Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Seven questions about Tuesday’s primaries in seven states

California, Iowa and New Mexico will feature some of the nation’s signature battleground house races in November, and the primaries Tuesday will offer a better sense of the dynamics in those contests and the threats to vulnerable incumbents.

Iowa’s 3rd District: Three Republicans have lined up for the chance to challenge Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, one of Roll Call’s most vulnerable incumbents this cycle. Fundraising on the Republican side has been lackluster compared with that of Axne, who held $2.8 million as of May 18. State Sen. Zach Nunn had about $225,000 on hand; insurance executive and political newcomer Nicole Hasso held $100,000; and business owner Gary Leffler reported no campaign cash, according to FEC records. Republicans say Nunn and Hasso would both offer the party a good shot at winning the seat, and they expect the fundraising, and outside group spending, to pick up toward fall. Axne has no primary opponent.

New Mexico’s 2nd District: Democrats hope New Mexico’s new congressional map will help them win back the 2nd District from GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell, who flipped it in 2020 under lines that were slightly more favorable to Republicans.

Progressive former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabriel Vasquez has endorsements from prominent Democrats, including Sen. Martin Heinrich, for whom he once worked as an aide. Vasquez raised $777,000 and had $378,000 left in the bank, compared to $65,000 raised and $16,000 on hand for physician and labor leader Darshan Patel, the other Democrat in the race. Herrell, who is unopposed in his primary, is headed to the toss-up race in November with $1.5 million on hand.

California toss-ups: GOP Reps. Mike Garcia, Michelle Steel and Valadao are all in races currently rated Toss-up by Inside Elections. While the field is crowded, Garcia may well face Democrat Christy Smith, a former member of the state assembly who lost both a special and a general election to Garcia in 2020. In its new configuration, Biden would have won the district by more than 12 points in 2020. In California’s new 45th District, Steel and Democrat Jay Chen are expected to face off in the general election in a race that both parties plan to prioritize. Biden would have won it by 6 points in 2020.

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