Don’t look now, but the primary season is already upon us.
Texas officially kicked things off this week, as early voting began ahead of the March 1 primaries. CNN’s David Wright noted Friday that more than $72 million total has now been spent on campaign ads in Texas this cycle, with the main focus being on the GOP primaries for governor and attorney general, as well as the Democratic primary in the state’s 28th Congressional District.
After Texas, there will be a lull in the primary calendar until May. Our CNN colleagues Gregory Krieg and Ethan Cohen outlined the dates of when each state is slated to hold their primary elections. (Some dates could still change as states complete the redistricting process.)
While just about every Election Day this year will host at least one primary battle of note, there were five dates that particularly stood out as loaded with critical races to watch.
May 17: Both parties will select their nominees in two key open seat Senate races this day: Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where GOP Sens. Pat Toomey and Richard Burr are retiring. Elsewhere in the perennial battleground of Pennsylvania, the parties will also pick their nominees in the governor’s race, which is also open due to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf being term-limited.
May 24: Two especially noteworthy Republican primary battles occur this day. In Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks has struggled out of the gate, despite winning former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, in the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby.
Similarly in Georgia, former Sen. David Perdue’s Trump-backed primary challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp has not caught on the way some in the party expected. Georgia Republicans will also vote their candidate to run against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
June 7: The first Tuesday in June is the busiest day on the calendar, with seven states holding primaries: California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. California, which has a top-two primary system, is expected to host several toss-up House races this fall.
August 2: This may be the most jam-packed primary day of the year. In Arizona, Republicans will choose a nominee to face off against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly and both parties will choose nominees for the open governor’s race. In Kansas, Republicans will determine who will take on two vulnerable Democrats: Gov. Laura Kelly and Rep. Sharice Davids.
In Michigan, two House Republican impeachment backers, Peter Meijer and Fred Upton, confront Trump-supported challengers. Republicans will also select nominees to take on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Dan Kildee ahead of competitive general elections. In Missouri, Republicans will be watching nervously to see if scandal-plagued former Gov. Eric Greitens emerges from a crowded primary field.
And in Washington, another top-two primary state, two more impeachment supporters, GOP Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, go up against Trump-backed challengers.
August 16: Two more Trump-centric fights headline this Tuesday. In Alaska, which uses a top-four primary system, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, faces Kelly Tshibaka, who is endorsed by the former President. And Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the top GOP target for Trump and his allies, matches up with primary foe Harriet Hageman.
The Point: In just 11 days, Texas will provide a taste of what’s to come this primary season. But it won’t be until later this spring and summer that we start to get a clearer picture of the playing field in key Senate, House and governors’ races.