House incumbents, crime, and Trump’s endorsements put to the test as SEVEN states hold primaries 

House incumbents, crime, homelessness and Trump’s endorsements put to the test as SEVEN states head to the polls for their primaries

  • California and crime move to center stage in Tuesday’s primaries
  • Growing violent crime and homelessness are priorities for voters 
  • The issue is at the heart of race for mayor of Los Angeles and in the recall vote of a progressive district attorney in San Francisco
  • The results will show whether Democrats can pivot from years of justice reform
  • Elsewhere, Trump’s endorsements will be tested again

If the midterm primaries so far have been about former Donald Trump‘s endorsements and President Joe Biden‘s struggles with inflation, Tuesday night brings another dimension to the battle between left and right: Voters fears about crime and homelessness.

The liberal left coast goes to the polls with voters in California driven by a growing sense of lawlessness triggered by the pandemic.

The issue is dominating local contests and statewide races in Democratic cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.

At the same time, Trump faces another test of the power of his endorsement.

With Biden slumping in the polls and inflation showing no sign of easing, Republicans are hoping to win control of the House of Representatives and maybe the Senate in November. 

Tuesday’s elections will see which Republican incumbents can see off challengers to prepare for November battles that could determine control of the House. 

Voters in South Dakota, New Jersey, Iowa, Mississippi, New Mexico, Montana and California will go to the polls. 

Crime in California

Democratic Rep. Karen Bass

Republican billionaire Rick Caruso

Rising crime and homelessness have forced themselves to the center of the race to be mayor of Los Angeles, where progressive Rep. Karen Bass has proposed putting more police on the streets under pressure from Republican billionaire Rick Caruso who is running a close second

Caruso is proposing moving homeless people from camps into shelters

Caruso is proposing moving homeless people from camps into shelters

A University of Berkeley poll in April found that crime and lawlessness were voters’ number one concern, ahead of race relations, healthcare and the pandemic.

That could test a Democratic Party that has put criminal justice reform at the heart of its policies in recent years.

Two key battles will show how that debate shakes out.

In Los Angeles, Republican billionaire Rick Caruso is running second to Democratic U.S. Rep. Karen Bass in the race for mayor. They are the two candidates expected to head into a November run-off.

Caruso, who has juiced his campaigned with $30 million of his own cash, has put crime at the heart of his campaign in a city where homicides are running at a 15-year high. 

He wants 1500 more police officers and plans to move homeless people out of camps and into shelters.

Liberal Bass has moved to the center and promised to put more police on the streets.  

Meanwhile, San Francisco’s progressive district attorney is expected to be dumped out of office in a recall vote. 

Chesa Boudin – a 41-year-old former public defender whose parents were members of the radical 80s activist group Weather Underground – was elected on a platform of criminal justice reform in 2020. 

But residents say the city has become increasingly unsafe because of his soft-on-crime policies. 

The results from two reliably progressive cities will give Democrats an idea of how tough they will need to get on crime in November. 

San Francisco’s woke DA: A former public defender whose parents spent decades in prison over an armed robbery that left a cop dead

Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, Chesa Boudin's radical leftist parents, spent decades in prison after taking part in a botched armored vehicle robbery that left three dead

Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, Chesa Boudin’s radical leftist parents, spent decades in prison after taking part in a botched armored vehicle robbery that left three dead 

Chesa Boudin, a progressive Democrat, entered the San Francisco district attorney’s race as an underdog, running on a platform of ending mass incarceration and addressing racial disparities in law enforcement, and won by fewer than 3,000 ballots. Voters were taken by his unusual life story, which lends insight into his view on the criminal justice and prison system. 

When Boudin he was just 1 year old in 1981, his parents, who were members of the far-left Weather Underground, dropped him off with a babysitter and took part in an armored car robbery in upstate New York that left two police officers and a security guard dead.

His mother, Kathy Boudin, served 22 years behind bars and his father, David Gilbert, was jailed for life – until outgoing NY Governor Andrew Cuomo commuted his sentence for murder in August.

They didn’t fire shots that day and the victims were killed by the Black Liberation Army.

Boudin was cared for by members of a radical left-wing group and says his experiences of visiting his parents in jail galvanized his progressive views on law and order. 

