Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 1

November 18, 2021

Welcome to the first edition of the 2022 election cycle’s The Heart of the Primaries!

This week: Where Trump has endorsed challengers to GOP incumbents so far; conflict in Massachusetts GOP manifests in potential gubernatorial primary matchup

Click here to follow developments on the Democratic side. 

Where Trump has endorsed challengers to GOP incumbents so far

Former President Donald Trump has made more than 50 endorsements in the 2022 elections so far, including several candidates challenging GOP incumbents. The table above includes incumbents who are running for re-election or have not announced their intentions.

Three of the four House incumbents with Trump-endorsed challengers voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection following the Jan. 6 Capitol breach: Liz Cheney, Jaime Herrera Beutler, and Fred Upton. Two of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach—Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16) and Adam Kinzinger (IL-16)—are not running for re-election.

Three incumbent Republican senators with seats up for election in 2022 voted “guilty” on Trump’s 2021 impeachment: Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Richard Burr (N.C.), and Pat Toomey (Penn.). Murkowski is the only one seeking re-election. Trump endorsed Kelly Tshibaka in the primary (which will be a top-four primary featuring candidates of all affiliations—click here for more information). Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the group will be supporting all incumbent senators.

Trump has criticized Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on crime, policing, and other issues. Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger argued over the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results in the state. We cover conflicts in the Idaho gubernatorial race below.

We’ll be watching how impeachment votes and 2020 election claims unfold in these and other Republican primaries, along with policy differences between the candidates.

Missouri Republicans weigh effect of Eric Greitens’ U.S. Senate candidacy

A recurring theme during primary season is how candidates must connect with the primary election voter base and lay the groundwork for the general election. Often, primary candidates argue that their opponents aren’t likely to win the general election. An early example of this conflict in the 2022 season is developing in Missouri’s GOP Senate primary. 

Nine candidates are seeking the GOP nomination so far, including the state Senate president, the state attorney general, and two current U.S. House members. Sen. Roy Blunt (R) is not seeking re-election. National media coverage has focused on the potential effect of former Gov. Eric Greitens’ candidacy. 

Greitens was elected governor in 2016 and resigned in 2018 following investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of campaign information. Greitens’ opponents say nominating him would benefit Democrats in the general election. Greitens’ supporters say the allegations against him were politically motivated and that he is the candidate most in line with the party’s base.

Greitens has received endorsements from Trump allies including Rudy Giuliani, Michael Flynn, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, who serves as Greitens’ national campaign chairwoman. Trump has not indicated whether he intends to issue an endorsement. 

Missouri’s primaries are set to take place Aug. 2.

Flynn, Stone endorse challenger of 8-term incumbent in FL-16

Former Trump advisors Roger Stone and Michael Flynn endorsed Martin Hyde in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. Hyde is challenging eight-term incumbent Vern Buchanan in the Republican primary, scheduled for Aug. 23. 

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune‘s Zac Anderson said Hyde is challenging Buchanan “from the right and [trying to] rally the MAGA faithful to his side.” Hyde published a letter in the Herald-Tribune during Trump’s 2016 campaign in which he called Trump “wretched” and criticized Trump supporters for what he called “bigotry and bullying.” In May 2021, Hyde said his opinion of Trump had evolved over time and that “[t]he fatal flaw in his character is probably also the most valuable quality that he has, where he’s not one of them. … That’s the light bulb or the thing that I saw over subsequent time, that Trump possessed something that the others didn’t.”

At an event with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in the district recently, Buchanan said he was “passionate about we [sic] need to find a way to build the wall,” referencing Trump’s 2016 campaign theme of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Buchanan voted against impeaching Trump in January 2021 and voted against objecting to the presidential election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6. According to FiveThirtyEight, Buchanan voted with Trump’s position 84% of the time in the 116th Congress and 97% of the time in the 115th Congress.

Trump endorsement follows conflict between Little and McGeachin in Idaho

Trump endorsed Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in the Republican primary for Idaho governor, calling McGeachin a “true supporter of MAGA since the very beginning.” The endorsement came days after Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) attended the America First Policy Institute Gala in Florida, where Trump called Little “a terrific gentleman.” Little has not yet announced whether he’ll seek re-election.

