Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 29

Welcome to The Heart of the Primaries, Republican Edition

June 30, 2022

In this issue: Takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries and Liz Cheney tells voters how they can change party affiliation ahead of WY primary

Primary results roundup

Colorado, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Utah held statewide primaries on Tuesday. New York held primaries for statewide offices and state House districts, and Mississippi and South Carolina held primary runoffs. The results below were current as of Wednesday morning.

Big stories of the night

Illinois’ 15th District: Rep. Mary Miller defeated Rep. Rodney Davis 58% to 42%. Three forecasters rate the general election as Safe or Solid Republican.

Davis has represented Illinois’ 13th Congressional District since 2013, and Miller has represented the 15th since 2021. According to data from Daily Kos, 28% of the new 15th District’s population comes from the old 13th District (which Davis represents), and 31% comes from the old 15th District (which Miller represents).

Davis is one of eight House members who sought re-election and lost this year. Another, Marie Newman (D), lost in Illinois’ 6th on Tuesday in another incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary. Four primaries featuring multiple incumbents have taken place so far, and two are upcoming.

Illinois Governor: Darren Bailey defeated five other candidates with 57% of the vote. Jesse Sullivan was second with 16%. Richard Irvin finished third with 15%. Three forecasters rate the general election as Likely or Solid Democratic. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is running for re-election.

Bailey is a farmer and was elected to the Illinois Senate in 2020. Sullivan is a venture capitalist who has not previously held political office. Irvin is an attorney and mayor of Aurora, the state’s second-largest city. Bailey received $9 million in contributions from businessman Richard Uihlein. Hedge fund manager Ken Griffin donated $50 million to Irvin.

Colorado U.S. Senate: Joe O’Dea defeated Ron Hanks 55.5% to 45.5%. Three forecasters rate the general election as Likely or Solid Democratic. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) is running for re-election.

Key issues in the race included abortion and the 2020 election. O’Dea said he did not support overturning Roe v. Wade or total abortion bans, while Hanks supported a total abortion ban. O’Dea said he did not believe the 2020 election was stolen and that Republicans should focus on issues, while Hanks said he believed former President Donald Trump (R) won the 2020 election.

See below to read about Democratic involvement in this and the Illinois gubernatorial race.

Mississippi’s 4th District primary runoff: Mike Ezell defeated incumbent Steven Palazzo 54%-46%. Three forecasters rate the general election as Safe or Solid Republican.

All five candidates who lost in the June 7 primary endorsed Ezell, who was elected Jackson County sheriff in 2014. Palazzo was first elected to the U.S. House in 2010. 

Palazzo is under a House Ethics Committee investigation over allegations that he converted campaign funds to pay personal expenses. Palazzo has denied wrongdoing. 

Other marquee primary results

U.S. Senate

Oklahoma U.S. Senate special primary: Markwayne Mullin and T.W. Shannon advanced to an Aug. 23 runoff. Mullin received 44% of the vote and Shannon received 18%. Ten candidates ran in the primary. The special election will fill the remainder of retiring incumbent Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R) term.

U.S. House

Colorado’s 8th District: Barbara Kirkmeyer defeated three other candidates with 41% of the vote. Jan Kulmann finished second with 23%. Colorado gained an eighth congressional district after the 2020 census. Three forecasters rate the general election as a Toss-up.

Mississippi’s 3rd District primary runoff: Incumbent Michael Guest defeated Michael Cassidy 66% to 34%. Three forecasters rate the general election as Safe or Solid Republican.

State executives

Colorado Secretary of State: Pam Anderson won with 44% of the vote. Mike O’Donnell finished second with 29% and Tina Peters third with 27%. Anderson views the 2020 presidential election results as legitimate, while Peters and O’Donnell deny their legitimacy. Peters was indicted on charges stemming from an election tampering investigation, where she has denied wrongdoing. Republicans won each election for this office from 1962 to 2018, when Sec. of State Jean Griswold (D) defeated Wayne Williams (R).

Oklahoma Attorney General: Gentner Drummond defeated incumbent John O’Connor 51% to 49%. No Democratic candidates filed to run. Drummond faces Lynda Steele (L) in the general election.

