Takeaways from first primaries since Roe v. Wade overturned
NEW YORK— A rare Republican who supports abortion rights found success in Colorado in the first primary elections held since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, while New York's first female governor positioned herself to become a major voice in the post-Roe landscape.
In Illinois, Democrats helped boost a Republican gubernatorial candidate loyal to former President Donald Trump in the hopes that he would be the easier candidate to beat in November. And in at least two states, election deniers were defeated, even as pro-Trump lightning rods elsewhere won.
Takeaways from the latest round of primary elections:
ABORTION IS ON THE BALLOT
The abortion debate consumed the nation this week, but there was no race where it mattered more than Colorado’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, where businessman Joe O'Dea became one of the only abortion-rights-supporting Republicans in the nation to win a statewide primary this year.
O'Dea beat back a stiff challenge from state Rep. Ron Hanks, a Trump loyalist who opposed abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.
O'Dea will face Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in November, and if he wins, he would become just the third Senate Republican — and the only male — to support abortion rights.
He said he backs a ban on late-term abortions and government funding of abortions but that the decision to terminate a pregnancy in the initial months is “between a person and their God.”
Democrats had spent at least $2.5 million on ads designed to boost O'Dea's opponent by promoting, among other things, that he was “too conservative” for backing a complete abortion ban.
Democrats hoped that the Roe decision would give them an advantage in several swing states, including Colorado. But, at least for now, O'Dea's victory would seem to complicate the Democrats' plans.
A WIN FOR TRUMP OR THE DEMOCRATS?
In the final weeks of a campaign, Trump once again attached himself to a Republican who was leading the race. This time, it was farmer Darren Bailey in Illinois, who easily cruised to the GOP nomination in the governor's race.
But while Trump can add Bailey to his endorsement record, Democrats are betting that his victory may be short-lived.
Bailey now goes on to face Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the November general election, which is just what Pritzker and his allies wanted. Pritzker, the billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, and the Democratic Governors Association spent heavily on advertising to help Bailey win the GOP nomination. Among other things, the ads reminded the state's Democratic-leaning electorate that he is “100% pro-life.”
It's a risky gamble. While Bailey may look like an easier opponent in the general election, it's feasible that he could ride a red wave — if it materializes — to the Illinois governor's mansion. Pritzker's predecessor in office was a Republican.
Bailey showed off political acumen by besting the early Republican front-runner Richard Irvin, the mayor of Illinois' second-largest city, Aurora. Irvin lost despite being the beneficiary of a staggering $50 million investment from billionaire Ken Griffin. Irvin, who is Black, refused to say whether he voted for Trump and largely avoided talking about abortion, delivering the kind of moderate message that could have cut across ideological lines in a general election.
Instead, Republicans nominated Bailey, a Trump loyalist who reads from Bible verses in campaign videos and proudly touts his anti-abortion policies in a state Trump lost by 17 percentage points in 2020.
The scandals of the men around her did not derail New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, who overcame primary challengers on the right and left to win her first election test as the state's chief executive.
Now, Hochul, New York's first female governor, is positioned to emerge as a leading voice in the Democratic Party as it navigates the post-Roe landscape.
The low-profile Hochul stepped into one of the nation's most prominent governorships last fall after Andrew Cuomo resigned in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal. She had promised to restore New Yorkers' faith in their government, only for her handpicked lieutenant governor to be arrested this spring in a federal corruption probe.
Hochul was either “consistently shamefully out of the loop, or shamefully enabling through her inaction," charged one of her primary challengers, New York City’s elected public advocate, Jumaane Williams.
The attack ultimately didn't land in the primary. But don't expect such criticism to disappear as the race for New York governor enters its next phase.