to be very competitive in the November general election, so Tuesday’s primary will likely determine their new representatives. And whoever wins will have really worked for it; In both primaries there has been no lack of drama.
Races to watch: 1st Congressional District
Closing of polls: 8 pm east
When Representative David Cicilline resigned at the end of May To become president of the Rhode Island Foundation, he left behind a rare vacancy in a deep blue district that President Biden won. 64 percent to 35 percent, according to Daily Kos Elections, and ambitious Democrats rushed to fill the void. Twelve names are on Tuesday’s Democratic primary ballot, and the race has been so chaotic that at least four of them have a legitimate chance of winning.
The first favorite was Vice Governor Sabina Matos, whose name recognition gave her a decent base of support (although only about 20 percent) in first polls of the race, while most other candidates were stuck in single digits. But in July, election officials in several towns marked certain signatures on Matos’ nomination papers as potentially fraudulent; For example, they were of dead people or living people who They said they never signed them. Matos still had enough valid signatures to vote, but in the end, 559 of the 1,285 signatures presented were disqualifiedand the state attorney general and state police are conducting a criminal investigation to determine whether fraud was committed (in Rhode Island, it is illegal to forge nomination signatures). Matos has blamed a campaign supplier for disaster, but the scandal may have turned voters against him. According internal polls of a rival campaign (so take this with a grain of salt), Matos’s net favorability rating among Democratic primary voters fell from +20 percentage points in June to -20 points in mid-August.
Another early contender was businessman Don Carlson, who, thanks in large part to a $600,000 loan to his own campaign – had raised the the most money of any candidate in the race as of August 16 (almost $970,000). But in late August, local news reported that Carlson had made romantic proposals to a student while a faculty member at Williams College. Carlson finally admitted that the report was trueand the abandoned the race on August 27.
In the wake of these scandals, two other candidates have emerged as possible favorites. Former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who could be Rhode Island’s governor right now if 2,466 people had voted differently, could benefit from being the top candidate in the progressive lane. He has raised the second most money ($630,000) after Carlson and got endorsements of Senator Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution.
By contrast, former White House official Gabe Amo has the support of more establishment Democrats. He has worked as an assistant Biden, former President Barack Obama, former Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and his connections have helped him raise more than $604,000. He son of West African immigrantshas also been backed by the campaign arm of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The only public poll on the race conducted in the last six weeks is the aforementioned internal poll, which was paid for by the Amo campaign. It showed Regunberg at 28 percent and Amo at 19 percent, with Matos trailing at 11 percent. Amo used the poll to argue that he is Regunberg’s main competitor right now, but don’t rule out Matos just yet. She still has the valuable support of EMILY’S LISTand her Backstory as a Dominican immigrant. could resonate with the district growing Hispanic population.
On the other hand, another Latina candidate has been making waves in the final weeks of the race: State Senator Sandra Cano, who plays sports dozens of endorsements from prominent Rhode Island politicians from across the political spectrum. Canó also got 11 percent in Amo’s internal poll, and that was before Carlson dropped out of the race and endorsed Canó. Not all of Carlson’s 8 percent support in the poll will go to Cano (Carlson’s name will remain on the ballot), but he won’t be surprised to see her emerge as Regunberg’s biggest threat. Of note, Cano, Matos or Amo would each be the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress if they prevail on Tuesday and in the Nov. 7 general election.
Races to watch: 2nd Congressional District
Closing of polls: 10 pm eastern time
When Cicilline resigned his Rhode Island seat, Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah’s 2nd Congressional District announced his intention to resign starting September 15. The solidly red seat: Former President Donald Trump held it by 17 points in 2020 — attracted 13 Republican contendersBut due to Utah’s convention system and primary signature requirements, only three Republicans will compete in today’s primary.
