House: Key Primary Results from Iowa, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico

by Jacob Rubashkin June 5, 2024 · 11:06 AM EDT

Earlier in the cycle, June 4 looked like a must-watch primary night with marquee Senate primaries in New Jersey and Montana. But most of the drama dissipated long before voters went to the polls on Tuesday, and the remaining notable races played out as expected. 

Voters in five states cast primary ballots including Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. That means 22 states have completed their primaries up to this point with 27 remaining between now and Sept. 10. (Yes, that adds up to 49. Louisiana has its all-party primary on Nov. 5.)

With five months still before Election Day, 25 candidates effectively have their tickets punched for Capitol Hill. They are likely to be new members of Congress next year because they’ve already won primaries in districts or states that are either solidly Republican or solidly Democratic and the general election is more of a formality. Troy Downing of Montana’s 2nd District and Herb Conaway of New Jersey’s 3rd District are the latest additions to that list after winning their primaries. New Jersey’s Rep. Andy Kim was already on the list of likely new senators.

Here’s what happened in some key contests on Tuesday.

1st District (Southeastern Iowa) Marianette Miller-Meeks, R, re-elected 53%. Trump 50%.
David Pautsch, who founded the Quad Cities Prayer Breakfast, gave Miller-Meeks a run for her money in the GOP primary despite barely raising any himself. Outspent $1.4 million to $30,000, Pautsch trails 56-44 percent. Miller-Meeks isn’t out of the woods, either. She’ll face former state Rep. Christina Bohannon in a rematch of 2022, though this time Bohannon will have more financial resources. Lean Republican.

3rd District (Des Moines and southwestern Iowa) Zach Nunn, R, elected 50%. Trump 49%. Army veteran Lanon Baccam, a former Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture in the Biden administration, easily won the Democratic primary over counselor Melissa Vine, 84-16 percent. He’ll face Nunn in a race where both candidates will lean on their military backgrounds and Democrats will look to squeeze more votes out of Des Moines and its suburbs. Tilt Republican.

Governor. Greg Gianforte (R) elected 2020 (54%). 
Ryan Busse, a former firearms manufacturer who became a leading voice for gun control, will be the Democratic nominee against Gianforte in a race that begins off the battlefield. Gianforte is a polarizing figure who faced an underfunded primary challenge from state Rep. Tanner Smith (the governor won, 75-25 percent) but has virtually unlimited resources owing to his personal fortune. Busse, who has made property tax issues central to his campaign, had just $343,000 in campaign funds at his disposal in mid-May. Solid Republican.

Senate. Jon Tester (D) elected 2006 (49%), 2012 (49%), 2018 (50%).  The matchup for one of the two most crucial Senate races on the map is set for this fall, with Tester due to face wealthy former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy, who cruised to a primary win on Tuesday. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have waited for the official general election to begin hitting their opponents on the airwaves — the two parties have already spent $46 million on advertising in this race to date. Democrats are going to work hard to disqualify Sheehy for personal reasons, poking holes in his background and updating the playbook Tester used successfully in 2018. Republicans are reaching back further to Tester’s first win in 2006 against three-term Sen. Conrad Burns, but this time with the Democrat as the politician who overstayed his welcome. Control of the Senate could come down to which argument is more compelling. Toss-up.

1st District (Western Montana) Ryan Zinke, R, elected 49.6%. Trump 52%. Zinke turned in another relatively underwhelming primary performance, outpacing opponent Mary Todd, 74-26 percent, despite outspending her 50-to-1. That doesn’t mean Democrat Monica Tranel has an easy path ahead of her. Zinke’s unique vulnerabilities give her an opportunity but the partisan lean of the district is a challenge for any Democrat. Lean Republican.

2nd District. (Eastern Montana) Open; Matt Rosendale, R, not seeking re-election. Trump 62%. State Auditor Troy Downing looks likely to ride a big spending advantage and a late endorsement from former President Donald Trump to victory over a crowded field in this vast district. Downing leads former Rep. Denny Rehberg, 36-17 percent. Rehberg, who represented the whole state a decade ago, never saw his comeback bid take flight. Downing should have no trouble winning the general election this fall. Solid Republican.

New Jersey.
Senate. Bob Menendez (D) appointed 2006, elected 2006 (53%), 2012 (58%), 2018 (54%). 
Rep. Andy Kim easily topped a diminished Democratic field with 75 percent of the vote after his main opponent, First Lady Tammy Murphy, dropped out of the race at the end of March. Labor scholar Patricia Campos-Medina trailed with 16 percent. On the GOP side, hotelier Curtis Bashaw scored a mild upset over Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner. She had an endorsement from Trump, but he had the support of more county lines. Bashaw will be an underdog against Kim, but there’s still potential for general election fireworks; Menendez has filed to run as an independent, and go through with a bid if he isn’t found guilty at his ongoing corruption trial. While Menendez’s presence on the ballot isn’t enough to make Kim sweat right now, it would add a wrinkle to an otherwise straightforward race. Solid Democratic.

3rd District (Outer Philadelphia suburbs) Open; Andy Kim, D, running for Senate. Biden 56%. State Assemblyman Herb Conaway easily beat back colleague Carol Murphy and is the likely new member from this South Jersey district. Solid Democratic.

7th District (Southwestern New York City suburbs and exurbs) Tom Kean Jr., R, elected 51%. Biden 51%. Former New Jersey Working Families Alliance director Sue Altman will take on Kean in a top-tier race that sits within the expensive New York City media market. While this contest has flown under the radar compared to flashier races in the Empire State, it could catch fire if Altman can leverage her populist appeal to match Kean’s fundraising chops. Tilt Republican.

8th District (Jersey City area) Rob Menendez, D, elected 74%. Biden 72%. A well-funded challenge from Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla faltered in the closing weeks of the race as Menendez navigated the fallout surrounding his father’s corruption indictment and went on offense over Bhalla’s own alleged ethics lapses. Menendez also had help from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s BOLD PAC and the local political machine. Despite being outspent, $2 million to $1.6 million, Menendez outpaced Bhalla, 54-36 percent. Solid Democratic.

New Mexico.
Senate. Martin Heinrich (D) elected 2012 (51%), 2018 (54%).
Heinrich will go toe-to-toe with a political neophyte bearing the name of a legend. Nella Domenici, daughter of the late Sen. Pete Domenici, will attempt to wrest a New Mexico Senate seat back to GOP control for the first time since her father won his final re-election in 2002. Her personal wealth — and New Mexico’s cheap media market — create the potential for an interesting race, but her background as an executive in New York and Connecticut for a hedge fund is fodder for Democrats looking to paint her as elitish and out of touch. Solid Democratic.

2nd District. (Southern New Mexico and western Albuquerque area) Gabe Vasquez, D, elected 50%. Biden 52%. If Biden’s problems with Hispanic voters weren’t causing enough headings, new news stories about an arrest warrant from Vasquez’s teenage years and his alleged use of a racial slur have made this a rough week for the freshman. But GOP nominee Yvette Herrell has her own challenges — she’s run for this seat three times before, and won just once. Toss-up.

South Dakota.
At-Large District. Dusty Johnson, R, re-elected 77%. Trump 62%.
Early in the cycle, there were some rumblings that the congressman might be vulnerable in the primary, but Johnson ran unopposed on Tuesday. And he’ll win again in November against Democrat Sheryl Johnson. Solid Republican.