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Arizona primaries to take place days after McCain's death - what to watch in politics this week

Female Virginia voters on women in politics

Here are the top trends and people to watch in politics this week ...

  • Arizona and the nation lose a giant
  • Algae is major issue in Florida Senate race
  • Women, veterans and political rookies fight on

After McCain's death, Arizona soon to have two new senators

On Saturday night, Arizona -- and the country -- lost a giant. Sen. John McCain was described as a "maverick," bucking party leadership over the course of his career in public service on everything from immigration to campaign finance reform to healthcare. He was an independent thinker and voice in the Senate, known for putting country above party, and forming unlikely friendships with Democrats like Sens. Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, to name a few. Arizona's junior senator, Jeff Flake, has followed that example, proving to be an independent voice in the upper chamber. He, too, is a vocal critic of President Trump and an avid proponent of comprehensive immigration reform.

But Arizona's GOP is no longer the party of Flake or McCain. Flake opted not to run for re-election, knowing that his criticism of the president would make it hard for him to win a primary.

On Tuesday, Arizona Republicans are choosing between three GOP candidates to fill Flake's open seat. They all want want tougher immigration laws, tout their support for Mr. Trump, and are fighting to be the most "conservative." Rep. Martha McSally, an Air Force veteran and the presumed frontrunner who is preferred by party leaders, has spent the last year trying to burnish her conservative credentials as she faces two challengers to her right -- Kelli Ward and former sheriff Joe Arpaio. 

There was no love lost between McCain and Ward nor McCain and Arpaio. Ward, a former state senator and Trump-like politician who primaried McCain in 2016, does not have the president's endorsement but is nevertheless running on her closeness to Mr. Trump. She is campaigning with Pizzagate conspiracy promoter Mike Cernovich, and also has the support of conservatives Tomi Lahren and Rep. Steve King. 

Over the weekend, the Arizona Republic pointed out that a Ward campaign staffer had written a Facebook post questioning whether the McCain announcement that he would be ending his treatment was "a plan to take media attention" off the kickoff of a Ward campaign bus tour.  Ward responded on Facebook, "I think they wanted to have a particular narrative that they hope is negative to me" and later deleted her comment.

McCain was a longtime critic of Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County who was pardoned by Mr. Trump for federal crimes of racial profiling amid criticism from both Arizona senators.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination is set to face Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, a popular moderate Democrat, this November. A polling average has McSally with a solid lead over her Republican competitors ranging from 2 to 13 points. In another poll, McSally has a 20 point advantage over Ward.

As for McCain's seat, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, will appoint a replacement to serve until the 2020 election. Whoever wins the 2020 election will serve the remainder of McCain's term, which ends in 2022. On Sunday, Ducey's office announced that he would not name a successor until after McCain is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Maryland. ""Now is a time for remembering and honoring a consequential life well lived," Ducey's senior communications adviser Daniel Ruiz said in a statement.

The big issue in Florida Senate race: Algae 

Toxic blue-green algae is polluting Florida's waterways, harming the tourism industry and affecting the quality of life of Florida residents. Incumbent Bill Nelson and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have both released ads attacking each other for causing the problem. The main body of water in question is Lake Okeechobee, where its discharge has affected wildlife along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida. Nelson blames Scott for the problem, saying his administration slashed funding for environmental protection programs. Scott blames Nelson, saying the U.S. Senate has yet to vote on authorizing funding for a major Everglades reservoir project.

Control of the airwaves will play a large role in the Florida Senate race from now through November. According to USA Today, Scott and Republican allies have dominated the airwaves, spending up to $47.6 million through July, compared to Nelson's $17.4 million. Nelson is poised to fight back from August to Election Day -- he and his allies have reserved $42 million in broadcast, cable and satellite television ad buys. In contrast, Scott and his allies have $18.3 million reserved in that same time period.