Former state Rep. Becky Edwards and former Republican National Committeeman Bruce Hough probably started out as better-known entities than Celeste Maloy, Stewart’s top legal adviser, but the race could be a ballgame for either. Edwards rose to prominence in 2022 when she challenged Republican Senator Mike Lee. from his left in the Republican primaries as an anti-Trump alternative, winning 30 percent of the vote. Hough is a longtime big shot in the state party; previously served as chairman of the Utah Republican Party – and his family has gained notoriety through two of his children, Derek and Julianne, who became famous on the television show Dancing with the Stars. But Maloy, who has the endorsement of Stewarthe won party convention on June 24 to harvest a spot on the primary ballotan indication of his potential appeal to conservatives, such as delegates to the Utah Republican convention. They tend to be more right-wing than the primary electorate as a whole. Edwards and Hough each one gathered enough firms to qualify for primary despite being eliminated at the convention.
Limited polling and fundraising numbers suggest Edwards has a potential lead. Edwards directed a survey from early August of Dan Jones & Associates/Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics with 32 percent, while Hough and Maloy fell far behind with 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively. But with about half of voters undecided, the poll may have said more about Edwards’ name recognition advantage than his final percentage of the vote in this race. she also raised the most money from individual taxpayers, totaling $368,000 compared to Maloy’s $250,000 and Hough’s $202,000, starting August 16. On top of that, Edwards has loaned his campaign $300,000, putting him ahead of Hough in total fundraising (he has loaned about $335,000). He entered the season’s final stretch with $228,000 in the bank, about two and a half times what Hough and Maloy each had.
But ideological divisions in this race could provide opportunities for Maloy or Hough to overtake Edwards, who clearly occupies the moderate lane. After all, Edwards voted for Biden in 2020 —he said in a recent debate who regretted his vote – and worked to pass a resolution recognizing climate change in 2018. Meanwhile, Maloy and Hough Both have criticized Trump’s accusations. as politically motivated and taken staunchly anti-abortion stances, although Maloy said he would potentially vote for a federal ban, while Hough said it should be left up to the states. Take has also argued that he would be the most reliable Republican in the race because he voted for Trump in both 2016 and 2020, a dig at Edwards’ vote for Biden and a shot at Maloy for not having voted in 2020 or 2022.
And similar to the Rhode Island primary, this race also has its own electoral drama. After Maloy won at the Republican convention, it was revealed that her failure to vote in the last two state elections had caused Utah election officials to mark her as an inactive voter and begin the process of removing her from the voter rolls. In fact, Maloy had only updated his Utah voter registration three days after She presented her candidacy. She has argued that because she moved to Virginia while working for Stewart on Capitol Hill, she did not want to cast a potentially fraudulent vote in the last two elections. Still, this revelation galvanized one of the Republican candidates eliminated at the convention. sue to have Maloy removed of the ballot. but a The state court denied that request.and Republican Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson, state elections director, said Maloy correctly ran for office. The state Republican Party also lacked any mechanism under party rules to undo Maloy’s convention victory, reported the Salt Lake Tribuneeven when his credentials came under scrutiny.
Despite his problems, Maloy may have a chance to win thanks in part to the seat’s geographic divisions. He massive 2nd district It runs from Salt Lake City in the north to Saint George in the southwest corner of the state. But Edwards and Hough come from northern Utah, while Maloy comes from the south. So in theory, Edwards and Hough could split much of the northern vote, while Maloy accumulate support on your own land in the most rural south. As we have seen in many other primaries, the enormous support of a candidate “friends and neighbors”could make the difference in obtaining a simple plurality to win the nomination. Additionally, the southern part of the district could contribute a larger share of the primary vote, as slight majority of Trump votes in 2020 in the district came from the southern Wasatch Front, the chain of northern metropolitan areas which ends in Utah County. And although he has not endorsed it, popular Republican Governor Spencer Cox has said that he liked the idea to have someone from southern Utah representing the state in Congress. Hough may also have his own geographic challenge, as he lives in park citywhich is located east of the second district.
The winner of today’s primary will advance to face Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe in the Nov. 21 general election, a matchup that will likely send the victor of the Republican primary to Congress.