In this issue: Sen. Rob Portman weighs in on the race to replace him and Texas Railroad Commission primary makes headlines
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman endorses Jane Timken in Ohio’s Senate primary
On Feb. 16, retiring U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) endorsed former state Republican Party Chair Jane Timken in the GOP Senate primary. Portman tweeted, “I am confident in @JaneTimkenOH’s ability to win both the primary and the general elections, ensuring that this Senate seat remains Republican with a 50-50 Senate, and so much at stake.”
On Feb. 22, U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Shelley Moore-Capito (R-W.V.), and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) also endorsed Timken.
Several other GOP primary candidates have received senators’ endorsements. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) endorsed former state Treasurer Josh Mandel. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) backed businessman Mike Gibbons. And Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) endorsed author J.D. Vance.
A Trafalgar Group poll conducted earlier this month of 1,085 likely primary voters showed Mandel with 21% support, Gibbons with 16%, Vance with 14%, and Timken and Matt Dolan each with 10%. Twenty-five percent were undecided. The margin of error was +/- 3 percentage points.
Gov. Justice endorses Rep. McKinley against Rep. Mooney in WV-02
Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney are running against one another in the West Virginia 2nd Congressional District GOP primary due to redistricting. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) endorsed McKinley. Mooney has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.
McKinley was one of 35 Republican House members to support a bill to create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol breach last May. McKinley is also one of 13 House Republicans to vote in favor of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. Justice said, “Frankly, I do not agree with [McKinley’s] vote to authorize a January 6th investigative committee. … However, it did take a lot of courage for him to vote for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and I know without question that vote was done out of his love for the great people of West Virginia.”
Mooney has criticized McKinley’s votes. One Mooney ad released in November 2021 said, “(President Joe) Biden’s trillion-dollar spending spree was dead until McKinley resurrected it, joining 12 RINO Republicans to spend trillions on (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi’s socialist agenda, contributing to record inflation for American workers, businesses, and families.”
McKinley’s campaign manager said, “It’s clear [Mooney] wants to distract the voters from the fact that McKinley has a better voting record with Trump than he does and a proven record of conservative wins for our miners, veterans, and the people of West Virginia.”
McKinley and Mooney also voted differently on accepting 2020 presidential electors from Pennsylvania and Nevada. McKinley voted to accept all electors, saying “it is clear Congress has no role to object to the states’ election results once they are certified.” Mooney said, “Congress should not accept electors from states where laws were violated, state constitutions were ignored and the legislature was subverted.”
Justice was first elected governor in 2016 as a Democrat. In 2017, Justice announced at a rally with Trump that he was joining the Republican Party.
West Virginia will have two congressional seats after this election cycle, down from three due to post-2020 census reapportionment.
Special election set to replace Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.)
On Feb. 21, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon (D) announced details for a special election to fill the state’s vacant 1st Congressional District. Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R) died of cancer on Feb. 17.
Simon scheduled a special primary for May 24 and the general election for Aug. 9. Candidates will have between March 1 and March 15 to file. Gov. Tim Walz (D) issued the Writ of Special Election on Feb. 22, making the election official.
The winner of the special election will fill the remainder of Hagedorn’s term. The regular election for the next full term will be held in November.
In 2018, Hagedorn defeated Dan Feehan (D) 50.1% to 49.7%. Walz represented the district before Hagedorn. At the time, Minnesota’s 1st was one of 13 Democratic-held U.S. House districts that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. In 2020, Hagedorn defeated Freehan (D) 48.6% to 45.5%.
Simon said the special election “will take place within the current congressional district boundaries, not the new 2022 redistricting maps.”
A slew of news in final weeks of Texas Railroad Commission primary
Among the statewide races Texas Republican primary voters will decide on March 1 is the party’s nominee for one of three seats on the Texas Railroad Commission. Wayne Christian (R), first elected in 2016, is running for another six-year term and has four primary challengers.
