Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 9

February 10, 2022

In this issue: Pennsylvania GOP votes not to endorse in statewide primaries and an endorsement divide in TN-05

Trump, other Republican officials and influencers divided over Tennessee U.S. House endorsement

Though the filing deadline for U.S. House candidates in Tennessee is almost two months away, prominent Republican officials and influencers have already issued competing endorsements in the 5th District primary. Located in the Nashville area, the 5th District had heavily favored Democrats under the 2010 district maps but is expected to strongly favor Republicans under the new district maps. 

Former President Donald Trump endorsed former U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus on Jan. 25. Ortagus announced her bid this week. Several other elected Republicans and commentators have backed filmmaker Robby Starbuck. 

Trump said Ortagus “understands the threats posed by China, Russia, Iran and others, and will be tough, not just roll over like the Democrats and RINOs. She serves in the U.S. Navy Reserves and will fight for our Military. She won’t bow to the Woke Mob or the Leftist LameStream Media.”  

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R) reiterated his endorsement of Starbuck following Trump’s Ortagus endorsement. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) and former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka endorsed Starbuck shortly after Trump’s endorsement. Political commentator Candace Owens tweeted, “Nope. Trump has this completely wrong. @robbystarbuck is the correct pick for Tennessee’s 5th district and Tennesseans have his back.”

Ortagus and Starbuck are among five candidates running in the GOP primary so far. The filing deadline is April 7 and the primary, Aug. 4.

Incumbent Jim Cooper (D), first elected in 2002, is not running for re-election.

Beyond endorsements, Trump works to shape candidate fields

Last week, Bernie Moreno dropped out of Ohio’s GOP primary for Senate citing a conversation with Trump. This week, Vernon Jones switched from Georgia’s gubernatorial race to a U.S. House bid after a meeting with Trump.

Moreno said, “After talking to President Trump we both agreed this race has too many Trump candidates and could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat.” Trump has not endorsed in the May 3 primary, which includes businessman Mike Gibbons, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, former state party chair Jane Timken, and author J.D. Vance. 

Upon exiting Georgia’s gubernatorial primary, Jones endorsed David Perdue. Trump had already endorsed Perdue against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp. CNN reported that Trump met with Jones and offered “his endorsement in a congressional contest if Jones agrees to exit the GOP primary for governor to instead run for Congress, according to two people familiar with the matter.” This week, Trump endorsed Jones’ bid for the 10th Congressional District. Georgia’s primary is set for May 24.

Last week, we wrote that former Rep. Mark Walker announced he’d stay in the Senate race in North Carolina after his campaign said Trump offered to endorse him if he switched to a House bid. Trump endorsed Ted Budd in the May 17 Senate primary.

Checking in on U.S. House incumbent-vs.-incumbent primaries 

There are five primaries with incumbents running against one another so far. Two are Republican primaries. 

With congressional redistricting unsettled in several states, there could be more incumbent-vs.-incumbent races on the horizon. That could happen if incumbents’ home addresses or political bases of support are redrawn into the same district, or if multiple incumbents determine that the characteristics of a particular district are more favorable to their re-election.

Today, we’re looking at how much money competing incumbents raised in 2021. The following data is from the Federal Election Commission.

Illinois’ 15th (June 28 primary)

  • Rodney Davis: $1.8 million
  • Mary Miller: $777,000

West Virginia’s 2nd (May 10 primary)

  • David McKinley: $1.5 million
  • Alexander Mooney: $3.1 million
  • Carly Braun (non-incumbent): $18,000

There were 11 incumbent-versus-incumbent U.S. House primaries in 2012—five Democratic, three Republican, and three in which candidates of all affiliations competed together. In the three districts where it was possible for candidates of the same party to advance to the general election (two using California’s top-two primary system and one using Louisiana’s majority-vote system), incumbents of the same party also competed in generals. Two additional races featured a general election contest between incumbents of different parties. 

As of Feb. 9, 10 states hadn’t adopted congressional redistricting plans yet and two states had adopted maps that courts then blocked. Thirty-one states had adopted congressional district maps. One state approved boundaries that hadn’t yet taken effect. Six states have a single U.S. House district each, so no congressional redistricting is required.

Pennsylvania State Committee votes not to endorse any statewide candidate at winter meeting

The Pennsylvania Republican State Committee did not endorse any candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, or U.S. Senate at its winter meeting on Feb. 5. Thirteen candidates have announced GOP gubernatorial primary bids and 13 have declared for the Senate primary. Both elections are open—Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is term-limited and Sen. Pat Toomey (R) isn’t running for re-election.

Pennlive.com‘s Jan Murphy wrote that the last time the Republican Party did not endorse a gubernatorial candidate was “in 1978 when the party had a pool of strong candidates for an open governor’s seat. Voters ended up electing Dick Thornburgh as the party nominee in the primary and he went on to win the governorship that November.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari wrote, “Several Pennsylvania Republicans grumbled privately that the failure to wrangle a recommendation to voters, in such a critical year for the GOP and with so many candidates battling for the nominations, reflected the diminishing power of the state party and its leadership.”

Vince Matteo, chairman of the Lycoming County Republican Party, said, “I think we have some really good candidates. I haven’t made up my mind personally in any one of the three races. Why should the party anoint one, if you will?”

As we wrote in last week‘s Democratic issue of The Heart of the Primaries, the state Democratic Party did not endorse in the Senate race as no candidate reached the required two-thirds vote threshold at the party meeting. The party endorsed Josh Shapiro in the gubernatorial primary.

The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate the Senate and gubernatorial elections Toss-ups.

The filing deadline for major party candidates in Pennsylvania is March 8, and primary elections are scheduled for May 17.

Farm Bureau backs Pillen, Noem backs Herbster in Nebraska governor’s race

The Nebraska Farm Bureau and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) both endorsed candidates in Nebraska’s gubernatorial primary last week. The Bureau endorsed Jim Pillen on Feb.1, and Noem endorsed Charles Herbster on Feb 2.

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue said that a poll of Farm Bureau members “resoundingly said Jim Pillen’s the guy,” and that Pillen “understands we have a broken tax system and that there is overreliance on property taxes (and) he understands that if agriculture does well, our state does well.” 

According to Omaha news outlet 3 News Now, the group hadn’t endorsed in a competitive GOP gubernatorial primary since 2006, when its endorsed candidate, Dave Heineman, defeated Tom Osborne. McHargue said, “We really made a difference in that race. … And we think we can do it again in this one.” 

Incumbent Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) also endorsed Pillen. Ricketts is term-limited.

Noem said Herbster “is a strong conservative, and with decades of experience as a farmer, rancher, and successful businessman, I know that he will fight to advance the America First agenda in Nebraska.” 

Trump endorsed Herbster in Nebraska and Noem’s re-election bid in South Dakota.

Six candidates are running in the May 10 Republican primary so far. 

Texas election competitiveness data

With the first primaries coming up on March 1, here’s a look at congressional and state legislative election competitiveness data for Texas over the past three cycles.