We’re finally here. Tuesday marks the last big round of presidential primaries. (We didn’t forget you, D.C., but nearly everyone else will. Sorry!) While there are some big presidential plotlines to follow — will Bernie win California? Will Trump say something that makes us forget everything else? — there are plenty of other (more?) interesting things happening in each of the states that are voting.
Following our Super Tuesday grab-bag model, here’s a bunch of interesting races and efforts — as well as some completely random and amusing trivia — from California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, and North and South Dakota.
Not one, but two twentysomething candidates are running this week
The Associated Press announced on Monday night that Hillary Clinton has enough delegates to win the Democratic presidential nomination, depriving New Jersey of the chance to play that pivotal role of putting her over the edge when their polls close, and ensuring that everyone will play close attention to California — the biggest delegate prize for Democrats, and a close race to boot — instead. In South Jersey, however, Alex Law will keep his eyes on the returns at home, hoping that the results are close enough to give his underdog campaign hope.
Law entered the Democratic primary in the state’s 1st District back in June 2015, shortly after leaving his consulting job at IBM. At that point, he wasn’t even old enough to be a representative. But he’s 25 now — one of the two 25-year-olds running for a House seat on Tuesday — and in the months since he started, his campaign has knocked on about 100,000 doors, made something like 50,000 phone calls, and acquired around 300 excited volunteers. Law says he joined the race to fight political corruption at home, and his campaign has tried to do everything right, like starting a year early and using data analytics to make sure to only focus on wooing likely voters.
His campaign has also proven to be a case study in why it’s so hard to puncture the status quo in politics: When you fight the establishment, it tends to fight back. (And yes, before you ask, Law does support Bernie Sanders, though he’s "excited to support Hillary Clinton if she becomes the nominee.") Law’s opponent, one-term incumbent Donald Norcross, has raised about $1.5 million over the course of the race, while Law has received slightly less than $70,000 in donations. Norcross, a former union leader and state legislator, has some high-profile endorsements, including one from President Obama. That’s a lot to go up against. The race has gotten increasingly nasty as it reaches the end, complete with canceled debates, negative mailers, and other signs showing that even if Law doesn’t win, he’s gotten the incumbent nervous enough to make things interesting.
Odds aside, Law is optimistic about Tuesday, telling MTV News (unsurprisingly), "We believe we’re going to win this election." And if not, there’s always 2018 — one of the perks of running for office as a 25-year-old is that you’ve got plenty of time to try again.
Continuing a century-long game of campaign finance tug-of-war
Montana has been hating corrupt political spending since long before it was even a thing: The state legislature passed a bill banning companies from spending money in local elections way back in 1912. Nationally, however, that type of political spending is in vogue. In 2012, the Supreme Court struck down the century-old law on corporate spending, saying that it contradicted the Citizens United decision. And this year, a federal court struck down the state’s contribution limits, which were first legislated in 1994, on how much political action committees can donate to candidates.
All these changes have led to more outside spending in state politics. The Associated Press looked at the Montana gubernatorial race in February, noting that it "could become the most expensive governor’s race in state history." A historian at the Montana Historical Society told the AP that "it’s beginning to look like the gilded age of the 1890s, [when] whoever had the biggest war chest would win the election." The race for an open seat on the state supreme court is also likely to be insanely expensive.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom news on the campaign-finance front, however. This year also marks the beginning of Montana’s new disclosure law, which makes it easier to figure out where all this new money is coming from — even if concerned parties are unable to stop it. "This is an embracing of Citizens United," Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said last year when explaining the new law. "They can speak, they can spend their money. They simply have to tell Montanans how much they’re spending, who they spent it against or for, when they spent it, and where they got that money from."
Since spending isn’t about to go away, this is the best weapon reformers and pro-transparency groups have: slowly opening up the Russian nesting dolls set up by donors who want to influence elections while avoiding scrutiny.
Will next year’s legislature actually be cooperative when it comes to implementing other necessary changes, like trying to make it easier to find out who’s behind the dark money being donated to outside groups? "We have no idea," Denise Roth Barber, managing director at the Montana-based National Institute on Money in State Politics, told MTV News. "It’s too early to tell." And, unfortunately, the future of disclosure probably depends, to a degree, on who spends the most money in this year’s election — and whether it helps elect people who like more transparency about that spending, or those who would prefer to keep that knowledge in the shadows.
California missed out on the chance to have much input on the presidential primary, especially the Republican race, where only one candidate remains. The seeming inevitability of the final results doesn’t mean that every Republican in the state is willing to obediently get on the Trump train, though — at least not yet. Sure, Trump is certain to win the state, but that doesn’t mean that the few, the valiant, the ever-loyal Kasichmentum believers are ready to let the primary end without one final offensive push for their beloved eater-in-chief — he may have suspended his campaign, but he’s still on the ballot, along with Cruz.
