Ousters, upsets halfway through 2022 primary election season
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — More than halfway through a tumultuous primary season, voters have rendered verdicts in a number of contests, many of which featured candidates arguing they best represented a continuation of policies favored by former President Donald Trump.
While not on the ballot himself, Trump has played a role in several races, with candidates bearing his endorsement meeting a variety of electoral outcomes. There have also been tumbles by several incumbents, some taken out by Trump-backed challengers and others bested by fellow representatives in faceoffs forced by redistricting.
Here’s what’s happened so far in primary races across the country:
Eight incumbents — three Democrats and five Republicans — lost their U.S. House seats already this year after being defeated in their primary elections.
Four of those losses came in incumbent-on-incumbent races, a result of the once-a-decade redistricting process. But the other four were defeated by insurgent challengers after finding themselves vulnerable as a result of scandal, investigation, irritating progressives or crossing Trump.
Seven-term centrist Democratic U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon fell to progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner in his May 17 primary. Schrader had angered many Democrats by opposing some of President Joe Biden’s priorities, including a $1.9 trillion coronavirus pandemic relief bill because he didn’t support a minimum wage increase.
Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina was defeated by state Sen. Chuck Edwards after a whirlwind of scandals that included Cawthorn saying he’d been invited to orgies and had seen opponents of drug addiction use cocaine, getting caught twice with guns at airports and appearing in videos showing him in sexually suggestive poses.
On June 14, five-term GOP Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina lost his reelection bid to state Rep. Russell Fry after voting to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. And on June 28, six-term Mississippi Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo lost a runoff to Sheriff Mike Ezell after being accused in a congressional ethics report of misspending campaign funds.
Redistricting guaranteed that some U.S. House incumbents would be ousted.
The first to fall was Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia, who voted with Democrats in support of Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, betting that West Virginians would reward him for prioritizing such funding in one of the nation’s poorest states. Instead, they dumped him for Rep. Alex Mooney, who opposed the infrastructure bill. Mooney won Trump’s endorsement the day Biden signed the measure into law.
In Georgia, Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath, a gun safety advocate, went district shopping after a GOP-dominated Legislature turned her home area into a Republican stronghold. She defeated fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, who said she’d considered McBath like a “sister.”
Two Illinois incumbents lost their seats this past week when Republican Rep. Mary Miller defeated five-term Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, and Democratic Rep. Sean Casten beat one-term Democratic Rep. Marie Newman.
Miller won days after she called the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade a “historic victory for white life” during a rally with Trump. Calling it “a mix-up of words,” Miller’s spokesman told The Associated Press that she had intended to say the decision was a victory for a “right to life.”
Still stinging from his 2020 presidential election loss to Biden, Trump vowed revenge on Republicans who defied him.
He zeroed in on Georgia, recruiting challengers to Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who had rebuffed his efforts to overturn his narrow defeat in the state. But he fell short, with Kemp easily turning back former Sen. David Perdue, and Raffensperger defeating Rep. Jody Hice.
Trump also directed his rage toward the 10 House Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach him for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Four decided against seeking reelection.
But of those who stayed to fight, Rice became first to lose, a result he acknowledged was possible over a vote he said his conscience forced him to take. Another, Rep. David Valadao of California, finished second in his primary, meaning he advanced to the November general election as one of the top two finishers.
Four of the House Republicans still await their primaries.
In South Carolina, Trump targeted another GOP incumbent, Rep. Nancy Mace, following her criticism of his role in the Jan. 6 attack and her vote to certify Biden’s win. Mace withstood her challenge from Katie Arrington, a Trump-backed opponent.
TRUMP: KEEPING SCORE
Trump helped lift some U.S. Senate candidates to victory. In Ohio, he backed “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance after a furious push by Vance’s opponents to win Trump’s favor. The endorsement just three weeks before the election propelled Vance to a win.
Dr. Mehmet Oz got Trump’s seal of approval about five weeks before Pennsylvania’s primary, a blow to former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, whose wife, Dina Powell, served in Trump’s administration. Oz eked out a slim victory over McCormick after a recount.
