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  /  News   /  7 primary races to watch in Montana, New Jersey and more

7 primary races to watch in Montana, New Jersey and more

The 2024 presidential primary calendar is drawing to a close, with the last of the state contests set for Tuesday. 

Voters in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota will cast ballots in the presidential race — and, along with Iowa, weigh in on key state and local races down the ballot. Washington, D.C., will hold its Democratic presidential primary, and two more Democratic contests in Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands will close things out the following week. 

President Biden and former President Trump are both expected to scoop up more delegates as they head toward a November rematch, just days after Trump’s historic conviction in his Manhattan hush money case. 

Polls will close in the various states between 8 and 10 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. Here are seven key races to keep an eye on: 

The presidential race 

Biden and Trump both easily scored their party nods back in March, but their primary performance in several states has been hampered by protest vote efforts on both sides of the aisle. 

Democrats frustrated with Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war have picked “uncommitted” options, while Republicans turned off by Trump have cast ballots for Nikki Haley, who is no longer in the race. 

“Uncommitted” votes have notched 30 delegates against Biden so far, according to DDHQ/The Hill’s tracker, while Haley’s pulled in tens of thousands of ballots on the GOP side. Although those numbers don’t threaten either Trump or Biden’s status as presumptive nominees, the protests spotlight fractions within both major parties in a race that could come down to the wire. 

Biden and Trump are both likely to see continued protest votes in this last smattering of states. In parts of New Jersey, Democrats will have a ballot option to choose convention delegates who are on the ballot under the slogan “Justice for Palestine, Permanent Ceasefire Now,” according to the New Jersey Monitor.

The primaries are also the first to take place since Haley announced last week she would vote for Trump over Biden in the fall.

Dem primary for Nunn House seat in Iowa

The House Democrats’ campaign arm has waded into the race for Republican Rep. Zach Nunn’s seat in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, seeing the seat as a potential pickup opportunity. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is backing Lanon Baccam, a combat veteran and former official for the Department of Agriculture, against Melissa Vine, a nonprofit leader.

They’re both vying to take on Nunn, who is running unopposed in the primary and narrowly won the House seat back in 2022, when he flipped it from then-Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa). 

Baccam outraised Nunn in the first quarter of this year, which the DCCC has touted as signs of Iowans’ appetite for another flip. The Des Moines-centered district is one of several seats this year that could help decide control of the House, which Republicans hold by a thin majority. 

Senate race for Menendez seat in New Jersey

Voters in New Jersey on Tuesday will weigh in on the primary race to replace Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who is on trial in federal court on corruption charges. 

Menendez has held the seat for nearly two decades, but he faced pressure from within his party to resign after he was indicted over allegations that he accepted bribes and acted as an agent for the Egyptian government. He has pleaded not guilty. 

He opted not to file for the Democratic primary, but he left the door open to running in the general election as an independent. On Monday, NBC News reported the senator plans to do so. An April poll from Emerson College Polling/PIX11/The Hill showed such a bid from the senator would receive less than 10 percent support in the state.

New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy briefly ran for his seat, but has since suspended her bid. Front-runner Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) has consolidated support and is expected to easily glide to the nomination. 

Four candidates are fighting for the nomination on the GOP side, including Trump-backed Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner.

Primary for Menendez son’s House seat

First-term Rep. Rob Menendez (D-N.J.), the son of the embattled current senator, faces tough competition as he tries for reelection in the Garden State’s 8th Congressional District.

He’s up against primary challenges from Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and businessman Kyle Jasey. 

The lawmaker hasn’t been implicated in his father’s legal battles, but the proceedings threaten to overshadow the House race — and Bhalla has continued to link Rob Menendez to the senator. 

“You have a beautiful family, but you know who else you clearly fight for…. Hint: he likes bribery and gold bars – your silence about your Dad tells us everything,” Bhalla wrote on X in response to a photo of the younger Menendez’s family. 

An April poll sponsored by the super PAC America’s Promise put Bhalla up 5 points over Rob Menendez, per FiveThirtyEight, after a February poll sponsored by Bhalla’s campaign showed the incumbent up 3 points. 

Montana Senate race

Democrat Sen. Jon Tester is fighting to hold on to his seat in red Montana, a top flip opportunity for Republicans in November. 

Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), a member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, briefly shifted the race into a Republican primary fight when he jumped in earlier this year against businessman Tim Sheehy, the GOP’s Senate campaign arm pick to take on Tester. 

But the move sparked backlash, and Trump waded in to suggest Rosendale instead run for reelection to the House. The lawmaker exited the race and briefly launched a reelection bid for his seat before announcing plans to retire.

Sheehy is now the favorite to win the GOP nod in Tuesday’s Senate primary, and a new forecast from Decision Desk HQ/The Hill, based on six polls, puts Sheehy at a 72-percent chance of winning in a head-to-head with Tester. 

GOP primary for Rosendale’s seat in Montana

After pressure from Trump and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) prompted Rosendale to withdraw from the Senate battle for Tester’s seat this year, he kicked off a reelection bid — but that, too, was short-lived, and the lawmaker made another about-face to abandon his reelection efforts and exit Congress altogether. 

That’s left his ruby-red House seat open in Montana’s 2nd Congressional District and drawn a crowded GOP primary, with candidates including state auditor Troy Downing, state Sen. Ken Bogner and former U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg. 

The seat has been the launching pad for other high-profile Republicans in the past, including Sen. Steve Daines (R), who chairs the NRSC, and Greg Gianforte, who became governor in 2020. 

Polling in the race has been sparse, but a May survey conducted for a super PAC supporting Downing put the auditor ahead of the pack for the solidly red seat, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Montana governor’s race

Another Big Sky Country contest worth watching is the race for the Montana governor’s mansion. 

Gianforte, the incumbent Republican, flipped the governor’s mansion out of Democrat’s hands in 2020. He now faces a primary challenge from his right in state Rep. Tanner Smith, as well as Democratic competition.

Smith has argued Gianforte isn’t conservative enough for the red state and pitched himself as the “‘real’ conservative choice” in the race. 

Gianforte lost a gubernatorial bid in 2016, then won a special election to represent Montana in the House the following year, though his campaign was marred by an altercation with a reporter in the closing days. 

Gianforte pleaded guilty to assault and was ordered to complete community service and anger management counseling.