Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis learned who his Democratic challenger will be this fall. The impact of redistricting was on full display. And Democrats sorted through rivalries amongst themselves.
The most intense stretch of the midterm primary season ended Tuesday with results that will set up fierce general election contests across the United States.
Here are some takeaways from Tuesday's contests:
DESANTIS FLEXES HIS MUSCLES
One Florida politician wasn’t facing a primary challenge but made sure to dominate the news anyway — DeSantis.
DeSantis is considered former President Donald Trump’s top rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, partly due to the way he’s leaned into political and cultural divides in the Sunshine State. On Tuesday he demonstrated why.
The governor began the day with a Cabinet meeting, which included the only Democrat elected statewide in Florida, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. She was competing for her party’s nomination to face DeSantis that evening.
DeSantis shook Fried’s hand as the meeting concluded and told her “good luck” before criticizing her campaign and predicting — accurately, it turned out — her loss in brief remarks to reporters.
“I think that you know she had an opportunity as being the only Democrat elected statewide to exercise some leadership and maybe get some things done and instead she’s used her time to try and smear me on a daily basis, that’s all she does,” DeSantis said of Fried.
After polls closed in the evening, DeSantis grabbed the spotlight again, speaking to a crowd in Miami. “We’re not going to let this state be overrun by woke ideology, we will fight the woke in the business, we will fight the woke in government agencies, we will fight the woke in our schools,” DeSantis said. “We will never, ever surrender to the woke agenda. Florida is the state where woke goes to die.”
Expect to hear a lot more like that from DeSantis in the months — and possibly years — ahead.
GERRYMANDERING’S LONG SHADOW
Florida and New York, which held primary elections Tuesday, were two of the states whose legislative maps were most radically redrawn this year to favor one political party. It was part of a centuries-old political gambit known as gerrymandering.
But Tuesday night showed two different sides of gerrymandering. The New York map that Democrats redrew to ruthlessly target vulnerable Republicans got tossed out by the state’s highest court as an illegal partisan act.
The Democratic-appointed court redrew the map to be more balanced, disregarding the political fortunes of some of New York’s most prominent members of Congress and lumping several high-profile lawmakers in the same district in a push for equity. Ignoring scattered protests that its April ruling came too late in the process to change the map, the court moved the state’s congressional primary to Tuesday, two months after its June primary for state offices.
That’s why New York’s Democratic primaries Tuesday were so fractious and chaotic.
In contrast, Florida’s Republican-appointed State Supreme Court declined to change the partisan map that DeSantis pushed the Republican-controlled Florida legislature to approve. Unlike the New York court, the Florida court ruled that it was too close to the election to mess with the map.
As a result, Florida’s incumbent House members generally stayed put Tuesday night, not forced into any career-ending primary battles because of districts being moved. The great exception was Rep. Charlie Crist, who ran for — and won — the Democratic nomination for governor partly because DeSantis’ map transformed his district into a solidly Republican one. The new map also effectively eliminated two seats, currently represented in Washington by Black Democrats, where African Americans comprise the largest share of voters.
Nationally, both parties tried to gerrymander during the past redistricting cycle, but Democrats were reined in slightly more than Republicans — largely due to Florida and New York. Florida’s top court may change that in the coming years when it rules on challenges to DeSantis’ maps.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering multiple cases that could change the ability of courts to redistrict gerrymanders. That may help determine whether we see more congressional primaries like New York’s, or more like Florida’s.
DEMOCRATS’ CIVIL WAR
It’s been muted by the spectacle of Trump’s makeover of the GOP, but Democrats also spent the primary season torn over the direction of their party.
Left-wing contenders continued to mount primary challenges to centrist Democrats. The left lost its most prominent bids to dislodge incumbent House members in south Texas and Cleveland. A new loss came Tuesday, when a liberal state assemblywoman was crushed by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in a congressional primary north of New York City.
But the left has won some victories this primary season, nabbing a nomination for a House seat in Pennsylvania and seeing one of its favorite politicians, that state’s Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, win the party’s nomination for Senate. On Tuesday, liberal New York state lawmaker Yuh-Line Niou, was in a neck-and-neck race with attorney Daniel Goldman, who helped run Trump’s first impeachment, for a solidly Democratic seat centered in Brooklyn.
Neither side has been crushed, so expect more left-on-center primaries next election cycle.