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What to watch as voters in Rhode Island and Utah select new members of Congress

Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday in two special congressional primaries that will likely determine two new members of Congress: a Democrat and a Republican.

Because the Utah and Rhode Island primaries are both in highly partisan districts, Tuesday’s winners are expected to go to Congress barring some surprise in the general election.

Utah’s 2nd District

In Utah’s Second District, Republican Representative Chris Stewart announced earlier this year that he would leave Congress in September. To replace him, Republican voters will choose from three conservative candidates with little daylight on the issues.

The candidates largely agree on the economy, government spending, taxes and Ukraine. As a result, issues such as whether they voted for Trump in 2020 and whether a candidate qualifies for the ballot have become pivotal points.

Celeste Maloy, former congressional attorney for Stewart, wins her former boss’s endorsement in the primary. But before the launch of her campaign, Maloy lived in the Washington, D.C. area while working for Stewart, and thus was not registered to vote as a Republican in Utah. That previous residency prompted another candidate to challenge Maloy’s eligibility to run, which a judge rejected.

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Utah offers candidates several options for getting to the polls: they collect the support of enough delegates at a special election convention, or they collect enough signatures to qualify.

Maloy won her voting spot at that convention, while former state legislators Becky Edwards and Bruce Hough, a former state Republican National Committeeman who previously served as state party chairman, qualified by signatures.

Maloy has not voted in the presidential election in years, while Edwards said she voted for Joe Biden instead of Donald Trump in 2020.

Hough has capitalized on that dynamic, stressing to voters that he is the only candidate to vote for a Republican in the 2020 presidential election.

The race’s only public poll was released last week and showed Edwards ahead, even though 47% of registered GOP voters polled in the district said they didn’t know who to vote for.

Rhode Island’s 1st District

On the other side of the country, voters in Rhode Island’s 1st district are seeking a replacement for former Representative David Cicilline, who left Congress in late May to head the Rhode Island Foundation.

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Nearly a dozen Democrats are seeking to take Cicilline’s seat in a competitive and sometimes tricky primary.

Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos appeared to be in charge early on, receiving significant support from the Bold PAC and Emily’s List of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Combined, the two groups have spent more than $750,000 on TV ads in support of Matos, according to AdImpact.

Other notable candidates include Gabe Amo, former White House staffer who is endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus, and former state legislator Aaron Regunberg. Regunberg commends the support of Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y.

Many of the other nominees are current state or local legislators, including Matos, State Representative Stephen Casey, State Senator Ana Quezada, State Senator Sandra Cano and Providence City Council member John Goncalves.

Since the special elections are not held concurrently with other elections, politicians are not risking their current elected offices by running for office, which is probably one reason why the field is so large.

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However, as with the Utah race, there isn’t much daylight between the candidates on these issues, which is why statements of support and issues of campaign finance and eligibility have taken center stage.

Matos’ campaign was embroiled early on in a scandal over fraudulent petition signatures. The lieutenant governor and her campaign staff blamed an outside supplier for the mistakes, but her rivals have tried to use the incident to dampen her hopes of winning the Democratic nomination.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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