Former California governor and current host of Celebrity Apprentice Arnold Schwarzenegger voted for the Ohio governor on his mail-in ballot. The Sacramento Bee editorial board said that Kasich was "by far their best choice on the [Republican] June 7 ballot." The Desert Sun editorial board in Palm Springs said it couldn’t "offer any support to Trump" and that voters should cast ballots for Kasich.
Party officials in the state are probably crossing their fingers that Trump haters follow this advice and still cast ballots — since California has a top-two primary system, a dearth of Republican primary voters might make it so that no conservative options are on the ballot in some races come November. That could be especially true in the state’s open Senate race, where two Democrats are leading the polls.
But what about California Republicans who don’t like Trump or Kasich, or Cruz, for that matter, and still want to vote in the presidential race? The San Diego Union-Tribune offers another option: "If you are voting in the GOP primary Tuesday, write in Ronald Reagan for president." Given his comparatively moderate stances, Zombie Reagan would probably have done even worse than Kasich this year (although conservatives’ love for nostalgia might have made a person from the actual past viable), as well as raised various constitutional issues about whether the undead can run for office, since Republicans are so worried about them committing voter fraud.
New Mexico’s very own presidential candidate
Unlike all the other states voting on Tuesday, New Mexico can be proud of the fact that one presidential candidate got his start there. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to vote for him quite yet.
While the Democratic and Republican parties will have to wait until July to pick their nominees, the Libertarian Party has already made former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson its nominee (again), which has gotten the state a bit of secondhand press — and some bragging rights. Although it’s not quite on the level of the Chappaqua Daily Voice, which never lets readers forget that the Democratic candidate is "Chappaqua’s Hillary Clinton," local news outlets do occasionally remind readers of their role in the 2016 race with headlines like "New Mexico’s Johnson: Trump Is a '%#$@&!!'"
For those interested in 2016 trivia, it’s safe to assume that New Mexico reporters will be keeping especially close tabs on Johnson. A blog at the Santa Fe New Mexican even took note of Johnson’s interview on the podcast "Outer Limits of Inner Truth," where astrologers and psychics noted that "Johnson has a ‘strong shamanic guide assisting him’ and might be a past-life connection with Alexander Hamilton" (how on-trend!).
Despite the attention, Johnson isn’t getting a wild amount of support from his former political home, at least not yet. According to New Mexico In-Depth, he received just $14,923 from donors in the state as of April 30. As the Santa Fe New Mexican notes, Johnson’s best showing in 2012, when he first ran as a Libertarian presidential candidate, was in New Mexico, where "he got about 3.5 percent."
Another year, another election in which Native Americans mostly get ignored
Democrats in North Dakota get to caucus on Tuesday, and both parties will vote in South Dakota. One big question: Will Native American voters turn out? Prairie Rose Seminole, who runs the Native Vote program in North Dakota, hopes so, but neither state makes it easy, as lawsuits complaining about voting rights violations show.
Voters on reservations often have to drive dozens of miles to get to their nearest polling places. And casting ballots itself has been especially difficult for many Native voters in North Dakota, where a voter-ID law was implemented in 2014. Tribal IDs are an acceptable form of identification in the state, but only if they have a photo and home address on them, which many don’t. North Dakota does give out state IDs to those who don’t have a driver's license or other "acceptable" ID, but those aren’t always easy to obtain, Seminole says, especially if you are a tribal elder. First you’re going to have to find your birth certificate, which might be hard if you haven’t had any reason to use it recently. Then you're going to have to get to a DMV that could be an hour or so away — and what if you don’t drive anymore? "That’s a hassle!" she says.
On top of all of that, you have to make voters on reservations want to cast ballots, something most presidential candidates don't exactly excel at. "The motivation isn’t there," Seminole says. She adds that the Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party in the state also isn’t providing Native Vote with the resources it has in previous election cycles — probably in part because there are no big contested races in North Dakota this year. That makes it hard to hold big events to get people excited about the election, which is why Native Vote has mostly relied on social media to educate people about voter ID and other electoral issues.
During the state primary next week, North Dakota voters will get the chance to vote for Native Americans, which Seminole hopes will get people a bit more excited. Three American Indian candidates are running for statewide office, including Chase Iron Eyes, who is the Democrats’ House candidate in the state this year.
However, she notes, many Native American voters in the state like Bernie Sanders — the only presidential candidate to have visited reservations this year. One voter told ABC News that she hitchhiked to his event at Pine Ridge, saying, "He is the only one who took time out of his busy schedule to visit us. ... At least we matter to somebody out there." But just visiting isn’t good enough, Seminole says: "When we have candidates who win with the Native vote, we expect them to stay involved."