What to Watch in Primaries in Colorado, Illinois, Elsewhere

NEW YORK—Seven states are set to host primary elections Tuesday.

This week’s nominating contests could offer the first clues as to whether the political landscape has shifted after Supreme Court last week overturned Roe v. Wade, the seminal 1973 precedent that largely legalized abortion in the United States. Abortion is particularly relevant in Colorado, where GOP voters are deciding whether to nominate a pro-abortion Republican for U.S. Senate.

Democrats have their own challenges. Illinois voters will decide a rare incumbent-on-incumbent primary for a House seat, while in South Carolina, Democrats are picking which candidate will take on South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott this fall.

In all, primary elections are playing out across Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah on Tuesday. Nebraska is holding a special election.

What to Watch

Colorado

GOP businessman Joe O’Dea, who has spoken publicly about his support for abortion, is running for the nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet this fall. O’Dea’s top rival is state Rep. Ron Hanks, who opposes abortion in all circumstances.

O’Dea said he backs a ban on late-term abortions and government funding of abortions, but the decision to terminate a pregnancy in the initial months is “between a person and their God.”

Joe O'Dea
Joe O’Dea, a candidate for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, talks during a campaign appearance at a brew pub in south suburban Littleton, Colo., on June 9, 2022. (David Zalubowski/AP Photo)

While Colorado has trended Democratic over the past decade, Tuesday’s top Republican primary contests will show whether GOP candidates are making progress in their quest to take on uncontested Democrats like Bennet, Gov. Jared Polis and Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

One of them is Republican Tina Peters. Peters wants to unseat Griswold as Colorado’s top elections official. She’s running against Republican Pam Anderson, a former head of the state’s clerks association and defender of Colorado’s mail-in elections system.

Colorado’s congressional primaries will measure the staying power of first-term GOP firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert in a sprawling western Colorado district that leans more Republican after redistricting. She’s up against state Sen. Don Coram, a hemp farmer and GOP moderate.

In the Republican race to take on Polis, a former suburban Denver mayor, Greg Lopez, is facing Heidi Ganahl, the lone statewide-elected Republican as a University of Colorado regent.

Illinois

As he is in most GOP contests, former President Donald Trump is a central issue in Illinois’ Republican primary for governor.

Darren Bailey, a conservative farmer who earned Trump’s endorsement over the weekend and often reads from the Bible in campaign videos, is part of a six-candidate Republican field. His rivals include Richard Irvin, the first black mayor of Aurora, Illinois’ second-largest city, who had $50 million in support from billionaire Ken Griffin but was heavily targeted by Democrats who see Bailey as an easier matchup for Pritzker.

Richard Irvin
Republican candidate for Illinois governor Richard Irvin speaks with employees during a tour of HM Manufacturing Inc. in Wauconda, Ill., on June 21, 2022. (Sara Burnett/AP Photo)

While Trump endorsed Bailey, he also campaigned alongside first-term Rep. Mary Miller, who is challenging five-term Rep. Rodney Davis in one of the state’s two incumbent-on-incumbent primaries.

Davis is a more moderate lawmaker who is the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, which deals with election legislation and the Capitol complex.

Meanwhile, two Democratic incumbents—Reps. Sean Casten and Marie Newman—are facing off for a Chicago-area seat. Also on the Democratic side, about two dozen candidates are fighting to succeed Rep. Bobby Rush, the only lawmaker to ever defeat Barack Obama. They include John Jackson, son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Karin Norington-Reaves, who has Rush’s endorsement.

New York

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was vaulted into office last fall when Andrew Cuomo resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, is trying to hold on to her job.

Hochul, a Democrat from western New York state, is facing challenges from New York’s elected public advocate, Jumaane Williams, and Rep. Tom Suozzi, a moderate congressman from Long Island.

Tuesday’s elections cover New York’s statewide offices and state assembly races, but primary elections for U.S. House seats and the state Senate will be held Aug. 23. Those elections were delayed because of a redistricting lawsuit that led a court to throw out new political maps.

Hochul, who was Cuomo’s lieutenant governor for six years, promised to restore New Yorkers’ faith in its government after stepping into the office last summer, but she hit a major stumbling block in April, when her handpicked lieutenant governor was arrested in a federal corruption probe.

Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a New York governor primary debate at the studios of WNBC4-TV in New York on June, 16, 2022. (Craig Ruttle/Newsday via AP, Pool)

Williams, a progressive running to Hochul’s left, said Hochul is either “consistently shamefully out of the loop, or shamefully enabling through her inaction.” Suozzi, running to Hochul’s right, says she’s not being tough enough on crime, suggesting she should have gone further to harden the state’s bail law.

On the Republican side, Rep. Lee Zeldin is considered the front-runner in a crowded field that features Andrew Giuliani, the son of New York City’s former mayor Rudy Giuliani; Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino; and businessman Harry Wilson. Former Vice President Mike Pence has endorsed Zeldin, who also enjoys the backing of the state GOP and Conservative Party, but Trump has stayed out of the race.

Utah

The Republican primary for U.S. Senate pits one of Trump’s closest allies, GOP incumbent Sen. Mike Lee, against two challengers.

Former state lawmaker Becky Edwards and political operative Ally Isom have attacked Lee as a divisive politician who cares less about governing than about television appearances and winning Trump’s favor. Unlike Lee, neither voted for Trump in 2020.

Edwards has also stood out by saying she disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to revisit Roe v. Wade.

In November, the winner will take on independent Evan McMullin, a former Republican who won backing from the state Democratic Party in April.

Mississippi

Congressional primary runoffs are rare in Mississippi, but on Tuesday, two of the state’s Republican incumbents are fighting to keep their jobs in runoffs against challengers from their own party.

Rep. Steven Palazzo is seeking a seventh term and was considered vulnerable after being accused in a 2021 congressional ethics report of abusing his office by misspending campaign funds.

Rep. Michael Guest is seeking a third term. He voted to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol breach and was forced into a runoff.

Both Palazzo and Guest failed to cross the 50 percent threshold to win outright in their June 7 primaries. Palazzo is facing Mike Ezell, the sheriff of a coastal county, while Guest is going up against Michael Cassidy, a former Navy fighter pilot.

Steven Palazzo
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) speaks during a debate with Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell (R) at WLOX-TV in Biloxi, Miss., on June 24, 2022. (Hannah Ruhoff/The Sun Herald via AP)

Oklahoma

Republicans are picking two U.S. Senate nominees on Tuesday.

A crowd of high-profile GOP contenders is vying to replace retiring Sen. Jim Inhofe, including Trump’s former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, who resigned from his Washington post. Other candidates include Rep. Markwayne Mullin; T.W. Shannon, the state legislature’s first black House speaker; and Luke Holland, Inhofe’s longtime chief of staff.

Republican Sen. James Lankford is facing Tulsa evangelical pastor Jackson Lahmeyer, a political newcomer endorsed by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.

Nebraska

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation, a $25,000 fine, and community service for lying to federal authorities about an illegal campaign contribution, on the same day that voters in his district were deciding on his replacement in a special election. Fortenberry resigned in March.

Republican Mike Flood will be favored to win the election in the Republican-leaning district over Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks. Both are state legislators.

Regardless of who wins the special election, Flood and Pansing Brooks will face off again in the November general election. The eastern Nebraska district includes Lincoln and parts of suburban Omaha as well as rural area.