Welcome to The Heart of the Primaries, Republican Edition
June 16, 2022
In this issue: Takeaways from the June 14 primaries and Michigan gubernatorial candidates respond to Kelley’s arrest
Primary results roundup
Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, and South Carolina held primaries on June 14. Alaska also held its top-four special House primary on June 11. Here’s what went down in this week’s marquee races.
South Carolina’s 7th: Russell Fry defeated incumbent Rep. Tom Rice and five other candidates. As of Wednesday morning, Fry had 51% of the vote to Rice’s 25%.
Rice is the fifth incumbent House member to lose a re-election bid this year and the third Republican. Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) lost primaries against fellow incumbents.
South Carolina’s 1st: Incumbent Nancy Mace defeated Katie Arrington. Mace led Arrington 53%-45% as of Wednesday morning.
Arrington, a former state representative, won the district’s Republican primary in 2018, defeating incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford (R) before losing the general election to Joe Cunningham (D). Mace defeated Cunningham in 2020.
Mace said she was best equipped to win in November and that the district wants an independent voice. Arrington said Mace was not conservative enough and that she wasn’t sufficiently supportive of Trump.
Three election forecasters rate the November election Solid or Safe Republican.
U.S. Senate in Nevada: Former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt defeated Sam Brown and six other candidates. As of Wednesday morning, Laxalt led Brown 56%-34%.
Laxalt had endorsements from Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The Nevada Republican Party endorsed Brown, who received 80% of delegates’ support compared to Laxalt’s 50% (a candidate needed more than 50% for the endorsement). Laxalt faces incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) in this Toss-up general election.
Alaska’s U.S. House special: Saturday’s special primary election for Alaska’s At-Large Congressional District remains uncalled. The four candidates with the most votes will advance to the Aug. 16 special general election, which will use ranked-choice voting. As of election night, Sarah Palin (R) had 29.8% of the vote, Nicholas Begich III (R) had 19.3%, Al Gross (I) had 12.5%, Mary Peltola (D) had 7.5%, and Tara Sweeney (R) had 5.3%. The 43 other candidates each had less than 5%. The final ballot count is scheduled for June 21. The primary was conducted mainly through mail-in ballots, which had to be postmarked by June 11. Click here for the most up-to-date results.
State legislative incumbents defeated
The figures below were current as of Wednesday morning. Click here for more information on defeated incumbents.
At least 11 state legislators—10 Republicans and one Democrat—lost in primaries on June 14. Including those results, 104 state legislative incumbents have lost primaries this year. This number will likely increase: 61 primaries featuring incumbents remain uncalled.
Across the 21 states that have held state legislative primaries so far this year, 5.1% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, continuing an elevated rate of incumbent primary defeats compared to recent election cycles.
Of the 21 states that have held primaries so far, five had Democratic trifectas, 13 had Republican trifectas, and three had divided governments with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. Across these 21 states, there are 2,650 seats up for election, 43% of the nationwide total.
Politico Playbook wrote that the Republican primary candidates with whom Trump is angry who have won primaries had embraced Trump in their campaigns, while Rice did not:
Republicans can survive crossing Trump, but rarely can they survive being anti-Trump …
Trump went one for two in key South Carolina primaries last night.
What explains the difference? On last week’s “Playbook Deep Dive” podcast, we talked to South Dakota Rep. DUSTY JOHNSON about the lessons he learned winning a Republican primary after voting against Trump. (In his case, the vote was about creating an independent January 6 commission.)
“There are going to be times those votes cause you political discomfort,” Johnson said. “Don’t run away from them, but don’t run away from the electorate either.”
So far this year, the Trump-targeted Republicans who have survived his wrath have run campaigns that embrace Trump even as he spurns them. Whether it’s Idaho Gov. BRAD LITTLE, Johnson in South Dakota or Mace in South Carolina, these victors were all careful not to run against Trump.
In South Carolina, Rep. Rice actually told voters what he thought. Trump, he said in a recent interview with Ally Mutnick, was “spiteful and petty and vengeful” and a “narcissist” who “craves attention.” Rice lost. He ran away from the South Carolina GOP electorate.
National Review‘s Alexandra DeSanctis wrote about other differences between South Carolina’s 1st and 7th District primaries that may have influenced outcomes for Mace and Rice:
What are we to make of the discrepancy? One way of looking at it is the degree of separation from the former president: Both Rice and Mace had angered him enough to get him to back a primary challenger, but only Rice had voted to impeach him over the events of January 6. Mace condemned the president in a speech and voted to certify the election results, but she didn’t join the ten GOP representatives who voted for impeachment.
Another possible explanation is Mace’s opponent. Arrington has played the role of a right-wing, Trump-supported challenger before, when she unseated former Republican representative Mark Sanford over his criticism of the former president. But Arrington went on to lose to the Democrat candidate in the general election, and perhaps voters were wary of a similar problem this November, though the climate this election year is, of course, quite different. The New York Times adds this bit of insight:
Ms. Mace raised more money than Ms. Arrington by a 2-to-1 margin and outspent her by more than $300,000 on the airwaves, according to the political spending tracker AdImpact. She courted the district’s most influential political and business leaders and, in the race’s final days, campaigned alongside a number of high-profile figures on the right, including a former Trump White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and former Gov. Nikki Haley.