Media analysis

The Associated Press discussed O’Dea’s Senate primary win in context of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization:

The abortion debate consumed the nation this week, but there was no race where it mattered more than Colorado’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, where businessman Joe O’Dea became one of the only abortion-rights-supporting Republican in the nation to win a statewide primary this year.

O’Dea beat back a stiff challenge from state Rep. Ron Hanks, a Trump loyalist who opposed abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.

O’Dea will face Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in November, and if he wins, he would become just the third Senate Republican — and the only male — to support abortion rights.

He said he backs a ban on late-term abortions and government funding of abortions but that the decision to terminate a pregnancy in the initial months is “between a person and their God.”

Democrats had spent at least $2.5 million on ads designed to boost O’Dea’s opponent by promoting, among other things, that he was “too conservative” for backing a complete abortion ban.

The Hill wrote about results in Illinois’ and Colorado’s primaries where Democrats sought to influence outcomes:

Ahead of Tuesday’s primaries, Democrats made clear what kind of Republicans they hoped to run against in November, pouring money into ads boosting far-right candidates with shaky general election prospects. 

That strategy ultimately paid off in the GOP primary for Illinois governor, where Trump’s endorsed candidate, state Sen. Darren Bailey, notched a win over a more moderate Republican, former Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. 

Still, it wasn’t an across-the-board success for Democrats.

In Colorado, Republican Heidi Ganahl beat out Greg Lopez in the GOP gubernatorial primary despite Democratic-aligned groups spending big to tout Lopez’s conservative credentials. 

The same is true in the Colorado GOP Senate primary, where Democrats were hoping to boost conservative state Rep. Ron Hanks over businessman Joe O’Dea, a more moderate Republican. O’Dea ultimately clinched the nomination to take on Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

Democrats still have the incumbent advantage in both the Colorado Senate and gubernatorial race. But the failed efforts to lift up hard-line conservatives in the primaries show the limits of money in politics.

The Washington Examiner wrote that Trump-endorsed candidates’ victories in Illinois worsens Republicans’ general election prospects in the state:

Illinois Republicans are under the thumb of insular, combative populists after state Sen. Darren Bailey and Rep. Mary Miller won primaries for governor and Congress, respectively, over appealing conservative pragmatists who would have improved their party’s midterm election prospects in this deep blue state.

Bailey was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Miller, who captured the nomination in Illinois’s newly configured 15th Congressional District, was endorsed by the former president and the Club for Growth, an influential conservative advocacy group based in Washington. So neither qualifies as anti-establishment outsiders.

But Bailey’s victory over Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who is black, in the race for the gubernatorial nod and Miller’s defeat of incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis in a House primary forced by redistricting marked the coronation of the Trump-aligned, “MAGA” wing of the party atop the Illinois GOP.

The Chicago Sun-Times‘ Mark Brown said some factors could benefit Bailey:

Now to win a second term, Pritzker must defeat Bailey, a downstate farmer who gained notoriety as a first term state senator by challenging the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Conventional wisdom says Pritzker will do so, marking him as a heavy favorite for November in a Democrat-dominated state that for decades has been hospitable to only moderate Republicans in statewide races.

Bailey is a conservative’s conservative who looks like a candidate from the 1950s with the political beliefs to match and boasts the support of former President Donald Trump, who lost this state by 17 percentage points twice — 944,714 votes in 2016 and 1,025,024 in 2020. Bailey’s path to victory is not readily apparent.

But that’s why elections probably should come with the same disclaimer as the stock market: Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Working in Bailey’s favor is the expectation this will be a big Republican year nationally with the usual mid-term presidential backlash compounded by high inflation and gas prices and a worrisome war in Ukraine.

Throw in the fact Democratic voters often don’t turn out in off-year elections and you start to see why Illinois Democrats better not take anything for granted against Bailey.

State legislative incumbents defeated

The figures below were current as of Wednesday morning. Click here for more information on defeated incumbents.

At least six state legislators—one Democrat and five Republicans—lost in primaries on June 28. Including those results, 121 state legislative incumbents have lost in primaries this year. This number will likely increase: 50 primaries featuring incumbents remain uncalled and 20 in New York will not be held until August.

Across the 26 states that have held state legislative primaries so far this year, 4.6% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, continuing an elevated rate of incumbent primary defeats compared to recent election cycles.

