In New Jersey and 7 Other States, Democrats Fill Ranks of Challengers

Mikie Sherrill spoke to supporters at her primary night party in Verona, N.J., on Tuesday.

VERONA, N.J. — A former Navy pilot, a veteran White House national security adviser and a conservative pro-gun state senator won Democratic nominations on Tuesday to represent battleground congressional districts in New Jersey, officially earning their spot on the front lines in a state that could determine control of the House.

The day’s political focus remained largely on California and its high-profile statewide races and crowded congressional primaries. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic lieutenant governor, won one of two spots in the primary Tuesday, The Associated Press reported, in his bid to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown. John Cox, a Republican businessman backed by President Trump, captured the other spot.

Senator Dianne Feinstein easily won a spot on the November ballot in her re-election bid in what by every indication looks like an easy race this fall — no matter who ends up running against her.

New Jersey could prove as crucial as California in the contest for the House in November. Democratic leaders are hoping to flip as many as four of the five Republican-held districts in the state.

In perhaps the most closely watched contest in New Jersey, Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor, won the Democratic nomination in the 11th District, The A.P. reported, where Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican, is retiring from a seat that a Democrat has not held since the 1980s. Ms. Sherrill became the latest woman to prevail in a nationwide wave of female candidacies and will now continue a nearly 18-month effort to replace Mr. Frelinghuysen with a Democrat in a district where Mr. Trump’s victory has spawned intense activism.

“We made New Jersey’s 11th District the center of a national movement for new leadership,’’ she told supporters at a victory rally. “Change is led by the people of New Jersey.’’

Ms. Sherrill, who raised nearly $2.4 million even before the primary, will face Jay Webber, a state assemblyman, in the general election.

In the contest for the Senate in New Jersey, the Democratic incumbent, Robert Menendez, won his primary and will face Bob Hugin, a pharmaceutical executive who easily won the Republican nomination.

New Jersey was one of seven states besides California where voters were choosing candidates on the busiest Primary Day of the year. In Alabama, a Republican congresswoman who opposed Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, Representative Martha Roby, was forced into a runoff — laying bare the price of dissent in the conservative South even for an incumbent who has worked with the White House since Mr. Trump’s election.

But elsewhere, female candidates had another big night — including a Democratic nomination for governor in New Mexico, a Republican nomination for governor in South Dakota and a win in a competitive Democratic primary for a battleground House seat in Iowa.

[Get results from key House primaries in several states.]

In New Jersey, the House races are so important that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made endorsements in four of the primaries to help clear the field for candidates it believed had broad enough appeal to win over the state’s many unaffiliated voters in the fall.

In the southern region of the state, where Representative Frank LoBiondo is leaving his seat in the Second Congressional District, Jeff Van Drew, a state senator, won the Democratic primary. Mr. Van Drew, a conservative Democrat with a pro-gun record who voted against same-sex marriage in 2012, nonetheless won the backing of powerful South Jersey Democrats early on and was able to fend off a challenge from some progressive candidates.

Andy Kim, a former White House national security official who ran uncontested in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, faces perhaps the steepest climb in the state’s key races this November: a general election contest in the Third Congressional District against Representative Tom MacArthur, a wealthy incumbent in a firmly red district that Mr. Trump won handily in 2016.

As many other New Jersey Republicans have distanced themselves from the administration, voting against the tax law and efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Mr. MacArthur has been a loyal supporter, potentially alienating more centrist voters who have grown wary of the president.

Atop the Democratic ticket in New Jersey was Mr. Menendez, who, despite having weathered a lengthy corruption trial and receiving a blistering admonishment from the Senate Ethics committee, faced only a little known challenger, Lisa McCormick, in the primary. But Ms. McCormick, who had no federal finance filings, no ads and no major campaign apparatus, still managed to garner nearly 40 percent of the vote — a sign, perhaps, that many Democrats voted in protest for a candidate they did not know rather than support the scandal-singed Mr. Menendez.