Women, veterans and political rookies fight on

  • Arizona's Senate race to fill retiring Flake's open seat is shaping up to be a battle between two women -- Republican Martha McSally or Kelli Ward and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, ensuring that the seats formerly occupied by Flake and Minnesota's Al Franken will be filled by women.
  • In Minnesota, Democratic incumbent Sen. Tina Smith who was appointed to fill Franken's seat this year is competing against Republican Karin Housley.
  • The race to fill McSally's open House seat in Arizona's 2nd District could shape up to be a race between two women as well, with Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick and Republican Lea Marquez Peterson, a political rookie and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber, hoping to win their respective party's nomination.
  • In Arizona's competitive 1st District, three Republicans are vying for the chance to compete against Democratic incumbent Rep. Tom O'Halleran this fall -- retired Air Force pilot Wendy Rogers, first-time candidate, farmer and attorney Tiffany Shedd, and state legislator Steve Smith.
  • Army veteran David Garcia is hoping to win Arizona's Democratic gubernatorial nomination to take on Republican incumbent Doug Ducey.
  • The frontrunner in the GOP primary to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida's competitive 27th District is first-time candidate Maria Elvira Salazar, a reporter who has worked for CNN, Univision, and Telemundo.
  • Lauren Baer, a political rookie, attorney, and former senior policy adviser to former U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, as well as former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, is seeking the Democratic nomination to compete against incumbent Republican Rep. Brian Mast in Florida's competitive 18th District. She is competing against Pam Keith, a a U.S. Navy veteran and attorney who made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2016.
  • Chardo Richardson, an Air Force veteran and first-time candidate who has most recently worked with the Central Florida Chapter of the ACLU, is challenging incumbent Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Tuesday's Democratic primary for Florida's competitive 7th District. Richardson has been endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow member of Brand New Congress.

What to know about Tuesday's primaries: Arizona and Florida

House primaries

The Democrats need to flip 23 Republican-held districts to take control of the House of Representatives this fall, and CBS News rates 6 of the House districts facing primary elections Tuesday as "very likely" or "probably" competitive in November (AZ-1, AZ-2, FL-7, FL-18, FL-26 and FL-27).

Senate primaries

Arizona and Florida each have one Senate primary election on Tuesday.

In Arizona, Republican Rep. Martha McSally is hoping to secure the nomination from challengers Ward and Arpaio and take on Sinema this November in the race to fill Flake's open Senate seat.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott will face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this fall. Nelson is one of 10 Democratic U.S. senators trying to defend seats in states that Mr. Trump won in 2016.

Gubernatorial primaries

Arizona

Incumbent Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is running for re-election. He is supported by the Republican Governors Association, and now faces perhaps the biggest decision of his career, appointing Sen. John McCain's replacement.

On the Democratic side, David Garcia, Kelly Fryer and state Sen. Steve Farley are competing for their party's nomination. Garcia, an Army veteran, is the apparent frontrunner. Education will be a central topic in the governor's race after teacher walkouts earlier this year, and Garcia is running on education, touring the state in a yellow school bus. Garcia is counting on increased voter turnout among the Latino community this cycle. Farley, the assistant minority leader in the state Senate, is a policy wonk focused on closing tax loopholes. Fryer is the executive director of the Tucson YMCA. She also ran a consulting company and is an ordained minister.

Florida

Sitting Republican Gov. Rick Scott is running for the U.S. Senate seat against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, a staunch supporter of President Trump, is hoping to replace Scott as governor. Mr. Trump held a rally for DeSantis and Scott in Florida, and DeSantis released an ad showing his support for the president, including building a toy "wall" with his child and teaching his baby to talk by saying the words "Make America Great Again." 

In a rally in West Virginia last week, Mr. Trump said DeSantis called him and asked for an endorsement.  Adam Putnam, Florida's agriculture commissioner with deep ties in the state, is challenging DeSantis in the Republican primary. Putnam has been in elected office since he was 22 and has received the support of Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi and 45 Florida sheriffs. Although Putnam has criticized DeSantis for being a puppet for Mr. Trump, he is also quick to say he supports the President's agenda. Most polls show the Republican primary race will be tight.

The Democratic field is more crowded, with five candidates running: Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene and Chris King. However, polling indicates Graham is the clear frontrunner. In a Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative, Graham garnered 29 percent support among likely voters. Levine came in second with 17 percent. One poll shows the race tightening with Graham in the lead by only two points over Levine. The same poll showed Gillum is surging. Graham is a former congresswoman who has received an endorsement from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, has campaigned with Sen. Bernie Sanders and is running on impeaching Mr. Trump and on Medicare for All. Levine is the former Miami Beach mayor.