Midterms: Who will be GOP candidate for Senate in Arizona? Will Trump’s pick win in Florida?

Republican candidates for U.S. Senate (from left) Martha McSally, Joe Arpaio and Kelli Ward.

WASHINGTON — The final match-ups for what are shaping up to be two of the most competitive Senate races in the country will be decided Tuesday.

Voters in Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma will be the final three states to have a series of big primaries with just over two months to go until the general election Nov. 8.

The blockbuster race Tuesday is the GOP primary to replace Sen. Jeff Flake who is retiring at the end of the year. Rep. Martha McSally – the establishment pick – will face off against physician and former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (yes, the one who President Trump pardoned.).

A similarly heated GOP primary will take place in Florida where the president’s pick for governor could beat the establishment’s choice of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

And in deep-red Oklahoma, voters will have resolution after a few races were left hanging because of the state’s mandatory run-off rule.

Here’s what we’re watching for in Tuesday’s primary:.


The GOP Senate race has all of the candidates – including McSally, who, as a centrist House member refused to say if she voted for President Trump in 2016 – running as close to the president as possible. Trump has said favorable things about all of the candidates and hasn’t officially endorsed any of them. McSally may have the closest, though. Most recently he praised McSally during a bill signing this month and has had her frequently to the White House.

McSally is the favorite to win, the Real Clear Politics polling average has her up 8 percentage points. Political strategists say that if McSally wins the state, Republicans will have a much better chance of beating likely Democratic candidate Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema is facing off against lawyer and consultant Deedra Abboud, but she’s assumed to win the Democratic nomination and already running as if she’s in the general election.

Explore more:  Chicken nuggets sold at Sam's Club recalled

Both McSally and Sinema leave behind competitive House districts. Although, McSally’s Congressional District 2 is one of the biggest battlegrounds in the country. McSally is vacating her southern Arizona seat where voters split almost exactly between Democrats and Republicans and it’s a packed primary on both sides of the aisle.

There are four people running for the GOP nomination, but Lea Marquez Peterson, CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is the favorite of national Republicans. Meanwhile, there are seven Democrats trying to be the one to flip the district back to blue, but two favorites. Physician Matt Heinz ran against McSally in 2016 and he’d like to be the Democratic nominee again. But former U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick – who represented a different district in the state – is talked about as the favorite in the crowded field.

Rep. Tom O’Halleran is running to keep his seat in Congressional District 1, it’s one of just a handful of districts President Trump won in 2016 but is held by a Democrat. He has no primary opponent, but there are three Republicans vying for the chance to beat him in the general election.

Wendy Rogers, a pro-Trump retired Air Force colonel; Tiffany Shedd, a lawyer and cotton farmer, and Steve Smith, a former state lawmaker are all competing for the GOP nomination.

Rep. David Schweikert – a conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus – represents a district that has been red for years.

But Democrats are hoping shifting boundaries and an ethics investigation against Schweikert will combine with an educated electorate to put the district in play this November.

Schweikert is running unopposed on the Republican side for Congressional District 6. Anita Mali, who works in technology and communications, Garrick McFadden, a lawyer, and Heather Ross, a nurse practitioner, are all competing for the Democratic nomination.

GOP Governor Doug Ducey is running for re-election. Even though the state has had a Republican governor for 21 of the last 27 years, Ducey faces headwinds in the general election because of energized Democrats and voters who are unhappy with public education.

Ducey is facing a primary challenge from a former Arizona Secretary of State and Arizona Senate president Ken Bennett. There is a three-way primary for the Democratic nomination: state lawmaker Steve Farley, Kelly Fryer who was the CEO of the YWCA of Southern Arizona and army veteran David Garcia.

Explore more:  indiana hoosiers football


Arizona isn’t the only state with primaries set for Tuesday that could determine the control of the Senate in November.

If Arizona is one of the Democrats’ top offensive states this cycle, Florida offers one of the country’s biggest pickup opportunities for Republicans. But on Tuesday, race watchers don’t expect many surprises in the match-up.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is unopposed. On the GOP-side Florida Gov. Rick Scott is the clear favorite, though he is facing a challenge from perennial candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente.

The real state-level drama lies in the GOP primary for governor where Rep. Ron DeSantis, a hardline conservative and a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, faces off against Adam Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner. Establishment Republicans are hoping Putnam pulls it off because they see him as having the best chance of winning the purple state.

But President Trump has other plans. The president has endorsed DeSantis and rallied for him in Florida and polling shows DeSantis is ahead. There are a half-dozen other Republicans also vying for the nomination, but the race is assumed to be between DeSantis and Putnam.

On the Democrats’ side, there are multiple candidates hoping to be the party’s nominee – and three of them have government experience. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum are all competing for their next job in government. There are also a handful of other candidates running. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Graham as the favorite.

If the Democratic wave hits Florida there are a handful of Democratic pick-up opportunities in the Sunshine state. But there are three races analysts are watching closely. There are two GOP-held seats won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and one of them – Florida’s 27th Congressional District – is now open with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen retiring. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

Curbelo is running for re-election in a district Clinton won handedly. He is facing a challenger from his own party but is expected to win. On the Democratic side, retired Navy Commander Demetries Grimes and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a health care advocate, will face off for their party’s nomination.

Explore more:  Honda broadening Clarity into environmental car brand

Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement means the 27th District is now an open race and it’s a packed primary on both sides. National Republicans have recruited former Univision reporter Maria Elvira Salazar, but she must beat eight other candidates on the right.

On the Democratic side, Donna Shalala, secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton and former president of the University of Miami, and state Rep. David Richardson have been pulling in the most money but they’ll face off against additional Democrats.

Rep. Brian Mast is the GOP incumbent running for re-election in District 18, but first he’s got to make it past two Republicans, entrepreneur Dave Cummings and physician Mark Freeman. Both Cummings and Freeman mounted bids after Mast called for a temporary moratorium on assault weapons sales. On the left, former Obama foreign relations advisor Lauren Baer, has the support of most national Democrats. Baer is running against Navy veteran and lawyer Pam Keith, who previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2016.


Oklahoma had its primary back in June, but the state requires a run-off if no candidate gets a majority of the vote. So there will be rematches for a handful of races around the state.

The GOP nominee for governor should be decided Tuesday between former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and businessman Kevin Stitt.

If Democrats take back the House, it likely won’t be through Oklahoma, a state that has no Democratic members of its congressional delegation. Race handicappers say no Oklahoma seat is in much danger of turning red.

But the state does have an open seat in the 1st Congressional District after former Rep. Jim Bridenstine became director of NASA. Tuesday will cement that match-up. Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris and McDonald’s franchiser Kevin Hern will battle for the GOP spot. On the left, education advocate Amanda Douglas and lawyer Tim Gilpin will go head-to-head.

Contributing: Ledyard King and Herb Jackson in Washington, Yvonne Wingett-Sanchez, Ronald J. Hansen and Richard Ruelas in Phoenix, Ariz.

Related Posts