Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 23 (May 19, 2022)

In this issue: Takeaways from five states’ primaries and former V.P. Pence to campaign for Kemp

Primary results roundup

Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Oregon held primaries on May 17.

The big stories of the night: Expected Pennsylvania recount, Cawthorn defeated, and more

Pennsylvania Senate: As of Thursday morning, the race remained too close to call. Mehmet Oz led with 31.2% of the vote, while David McCormick received 31.1% and Kathy Barnette received 24.7%. Seven candidates ran in the primary. Senator Pat Toomey (R) did not run for re-election.

Under state law, any election with a vote margin within 0.5% is subject to an automatic recount. If applicable, the secretary of state must order the recount by May 26. It must start by June 1 and be completed by June 7.

Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Oz in April. Former candidate Sean Parnell, whom Trump initially endorsed before Parnell withdrew, endorsed McCormick. On May 12, Trump issued a statement opposing Barnette, who rose in recent polls. 

Three independent race forecasters rate the general election either Toss-up or Tilt Republican

North Carolina’s 11th: State Sen. Chuck Edwards defeated incumbent Madison Cawthorn and six others in the Republican primary for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. Eight candidates were on the ballot. Edwards received 33.4% of the vote to Cawthorn’s 31.9%.

Cawthorn is the second U.S. representative to seek re-election and lose a primary this year. Rep. David McKinley (R) lost to Rep. Alexander Mooney (R) in West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. The two ran in the same district following redistricting. In addition, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R) remained on the ballot in Ohio’s 7th District after he unofficially withdrew. Max Miller won that primary. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) of Oregon’s 5th is trailing challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner as of Thursday morning and may become the third House member to lose a re-election bid.

Trump endorsed Cawthorn on March 31. Following Cawthorn’s claims in late March 2022 that Washington lawmakers hold orgies and use cocaine, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) endorsed Edwards. 

Three independent forecasters rate the general election either Safe or Solid Republican

Pennsylvania Governor: State Sen. Doug Mastriano won against eight candidates. Mastriano received 44% of the vote. Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta was second with 20%.

Mastriano campaigned on his opposition to COVID-19 measures and said he would defend election integrity. Mastriano said voting fraud was prevalent in the 2020 election. On Feb. 15, the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach subpoenaed Mastriano, citing a November 2020 tweet and his presence outside the Capitol on the day of the breach. Trump endorsed Mastriano on May 14.

The 2022 primary featured the largest number of candidates in a Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial primary since at least 1978. Incumbent Tom Wolf (D) is term-limited. Forecasters view the general election as a Toss-up or Tilt or Lean Democratic.

Idaho Governor: Incumbent Gov. Brad Little defeated seven other candidates. Little received 53% of the vote to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s 32%.

According to the Idaho Press‘s Betsy Russell, a lieutenant governor hadn’t challenged an incumbent governor in a primary in Idaho since 1938. Idaho is one of 17 states where the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor instead of on the same ticket.

Trump endorsed McGeachin in the primary. The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund and the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Little.

Twice in 2021, McGeachin issued executive orders related to COVID-19 measures while Little was out of state. The first banned mask mandates. The second expanded a prohibition against state entities requiring vaccination or testing. Little rescinded both orders when he returned to Idaho.

Independent forecasters rate the general election as Solid or Safe Republican.

We’ve been tracking Trump’s 2022 endorsements. The May 17 primary results (so far) bring Trump’s primary endorsement record to 73 wins (96%) and 3 losses. Aside from McGeachin and Cawthorn, Nebraska gubernatorial endorsee Charles Herbster lost last week.

Other marquee primary results

U.S. Senate

  • North Carolina Senate: Ted Budd defeated 13 other candidates with 59% of the vote. Pat McCrory was second with 25%. Trump endorsed Budd, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) endorsed McCrory. Incumbent Richard Burr (R) did not run for re-election. Three forecasters rate the general election as Lean Republican.

U.S. House

  • North Carolina’s 13th: Bo Hines defeated seven other candidates with 32% of the vote. DeVan Barbour IV finished second with 23%. The current incumbent, Rep. Ted Budd, ran for the GOP Senate nomination. Three forecasters rate the general election a Toss-up.

State legislative incumbents defeated

At least 30 state legislators—eight Democrats and 22 Republicans—lost in primaries on May 17. Including those defeats, 44 state legislative incumbents have lost to primary challengers this year. This number will likely increase: there are 42 primaries or primary runoffs featuring incumbents that remain uncalled or undecided.

Across the nine states that have held primaries, 4.7% of incumbents running for re-election have lost.

That 4.7% loss rate is the highest compared to previous cycles in these nine states. In 2020, 3.3% of incumbents running for re-election lost primaries. In 2018, 4.3% lost in primaries.

Of the nine states that have held primaries so far, one had a Democratic trifecta, five had Republican trifectas, and three had divided governments with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. Across these nine states, 1,114 seats are up for election, 18% of the nationwide total.

Media analysis

The Washington Examiner‘s Kate Scanlon wrote about Mastriano’s perceived gubernatorial general election prospects: 

Trump offered his endorsement to Mastriano on Saturday after it became clear he was the front-runner in the race. The move was seen as a hedge, as Trump’s selection for the Senate, television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, was in a tight three-way race with businessman David McCormick and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, who surged in polling in the final days of the race. Barnette and Mastriano ran campaigns in tandem, endorsing one another.