Of the 26 states that have held primaries so far, eight had Democratic trifectas, 15 had Republican trifectas, and three had divided governments, with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. Across these 26 states, there are 3,337 seats up for election, 54% of the nationwide total.

Cheney campaign tells voters how they can change their party affiliation ahead of primary

According to The New York Times, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney sent mailers to Democrats telling voters how they can change their party affiliation ahead of Wyoming’s primaries. Cheney also includes that information on her campaign website. Voters must be registered Republicans to vote in the state’s GOP primary, and they may change their affiliation on primary day or ahead of time.

Cheney is one of two Republicans on the nine-member select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach and has been a vocal critic of Trump, who endorsed challenger Harriet Hageman in the At-Large Congressional District primary. 

Hageman’s campaign manager, Carly Miller, said, “Liz Cheney promised she wouldn’t encourage Democrats to raid the Republican primary, but then again, she also swore to faithfully represent Wyoming and she broke that promise too.”

Cheney said in February she would not organize an effort to ask Democrats to change their affiliation.

Cheney said last week, “I encourage everyone with principles who loves our country to exercise their right to vote. And, damn right, I will continue to give every voter in Wyoming a list of all the key rules for casting ballots in our state.”

According to The New York Times‘ Reid J. Epstein, “It is fairly typical for moderate Wyoming Republicans to recruit Democrats to switch parties ahead of primaries — it was key to Gov. Mark Gordon’s victory over a primary field that included Ms. Hageman in 2018.”

University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King wrote that independents, not Democrats, would play a key role in the GOP primary: “In [a] UW 2020 election survey, majorities of Wyoming independents rated Trump’s presidential performance negatively, did not vote for Trump in the presidential election and were confident that the votes in the presidential election were counted accurately. These people are much more likely to support Cheney than Hageman in the Republican primary.”

Wyoming’s primaries are Aug. 16.

Former Ohio U.S. Senate candidate starts new PAC

State Sen. Matt Dolan, who placed third in the Ohio U.S. Senate primary in May, has launched Ohio Matters PAC. Dolan’s immediate goal is helping Republicans win majorities in Congress.

Dolan said, “If we’re going to continue to just focus on the past, we’re going to fail as Republicans.” 

Politico‘s Natalie Allison wrote, “Dolan was the only candidate on a debate stage of five in March to raise his hand when the moderator asked if, for the betterment of the Republican Party, it was time for Trump to stop talking about the last presidential election.”

J.D. Vance won the Senate primary and had Trump’s endorsement.

Alabama GOP declares a tie in SD-27, coin toss to decide primary 

On June 25, the Alabama Republican Party declared the District 27 state Senate GOP primary a tie and announced the race will be decided by lot—a game of chance. 

Incumbent Tom Whatley’s campaign had contested the primary results, which showed him trailing Auburn City Council member Jay Hovey by one vote. The Alabama Republican Party Candidate Committee heard testimony and declared that a provisional ballot that had been rejected should count as a vote for Whatley, creating the tie. 

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) said that Patsy Kenney, the voter who cast the provisional ballot in question, hadn’t completed the paperwork needed to get an Alabama driver’s license and complete her voter registration. 

Hovey said, “Certainly every vote is important and it’s unfortunate if anyone is mistaken that they are registered to vote. … But if the proper, legal process isn’t followed to register, a person shouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot to be considered.” On June 29, Hovey formally requested that the party reconsider their original decision to count Kenney’s vote.

Whatley said that [Kenney’s] ballot “was the most scrutinized ballot in Alabama this year.” He added, “The decision to count [the ballot] was correct. … Win or lose the coin toss, helping a constituent like Mrs. Kenney have her ballot counted was the correct thing to do and I am glad to have served her as her state senator.”

The state party said, “The Alabama Republican Party has the authority to pick its nominee in the event of a tied primary. … In this case, the ALGOP Candidate Committee voted in favor of having Chairman John Wahl resolve this tie by lot, the method used for such situations in a general election, as outlined in Alabama Code 17-12-23.”

Brian Lyman wrote in the Montgomery Advertiser that Hovey’s “understanding was that scheduling conflicts meant it [the coin toss] could not take place until after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.”

The winner will face Sherri Reese (D) in the general election on November 8. We’ll update you on the result in a future edition.

Competitiveness data: Arizona

Arizona holds primaries on Aug. 2. 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.