Voters in New York and Florida settled intra-party battles in competitive House races and picked the Democratic nominee to face Florida's Republican firebrand governor, Ron DeSantis, this fall.
Rep. Charlie Crist was projected by NBC News to win the Democratic primary for governor in Florida. The Republican-turned-Democrat former governor handily defeated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
Also in Florida, Rep. Val Demings was projected by NBC News to win the Democratic Senate contest to take on two-term Republican Sen. Marco Rubio this fall.
In a House GOP primary, Rep. Daniel Webster held off a tougher-than-expected challenge from far-right activist Laura Loomer in a red district.
New Yorkers, meanwhile, cast their ballots in a series of clashes between Democrats and pick a winner in a closely watched House special election in a highly competitive suburban district.
Manhattan Democrats sent House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler back to Congress, with Nadler easily defeating House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney. Only one could advance after their districts were merged, unifying the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side with Midtown.
After casting his ballot in the Upper West side, Nadler told NBC News his message to New Yorkers is “they should get out and vote,” and he called himself “the more principled progressive” in the race.
Nadler said he intends to stay the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “What I want to achieve is I believe this country is a democratic system with a small d. We’re in a pivotal position on the Judiciary Committee to defend against that threat through voting rights legislation.”
In Lower Manhattan, Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones is fending off wealthy attorney Dan Goldman and several progressive challengers in a race former President Donald Trump has sought to meddle in. That race was too close to call heading into Wednesday, according to NBC News.
But it was a House special election in Hudson Valley that has captured much of the national attention, pitting Democrat Pat Ryan against Republican Marc Molinaro in a bellwether district that has reflected the national mood in recent election cycles.
Ryan, who emphasized abortion rights, defeated Molinaro, NBC News projects.
In a nearby district is Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of the Democrats’ election arm, who is at the center of the New York primaries. He fended off progressive challenger Alessandra Biaggi, NBC News projects. He is also responsible for the daunting task of protecting Democrats’ slim House majority this fall.
'We know what the stakes are'
In an interview Monday, Sean Patrick Maloney vowed that once the primary is over, “Democrats are going to be united as never before” to take on Republicans in the Nov. 8 midterm election.
“Because we know what the stakes are with a MAGA movement that wants to rip away reproductive freedom, do nothing when kids get done gunned down in their classrooms and ignore — or even support the attacks — on our democracy,” Maloney said.
The primaries came about after courts threw out an earlier map drawn by state Democrats and imposed a new, more competitive one. Maloney drew backlash from some in his party after he chose to run in a district overlapping Jones’ current one, which prompted his colleague to compete in a different district.
As for Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, he said: “They’re both friends and colleagues. Both have so much to be proud of. And I wish them both well. And beyond that, I’ll leave it up to the voters.”
Florida is also holding its primaries Tuesday, including numerous competitive contests for open House seats. They include a race for a redrawn Republican-leaning seat vacated by Democrat Stephanie Murphy and a crowded contest for a Democratic-leaning open district in the Orlando area.
A bellwether race in New York
The Hudson Valley election tested the relative strength of two competing forces: the power of President Joe Biden’s unpopularity and the economic pain of inflation in propelling Republicans versus the galvanizing force of the Supreme Court’s overturning of abortion rights in motivating Democratic voters to turn out.
The result could provide hints about the national mood, given that the district has swung from one party to the other in recent years.
Strategists in both parties are downplaying their chances in the Hudson Valley election, each wary of turnout for different reasons. Democrats are leery of irregular voters in their base who tend to skip non-presidential races, while Republicans worry that the coinciding of the election with New York primaries could boost Democratic turnout and diminish their prospects.
“There are too many unknowns. So many variables,” said a GOP operative working on the special election. “There’s definitely going to be the temptation to say this is the bellwether. … But every poll we’re seeing is the issues that are top of mind for voters are definitely economy, crime and the border.
“So I wouldn’t read too heavily into any Roe messaging,” said the operative, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.
Asked about Republicans’ lowering expectations for the special election, Sean Patrick Maloney let out a laugh, saying it shows the GOP is “waking up to the fact that they’re in real trouble.”
“They know they are in trouble, and they deserve to be. Their extremist policies on choice and guns are coming home to roost,” he said. “So I think this is a must-win for the Republicans, and if they lose it, they’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”