What To Watch For In The Arizona And Florida Primaries

Aug 28, 2018
Originally published on August 28, 2018 6:22 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Voters have been at the polls in three states today for primary elections in Florida, Arizona and Oklahoma. It's the last major day of primaries before general election races kick into high gear after Labor Day. And now NPR's Domenico Montanaro joins us with some results. Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Let's start in Florida. The last polls there closed about 90 minutes ago. The governor's race has gotten lots of attention. Who's come out on top?

MONTANARO: Well, we do have some results. And in a very big upset on the Democratic side tonight, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has defeated Gwen Graham, the former congresswoman and daughter of a former governor and senator. She'd been favored in the race, but Gillum was backed by Bernie Sanders and campaigned calling Graham Republican-lite, a pretty strong progressive. And he's - you know, this is a pretty major win for progressives. They've really struggled this cycle to notch actual wins rather than moral victories. But tonight they got one. And it's in a big state - $120 million been spent so far on this race already. And they were able to win, you know, on that progressive message.

SHAPIRO: And on the Republican side in the Florida governor's race?

MONTANARO: Well, you know - very big win for Trump-backed Congressman Ron DeSantis. He won this race by 20 points against another former congressman and the state's agriculture commissioner but someone who said some not-so-kind things about President Trump. And that probably did him in with the Republican base. So we've got quite the general election race shaping up - a vocal, dynamic progressive who'd be the state's first black president and quite young, by the way, only...

SHAPIRO: State's first black governor.

MONTANARO: Oh, I'm sorry - state's first black governor, yes - and is quite young, only 39 years old - against someone who's staked his political career now on his support for President Trump. In a state that's been a 50-50 state for almost 20 years, we've really got something of kind of the it of 2018 going to take place this fall.

SHAPIRO: Interesting race to watch. What about in Arizona where there is a competitive Senate race playing out? Polls there haven't closed yet. What can you tell us about it?

MONTANARO: Right - polls not quite closed yet in Arizona so no results yet. But it's a really key contest for Democrats' hopes of taking back the Senate. The Democrat expected to advance tonight is Kyrsten Sinema. Despite the kind of rightward lean of Arizona, she's actually been leading the Republicans in a lot of general election matchup polling mostly because she's trying to appeal to independents. She's able to do that because on the Republican side, they've really been duking it out over who's the most like Trump, again, as we saw in Florida. The favorite there is Congresswoman Martha McSally, former fighter pilot. She's used clips of Trump calling her, quote, "the real deal."

Two other candidates, though, have been giving her and the GOP leaders in the state and in Washington a lot of headaches because McSally's had to kind of tack to the right to compete with them - Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff who was pardoned by Trump after being found in contempt of court in that racial profiling case, and Kelli Ward. She's a former state senator who has tried to stir up the GOP base. She ran against McCain for his Senate seat in 2016 and lost, found herself in some hot water this past week when she blamed the McCain family for putting out the statement Friday that he was discontinuing medical treatment. She said it was somehow intended to hurt her candidacy.

SHAPIRO: Just in our last minute, Domenico, I mentioned that today's the last major day of primaries. What big lessons do you think we've learned as we wrap up the primary season and enter the final stretch of these midterms?

MONTANARO: We can exhale - right? - Ari. Now we can...

SHAPIRO: Almost.

MONTANARO: ...Get to the big races. You know, look; these elections have been dominated by Trump. No matter where you go, Trump is on the tip of voters' tongues. He's firing up Republicans like we've been talking about, but he's even more so firing up Democrats. And you saw that tonight with progressives getting their first big win in a big state - and really sets up what progressives hope to show - that they can actually win statewide. That's really something that's going to be fascinating to see if that winds up playing out this fall.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.