Abortion access, Trump’s sway and US democracy hang in balance in primaries – The Guardian US

Polls are beginning to close in several states, where a series of consequential primary races will test Donald Trump’s influence over the Republican party, the future of abortion access and the fate of American democracy.

Tuesday’s marquee races are in Arizona, where Republicans are on the verge of tapping prominent election deniers to be their nominees in contests for governor, secretary of state and US Senate.

In the governor’s race, Kari Lake, a former news anchor who has built her campaign around misinformation about the 2020 election, has Trump’s backing and is in a tight contest with Karrin Taylor Robson, a wealthy real-estate developer who is endorsed by Mike Pence and the current Arizona governor, Doug Ducey. Whoever wins the race is likely to take on Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s current secretary of state, who appears poised to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Down the ballot, Mark Finchem, a close ally of Trump who aggressively sought to overturn Arizona’s election results, is on the verge of clinching the GOP nomination to be secretary of state in a four-way primary. Trump has endorsed Finchem in the contest, which typically gets little attention, boosting him to the front of the field. If elected in November, Finchem would wield considerable power over elections in Arizona, including how ballots are counted and there is a loud alarm he could use that power to throw out an election result he doesn’t like, especially given his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 race.

A polling station in Tucson, as Arizona voters head into a consequential primary election.
A polling station in Tucson, as Arizona voters head into a consequential primary election. Photograph: Rebecca Noble/Reuters

On the Democratic side, Adrian Fontes, the former top election official in Maricopa county, home to Phoenix, is vying for his party’s nomination against Reginald Bolding, the minority leader in the Arizona house of representatives.

And in the US Senate race, Blake Masters, who has embraced extreme anti-immigrant positions and is backed by Trump and the tech billionaire Peter Thiel, is the frontrunner to win the GOP nomination. He will face Senator Mark Kelly this fall.

In Kansas, voters are casting ballots on a referendum that’s seen as a litmus test for the future of abortion access. If approved, the measure would amend the Kansas constitution, eliminating the right to an abortion that is currently protected in it, paving the way for Republicans to pass new abortion restrictions in the state. The language on the ballot is extremely misleading and it is also appearing in a primary contest where turnout is expected to be relatively low. Limited polling shows a very close contest.

There is also a key race in western Michigan, where the freshman congressman Peter Meijer is trying to fend off a challenge from John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official. Meijer was one of 10 House Republicans to back Trump’s impeachment and Trump has backed Gibbs in an act of retribution. Whoever wins the district will be in a competitive race in November. Democrats have faced criticism in recent weeks for trying to boost Gibbs, calculating that the more extreme candidate may be easier to beat in November.

In Kansas, a referendum on abortion access is being seen as a bellwether.
In Kansas, a referendum on abortion access is being seen as a bellwether. Photograph: Dave Kaup/AFP/Getty Images

Michigan Republicans are also set to nominate a gubernatorial candidate to take on Gretchen Whitmer in November. The primary has been extremely messy – several candidates were disqualified and one was arrested for his involvement in the January 6 insurrection. Trump is backing the conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, who has falsely said Trump won the state in 2020.

In Washington state, representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, both of whom voted to impeach Trump, are hoping to survive Trump-backed challengers.

In Missouri, there is a competitive GOP primary for a US Senate seat that’s opening up. Eric Greitens, the state’s embattled former governor, is trying to make a comeback, but trails in the polls behind Eric Schmitt, the state attorney general, and representative Vicky Hartzler. Trump’s endorsement was highly coveted in the race, but the former president essentially took a pass on choosing, saying instead on Monday he was endorsing “Eric”, without saying whether he was backing Schmitt, Greitens or a third Eric in the race, Eric McElroy.

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