Many states are planning on drastically different elections this year and mail-in ballots could be a big game changer.
WASHINGTON – Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests against systemic racism following the death of George Floyd, there was still an election on Tuesday. And it brought big wins, albeit expected, for former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden swept all seven states holding presidential primaries Tuesday – Maryland, Indiana, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Montana, South Dakota and Pennsylvania. Washington, D.C., also voted in a presidential primary Tuesday, but results were not available early Wednesday morning. (Iowa also had primaries Tuesday, but it’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in February, where Biden finished in fourth place.)
Biden’s wins in those states push him closer to meeting the 1,991 delegate threshold to be the Democratic nominee. He needs roughly 100 more delegates to cross that line.
Despite early disappointing losses in the primary season, Biden, 77, had scored a huge comeback with a dominating primary win in South Carolina. He went on to rack up delegates on Super Tuesday just a few days later. And in early April, Biden became the presumptive nominee after Sen. Bernie Sanders, his last Democratic opponent still in the race, suspended his presidential campaign.
Here are other key takeaways from Tuesday night:
Longtime Rep. Steve King loses Republican primary
Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a nine-term Republican congressman, lost his primary to Republican state Sen. Randy Feenstra.
King represents Iowa’s fourth congressional district, which is largely Republican.
King was stripped of his committees last year following remarks he made to the New York Times about white nationalism. All four challengers used King’s removal from those committees as evidence that they would be more effective in Congress while still sharing King’s conservative values.
King has denied supporting white nationalism and has said those comments were taken out of context for political reasons. He’s described the backlash as an orchestrated campaign against him. King’s comments were even formally rebuked by the House of Representatives and he was also removed from his House committees.
Since those comments, many in his party have distanced themselves from the congressman. Throughout the primary cycle, key Iowa and national Republicans either stayed on the sidelines or endorsed Feenstra.
Shortly after news organizations announced Feenstra won the primary, his campaign manager Matt Leopold tweeted a photo of the state senator.
“.@RandyFeenstra taking a call from Congressman Kevin McCarthy. Randy is ready to get to work,” Leopold wrote in the tweet.
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel also congratulated Feenstra, saying in a tweet, “Steve King’s white supremacist rhetoric is totally inconsistent with the Republican Party, and I’m glad Iowa Republicans rejected him at the ballot box.”
Rematch set in New Mexico swing district, Mfume keeps seat
In New Mexico, Republican Yvette Herrell won the GOP primary for the state’s 2nd congressional district.
Herrell will go up against incumbent and first-term Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., in the general election in November. The two competed against each other in 2018, where Small beat Herrell by less than 2 points.
Republicans hope to flip the seat in the general election.
In Maryland, Rep. Kweisi Mfume won the Democratic primary for the state’s 7th congressional district, which was previously held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings. Mfume in April won a special election to serve the remainder of Cummings term.
Mfume, the former CEO of the NAACP, defeated 18 Democrats running in that primary, including Maya Cummings, the widow of Elijah Cummings.
With his primary win, Mfume will likely be elected in November for his first full term. Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which encompasses over half of Baltimore and the majority of Howard County, is largely Democratic.
Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez defeated former CIA operative Valerie Plame to win the Democratic nomination in New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District. Leger Fernandez overcame six competitors including Plame to win her party’s nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján as he runs for U.S. Senate.
The nomination of Leger Fernandez, a professional advocate for Native American pueblo communities and voting rights issues, is likely to be decisive in the vast northern district where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1.
In her first run for public office, Plame harnessed her fame as a former U.S. intelligence operative whose secret identity was exposed shorty after her diplomat husband disputed U.S. intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion.
On the campaign trail, she emphasized her experience in speaking truth to power in Washington and her solidarity with people who feel betrayed by President Donald Trump.
But Leger Fernandez was able to upstage Plame with support from a long list of advocacy groups for progressive causes and greater Latina representation in Congress. She landed prominent political endorsements from U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland of Albuquerque and U.S. Senator and former presidential contender Elizabeth Warren.
Long lines at polling locations
Several states reported long lines at polling locations as voters headed to the ballot box for presidential, House and Senate primaries across the country.
In Indianapolis, Carly Gonzalez, 27, who worked as a server but is out of work because of the pandemic, said she would wait all day if necessary.
Gonzalez said she has expected the lines would be even longer.
“There’s a lot of unrest and I think people want to speak on it the only way we can as peacefully as possible,” she said.
The long lines at Indianapolis polling sites was the only significant issue reported statewide, Indiana Secretary of State’s office spokesman Ian Hauer said.
Many people in line said that they had requested absentee ballots but they never arrived or it did not arrive in time for them to mail it in.
Connie Martin has voted in every election since turning 18 in 1975. She requested an absentee ballot but it came too late. Instead, she joined the line at Broad Ripple High School. November could be even worse, she said.
“If they get absentee ballots out in time it won’t be but of course some people are trying to stop that from happening,” she said.
Contributing: Associated Press, Indy Star.
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