FIRST IN SCORE — There’s only one goal in a primary: win. Vote share is just for bragging rights in a first-past-the-post system. And this cycle, a number of candidates in battleground races advanced to the general with less than half of support in their primaries.
That’s according to a new report first shared with POLITICO from FairVote, a pro-ranked choice voting group. In all, 120 candidates advanced from House, Senate and statewide primary elections this cycle with less than 50 percent of the vote. More than half of that group earned less than 40 percent of the vote in their primaries.
The issue at hand, the report suggests, is that it can send unpopular party nominees to general elections.
These are the candidates in the general in races to watch — ones that POLITICO forecasts as a toss-up, lean Democratic or lean Republican.
Senate: Republicans have a handful of first-time Senate candidates who have struggled throughout the cycle, from fundraising to solidifying their policy positions.
Republican Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania earned one of the lowest shares of the vote — 31 percent. Although his opponent John Fetterman does continue to have a lead over the last few weeks, Oz’s campaign appears to be closing the gap. Still, Oz has a negative favorability rating in recent polling.
In Ohio, J.D. Vance earned 32 percent of the vote. But there’s been increased optimism regarding Vance’s chances over Democrat Tim Ryan in recent weeks. In Arizona, Blake Masters received 40 percent of the primary vote. He’s still trailing incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in the polls.
And New Hampshire Republican Don Bolduc, a far-right candidate Democrats wanted to face, earned 37 percent of the vote. Sen. Maggie Hassan leads Bolduc in the polls, but her campaign signaled that the race is tighter than it seems.
Governors: A number of Trump-backed candidates in governor’s races won with less than a majority vote. Arizona’s Kari Lake was the closest to a majority with 48 percent. Recent polling shows her virtually tied with Democrat Katie Hobbs. Wisconsin’s Tim Michels earned 47 percent in his primary. While he’s leading or tied in some polls, he still has an unfavorable candidate image — although it’s better than Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’.
On the other hand, Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano got 44 percent; Michigan’s Tudor Dixon received 40 percent; Nevada’s Joe Lombardo earned 38 percent; and Oregon’s Christine Drazan won 23 percent. (She’s now battling in a three-way general election where the winner is unlikely to get majority support.)
House: More than 40 competitive House races advanced a candidate who did not receive a majority vote. You’ll find these candidates in both of New Hampshire’s districts (Republicans Karoline Leavitt in NH-01 got 35 percent and and Bob Burns in NH-02 got 33 percent of the vote), NY-22, where Democrat Francis Conole got 39 percent, and VA-07, where Republican Yesli Vega had 29 percent.
The report also found that more than 30 of these primary winners are favored to win their elections. These include safe-seat-seeking Democrats Dan Goldman in NY-10, Jonathan Jackson in IL-01 and Shri Thanedar in MI-13, who all won their primaries with under 30 percent of the vote. On the gubernatorial side, Democrats Wes Moore in Maryland and incumbent Dan McKee in Rhode Island earned 32 and 33 percent, respectively.
“With more than 90 percent of congressional districts so partisan that the election is decided in the primary, our elected officials are increasingly chosen by only a fraction of a fraction of the electorate,” FairVote president and CEO Rob Richie said in a statement promoting ranked choice voting.
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