The general election promises to be hard-fought and potentially ugly. Both candidates have sizable war chests, and both come with vulnerabilities that make them ripe for partisan attack — Mr. Menendez for his corruption case, and Mr. Hugin for the $280 million in fines his drug company, Celgene, paid last year for inappropriately marketing its cancer drugs.

In Montana, a state Mr. Trump carried by 20 points in 2016, the primary contest for Jon Tester’s Senate seat is a pivotal race for Republicans hoping to retain or build upon their slim majority in the Senate. Mr. Tester will face Matt Rosendale, the state auditor, who won the Republican nomination Tuesday in a narrow victory over Russ Fagg.

Mr. Trump has taken particular interest in the race — and in savaging Mr. Tester on Twitter and elsewhere — ever since the senator helped to derail the nomination of Mr. Trump’s personal physician, Ronny L. Jackson, to be his secretary of veterans affairs. But Mr. Tester remains a modest favorite, according to officials in both parties, in part because Mr. Rosendale is not viewed as a robust challenger.

In Alabama on Tuesday, it was a Republican who seemed to pay a price for running afoul of Mr. Trump. Ms. Roby fell short of the 50 percent threshold required to win outright, after withdrawing support for Mr. Trump in 2016 following the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he boasted of sexually assaulting women.

Though Ms. Roby has taken care to project loyalty to the White House since Mr. Trump’s victory, she had attracted a spirited challenge from several competitors. In the Republican runoff, she will face Bobby Bright, a one-time Democratic congressman and the former mayor of Montgomery. (Elsewhere on the ballot, Gov. Kay Ivey, who replaced Robert Bentley after he resigned in disgrace last year, avoided a runoff in her race by clearing 50 percent of the vote.)

Regardless of which Republican is on the ballot for Ms. Roby’s deep-red district in November, the seat is highly unlikely to fall into Democratic hands.

The same cannot be said for competitive races in Iowa — which also had its primary on Tuesday — where two Republicans in the House, Rod Blum and David Young, are expected to face tough tests in their re-election bids this fall. Mr. Young’s opponent will be Cindy Axne, a business owner and activist. She routed Pete D’Alessandro, who led Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 caucus campaign in Iowa — and earned his former boss’s endorsement in this race, to little avail.

Mr. Blum will be running against Abby Finkenauer, a state legislator.

Iowa Democrats are also working to knock off Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican. She will square off against Fred Hubbell, a business executive and longtime Democratic donor.

In New Mexico, Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, prevailed in the Democratic primary for governor. If elected, she would be the first Latina Democratic governor in the United States, replacing Gov. Susana Martinez, a term-limited Republican who is also Latina. Steve Pearce, a conservative congressman, won the Republican nomination.

In the race to replace Ms. Lujan Grisham in the House, Deb Haaland, who is campaigning to be the first Native American woman in Congress, took the Democratic nomination. Ms. Haaland, a former state Democratic Party chairwoman, has far outpaced her rivals in fund-raising for a seat that is expected to remain blue.

Among the other states voting on Tuesday were South Dakota, where Kristi Noem won the Republican primary for governor and the opportunity to face Billie Sutton, and Mississippi, which held its primaries for a Senate seat occupied by Roger Wicker. Mr. Wicker, a Republican, won his primary Tuesday night and is expected to be re-elected without major incident.

But Democratic leaders have trained their attention most intensely on to Republican-held House seats in blue states like New Jersey.

In the Seventh District along the western part of New Jersey, Representative Leonard Lance easily defeated two challengers Tuesday to win the Republican primary, and is expected to face his first tough general election in a decade for a seat that has been held by Republicans since 1981. His opponent will be Tom Malinowski, a former assistant secretary of state, who had raised more than $1.2 million in his effort to capture the Democratic nomination.

Part of the intense focus on seats in New Jersey involves the unpopularity of Mr. Trump and his policies. The administration’s early signature accomplishments, most notably the overhaul of the tax system, took aim at high-tax states like New Jersey. And the plan to open offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast drew widespread condemnation up and down the Jersey Shore, a cherished resource and tourism destination.

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