Women, progressives, and Democrats generally had a good night in last Tuesday’s primaries, but some rain fell on their parade: Most of the women who won will now face GOP incumbents in red-trending districts, where they can prevail only with a strong blue wind at their backs; they’ll be fighting uphill in November.
That wasn’t the case on this Tuesday night.
In Pennsylvania, a state with an all-male House of Representatives delegation, women won the nomination in four of the six races where Democrats are given the best chance of toppling a Republican, and in a couple more districts where victory will be tough, but still possible. In state legislative races, four women backed by the Democratic Socialists of America defeated male incumbents in their Democratic primaries. Three don’t have Republican opponents, meaning they’re almost certainly headed to Harrisburg. More than 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans turned out on primary day.
Meanwhile, in red Nebraska, DSA-backed Kara Eastman defeated Brad Ashford, a former US House member who was supported by the Democratic establishment. That race is shaping up to be a test of the party’s focus on so-called “electability”; the moderate Ashford was seen as more palatable to Nebraskans than the progressive woman candidate (even feminist groups like Emily’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice America stayed out of the race). Obviously, the district’s Democratic-primary electorate disagreed. “We’re assessing the race,” Emily’s List campaign-communications director Julie McClain Downey told me in an e-mail after Eastman’s victory. “It’s a tough seat, but we were excited to see Kara win her primary.” In another upset, Nebraska voters chose a Democratic woman, Lincoln City Council member Jane Reybould, to challenge incumbent Senator Deb Fischer.
In Idaho, progressive State Representative Paulette Jordan crushed a moderate opponent to become not only the first female but the first Native American Democratic nominee; if she wins she’d be the state’s first female governor and both the state’s and the country’s first Native American governor.
And in Oregon, incumbent Governor Kate Brown defeated two primary opponents, while first-time candidate Tiffiny Mitchell, backed by unions, environmentalists, and Emily’s List, won an upset victory for a State House seat.
The Pennsylvania House races got the most attention, because they were the first after the state was required to draw new district maps, since a court found the old maps favored Republicans. Air Force veteran, former teacher, and businesswoman Chrissy Houlahan, whose primary opponents dropped out, has the best chance of winning, since incumbent Representative Ryan Costello retired after the new maps were drawn, and also after the filing deadline, so the only Republican candidate is virtually unknown. State Representative Madeleine Dean has an almost equally good chance in November; she crushed her primary opponents to face newcomer Republican nominee Dan David, in a newly drawn district within whose borders Hillary Clinton prevailed by 20 points.