March 3, 2020 / 12:20 PM / a month ago

Factbox: Key Congressional primaries also on the line on Super Tuesday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Jeff Sessions, former attorney general under President Donald Trump, will try to take a step towards returning to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, in a wave of congressional primaries.

Voters in a handful of states on Tuesday will weigh in on lower-level races including primaries for the Senate and House of Representatives, as well picking among candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Below are some highlights from Tuesday’s other races:

ALABAMA

Sessions, who in 2016 was the first Senate Republican to endorse Trump before joining the administration, is seeking his party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Doug Jones, the Senate’s most imperiled Democrat.

His top rivals include first-time candidate Tommy Tuberville, the former head coach of the Auburn University football team, and U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne.

Trump, who forced Sessions out of the Justice Department after repeatedly criticizing his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, has not endorsed any of the contenders.

TEXAS

Two Texas incumbent U.S. representatives face primary challengers.

Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar, who represents a district along the Mexican border, has drawn a challenge by Jessica Cisneros, a liberal immigration attorney from San Antonio, who has criticized him as too moderate.

Cisneros has won the endorsement of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who in 2018 successfully ousted a longtime New York City congressmen in a similar insurgent challenge.

As one of the most at-risk Democrats facing a primary, Cuellar has received backing in the contest from traditionally conservative interests, including business groups and an organization funded by the Koch brothers.

On the Republican side, long-time U.S. House member Kay Granger is facing a challenger who contends she has insufficient conservative credentials.

Chris Putnam, who formerly held a local city government office, has contended that Granger has not done enough to support Trump.

Some 13 Democrats are jostling for the chance to take on Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn. A handful have emerged as the front-runners.

A list of people that the team of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) will use to call to remind them to vote for him in the primaries is seen in Laredo, Texas, U.S. March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Veronica Cardenas

MJ Hegar, a female Air Force veteran who made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. House in 2018, was originally seen as the Democratic favorite.

But others decided to not stand by and let Hegar take the nomination: state Senator Royce West, activists Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez and Sema Hernandez, former U.S. Representative Chris Bell, and current Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards are also running.

CALIFORNIA

There will be a multi-pronged fight for a Southern California district that was formerly represented by Katie Hill, who resigned after admitting to having a relationship with a campaign staff member.

First, voters will weigh in on a special election to fill the remainder of Hill’s term. If one of the many candidates gets 50% of the vote, they will win the seat. But if no candidate clears 50%, then a runoff will be held in May.

Six Democrats are running in the special election.

Cenk Uygur, founder of the liberal online news outlet The Young Turks, picked up the endorsement of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and then lost it after Uygur’s past remarks about women and religious groups came to light.

California Assemblywoman Christy Smith appears to be the establishment favorite, picking up an endorsement from Hill and party officials.

There are six Republicans running in the special election.

They include George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide who was convicted of lying to the FBI as part of the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Papadopoulos does not live in the district.

Mike Garcia, a businessman and former Navy pilot, entered the race before Hill resigned, hoping to oust her in November. But now he finds himself the favored candidate in the special election and primary.

Former U.S. Representative Steve Knight, who previously held the seat, is also running in the Republican primary.

Simultaneously, Democrats and Republicans will hold a primary vote to determine who will appear on the ballot for the seat in November, picking from the same pool of candidates.

NORTH CAROLINA

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is one of the most at-risk Republicans and skirted having to face a tough primary challenge when his only serious opponent dropped out.

Signs for Democrat Jessica Cisneros, who campaigns for a House seat, and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) are seen in Laredo, Texas, U.S. March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Veronica Cardenas

But Democrats are holding a contest to see who can challenge Tillis, with four candidates competing for the nomination.

The favorite is state lawmaker Cal Cunningham, who leads in opinion polls and has picked up the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The race became more controversial in recent weeks after reports emerged that Republicans had purchased television advertisements boosting another Democratic candidate, state lawmaker Erica Smith. Republicans were accused of trying to boost Smith in a bid to prevent Cunningham, who is seen as a stronger opponent to Tillis, from winning the nomination.

Editing by Scott Malone and Rosalba O'Brien

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