Mitt Romney Returns; South Looks Safe for Republicans

(CN) — Millions of Americans nationwide voted in primary elections Tuesday, gearing up for one of the most closely watched midterm campaign seasons in decades.

Mitt Romney returns to politics

Mitt Romney proved he has not his lost touch with Utah Republicans, clinching the nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by seven-term Republican Orrin Hatch, who is retiring. Romney swamped Republican rival state Rep. Mike Kennedy, and will face Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, who ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

The Beehive State has not been represented by a Democrat in the U.S. Senate since Hatch defeated Frank Moss in 1977.

“We believe that America is the greatest nation on Earth. After the 2016 election was over, I spent a lot of time thinking about the world ‘great,’” Romney said in his victory speech, taking a jab at President Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

“And I thought in order to be considered a great country you would of course have to be considered strong, strong militarily and strong economy, but being strong is only one dimension of being great, and there’s another dimension and that’s being good,” Romney said.

More than 1 million Coloradans voted

Colorado conducted an open primary Tuesday, its first in a century in which unaffiliated voters could vote. About two-thirds of unaffiliated voters voted on the Democratic ballot and one-third on the Republican.

Unofficially Tuesday night, 411,578 Democrats had cast ballots, as did 380,974 Republicans and 251,333 unaffiliated voters.

In the race for governor, multimillionaire Congressman Jared Polis will run as the Democrat in November, after taking 234,000 votes Tuesday. Polis raised $8 million for his campaign, more money than all other candidates combined

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton took nearly half of the Republican votes Tuesday, and called for party unity in his victory speech. Colorado has been trending increasingly Democratic under two-term governor John Hickenlooper.

Eleven-term incumbent Congresswoman Diana DeGette defeated grassroots contender Saira Rao in Colorado’s 1st Congressional District, based in Denver, taking more than 71 percent of the votes.

In the 5th District, based in Colorado Springs, six-term Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn, who sued Colorado over an election law that almost disqualified him this year, will run for his seventh term in November.

Oklahoma approves medical marijuana

In Oklahoma, the race to replace term-limited Republican Governor Mary Fallin featured a crowded field of 15 candidates. A runoff election on Aug. 28 will pit former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett against businessman Kevin Stitt for the gubernatorial slot on the Republican ticket.

Sitting Lt. Gov. Tom Lamb missed the cutoff by about 2,000 votes.

Stitt or Cornett will face Democrat Drew Edmondson in November, who took more than 61 percent of his party’s votes, against former state Sen. Connie Johnson. Edmondson was Oklahoma’s attorney general for 16 years and is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church.

Fifty-six percent of Oklahomans approved State Question 788, to allow the use, sale and growth of medicinal marijuana.

“Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, who publicly opposed SQ 788, said that she intends to call lawmakers back for a special session to address the passage of SQ 788,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “It is our hope that Oklahoma politicians will respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact SQ 788 in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law.”

Mississippi Is Safe for Republicans

In a runoff election in Mississippi, attorney David Baria pulled ahead of Howard Sherman to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. Baria is a third-term member of the state House of Representatives. He will face incumbent Roger Wicker, a Republican seeking his third term.

Mississippi this year will get two senators for the price of one election. A special election will determine who will serve out Sen. Thad Cochran’s seventh term. Cochran retired in April due to health issues.

Mississippi is safe for incumbents, having elected only three senators in the past three decades. The state last sat a Democrat in the U.S. Senate in 1989.

South Carolina Still Trump Country

South Carolina incumbent Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican, will face Democratic nominee James Smith in November. McMaster, endorsed by President Trump, defeated Republican challenger John Warren on Tuesday, and is expected to handle Smith fairly easily in the general election.

Kevin Gelesh, a Republican voter in Richland County, based in the state capital, Columbia, said Trump’s endorsement solidified his support for McMaster.

“Trump’s endorsement of McMaster helped me cast a vote for him today, but I did carefully consider them both,” Gelesh said.

James Smith won his party’s nomination two weeks ago.

Former NAACP Boss Wins in Maryland

Nine Democrats vied for the opportunity to challenge Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan, who ran unopposed Tuesday.

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous defeated second-place finisher Rushern Baker, a county executive, and lost no time taking on Hogan in his Tuesday night victory speech.

“I know there is skepticism that Larry Hogan can be beaten,” Jealous said. “Well, we’ve got a message for those who think this race is already over. Larry Hogan will lose in November because he is not ready to run against someone who knows how to build a true people-powered grassroots campaign.”

Jealous has been embraced by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, still perhaps the party’s leading progressive. Jealous, who supports free college and legalized marijuana, will be Maryland’s first African American governor if he wins in November.

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