Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 14

March 17, 2022

In this issue: Rep. Rice criticizes Trump after S.C. rally and late Rep. Hagedorn’s wife enters special election

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice criticizes former President Trump after Trump hosts rally for primary opponent

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) criticized former President Donald Trump (R) on March 12 after Trump hosted a rally supporting Russell Fry. Fry is one of 11 challengers to Rice in South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District Republican primary.

Rice was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the U.S. Capitol breach on January 6, 2021. Of the seven who are running or may run for re-election, Trump has endorsed challengers to six.

Rice said, “Trump is here because, like no one else I’ve ever met, he is consumed by spite. I took one vote he didn’t like and now he’s chosen to support a yes man candidate who has and will bow to anything he says, no matter what. … If you want a Congressman who cowers to no man, who votes for what is right, even when it’s hard, and who has fought like hell for the Grand Strand and Pee Dee, then I hope to earn your vote.”

At the rally, Trump said, “Right here in the 7th Congressional District, Tom Rice, a disaster. He’s respected by no one, he’s laughed at in Washington, he was never thought highly of in Washington. And he was just censured by your great South Carolina GOP. Tom Rice joined the Democrats’ deranged impeachment witch hunt … it’s all turned out to be a hoax.”

Fry thanked Trump in a tweet and said, “Conservatives are ready to replace Tom Rice and send a committed conservative to Washington. June 14 comes soon! It’s time to #FrytheRice”

Rice was first elected in 2012. Fry is a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and was first elected in a 2015 special election. 

Primary candidates endorse in TX-28 runoff

Cassy Garcia picked up endorsements from four of the five unsuccessful candidates in the Texas 28th Congressional District primary. Garcia faces Sandra Whitten in the May 24 runoff.

Garcia received 23.5% of the primary vote to Whitten’s 18%. 

Garcia was a deputy state director for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Whitten is a preschool director and was the district’s Republican nominee in 2020, running unopposed in that year’s primary. Whitten lost to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) 39% to 58%.

Cruz spent $137,000 from his campaign fund in independent expenditures supporting Garcia ahead of the March 1 primary.

Cuellar and 2020 Democratic challenger Jessica Cisneros are also in a primary runoff on May 24. The Cook Political Report and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball moved the general election from Lean Democratic to Toss-up following the primary.

Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear case about delaying Senate special election

The Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear arguments on March 23 in a case seeking to delay the U.S. Senate special election in Oklahoma. Attorney Stephen Jones alleges in the lawsuit that the state would violate the 17th Amendment by holding the special election before Sen. Jim Inhofe’s resignation is effective on Jan. 3, 2023. Jones represented Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing trial.

Inhofe (R) announced in what he called an “irrevocable pledge” on Feb. 28 that he’ll retire in January, four years before his term expires. According to state law, “a vacancy or irrevocable resignation” for Senate taking place on or before March 1 in an even-numbered year is to be filled by special election at the time of the next regularly scheduled statewide election. The special primary and general elections for Inhofe’s seat are set for the same dates as this year’s regular elections.

The 17th Amendment states, “When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.”

Joe Thai, a constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma Law School, said, “If you look at the text of the 17t [sic] Amendment, it talks about vacancies in the present tense. … Jones has an argument there; that the legislature is getting ahead of the ball.” 

James Davenport, a Rose State College political science professor, said the case hinges on whether an irrevocable resignation creates a vacancy: “The court would have to find something that would be fairly clear in striking that process (the irrevocable resignation) down. … Additionally, the court would need to make a decision quickly, they don’t have a whole lot of time.”

The filing deadline is currently set for April 15 and the special primary for June 28.

U.S. representatives not seeking re-election

As of the end of February—eight months before the general election—45 members of the U.S. House had announced they would not seek re-election. At the same time in the 2020 election cycle, 34 representatives had announced they wouldn’t seek re-election. That number was 46 in 2018.

Former Minnesota Party chair announces campaign for late husband’s district

On Monday, former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan announced her GOP primary bid for the special election in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District. The previous incumbent and Carnahan’s husband, Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R), died of cancer on Feb. 17.  

Carnahan served as Minnesota Republican Party chair from 2017 to 2021. Carnahan resigned in August after an associate and GOP donor, Anton Lazzaro, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges. Four former state party executive directors also said Carnahan fostered a toxic work environment. 

Carnahan said, “Strong leaders frequently end up with enemies. You could pick almost any Member out of the Congressional register and come up with similar attacks.” Carnahan said she condemned Lazzaro after the accusations were made public and that Lazzaro also donated to other Republicans. “This is clearly a double standard. It’s time to move on.”

Former Minnesota Republican Party Deputy Chair Michael Brodkorb said, “I think [Carnahan] has a lot of unresolved political baggage that will put the congressional district in play for the Democrats.”

The primary field includes at least nine other candidates. 

Among them is Brad Finstad, a former state representative who served as director for USDA Rural Development in Minnesota during the Trump administration. U.S. Rep. GT Thompson (R-Pa.) endorsed Finstad. Thompson is the Republican leader on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, on which Hagedorn previously served. 

Also running is state Rep. Jeremy Munson, co-founder of the New House Republican Caucus, a group of four state House members who split from the Republican caucus in 2019 after disagreements with party leadership. All four caucus members called on Carnahan to resign as party chair in August. U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the House Freedom Caucus chair, endorsed Munson. 

Recent elections in the district have been close. Current Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), who represented the district from 2007 to 2019, defeated Hagedorn in 2016 50.3% to 49.6%. In 2018, Hagedorn defeated Democrat Dan Feehan 50.1% to 49.7%. Hagedorn defeated Feehan again 48.6% to 45.5% in 2020. 

The special primary is scheduled for May 24. The special general election will be Aug. 9. A regular election for the district takes place Nov. 8.

Trump-endorsed primary voting bill dies in Wyoming House

A bill Trump endorsed that would have changed when voters could switch their party affiliation before a primary died in the Wyoming House of Representatives last week. 

Politico’s Meridith McGraw wrote that “Trump and his allies [had] been privately lobbying Wyoming lawmakers to change the state’s election laws as part of an effort to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).” Trump publicly endorsed the bill, saying, “This critically important bill ensures that the voters in each party will separately choose their nominees for the General Election, which is how it should be!”

Currently, Wyoming primary voters can switch their party affiliation on the same day as the state’s primary elections. SF0097 would have changed the deadline to before the start of the candidate filing period, which falls in May this year. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 16.

The Hill‘s Reid Wilson reported, “Supporters of the bill said making the change would prevent Democrats or independent voters from casting a ballot in the Republican primary — presumably, voters who would be more likely to favor Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump and who sits on the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.”

Trump endorsed Harriet Hageman in the primary in September, calling Cheney a “warmonger and disloyal Republican” and “the Democrats [sic] number one provider of sound bites.”  

The Wyoming Senate passed the bill 18-12 on Feb. 25. On March 7, the House Appropriations Committee recommended that the bill not pass. According to the Casper Star-Tribune’s Victoria Eavis, the House adjourned without considering the bill by the March 8 deadline. Wyoming’s 2022 legislative session ended on March 11. The GOP has a 28-2 majority in the state Senate and a 51-7 majority in the House. 
According to the Associated Press’ Mead Gruver, “Similar measures have failed in the Wyoming Legislature in recent years amid concern that narrowing the dates in the law could dampen turnout.”