Despite its name, the Texas Railroad Commission does not regulate railroads but instead regulates the oil and gas business in Texas. The Railroad Commission has three members who are elected to six-year staggered terms such that one commissioner is up for election every two years. All three current members are Republicans.
Christian responded to a Feb. 4 article in The Odessa American regarding a lawsuit that two property owners near an oilfield waste repository site filed earlier this year challenging the commission’s approval of the project. The suit argues that High Roller Environmental did not properly notify nearby property owners before seeking project approval from the commission.
Christian was one of two commissioners who approved the project on Dec. 8, 2020. In response to the lawsuit, Christian told the Texas Monthly via email that “the Railroad Commission’s general counsel advised him to approve the permit as long as the facility used a modern clay liner, which it did.”
The Odessa American’s report said that Christian’s campaign received a $100,000 contribution from HR Environmental on Dec. 11, 2020, and included a quote from an attorney that filed the lawsuit questioning the appropriateness of the contribution. In response, Christain said, “My opponents are mudslinging out of desperation because I am the only candidate in this race with the endorsements, campaign infrastructure, and resources necessary to win this race.’”
Another candidate, attorney Sarah Stogner, released a TikTok video earlier this month where she appears on a piece of oil pumping equipment topless and in her underwear. Stogner said, “I’ve been jumping up and down for years. … Trying to do it the traditional way of being nice and proper, wearing my Sunday School dress, and saying would Jesus want us to let our groundwater be polluted, and no one seemed to listen or care.”
If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, the top two candidates will advance to a primary runoff on May 24.
Alabama Republican Party disqualifies four candidates from primary ballot
On Feb. 19, the Alabama Republican Party removed four legislative candidates from the primary ballot on grounds they had supported the Democratic Party, in violation of GOP rules.
The state GOP adopted a rule in 2007 that says candidates can be removed if they “publicly participated in the primary election of another political party or publicly supported a nominee of another political party” while holding office as a Republican. The party’s rules also allow it to remove from the ballot anyone who “is not officially recognized as a Republican.”
- Former state Rep. Elaine Beech said she was disqualified from the GOP primary ballot because she had not met a six-year waiting period for former officeholders to run as Republicans if they previously ran as a Democrat. Beech represented House District 65 from 2009 to 2018 as a Democrat. Beech said, “Basically I think they didn’t want me in the party, since I had been a Democrat all my life.”
- Anson Knowles, who was running in the House District 10 primary, said he was removed for working with the Madison County Libertarian Party in 2015 and 2016. Knowles is a member of the county Republican Executive Committee and said he intended to work for Paul Sanford’s (R) campaign for Alabama’s 5th Congressional District: “I want to contribute and do something positive for the party to demonstrate, indeed, that I am a Republican.”
- Teresa Rhea, who was challenging Sen. Andrew Jones for Senate District 10, was disqualified after Jones said she voted on a Democratic ballot in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election and attended Democratic fundraisers. Rhea said, “While I disagree with the committee’s decision and feel that the voters should have had the opportunity to decide this, I am still a committed conservative and I will respect the state party’s decision.”
- Tripp Powell was challenging Sen. Gerald Allen (R) in Senate District 21 but said he was removed from the ballot for donating to Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox’s (D) gubernatorial campaign in 2018. Powell said, “I did not feel like the rules were applied fairly to my case” because he wasn’t an elected official.
Competitiveness data: Kentucky’s primaries
Kentucky’s filing deadline for federal and state elections was Jan. 25. We’ve crunched some numbers to compare how competitive the primaries will be compared to recent election cycles.
Notes on how these figures were calculated:
- Candidates per district: divides the total number of candidates by the number of districts holding elections.
- Open districts: divides the number of districts without an incumbent running by the number of districts holding elections.
- Contested primaries: divides the number of major party primaries by the number of possible primaries: six in the U.S. House and 238 in the state legislature.
- Incumbents in contested primaries: divides the number of incumbents in primaries by the number seeking re-election in the given election cycle.