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What to know about midterm election politics this week

Can Democrats take the House and Senate?

On Tuesday night there will be primary elections in Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky and primary runoff elections in Texas. None of the Tuesday primaries are likely to dramatically affect how competitive any of these races are (or are not) in the fall. But here are some points of interest in this week's races.


Previewing key races in Georgia ahead of primary elections

Georgia has a competitive gubernatorial race, where eight candidates are running to replace Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, including five GOP candidates and two female Democratic candidates with legislative experience, former state House minority leader Stacey Abrams and former state representative Stacey Evans. 

Abrams is running to be the nation's first black female governor and has received the endorsements of progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders as well as Emily's List. Evans is running a more mainstream campaign. Still, their politics are similar, and as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests, the biggest difference between the two may boil down to their approach to the gubernatorial campaign: "Evans is banking on a more conventional Democratic strategy of winning over independent voters and moderates, particularly suburban women, who have fled to the GOP. Abrams, however, has staked her campaign on energizing 800,000 left-leaning voters, many of whom are minorities, who rarely cast ballots. She argues that Evans' approach clings to the same strategy that led the party to defeats in the last four statewide races." 

Race has also played a central issue in the primary. Last August, Abrams supporters protested Evans at the Netroots Conference, chanting "trust black women." Education, too, has played a major role in this race. Evans went to college on a HOPE scholarship and has faulted Abrams for working with state Republican leaders to make cuts to that very program. The AJC also uncovered "that Abrams owes more than $50,000 in taxes to the IRS and another $170,000 in credit card bills and student loans, raising questions about how she handles her finances." 

On the Republican side, the candidates running for governor are using the same playbook as those running in the West Virginia and Indiana primaries, with candidates racing toward President Trump and trying to one-up each other by embracing his tone, policies and rhetoric. All five GOP candidates are drawing a hard line on immigration, as Mr. Trump did during his successful presidential campaign. 

AP points to this ad: "State Sen. Michael Williams, former state co-chair for Trump's campaign, ran an ad featuring a 'Deportation Bus' that he says will be used to send home people in the country illegally. The back of the bus warns of murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molesters and other criminals on board and says, 'Follow me to Mexico.'" 

In a debate hosted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News Sunday, the candidates also took a hard line on gun control. None of the Republican candidates said new gun control measures were needed, after the Texas high school shooting two days earlier. 

CBS News rates the race for Georgia's 6th Congressional District as a competitive House race. Karen Handel, who won the nationally-watched special election against Jon Ossoff in 2017, is running unopposed in Tuesday's primary, but four Democrats are competing for the right to face her in the fall. 

Statewide, the AJC also notes that a surge of candidates are seeking office in Georgia, particularly women: 

Hundreds of candidates signed up to run for a sweep of races that included every statewide constitutional office, U.S. House seat and Georgia legislative contest. In the Georgia Senate, the number of women qualifying shot up by 40 percent compared with the 2016 election. There was a 25 percent bump of female candidates in the House. About 20 seats in both chambers are open, virtually all vacated by Republicans seeking higher office or retiring. Democrats have had little problem finding candidates to run. The party competed in 82 of 180 House races in the last vote. This year, they'll have candidates in 121 contests -- including most of the 14 GOP-held districts that Hillary Clinton carried two years ago in the presidential contest. It's the most candidates the party has boasted since 2004, and they're launching uphill battles in deep-red districts from Brunswick to Rome. Even House Speaker David Ralston drew a Democratic challenger for the first time in more than a decade.


In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchison is seeking the nomination to run for a second term, while Democrats compete in a primary to challenge him in the fall. Voters will also choose their candidates in four House districts currently held by Republicans. Incumbent French Hill is seeking re-election in AR-2, and the race recently received some national attention in a New York Times story on the struggle between progressive and moderate Democrats hoping to compete against him this fall. The DCCC has endorsed moderate Clarke Tucker over more liberal rivals.


In Kentucky, voters will choose their candidates in six House seats. CBS News ranks KY-6 as competitive, where Democrats are competing to take on Republican incumbent Rep. Andy Barr in the fall.


The Texas primary took place on March 6, but on Tuesday we'll see the runoff elections between the top two candidates in races where no one secured more than 50 percent of the vote. This includes the race between Texas's Democratic gubernatorial candidates, former Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez and businessman Andrew White, who are hoping to run against Gov. Abbott this fall.

Democrats will also vote in runoffs in 11 congressional districts, and Republicans will vote in runoffs in six congressional districts.

CBS News rates TX-7 in West Houston as competitive, and on Tuesday night, Democrats will determine which candidate will compete against incumbent GOP Rep. John Culberson in the fall. Attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher will face off against liberal activist Laura Moser. The  DCCC posted negative research on Moser, angering progressive liberals ahead of the March 6 primary.

CBS News also ranks TX-23 as competitive. On Tuesday night, the Democrats will decide whether Gina Ortiz Jones or Rick Trevino will compete against incumbent Republican Rep. Wil Hurd this fall.

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