Tuesday’s primary elections in seven states will once again test whether Republican voters are willing to punish incumbents with track records of winning competitive races for failing to be sufficiently supportive of former President Donald Trump.
In California, frustrations over crime and homelessness have shaped an effort to recall San Francisco’s district attorney. And the Los Angeles mayor’s race pits a billionaire Republican-turned-Democrat against a veteran congresswoman who was on President Biden’s vice presidential short list.
Here are key things to watch in today’s elections in the Golden State:
Billionaire former Republican vs. progressive Democrat in liberal Los Angeles
Republican shopping mall magnate turned Democratic mayoral candidate Rick Caruso is giving Rep. Karen Bass a stout challenge in their bids to be mayor of Los Angeles.
Caruso has poured millions of his own fortune into the race, pledging to tackle the city’s pervasive homelessness, combat corruption and address the city’s crime rate by increasing the size of the police force.
Bass, a longtime congresswoman and former member of the California State Assembly, is highlighting many of the same issues — including crime and homelessness — but with a more progressive message and is touting her connection to the city. If she were to become Los Angeles’ mayor, she would be the first woman to hold the office.
There is a good chance this could be just the first time Caruso and Bass face off. If no candidate in the 12-person field gets 50% of the vote, the top two finishers in the race move on to a runoff in November.
San Francisco district attorney at risk of recall
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin was swept into office in 2019 on concerns over police misconduct, criminal justice reform and mass incarceration, a high point for the movement to elect more progressive prosecutors.
Three years — and one pandemic — later, the winds have so dramatically shifted against the progressive district attorney and his lax approach to certain kinds of crime that he is facing a recall.
The effort, and Boudin’s time in office, cannot be separated from the coronavirus pandemic, which coincided with a rise in property crime rates in San Francisco. The recall is as much about the feeling among San Francisco residents as it is about crime rates — homelessness remains a persistent issue in the city as residents report feeling uncomfortable in large swaths of commercial areas because of drug use and crime.
While Republican money is helping the effort, the push to recall Boudin was initially supported by Democrats.
House Republicans face challenges from the right
Rep. David Valadao — one of 10 Republicans to support Trump’s 2021 impeachment — is facing a challenge in California’s 22nd District from Republican Chris Mathys, who has campaigned as an ardent Trump supporter and made Valadao’s vote his core argument against the incumbent.
California’s “Orange Curtain” trends back toward Republicans
In 2018, Democrats seized on anti-Republican sentiments in Orange County, and turned the historically Republican area — known politically as California’s Orange Curtain — into a Democratic stronghold, winning all six congressional seats in the county that year.
But in 2020, Republicans won back two seats in Orange County — Michelle Steel and Young Kim defeated Democratic incumbents to flip two seats — and the party is hopeful it could win at least two other Orange County congressional seats this year, which could be a historically bad year for Democrats.
In just four years, Democrats went from newly dominant in Orange County to notably threatened.
California Central Valley seat to be filled
The next occupant of former GOP Rep. Devin Nunes’ onetime congressional district will be selected on Tuesday.
The seat was vacated when Nunes, the controversial congressman who attempted to help Trump avoid scrutiny around Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, decided to leave Congress to become CEO of Trump’s media company, Trump Media & Technology Group.
The seat, which includes much of California’s San Joaquin Valley, leans toward Republicans and all indications are that Republican Connie Conway, the former minority leader in the California State Assembly, will win the race. She finished well ahead of Democrat Lourin Hubbard in the April primary.
Here are key things to watch in the other states holding primaries Tuesday.