Little and McGeachin have come into conflict in recent months, with McGeachin using her power as acting governor to issue executive orders while Little was out of state. Little rescinded the orders once he returned.

In May, McGeachin issued an executive order banning mask mandates while Little was at a Republican Governors Association meeting. In October, McGeachin issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or testing while Little was at the U.S.-Mexico border. Little had issued a similar order, but his did not include K-12 schools and universities.

The primary is scheduled for May 17.

Massachusetts Republican Party conflict manifests in governor’s race

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) is considering whether to seek re-election. If he does, the Republican primary could be the center of a debate over the direction of the party in the state. In Massachusetts, 10% of voters are registered Republicans, 32% are Democrats, and 57% are unenrolled (independent). 

Baker recently called himself a “Bill Weld Republican,” referring to the former Republican governor who was Gary Johnson’s vice presidential running mate on the Libertarian ticket in 2016 and who ran for president in 2020 as a Republican.

Last month, Baker called on state GOP Chair Jim Lyons to step down after Lyons didn’t revoke his endorsement of a city council candidate who referred to mayoral candidate Michelle Wu’s Asian heritage in a tweet. Lyons said that Baker should reconsider his party affiliation, saying he was “abandoning the principles of the Republican Party.”

The Boston Globe‘s Emma Platoff wrote that Baker “takes a bipartisan approach in his dealings with the Democratic-dominated Legislature; Lyons, for his part, leads a more conservative faction of the party that argues Republicans in the state should take a harder line despite their minimal power on Beacon Hill.”

Former state Rep. Geoff Diehl is running in the primary and has criticized Baker‘s actions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including business closures and vaccine mandates for state workers. As mentioned above, Trump endorsed Diehl.

Former party chair Jennifer Nassour (2009-2011) said if Diehl beat Baker in a primary, it would mean the “end of the Republican party in Massachusetts,” referring to Baker’s popularity and Diehl’s unsuccessful bids for state Senate in 2015 and U.S. Senate in 2018.  

Due to his position, Lyons cannot endorse in the primary. Primaries in Massachusetts are set for Sept. 20.

Three candidates running in primary against Texas AG Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filed for re-election on Nov. 16. Paxton will face at least three elected officials in the Republican primary: Lands Commissioner George P. Bush, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, and state Rep. Matt Krause.

Paxton was first elected attorney general in 2014. He had no primary opposition in 2018 and defeated Justin Nelson (D) 51% to 47% in the general election.

Paxton’s primary opponents say he should not run for re-election in light of ongoing legal issues. A grand jury indicted Paxton on two counts of first-degree securities fraud and one count of not registering in July 2015. As of this writing, the case was headed to trial in Collin County following a legal dispute over the trial’s location. 

In a separate case, seven of Paxton’s employees at the state Attorney General’s office resigned in the second half of 2020 and alleged that Paxton had violated both state and federal law related to improper influence and abuse of office. Paxton and his supporters say both allegations against him were politically motivated.

In his re-election bid announcement, Paxton said he is the only candidate in the race with a Trump endorsement and that he sued Barack Obama 27 times and is involved in more than 21 lawsuits against the Biden administration.

The filing deadline for this election is Dec. 13. The primary is scheduled for March 1. If necessary, a runoff is scheduled for May 24. 

Redistricting shapes N.C. Senate district candidate field

North Carolina state Sen. Tom McInnis, who currently represents the 25th District, moved his residence to his former second home so that he could run in the redrawn 21st District. Redistricting would have pit McInnis against incumbent Sen. David Craven (R) in a primary if he stayed in his former residence. McInnis was first elected in 2014.

In the redrawn 21st District’s primary, McInnis faces former state Senate Majority Whip Wesley Meredith, who served in the Senate from 2011 to 2018 representing District 19. Democrat Kirk deViere defeated Meredith in 2018. Meredith ran again in 2020 and lost to deViere.  

According to Carolina Journal News Service‘s Dallas Woodhouse, McInnis “advocated for a deal announced last year that landed the second headquarters for the U.S. Golf Association for Moore County, along with the staging of a major golf championship every five years.” And Meredith “took a leading role on veterans and military issues” during his time in the Senate.

The filing deadline is Dec. 17 and the primary election is scheduled for March 8.