Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 12

March 3, 2022

In this issue: Texas GOP primary results roundup and a Senate leadership disagreement in N.C.

Texas results roundup

Texas held the nation’s first midterm primaries on Tuesday. Races in which no candidate received a majority of the vote are headed to May 24 runoffs. Here’s a roundup of results from marquee Republican primaries, current as of Thursday morning. 

The big stories: Taylor suspends campaign, Paxton and Bush go to runoff

Texas’ 3rd Congressional District: Incumbent Van Taylor and Keith Self advanced to a runoff with 48.7% and 26.5%, respectively. Taylor suspended his campaign on Wednesday, saying, “About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world. … I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life.” 

The Texas Tribune‘s Patrick Svitek said that “no other race in Texas this year seems to more reflect the debate within the GOP over the fallout from Jan. 6.” Taylor was one of two House Republicans from Texas—and 35 House Republicans nationwide—who voted last May to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol breach. Self, a former Collin County judge, criticized Taylor’s vote. Five candidates ran in the primary.

Attorney General: Incumbent Ken Paxton and state Land Commissioner George P. Bush advanced to a runoff with 42.7% and 22.8%, respectively. Former state supreme court Justice Eva Guzman received 17.5% and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, 17%. 

Svitek and the Tribune‘s James Barragán wrote during the primary, “Gohmert and Paxton are … vying for the same conservative voters who are further right than the establishment GOP. Bush and Guzman appear to be fighting over traditional, pro-business Republicans.”

A grand jury indicted Paxton on securities fraud charges in 2015, and former aides have accused him of bribery and abuse of office. Paxton has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

Other marquee primary results

U.S. House
  • Texas’ 1st: Nathaniel Moran won with 62.9%. Joe McDaniel was second with 24.3%. Four candidates ran. The district is open—incumbent Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) ran for attorney general.
  • Texas’ 8th: This race was too close to call as of Thursday morning. Morgan Luttrell led with 52.2%. Christian Collins was in second with 22.3%. Eleven candidates ran. Incumbent Rep. Kevin Brady (R) didn’t seek re-election.
  • Texas’ 15th: Monica De La Cruz Hernandez won with 56.5%. Mauro Garza was second with 15.3%. Nine candidates ran. The district is open—incumbent Vicente Gonzalez Jr. (D) is running for re-election in the 34th District after redistricting.
  • Texas’ 38th: Wesley Hunt won with 55.3%. Mark Ramsey had 30.2%. This is a newly created district following redistricting.
State executive
  • Governor: Incumbent Greg Abbott won with 66.4%. Next were Allen West and Don Huffines with 12.3% and 12.0%, respectively. Eight candidates ran in the GOP primary.
  • Agriculture Commissioner: Incumbent Sid Miller won with 58.5%. James White was second with 31.1%. Three candidates ran.
State legislature
  • State legislative: There were 62 Republican state legislative primaries. Nine were for the state Senate and 53 were for the state House. Two incumbent senators and 30 incumbent representatives faced primaries. No incumbent Republicans lost primaries on Tuesday.
    • Both incumbent senators in contested primaries won on Tuesday. No Republican state senator has lost in a primary or runoff since 2014. 
    • Four of five state Senate candidates Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) endorsed won primaries. The fifth is headed to a runoff. 
    • There are three runoffs in the House with GOP incumbents—in districts 12, 60, and 85. Two GOP House incumbents were in primaries that haven’t been called yet (districts 64 and 91). In 2020, no GOP House incumbents lost in primaries, and two lost in runoffs.

Media analysis

The Texas Tribune‘s Joshua Fechter said the following about primary results in terms of incumbents and challengers:  

Texas’ top Republicans mostly fended off challengers in the GOP primary Tuesday. Meanwhile, a slate of progressives made inroads in Democratic primaries for Congress — but fell short of their goal of an immediate sweep that would reshape the Texas’ U.S. House delegation.

Meanwhile, the status quo was largely preserved in the Texas Legislature. No state Senate incumbents lost their seats Tuesday night. In the House, one sitting Democrat lost and no incumbent Republicans were knocked out, though a few were forced into runoffs. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan both saw the vast majority of their favored candidates win primaries in the chambers they preside over.

FiveThirtyEight‘s Geoffrey Skelley said the following about the relation between the primary results and House incumbents’ votes on certifying the 2020 election results: 

I mentioned earlier tonight the strong hold that Trump continues to have on the GOP in Texas (many Republicans in the state have a popular view of the former president), and indeed, there were many strong performances by Republican incumbents who voted against certifying the 2020 election in the U.S. House — every one handily won renomination or looked to be on their way in a couple of uncalled races.

But in an example of how our politics are often full of contradictions, most Republicans who voted to certify the election did well, too — except Rep. Van Taylor … Taylor faced a number of attacks for his vote to certify the 2020 election results and for his support of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. Senate candidates in N.C. disagree on Senate leadership

Veteran Marjorie K. Eastman, former Gov. Pat McCrory, and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker participated in the first U.S. Senate GOP primary debate in North Carolina on Feb. 26. Walker and McCrory disagreed on the topic of Senate leadership. 

The issue arose when Walker was discussing an 11-point plan Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) released that Scott said the GOP should adopt as its agenda. 

