By: Tori Anderson Agee, Manager, Political Affairs, FMI

NEW GR ICON 2020 1024x1024A presidential election year is always a hustle – throw the COVID-19 pandemic into the mix and you’ll find you have the making of a crazy primary season. This pass month turned out to be one of the busiest election months — a record 19 states held their congressional primaries in June. Between shifting voting requirements and altering deadlines, the results of June elections will have an impact on the food industry. 

Surprises and Upsets 

With one-third of the country holding their primaries in June, we were guaranteed to witness some surprising losses and upsets. Thus far, five incumbents have been ousted with four of those elections taking place in June. 

1. Rep. Steve King (IA-04) lost GOP establishment backing after his controversial remarks over the years. Iowa Senator Randy Feenstra was finally able to end the Congressman’s run, winning by 10 points. Feenstra strengthened the GOP’s chances of maintaining its seat in the Hawkeye state.  

2. Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16) serves as the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. After serving in Congress for 31 years, Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16), lost handedly to the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-backed, progressive candidate, Jamaal Bowman. Bowman ended up winning the primary with 60% of the vote and will likely be headed to Congress in November.  

3. Rep. Denver Riggleman’s (VA-05) victory was one of the biggest surprises out of this primary season. A party-run convention took place via a drive-through format in Lynchburg where ballots were cast by around 2,500 party delegates. VA-05 is now considered a “Lean Republican” instead of “Likely Republican,” according to the Cook Political Report.

4. Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) was also a surprise upset. Until Tuesday night, Rep. Tipton was considered the front-runner. He lost to Lauren Boebert, who is a far-right QAnon supporter. The district has now gone from a “Solid Republican” seat to a “Likely Republican” seat as reported in the Cook Political Report.  

Toss-Up Seats 

Fourteen seats were considered “Toss Ups” this year. Ultimately, these seats will be crucial in deciding whether Democrats can keep the House.

1. In 2018, Rep. Steve Russell lost his seat unexpectantly to Kendra Horn, in the 5th district of Oklahoma (R+10). Last week, the primary resulted in a run-off between State Senator Stephanie Bice and local businesswoman Terry Neese. This seat is one of the GOP’s best chances to flip from D to R. The run-off will take place on August 25.

2. In a similar R+10 district,  Rep. Joe Cunningham was able to flip South Carolina’s 1st district from R to D. Rep. Cunningham is the only Democrat to hold it in the past three decades. Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, won the primary in the beginning of the month, and will face Rep. Cunningham in November.

3. Rep. Rob Woodall (GA-7) is stepping down. This has given Democrats a targeted seat to flip to blue. The primary has led to a run-off between Carolyn Bourdeaux and Brenda Lopez Romero. Bourdeaux ran in 2018 and narrowly lost by 0.2 percentage points against Rep. Tipton. Cook Political Report lists this as a Republican Toss Up. The run-off will take place on August 11th.  

Voting Process 

We have seen several changes in voting procedures due to the pandemic. While some states were able to adapt and saw very little issue, other states experienced some significant problems.  

From the very start of Georgia’s primary on June 9, there were several concerns. Voting machines experienced countless problems – some machines were missing, some didn’t turn on, and others were delivered to the wrong places. There were long lines and a severe lack of staffing. Some folks claimed that they never received an absentee ballot, forcing them to come to the polls and others claimed that they received multiple ballots to their address.  

Fortunately, other states like Kentucky and Colorado were able to address and troubleshoot errors in time for their primaries.  With the competitive primary in Kentucky for Democratic Senate, election officials had been anticipating high turnout. Over 570,000 absentee ballots were received, and 100,000 ballots were cast at early voting locations. The two biggest counties in Kentucky – Jefferson and Fayette – held results until a week later to ensure that all absentee ballots were counted.  

This is not the first time Colorado has done a vote-by-mail system. Coloradans are being praised for how they handled their primary election. They, too, had a record number of voters and 99.3% or the 1.6 million voters returned their ballots by mail or drop off box.  

At this point in time, we are roughly 60% of the way done with the primaries and the general elections are looming in the distance. The next four months will certainly be an interesting and unpredictable time – just like the first six months of 2020.  

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