Irvin pulls ads from downstate, trails Bailey in recent Illinois gubernatorial poll
Politico reported that Richard Irvin’s campaign pulled a majority of its advertising from outside the Chicago metropolitan area. In addition to its focus on Chicago, the campaign is running ads statewide on Fox News. Spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said that the campaign was reassessing its ad strategy and was not pulling ads due to a lack of money.
A recent Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ poll showed state Sen. Darren Bailey with a 32%-17% lead over Irvin. Jesse Sullivan was in third with 11%. Twenty-seven percent were undecided. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.
The poll showed Bailey leading in both the southern part of the state, where he’s from, and in the Chicago suburbs. Irvin is the mayor of Aurora, the state’s second-largest city and a suburb of Chicago. In Chicago itself, Irvin and Bailey were roughly tied for second (16% and 13%, respectively) behind Sullivan.
Chicago Sun-Times‘ Tina Sfondeles wrote that a Bailey victory “would represent a brutal repudiation by Illinois’ Republican voters of Irvin, his array of mainstream party endorsements and, most pointedly, his $50 million benefactor, Chicago hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin.”
In response to the poll, Irvin said, “J.B. Pritzker is spending tens of millions of dollars meddling in the Republican primary to prop up a Republican that he knows he can beat. … A vote for Darren Bailey is a vote for J.B. Pritzker. Period.”
Irvin’s campaign has spent $26 million on ads so far this cycle. The Democratic Governors Association has run around $20 million in ads both supporting Bailey and attacking Irvin. People Who Play By The Rules PAC, which radio host Dan Proft created and GOP donor Richard Uihlein financially supports, has also spent $3 million on ads attacking Irvin.
Trump endorses Britt in Alabama’s U.S. Senate runoff
Former President Trump endorsed Katie Britt in the Senate primary runoff in Alabama. Trump had endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks in the GOP primary then rescinded that endorsement in March, citing comments Brooks made in 2021 about moving past the 2020 election.
Trump said in July 2021 that Britt was unqualified and criticized her connection to retiring incumbent Sen. Richard Shelby (R), whom Trump called a RINO. Britt once served as Shelby’s chief of staff. Trump said in his recent endorsement, “The opposition says Katie is close to Mitch McConnell, but actually, she is not” and called her “a fearless America First Warrior.”
In a now-deleted tweet from June 5, Brooks asked Trump to re-endorse him. After Trump endorsed Britt, Brooks said, “Let’s just admit it: Trump endorses the wrong people sometimes.”
Brooks has served in the U.S. House since 2011. Britt is CEO of the Alabama Business Council.
The runoff is June 21. In the May 24 primary, Britt received 45% to Brooks’ 29%.
FBI arrests Michigan gubernatorial candidate on Jan. 6 misdemeanor charges
On June 9, federal agents arrested Ryan Kelley, one of five candidates seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Michigan, on charges related to the U.S. Capitol breach during the electoral vote count on Jan. 6, 2021. Kelley was released on a personal recognizance bond, or a promise to appear in court when required, the same day.
The New York Times‘ Azi Paybarah said Kelley “is the first person running for election in a major state or federal race to be charged in connection with the attack.”
The government’s complaint charged Kelley with four misdemeanors: “Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority,” “Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds,” “Knowingly [Engaging] in any Act of Physical Violence Against Person or Property in any Restricted Building or Grounds,” and “Willfully [injuring] or [committing] any Depredation Against any Property of the United States.”
On June 13, Kelley told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, “There was no crime committed, Tucker, no. … [I] never entered the Capitol building. … I think a lot of Americans see right through this … They understand what the Democrats are up to, and it’s not a big deal to them.”
The other primary candidates commented on the arrest:
- Tudor Dixon: “The timing of this looks a lot like another example of political prosecution by a Democrat Party notorious for weaponizing government.”
- Ralph Rebandt: “I publicly condemn this outrageous grandstanding, and I am praying that God will expose every evil attempt to silence the voice of American patriots.”
- Kevin Rinke: “I respect Ryan Kelley and have met him out on the trail. My hope is that the FBI is acting appropriately, because the timing here raises serious questions.”
- Garrett Soldano: “Biden’s FBI is busy targeting parents and intimidating Republicans while crime runs rampant across the nation.”
A few other updates since we last wrote about the disqualification of five candidates over fraudulent signatures on nominating petitions: On June 3, the Michigan Supreme Court denied appeals in lawsuits from James Craig, Perry Johnson, and Michael Markey. Craig said he will run a write-in campaign for the Republican primary. Johnson filed a federal lawsuit seeking to get his name back on the ballot. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith denied his request.
The primary is on Aug. 2.
Competitiveness data: Virginia and Utah
Virginia holds primaries on June 21. Utah and Illinois hold primaries on June 28. We’ve crunched some numbers to see how competitive the primaries will be compared to recent election cycles.
Virginia held state legislative elections in 2021. The following shows competitiveness data for this year’s U.S. House primaries.
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.