Walker said, “I applaud Sen. Rick Scott. … In fact, I think he needs to be the majority leader instead of Mitch McConnell moving forward. … How are you going to change something unless you put new leadership into the pipeline?”

McCrory said, “McConnell brought a change in the Supreme Court working with Donald Trump that we desperately needed, and without his legislative skills, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Eastman didn’t say who she’d support for leader.

McConnell, currently Senate minority leader, has said he will not release a GOP agenda ahead of the midterms. On March 1, McConnell said, “If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I’ll be the majority leader. I’ll decide in consultation with my members what to put on the floor.” 

Scott, for his part, has said he would support McConnell for majority leader. Scott chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee and said he released the plan separate from that work. In addition to this session of Congress, McConnell was minority leader from 2007 to 2015 and majority leader from 2015 to 2021. 

Rep. Tedd Budd, who Trump endorsed in the Senate primary in North Carolina, was invited to the debate but did not attend. His campaign previously said he wouldn’t participate in debates until the filing deadline passed.

More than a dozen candidates are running in the primary so far. Eastman, Benjamin Griffiths, and Lichia Sibhatu filled out Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey—click on their names to read their responses. The primary is scheduled for May 17.

Sen. Richard Burr (R) isn’t seeking re-election. He was one of three GOP senators up for re-election this year who voted guilty in Trump’s 2021 impeachment trial.

Inhofe announces U.S. Senate retirement, triggering special election

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced he’ll retire effective Jan. 3, 2023, four years before his term expires. Inhofe is one of seven senators—six Republicans and one Democrat—to announce retirements at the end of the 117th Congress.

Under state law, a special election to fill the remainder of Inhofe’s term will take place on Nov. 8, at the same time as the regularly scheduled midterm elections. The special primary election is expected to take place on June 28 with a runoff election on Aug. 23 if no candidate wins a majority of the vote. 

Michael Crespin, the director of the Carl Albert Congressional Research & Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma, said, “I expect the primary to be very crowded. … It’s pretty rare for a U.S. Senate seat to open up.” Inhofe was first elected in 1994.

Luke Holland, U.S. Rep Markwayne Mullin, and state Sen. Nathan Dahm announced their candidacies shortly after Inhofe’s announcement. 

Holland has served as Inhofe’s chief of staff since 2017. Holland said he shares Inhofe’s policy positions and would continue Inhofe’s legacy. Inhofe endorsed Holland in his resignation letter, saying, “[Holland] is a fierce conservative and the best person to continue my legacy of a strong national defense and investment in local infrastructure.” 

Mullin said in a tweet, “We need an America First conservative fighting for Oklahoma in the Senate.” Mullin has represented Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013. 

Dahm, who represents District 33 in the Oklahoma State Senate, said in a post on his campaign Facebook page, “We continue to run on my record as THE proven Republican fighter.” Dahm was previously challenging Sen. James Lankford in the GOP primary for the state’s regularly scheduled Senate election this year.

Inhofe won a fifth term after defeating Abby Broyles (D) 63% to 33% in 2020. Oklahoma hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1990, and the winner of the Republican primary is expected to have an advantage in the special general election.

Competitiveness data: West Virginia’s primaries

West Virginia’s filing deadline for federal and state elections was Jan. 29. We’ve crunched some numbers to compare how competitive the primaries will be compared to recent election cycles:

U.S. House

Due to population changes, the state lost one district and was apportioned two ahead of the 2022 cycle. West Virginia was apportioned three congressional districts after the 2010 census. All three incumbents filed to run for re-election, two of whom—Reps. David McKinley (R) and Alexander Mooney (R)—are running in the same district.

State legislature

During the 2020 redistricting cycle, the legislature changed the makeup of the House of Delegates. Previously, the chamber had 67 districts with a total of 100 members. Now, the chamber has 100 single-member districts. This did not change the number of delegates, but it increased the number of possible primaries from 134 to 200.

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: four in the U.S. House and 234 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.

Incumbent candidates in IL-15 primary comment on Ukraine

U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller are running in Illinois’ 15th Congressional District GOP primary. Both commented on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Chicago Tribune‘s Rick Pearson said Miller’s response “was in stark contrast to the reactions from the rest of the delegation, including the four other Illinois Republicans in the House” who denounced Putin. Several also called for sanctions.

Miller said on Feb. 24 that “Americans miss the ‘Peace Through Strength’ and energy independence that were achieved during the Trump Administration.” Miller criticized Biden on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, immigration policy, and energy policy, saying, “None of this would be happening if President Trump was still in the White House.” Trump endorsed Miller in the primary.

Davis tweeted on Feb. 24 that he “join[s] the free world in strongly condemning Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. […] Thugs like Putin only respond to strength. Now is the time for severe economic consequences.” He called for sanctions through passing the Putin Accountability Act and for increased military spending in the upcoming defense budget. 

A Davis press release from January said the Putin Accountability Act would “bypass the Biden Administration’s soft-on-Russia approach.”

Miller was first elected in 2020 to represent Illinois’ 15th. Davis was first elected in 2012 to represent the 13th. According to data from Daily Kos, 28% of the newly drawn 15th District’s population comes from Illinois’ old 13th District (which Davis represents) and 31% comes from the old 15th District (which Miller represents). Three independent race forecasters rate the general election Solid or Safe Republican.

Illinois’ primaries are scheduled for June 28.