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Image: Val Demings
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., participates in a roundtable discussion about Congress passing the inflation bill and the high cost of prescription drugs, at the Borinquen Medical Center in Miami on Aug. 15, 2022,.Lynne Sladky / AP

What to watch in the Aug. 23 primaries and special elections

The primaries in Florida and New York will include some of the most competitive and closely watched House contests in the country this year.


More than five months after the nation’s primary season began in earnest, there are only seven states remaining that have not yet held their contests — and voters in two of the biggest states will make their choices tomorrow.

In Florida, one of tomorrow’s biggest races is the Democratic gubernatorial race, where state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — the only Democrat who holds statewide office in Florida — is facing Rep. Charlie Crist, a party-switcher who was elected as a Republican governor in 2006. The winner will take on Gov. Ron DeSantis in the fall.

There’s also a Democratic U.S. Senate primary, though Rep. Val Demings is seen as a heavy favorite who hopes to take on incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

And while there are other statewide contests worth keeping an eye on — there’s a crowded Democratic primary in the state attorney general’s race, for example — there will also be a bunch of congressional primaries of interest, starting with the 1st district, where scandal-plagued GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz is facing an intra-party challenge from Mark Lombardo, a retired Marine and former FedEx executive, who’s invested quite a bit of money in the race.

There’s also a competitive Republican primary in the 5th district, featuring Erick Aguilar — a candidate who’s been accused of some highly controversial fundraising tactics — and in the 7th district, featuring Anthony Sabatini, who wants to defund the FBI, expel federal law enforcement from Floridian soil, and who’s called for any law enforcement official who might try to arrest Donald Trump at some point in the future to be arrested.

As for Democratic congressional primaries, keep an eye on the highly competitive 27th district — a possible pick-up opportunity for the party — where a trio of candidates are vying for the right to take on first-term Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar.

Meanwhile, in New York, it’s Primary Day, Part II. In fact, some readers might be asking, “Didn’t New Yorkers vote in primaries in June?” The answer is yes, but because of a court ruling related to the state’s gerrymandered district map, the congressional primaries were delayed until tomorrow.

And there are a lot of them. By FiveThirtyEight’s count, there are 11 competitive congressional primaries in the Empire State tomorrow, and while I won’t highlight each of them, one of the most important contests is in the 12th district, where two powerful Democratic incumbents — Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler — will face off against one another. Suraj Patel, who’s taken on Maloney more than once, is also in the mix.

Also of interest is the crowded Democratic race in New York’s 10th district, featuring incumbent Rep. Mondaire Jones, former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman, state Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, and New York City Council member Carlina Rivera, among others.

In New York’s 17th district, DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney is facing a challenge from the left from state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, while in the 16th district, Rep. Jamaal Bowman is facing a challenge from the right from Vedat Gashi. (Gashi, incidentally, has support from former Rep. Eliot Engel, who lost to Bowman in a primary two years ago.)

As for Republican congressional primaries in New York, the one I’m most interested in is Carl Paladino’s race in the 23rd district against state party chair Nick Langworthy. Paladino, you’ll recall, has an astonishing rhetorical record, including comments in which he said that Adolf Hitler was “the kind of leader we need today.” (The GOP candidate soon after tried to clarify matters, issuing a statement saying that he doesn’t actually support Hitler.)

Complicating matters a bit, not all of tomorrow’s contests are primaries. In New York’s 19th district, there’s a special election to fill the vacancy created when Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado became lieutenant governor, and Republicans believe they have a real shot at flipping the district.

Meanwhile, in the 23rd district — the old one, not to be confused with the new one — there’s also a special election to fill the vacancy left by Republican Rep. Tom Reed, who quit a few months ago to join a lobbying firm. Steuben County Republican Party Chair Joe Sempolinski is seen as the heavy favorite tomorrow in one of New York’s reddest districts.

Finally, there’s Oklahoma, where Republicans will vote in a Senate runoff primary to replace retiring Sen. Jim Inhofe. Rep. Markwayne Mullin is generally seen as the favorite against former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon. The winner will face former Rep. Kendra Horn in the fall, though the Democrat will be a heavy underdog.