NEW YORK (Reuters) – Republican South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster appeared poised to capture his party’s nomination on Tuesday for this fall’s midterm elections, a day after President Donald Trump campaigned at his side.
McMaster’s likely victory – he led businessman John Warren by an eight-point margin with 85 percent of the vote counted – again demonstrated the president’s influence over Republican voters, five months before the Nov. 6 elections that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of both houses of the U.S. Congress as well as numerous gubernatorial seats.
Voters in seven U.S. states – Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah – were picking candidates on Tuesday for the midterm elections.
Democrats need to flip 23 of 435 seats to take over the House of Representatives, which would stymie much of Trump’s agenda while opening up new avenues of investigation into his administration. They would have to net two seats to take the Senate, but face longer odds there, according to analysts.
A bitter Republican matchup in New York City’s Staten Island borough on Tuesday represented more evidence of Trump’s political sway.
The incumbent Dan Donovan, who received Trump’s endorsement last month, easily prevailed over the man he replaced in Congress, Michael Grimm, who resigned three years ago after pleading guilty to tax fraud.
Grimm, a bombastic former FBI agent known for once threatening to toss a television reporter off a balcony, had cast himself as the true Trump supporter in what had become a nasty, insult-laden campaign. He said his conviction was due to a “witch hunt,” echoing Trump’s characterization of the investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
The district is considered within reach for Democrats in November.
The biggest upset of the night was brewing in New York City’s Bronx and Queens boroughs, where 10-term U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley – the No. 4-ranking Democrat in the House – was losing to a 28-year-old liberal challenger and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
With 82 percent of the vote reported, Ocasio-Cortez was up by 15 points. A Crowley loss would add fuel to the battle between the party’s establishment wing, embodied by longtime House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and a left-wing insurgency inspired by Bernie Sanders’ presidential run in 2016.
In Colorado, an establishment-backed Democrat and a liberal insurgent are vying to take on incumbent Republican Representative Mike Coffman, whose district favored Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.
Jason Crow, an Iraq war veteran backed by the national party, is facing Levi Tillemann, who was endorsed by Our Revolution, a group born out of Sanders’ presidential bid. Tillemann earned attention this month with an anti-gun violence video in which he blasted himself in the face with pepper spray.
Voters will also pick Senate candidates in states including Utah and Maryland. Analysts say Democrats face a steep climb trying to take the Senate, where they are defending seats including Indiana, Montana and North Dakota that supported Trump two years ago.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is expected to earn his party’s Senate nomination in Utah, while Chelsea Manning, who served seven years in military prison for leaking classified data, is a long shot in Maryland’s Democratic nominating contest against incumbent Senator Ben Cardin.
Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler