Tuesday's big primary takeaways

Far-left Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s upset victory over former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary was among results of Tuesday’s voting that should give President Trump and Republicans increased confidence heading toward the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Many GOP strategists believe the Democratic Party is moving too far to the left for its own good, alienating moderates and thereby increasing the chances of Republican victories in the race for Florida governor and other contests around the country in the fall.

Gillum, who would become Florida’s first black governor if he is elected in November, was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and received financial support from far-left billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer, who is funding an ad campaign calling for President Trump’s impeachment. Democratic socialist U.S. House candidate from New York City Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez congratulated Gillum on his victory.

The Tallahassee mayor has embraced radical positions like Medicare for all, abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, and legalizing marijuana.

Gillum prevailed over more moderate Democrats in the gubernatorial primary including Graham, the daughter the state’s former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham. Gillum captured 34.3 percent of the primary vote to 31.3 percent for Graham, with other candidates winning remaining votes.

On the GOP side, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis – who was endorsed by President Trump – easily defeated State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to win the party’s nomination for governor. DeSantis won 56.5 percent of the primary vote, while Putnam received 36.6 percent.

A former member of the GOP leadership in the U.S. House, Putnam has been planning his gubernatorial bid for at least a decade and began the campaign as the presumed front-runner because of his name recognition statewide.

But that was not enough to overcome the power of a Trump endorsement, which DeSantis – a frequent defender of the president on TV – received even before officially launching his campaign.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is term-limited and could not run for re-election, collected 88.6 percent of the vote in the GOP U.S. Senate primary against a nuisance opponent, making him look like an even bigger threat to knock off long-time Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

Scott has slowly been building a lead in the polls and has some Democrats reportedly thinking, at least behind closed doors, that they should be looking for a way to get the lackluster Nelson to bow out for the good of the party before the November election.

Looking at the Florida vote totals, with both the Republicans and Democrats having contested primaries at the top of the ticket, it seems it is the Democrats who are lagging in the increasingly pivotal state.

The total Democratic vote was just over 1.5 million, while more than 1.6 million people turned out to vote for Republican candidates.

If Gillum becomes a drag on the Democratic ticket because of his far-left positions, he could end up presiding over a debacle in the fall that has national implications.

Democratic hopes to win back control of the U.S. House rest at least in part on taking seats from the GOP in Florida, where two districts currently represented by Republican incumbents voted for Hillary Clinton for president.

Based on the balloting totals from Tuesday, the Democrats look likely to flip only one of those seats. Republicans have a good shot at taking one or more seats away from the Democrats if strong GOP candidates at the top of the ticket can pull them across the finish line first.

Arizona

Arizona voters also picked nominees for the November ballot on Tuesday. To no one’s surprise, Trump-backed GOP Gov. Doug Ducey – like the president, a former corporate CEO with no political experience before winning his first elective office – easily won re-nomination.

Ducey defeated former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who was badly outspent.

The governor will face Democrat David Garcia, an Arizona State University education professor and military veteran, in the fall. Garcia favors raising income taxes on wealthy Arizonans to increase school funding and advocates withdrawing Arizona National Guard troops from the state’s border with Mexico. He won a three-candidate primary.

But if the primary is any indication, Garcia has a tough row to hoe. With a little less than two-thirds of the vote in and counted, the Democrats had polled a hair under total 359,000 votes in their gubernatorial primary, while the GOP is sitting comfortably at just under 460,000 votes.

In the hotly contested Arizona GOP primary for U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally – who was endorsed by a slew of national Republicans but not by President Trump – easily prevailed over former state Sen. Kelli Ward and ex-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

McSally will face off in November against Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who easily won her party’s primary. Here again, there were more Republican votes cast among three candidates than there were Democratic votes cast between two candidates. That means the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake – who retired rather than face what the polls suggested was certain defeat – is a likely bet to remain in the GOP column.

Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, GOP voters picked businessman Kevin Stitt in a Republican runoff as their candidate for governor to go up against former state Attorney General Drew Edmundson in November.

Stitt, who campaigned as a businessman and outsider, prevailed in a runoff election against Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. The runoff was made necessary by the failure of any candidate in the race to win more than 50 percent of the vote in the June primary.

Incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin, who is term-limited, has become increasingly unpopular with voters, thanks especially to her efforts to raise taxes. That means Democrats think they may have a shot at winning in what has become one of the nation’s most reliably Republican states.

In the runoff to pick candidates in the open 1st District U.S. House seat previously occupied by Republican Jim Bridenstine, who President Trump took out of the House to head NASA, GOP voters chose as their candidate businessman Kevin Kern over former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris. The seat is expected to stay in the Republican column come November.