Gilbert and other former members of the Weather Underground, a militant group that grew out of the anti-Vietnam War movement, had joined with members of the Black Liberation Army in the October 20, 1981, robbery. 

They stole $1.6 million in cash from an armored car outside the Nanuet Mall near the Hudson River community of Nyack.

Brink´s guard Peter Paige and two Nyack police officers, Sergeant Edward O´Grady and Officer Waverly Brown, were killed in the holdup and ensuing shootout at a nearby roadblock.

Though unarmed, Gilbert was charged with robbery and murder, since people were killed during the crime. Also charged was Chesa Boudin´s mother, Kathy Boudin. The boy was 14 months old when his parents were imprisoned.

Boudin was raised by his parents´ Weather Underground compatriots, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.   


Republican incumbents at risk 

If crime is putting pressure on Democrats, Republican leadership has its own problem with Trumpy insurgents.

National Republicans have spent big on propping up Reps. Young Kim in Orange County and David Valadao in the Central Valley to make sure they make it through to November’s midterms in two battleground districts.

Kim – viewed as a future star by her party leadership – is being challenged by Greg Raths, a pro-Donald Trump local councilor, who was recently accused of making anti-Semitic comments.

And Valadao, who was among the handful of House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, is under pressure from Chris Mathys, who has put that impeachment vote at the heart of his campaign.  

Democrats are watching with interest. They see the two districts as winnable, particularly if they are up against a Republican closely allied with Trump.

Such is their excitement, that a leading Democratic super PAC is running pro-Mathys ads.

‘David Valadao claims he’s Republican ― yet, David Valadao voted to impeach President Trump,’ says the narrator of the House Majority PAC ad. 

‘Yeah, Valadao voted to impeach President Trump.’

A Trump miss in South Dakota

Sen. John Thune criticized Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election but appears to be on course to survive the former president's threats to end his career

Sen. John Thune criticized Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election but appears to be on course to survive the former president’s threats to end his career

Trump tweeted: 'RINO John Thune, 'Mitch's boy', should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn't like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!'

Trump tweeted: ‘RINO John Thune, ‘Mitch’s boy’, should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!’

Trump’s endorsements have had ups and downs in the primaries so far. 

While political reporters seek headlines that tie his influence – or lack thereof – to the chances of a 2024 run and a return to the White House, his picks have won and lost on a range of local factors and national trends, of which the former president’s backing is only one part. 

Trump is likely to face some embarrassment when the South Dakota senate primary results come in. 

Sen. John Thune bills himself as right of center and criticized Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 saying they were ‘going down like a shot dog.’ 

Trump’s tweeted response was: ‘RINO John Thune, ‘Mitch’s boy’, should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!’

In the event, Thune’s primary challengers are polling less than 10 percent. But a senior senator, who is seen as Mitch McConnell’s possible successor as leader in the upper chamber, is not completely home and dry.

He is polling 46 percent among likely Republican voters, according to a recent South Dakota State University poll, with some 41 percent undecided.

New Jersey’s Republican test

Thomas Kean Jr. is on the primary ballot for the Republican nomination in New Jersey's Seventh Congressional District

Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski is at risk in November's election

New Jersey’s Seventh Congressional District will likely see Republican challenger Thomas Kean Jr. go up against Rep. Tom Malinowski in November. Kean faces a battle with the right in Tuesday’s primary and the outcome will give a sense of who is ascendant in the party

Republican voters in New Jersey will be picking a candidate to take on embattled Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski.

Not only has the incumbent had to admit failing to properly disclose thousands of dollars in stock trades, which triggered an investigation, his House district has been reshaped into a narrowly Republican one.

In 2020 he narrowly defeated Thomas Kean Jr., the son of a former governor. Kean is on the Republican ballot today, but has faced challenges from more Trumpy voices as he tried to occupy the center ground in a swing district.

The result of his primary may offer some insight into whether Republicans can keep up their momentum in key battlegrounds.

Voters in the state’s Seventh Congressional District include the sort of suburban bloc that helped flip control of the House to Democrats in 2018, and are likely to prove crucial once again. 

And it is one of the seats that could be key to Republicans regaining control in November. 


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