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Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma ready for final push in U.S. primaries

By
Ed Adamczyk
Three states are holding primaries Tuesday, which will be the final battleground party contests before the November midterms. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Three states are holding primaries Tuesday, which will be the final battleground party contests before the November midterms. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma are the final battlegrounds for primary elections Tuesday, as voters go to the polls for the last time until the November midterms.

Republicans will choose candidates for governor in Oklahoma and in Florida, and Senate and gubernatorial candidates in Arizona. Democrats will choose a candidate for governor in Florida, and a Senate candidate in Arizona.

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The GOP races are litmus tests of the popularity of President Donald Trump. The issue is most notable in Arizona, where the retirement of Sen. Jeff Flake and the death of Sen. John McCain, neither a Trump supporter, are factors. Sunday's shooting attack in Jacksonville, Fla., seven months after the deaths of 17 in Parkland, Fla., this year could reinforce the issue of gun control in the Sunshine State.

Tuesday's contests are part of the final push before election day Nov. 6. The final primaries will be held in Massachusetts Sept. 4, Delaware Sept. 6, New Hampshire Sept. 11 and Rhode Island Sept. 12.

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Arizona

The Senate race in Arizona, to replace Flake, is a contest between three candidates with different degrees of right-wing credentials. Rep. Martha McSally, formerly a military combat pilot, is the front-runner and the GOP's preferred choice. After denouncing Trump in 2016, she has sought his support, causing her to be branded a false conservative by her challengers, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Ward and Arpaio bring their own baggage to the race, causing concern in the GOP that neither can hold hold the Senate seat in the November contest against a Democrat.

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Arpaio's anti-immigration stance has historically been a lightning rod for controversy. A defendant in several federal civil rights lawsuits, he received a pardon from Trump after he was convicted of criminal contempt of court in 2017. Ward suggested on Friday that a statement from McCain's family was deliberately timed to damage her campaign.

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Trump has praised McSally but offered no endorsement.

Arizona Democrats are expected to choose Rep. Krysten Sinema as their Senate candidate. GOP Gov. Rob Ducey will appoint a successor to fill McCain's Senate seat, with a special election later to complete McCain's term that runs to 2020. Ducey received Trump's support in Arizona's gubernatorial primary. David Garcia, a college professor and favorite of progressives, leads polls in the Democratic primary for governor.

Florida

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Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott are expected to win Senate primaries in Florida, but the main event is to choose candidates to replace Scott.

Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, who received Trump's endorsement, is battling Adam Putnam, an establishment preference and the state's agriculture commissioner. DeSantis' campaign advertisements portray him as a builder of walls and reader to children of Trump's books. Putnam has positioned DeSantis, a frequent Fox News guest, as a puppet of Trump's who does not understand Florida's issues. A DeSantis victory is expected, but his loss could prove damaging to Trump's political prestige.

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Democrats in Florida will chose between centrist Rep. Gwen Graham and several other candidates, including Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who has received the support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Puerto Rican voters, many of whom resettled in Florida after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last year, are expected to make a significant impact on voting in the state Tuesday and on Nov. 6.

Historically, Florida Puerto Ricans have leaned Democrat -- with almost 40 percent registering with the party in 2016. That's led some to believe the post-Maria migration wave may cause a shift in voter demographics throughout the state.

"In district-based elections, it might not make much of a difference since we already see Puerto Rican and Democratic legislators already in office," University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett told UPI in June. "But in some more closely divided districts, and of course in the state, it could make a big difference."

Oklahoma

The GOP gubernatorial race pits Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett against mortgage company executive Kevin Stitt, who has positioned himself as a political outsider and criticized Cornett for inadequate support of Trump. Cornett has been critical of Stitt's company and its lending practices during the mortgage crisis.

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The winner will face endorsed Democratic nominee and former State Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

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