In North Carolina, Trump endorsed Rep. Ted Budd a year before his primary, elevating the little-known congressman from a 14-candidate field to win the GOP Senate nomination.
Trump also waded into statewide races, backing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton against primary challenger George P. Bush. Trump was rewarding Paxton for petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election — an effort the state bar termed “dishonest” as it sought to punish him for it.
Katie Britt nearly won a GOP primary outright to replace her boss, retiring Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, but ended up in a runoff with longtime Rep. Mo Brooks, whom Trump initially supported before pulling his endorsement as Brooks’ polling languished. Trump endorsed Britt only after she finished first in the primary.
Republican voters in Nebraska rejected Trump’s gubernatorial pick, businessman Charles Herbster, who was accused late in the campaign of having groped multiple women, going instead with University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen as their nominee. In a U.S. House race in Georgia, GOP voters picked trucking company owner Mike Collins over Vernon Jones, a Trump-backed Democrat-turned-Republican.
Voters handed primary wins to some candidates who supported Trump’s assertions that Biden’s election victory was illegitimate. Those false claims have been roundly rejected by elections officials, Trump’s own attorney general and the courts, including by judges he appointed.
Nonetheless, state Sen. Doug Mastriano won Pennsylvania’s crowded Republican gubernatorial primary. He has been subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol for his role in a plan to arrange for an “alternate” slate of electors from Pennsylvania for Trump after the 2020 election.
Trump’s pick for Nevada secretary of state, former state lawmaker Jim Marchant, won his primary after spending months arguing that there hadn’t been a legitimate Nevada election for years and that Trump’s victory had been stolen.
In Idaho, Trump’s insurgent candidate Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin lost her bid to oust Gov. Brad Little. McGeachin had said she would “bring integrity to Idaho’s elections,” without citing any inconsistencies. She also said she’d push for a 50-state forensic audit of the 2020 election.
In Colorado, GOP voters chose Pam Anderson as their nominee for secretary of state over Tina Peters, an indicted county clerk who gained national prominence by promoting conspiracy theories about voting machines. Anderson had pledged to keep politics out of running elections, while Peters was indicted on seven felony counts accusing her of taking part in a “deceptive scheme” to breach voting system technology.
Primary season resumes in earnest in August, with a number of high-profile races still to be decided.
Rep. Liz Cheney faces a stiff primary challenge in Wyoming on Aug. 16 after voting to impeach Trump and becoming vice chair of the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection. Trump has endorsed Harriet Hageman in the race.
In Arizona, one of five battleground states Biden flipped, the former president endorsed a slate of loyalists who promote his false election claims. In the governor’s race, he backed former TV news anchor Kari Lake over developer Karrin Taylor Robson for the GOP nomination to replace Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who resisted Trump’s election year pressure and is barred from another term.
In Arizona’s U.S. Senate race, Trump supports investor Blake Masters for the GOP nomination to face Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly in November. Masters has said “I think Trump won in 2020” and espoused the baseless “great replacement” conspiracy theory, a racist ideology that says white people and their influence are being replaced by people of color.
And in Arizona’s secretary of state race, Trump backed state Rep. Mark Finchem, who was photographed outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and worked to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss.
In Michigan, one of the country’s top battleground states, Republicans have faced setbacks in their bid to defeat Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November. Five GOP candidates failed to qualify for the Aug. 2 primary after submitting fake signatures collected by paid petition circulators. Another candidate, Republican Ryan Kelley, was charged last month with misdemeanors related to the Jan. 6 attack.
Establishment Republicans are worried about the Aug. 2 GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Missouri, where former Gov. Eric Greitens is trying to make a political comeback, following his resignation four years ago amid investigations into possible campaign finance issues and into whether he blackmailed a woman against speaking about their extramarital affair. Some Republicans fear Greitens would be a weak general election candidate who could cede a safe seat to Democrats.