What to Watch in the August 23 Primaries
Two of the biggest states in the union, Florida and New York, are settling their congressional primaries on Tuesday. In dozens of safely red or safely blue districts where the general election is a formality, this will all but decide the next members of Congress. New York also hosts two special congressional elections that will be watched for tea leaves about November, including a strong pick-up opportunity for Republicans.
And there is plenty to watch besides the battle for Congress, including Governor Ron DeSantis’s bid for an ideological takeover of Florida school boards, a runoff for Oklahoma prosecutor (Oklahoma held the first round of its primaries on June 28), and ideologically divided Democratic primaries for the Florida House.
Here are 26 races that Bolts is watching on Aug. 23 in Florida, New York, and Oklahoma. More may be added to our cheat sheet through Election Day.
Check back on Election Night as we fill in each result in the second column. And support us to sustain this work.
Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, Florida’s only Democratic statewide office-holder, faces Charlie Crist, the former Republican Governor turned Democratic member of Congress, for the right to face Ron DeSantis in an election marred by the Florida GOP’s crackdowns on democracy.
Democratic Rep. Val Demings is spending heavily to take on GOP Senator Marco Rubio, but first she faces opponents in the Democratic primary.
GOP Rep. Markwayne Mullin finished well ahead in the first round of this special election to replace Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, and will be favored against T.W. Shannon, the former House Speaker.
Other statewide elections
|Florida | Attorney General (Dem)
Aramis Ayala, the former Orlando prosecutor who clashed with GOP governors over her opposition to the death penalty, is one of three Democrats running for attorney general. (The winner will face GOP incumbent Ashley Moody.)
|Oklahoma | Labor Commissioner (GOP)
Incumbent Leslie Osborn faces a runoff against lawmaker Sean Roberts, who has sought to grab attention over election issues, including with a bill to require every Oklahoman to re-register to vote.
U.S. House Specials
Democrats triggered a special election in this swing seat when they made Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado lieutenant governor. Now the GOP has a strong shot at flipping the seat, though Democrats hope to hold on after some stronger-than-expected showings in recent congressional specials. (Biden won this district by 1.5%.) The Washington Post previews.
This GOP-held district is far redder, and the GOP nominee should be favored to hold it. But watch the margin here as well. (Trump won this district by 11%.)
U.S. House Primaries
Mark Lombardo is spending heavily to take on GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, the scandal-tarred MAGA congressmember, and the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid has rocked the race; Lombardo alleged without evidence that Gaetz was an informant, and Trump endorsed Gaetz.
Erick Aguilar, a Republican candidate seeking the nomination for this open red seat, was booted from a prominent GOP fundraising platform for effectively trying to grift senior citizens, Politico reports. He faces state Senator Aaron Bean in the open primary.
Anthony Sabatini, one of the Florida legislature’s most far-right lawmakers, is one of the major candidates in this open primary, and is running with the help of Marjorie Taylor Greene. Among the other candidates is Cory Mills, who has plenty of support himself among the conservative intelligentsia like Ted Cruz.
Alan Grayson, the former member of Congress who cultivated vitriolic relationships with the press and other Democrats, is mounting yet another comeback bid, and as always is pouring his own money into the race. He faces a large field of opponents, including Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a progressive organizer who has drawn fired-up support from the national left.
Laura Loomer, a figure of the online far-right, is challenging Republican incumbent Dan Webster, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
This is a rare target opportunity for Florida Democrats. State Senator Annette Taddeo, Miami council member Ken Russell, and organizer Angel Montalvo are facing off to take on a GOP incumbent in a swing district that voted for Trump by less than one percentage point, as Florida Politics previews.
The left’s split in this very crowded New York City district has already left Dan Goldman in a good position, and the New York Times‘s endorsement of Goldman led to an online maelstrom last week. Mondaire Jones, Yuh-Line Niou, Carlina Rivera, and many other candidates have a shot as well with endorsements flying around.
It’s a clash between East Side and West Side as longtime incumbents Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler—both New York City institutions with some major contrasts in their records like on the Iraq War resolution in 2002—were thrown together by redistricting. Also running: Suraj Patel, who is challenging Maloney for the third consecutive cycle.
Jamaal Bowman is the latest member of the Squad to face a primary from moderate critics. Eliot Engel, the former member of Congress Bowman ousted in 2020, is supporting Vedat Gashi. (Note: Fellow Squad member AOC will not face a primary.)
After a lot of drama in this district, the stakes of the resulting primary are straightforward: Sean Patrick Maloney, a relatively moderate Democratic incumbent, faces off against state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, a progressive critic of former Governor Andrew Cuomo who ousted the head of the IDC in the explosive 2018 primary. HuffPost previews.
Wealthy conservative Carl Paladino said last week that Attorney General Merrick Garland “probably should be executed,” a comment that captures the sort of rhetoric he’s famous for, including when he ran for governor more than a decade ago. Now he is running for Congress, facing the state party chair Nick Langworthy in this open primary for a staunchly red district.
|Florida | HD109 (Dem)
James Bush, the only Democratic lawmaker in the Florida House to vote for the state’s 15-week abortion and “Don’t Say Gay” law, faces a challenge from the left in Ashley Gantt.
|Florida | HD44 (Dem)
Daisy Morales is another incumbent Democrat who has drawn intra-party ire for siding with the GOP on key votes, including COVID mandates. Much of the party establishment is backing the more progressive challenger Rita Harris.
|Oklahoma | Oklahoma County DA
Kevin Calvey, who has promised to dismiss charges against five officers accused of murder, came just 16 votes shy of outright winning the three-way GOP primary in June, gaining more than double the votes of his runoff-opponent, Gayland Gieger, a longtime prosecutor under the retiring DA. The winner will go face Vicki Behenna, the current executive director of the Oklahoma Innocence Project and a former federal prosecutor who helped try Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, in November. Read the Oklahoman for more.
Other local offices
|Florida | Hillsborough County judge
Circuit Judge Jared Smith, who cited a teenager’s grades in denying her access to an abortion, faces a challenge from Nancy Jacobs.
|Florida | School board elections
DeSantis is pushing arch-conservative candidates to take over school boards and advance his agenda, including by ousting incumbents who have defied him, the Tallahassee Democrat and Politico report. The moves are part of the governor’s broader attack on LGBTQ rights and teachings of racism.
—Brevard: Misty Belford vs the DeSantis-backed Megan Wright.
—Sarasota: DeSantis-backed incumbent Bridget Ziegler, founder of Moms for Liberty, vs. Dem-supported Dawnyelle Singleton.
—Miami-Dade: Longtime incumbent Marta Perez vs DeSantis-backed Monica Colucci
|Florida | Tallahassee mayor (first round)
Florida’s capital is voting in the first round of its mayoral race, with local issues dividing the candidates.
|Runoff: John Dailey, Kristin Dozier