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New York, Colorado Hold Key Primaries In Fight For House And Senate

Former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout is one of several female Democratic candidates running in Tuesday's primaries.
Seth Wenig
Former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout is one of several female Democratic candidates running in Tuesday's primaries.

Voters go to the polls in five states on Tuesday, where congressional primaries in New York and Colorado in particular could have an important impact on key competitive House and Senate races.

Democrats hope to contest as many as four congressional seats in the Empire State, a place that could prove critical in whether they're able to flip the 30 they need to win back the House.

Many of those contests could come with female nominees, too. Democrats have made recruiting pushes for more women to run this year, and they believe that Hillary Clinton, as the first female nominee of a major party, at the top of the ticket will help those candidates, especially in the state she now calls home.

EMILY's List, which recruits women who are pro-abortion rights to run, is supporting five candidates in New York. That includes Anna Throne-Holst in the primary to take on vulnerable GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, and Colleen Deacon, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, in the primary to take on another top target, GOP Rep. John Katko. Deacon also has the backing of the national party.

Democrats hope Deacon's background as a single mother who relied on food stamps after her son was born will resonate with voters, giving her a unique story at a time when paid family leave is becoming an important national campaign issue.

"It's not a unique story, not a unique experience, but it's a perspective not represented in Congress," Deacon told NPR.

Deacon is competing against college professor Eric Kingson — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held a rally for him last week.

In an an open GOP-held seat to succeed retiring Rep. Chris Gibson, EMILY's List is backing former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout; she also has the backing of Sanders, who helped raise money for her earlier this year.

Polls show Teachout with an advantage on the Democratic side. In the Republican primary, state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, who has the backing of much of the state and local GOP leadership, leads wealthy businessman Andrew Heaney in what's been a bitter primary.

Republicans have a rare offensive opportunity in the state too, thanks to the retirement of Rep. Steve Israel, who led the Democrats' House campaign committee for the past two cycles. EMILY's List is backing North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan there.

Kaplan has made her story of coming to the U.S. at age 13 as a Jewish refugee from Iran a central part of her campaign, especially following presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump's controversial Muslim ban and call to stop immigration from certain Middle Eastern countries.

"America gave me a chance. So when Donald Trump says these hateful things, I know how dangerous that can become, and how important it is to fight back," she says in one TV ad.

"People can sit and read books about Iran, but I've lived that life and that culture," Kaplan told NPR of her five-way primary. "I'm a female, but because of my background, where I come from, my life experience — I think sometimes that could be a lot more meaningful or appropriate on a congressional level than having 20, 30 years in public office."

In Colorado, Republicans will pick their Senate nominee for a race the national party had once hoped to make competitive against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. But a messy primary that's been beset by ballot problems and other candidate gaffes have made that a likely long shot now.

National Review reports that Darryl Glenn, an African-American Air Force veteran and county commissioner, appears to have a narrow edge for Tuesday night, buoyed by an inspiring speech at the state GOP convention and further aided by outside spending from conservative groups on his behalf. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz traveled to campaign with him earlier this month.

Early on, national Republicans had preferred former state lawmaker Jon Keyser, who's been plagued by questions about forged signatures on his ballot petitions.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Corrected: June 28, 2016 at 8:00 PM AKDT
In an earlier version of this story, a photo caption incorrectly stated that Zephyr Teachout was running against fellow Democrat Eric Kingson. In fact, they were competing in primary contests for different seats, not against each other.
Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.