Voters in three U.S. states cast ballots Tuesday in primary elections to finalize the candidates who will compete in some of the closely watched races as Democrats and Republicans battle for control of the Senate in the November national election.
In a Republican runoff election in Alabama, voters are deciding between former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach who has the endorsement of President Donald Trump.
The winner will go up against Democratic Senator Doug Jones in November.
Sessions held the seat for 20 years, but resigned so he could lead the Justice Department when Trump took office in 2017. He drew Trump’s ire when he recused himself from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election because of several meetings he held before election day with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
Trump has continued to criticize Sessions, including a Saturday tweet calling him “a disaster who has let us all down.”
Sessions dismissed Trump’s comments as “juvenile insults,” and he questioned Tuberville’s credentials, saying his opponent “relies on flashy, consultant-written talking points and TV ads instead of taking questions or debating because he’s scared he might accidentally give away the game he’s playing.”
In Texas, there is a Democratic primary runoff between combat veteran Mary Jennings Hegar and state senator Royce West. The winner will go up against Republican Senator John Cornyn.
Cornyn has represented Texas for three terms and polls show him leading against either Hegar or West.
In addition to the Senate primary, there are a number of House primaries contested Tuesday in Texas, including a battle between former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions and Renee Swann, an eye surgery co-owner and political newcomer who has the endorsement of retiring incumbent Congressman Bill Flores.
The Texas voting was originally set to take place in May, but was postponed due to concerns about having people gather at polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.
Election officials in the state of Maine said they have received a huge number of mail-in ballots for Tuesday’s primaries, which include an important three-way race for the Democratic nomination to go up against Republican Senator Susan Collins.
Democrats are targeting Collins as one of their top hopes in unseating a Republican and trying to gain the three seats necessary to flip the current slim Republican majority in the Senate.
State House speaker Sara Gideon has been the front-runner in the race with the largest campaign donations as she faces attorney Bre Kidman and activist Betsy Sweet.
As of Monday, voters had requested more than 203,000 absentee ballots, which officials said was about five times the number requested during the 2018 primary election.
Mail-in ballots have been a focus for leaders in many states trying to maintain voter participation this year while adhering to stay-at-home measures meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
As in Alabama and Texas, Maine also has a few House primaries Tuesday.
In the state’s second congressional district, Adrienne Bennett, Eric Brakey and Dale Crafts are competing for the Republican nomination to go up against incumbent Democratic Congressman Jared Golden.