Some state Republicans were concerned Mastriano would hurt Republicans’ chances of winning not just the governor’s mansion but the Senate race and some congressional contests. They attempted to coalesce the field around former Rep. Lou Barletta, arguing he was better positioned to defeat Shapiro in November.

Politico‘s David Siders said Mastriano’s prospects may be better than some observers think, referencing Trump’s performance in the state:

Everything about Pennsylvania’s swing state electorate suggests Mastriano is a dead man walking.

Except for this: Lots of Republicans and Democrats alike felt exactly the same way about Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential primary, back when establishment Republicans were praying for anyone other than Trump to win the nomination and some of Hillary Clinton’s advisers were salivating over the prospect of running against Trump. The climate for Democrats in this midterm election year is no better than it was then. In fact, it’s worse. And Pennsylvania is a swing state for a reason. Trump only lost Pennsylvania by about 80,000 votes in 2020. He won the state four years earlier.

Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser described what he saw as both the strength and limitation of Trump’s influence in Tuesday’s primaries:  

The [Senate primary in Pennsylvania] is proving another test of Trump’s immense sway over the GOP. Sixteen months removed from the White House, the former president remains the most popular and influential politician in the Republican Party as he plays a kingmaker’s role in this year’s primaries and repeatedly flirts with another presidential run in 2024.

Trump was a winner in Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial primary, as state Sen. Doug Mastriano bested a crowded field of contenders. Mastriano was already the polling front-runner when the former president endorsed him on Saturday.

Trump was also a big winner in North Carolina’s Republican Senate primary – in another crucial race in a general election battleground where the GOP’s defending an open seat.  

Trump’s clout couldn’t pull controversial Rep. Madison Cawthorne over the top in the Republican primary in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, however. Even with Trump’s backing in the final days heading into the primary, Cawthorne – who’s made plenty of enemies in the GOP in his short year and a half on Capitol Hill – came up short to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who enjoyed the backing of many of the party’s establishment.

In Idaho, far-right Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin handily lost her bid to oust incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Little. Trump endorsed McGeachin last autumn, but did little to actively support her.

First poll released for special U.S. House top-four primary in Alaska

Alaska Survey Research published the first poll we’ve seen of Alaska’s top-four U.S. House special primary. The poll included 12 of the 48 candidates by name. 

We’ve colored in the names below based on party affiliation (blue for Democrats, red for Republicans, and gray for independents). Affiliation was not included in the poll.

  • Palin 19%
  • Begich 16%
  • Gross 13%
  • Claus 6%
  • Peltola 5%
  • Constant 5%
  • Sweeney 4%
  • Revak 4%
  • Lowenfels 3%
  • Wool 2%
  • Halcro 2%
  • Coghill 2%
  • Other 4%
  • Undecided 16%

The poll’s margin of error was +/- 4 percentage points.

Former Governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (R), Nick Begich III (R), and 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross (I) top the results. A cluster of candidates are within the margin of error for fourth place, including North Pole City Councilmember Santa Claus (I), former state Rep. Mary Peltola (D), Anchorage Assemblymember Christopher Constant (D), former Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tara Sweeney (R), and state Sen. Josh Revak (R).

Sweeney and Revak co-chaired former Rep. Don Young’s (R) statewide re-election campaign. Young died in March. 

The special primary is June 11, and the special general election is Aug. 16. The regularly scheduled primary will also be held Aug. 16.

In addition to top-four primaries, Alaska will use ranked-choice voting for both general elections.

Alaska Survey Research tested four general election scenarios. Each included Begich, Gross, and Palin, with someone different in the fourth spot. In each RCV simulation, Begich and Gross were left standing in the 3rd round, with Begich taking a majority.

Minnesota GOP endorses Scott Jensen for governor

On Saturday, the Minnesota Republican Party endorsed Scott Jensen for governor. According to the Star Tribune, it was “a heated endorsement fight that started with a crowded field of contenders and featured multiple rounds of balloting.” Kendall Qualls, who finished second in the voting, announced after the GOP convention that he was dropping out of the race.

Jensen, a physician who served in the state Senate from 2017 to 2021, has campaigned on his opposition to vaccine and mask requirements. 

Gov. Tim Walz (D) is seeking re-election. The primaries are Aug. 9.

Former Vice President Mike Pence to campaign for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

Former Vice President Mike Pence (R) announced he’ll be campaigning for Gov. Brian Kemp (R) at a rally on May 23. Pence said Kemp is “one of the most successful conservative governors in America.”

Kemp faces former U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R) and three others in the May 24 primary. Trump endorsed Perdue in December, saying, “Kemp has been a very weak Governor—the liberals and RINOs have run all over him on Election Integrity, and more.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein said Pence’s upcoming rally appearance “illustrates a growing proxy fight in Georgia between establishment forces backing Kemp and the Trump loyalists who want to remake the state Republican Party in the former president’s mold.” Bluestein said Pence’s endorsement “deepen[ed] a split with Donald Trump as each maneuvers for a possible 2024 White House run.”

Pence’s announcement followed news that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), and former President George W. Bush (R) would campaign for Kemp. Ricketts and Ducey are co-chairmen of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), and Christie is a former RGA chairman.

Competitiveness data: Alabama

Alabama holds primaries on May 24. We’ve crunched some numbers to see 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.
  • Incumbents in contested primaries: divides the number of incumbents in primaries by the number seeking re-election in the given election cycle.