Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 33

Welcome to The Heart of the Primaries, Republican Edition

August 4, 2022

In this issue: Takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries and Pence clashes with Trump in Wisconsin gubernatorial primary

Primary results roundup

Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington held statewide primaries on Tuesday. Ohio held state legislative primaries. As of Wednesday afternoon, several of Arizona’s races were still undecided. Here are highlights from Tuesday’s battlegrounds. 

Big stories of the night: MI-03, Michigan gubernatorial, and Missouri U.S. Senate primaries

Michigan’s 3rd District: John Gibbs defeated incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer. As of Wednesday morning, Gibbs had 52% to Meijer’s 48%. Meijer was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in 2021. Trump endorsed Gibbs in the primary. Gibbs previously served as acting assistant secretary for community planning and development in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Trump appointed him to that position in 2020. 

Meijer is one of 10 House incumbents, and one of six Republicans, who ran for re-election and lost in primaries this year. In 2020, eight incumbents lost in primaries or conventions, including five Republicans. 

Three race forecasters viewed the general election for Michigan’s 3rd as a Toss-up before the primary.

Michigan governor: Tudor Dixon won. As of Wednesday morning, Dixon had 41% of the vote. Kevin Rinke was second with 22%, and Garrett Soldano third with 18%. Trump endorsed Dixon days before the primary. Dixon was a news anchor for America’s Voice News.

Race forecasters view the general election as either Lean or Tilt Democratic. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is seeking re-election.

U.S. Senate in Missouri: Eric Schmitt won against 20 other candidates. As of Wednesday morning, Schmitt had 46% of the vote. Vicky Hartzler had 22%, and Eric Greitens had 19%. 

Schmitt has been the state’s attorney general since 2019. Hartzler has represented Missouri’s 4th Congressional District since 2011. Greitens was governor from 2017 until June 1, 2018, when he resigned following investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of campaign information. 

On August 1, Trump released a statement endorsing “Eric” in the race but did not say whether he was endorsing Greitens or Schmitt. 

Incumbent Roy Blunt (R), who was first elected in 2010, didn’t run for re-election. Before the primary, independent forecasters viewed the general election as Likely or Solid Republican.

Other marquee primary results

U.S. Senate in Arizona: Blake Masters defeated four other candidates. Masters had 39% of the vote with 78% of results reported. Jim Lamon was second with 29% and Mark Brnovich third with 18%. Masters will face incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D) in what election forecasters view as a Toss-up race in November.

Arizona’s 1st District: Rep. David Schweikert won with 43%, according to results available Wednesday afternoon. Elijah Norton had 33%, and Josh Barnett 23%. Schweikert currently represents Arizona’s 6th Congressional District and ran in the 1st due to redistricting. According to Daily Kos data, 75% of the redrawn 1st District, which covers parts of Phoenix and Scottsdale, came from areas Schweikert represents in the old 6th District. Race forecasters view the 1st District general election as Lean Republican.

Arizona’s 2nd District: Eli Crane defeated six other candidates with 34% of the vote. Walter Blackman finished second with 24%. Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D), who represents the old 1st District, is running in the 2nd. Forecasters view the general election as Likely or Lean Republican

Kansas attorney general: Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach won with 42% to state Sen. Kellie Warren’s 38%, according to results available Wednesday afternoon. The race is open as incumbent Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) is running for governor.

Other primaries we’ve followed closely and that hadn’t been called as of Wednesday afternoon were for Arizona governor and superintendent of public instruction. Click the links to follow up on those races.

Media analysis

The Washington Times‘ Seth McLaughlin wrote about Meijer’s defeat and the primary results for other GOP representatives who voted for impeachment: 

Rep. Peter Meijer lost his primary race Tuesday in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, handing former President Donald Trump another victory in his quest to rid the House of Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Another pair of pro-impeachment Republicans — Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beulter, both of Washington state — were awaiting their fate Wednesday morning.

But they were well-positioned to advance to the general election in Washington’s top-two primary system, while Mr. Trump’s preferred picks appeared to have fallen short.

Mr. Meijer’s loss came more than 18 months after he joined nine of his GOP colleagues in voting to impeach Mr. Trump.

The former president vowed revenge and has gotten it. Four pro-impeachment Republicans did not seek reelection, and two others have now lost primaries to Trump-backed challengers.

The attention will now turn to Rep. Liz Cheney’s Aug. 16 primary in Wyoming. 

Politico wrote that Tuesday’s results were favorable to what it called “the traditionalist wing of the Republican Party:” 

Republicans dodged two bullets on Tuesday. In Missouri, Eric Greitens, the disgraced former governor, finished far behind in his Senate primary bid. And in Michigan, Tudor Dixon emerged from a gubernatorial primary full of more hard-line contenders many Republicans feared would be a drag on the party in November.

That’s good news for the GOP. And it’s a departure from where the party appeared to be heading in many of its early primaries — picking candidates who seem dangerously prone to getting in the way of the good political environment for Republicans.

In Pennsylvania, physician Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for Senate, has been polling so poorly Republicans are discussing alternative paths to the Senate majority. Republicans all but conceded the gubernatorial race in heavily-Democratic Maryland after nominating Dan Cox, the Trump-endorsed state lawmaker who organized buses to Washington for the rally preceding the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

It’s possible the early results on Tuesday will turn out to be a blip. In Arizona, Mark Finchem, an election denier running for secretary of state with Trump’s endorsement, was running ahead. And overall in this year’s primaries, said Jason Roe, the former executive director of the state Republican Party in Michigan, “I think in a lot of cases we have nominated our weakest general election candidates, so the primaries have not served us well.”

But for the traditionalist wing of the Republican Party, the early indications on Tuesday were mostly positive. An exception: Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed candidate for governor who still insists, falsely, that Trump won the 2020 election, pulled ahead of Karrin Taylor Robson, the establishment-backed candidate, as vote-counting continued through Wednesday morning.

Reuters‘ James Oliphant discussed Dixon’s win in Michigan in the context of abortion policy and Dixon’s prospects against Whitmer in November: 

In the Michigan governor’s race, there will be no middle ground when it comes to abortion rights.

Whitmer has made the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of constitutional protection for abortion a centerpiece in her re-election campaign. Dixon supports a near-total ban on abortion, including for child victims of rape and incest, with the only exception for cases when the life of the mother is at risk.

A legal battle is being waged in the state over enforcement of a 1931 abortion ban. At the same time, supporters of abortion rights are seeking to place a measure on the November ballot that would legalize abortion in the state.

With just three months until the election, longtime Republican pollster Steve Mitchell said Dixon has enough time to mount a competitive challenge to Whitmer and should see a strong flow of campaign funds from outside the state.

Dixon is a former businesswoman in the steel industry who has billed herself as a “conservative mom” of four who opposed COVID-19 lockdowns at schools. Mitchell said she could appeal to like-minded parents and make a strong foil to Whitmer, who often talks about her own role as a mother of daughters and also faced criticism for her coronavirus lockdown orders.

“It’s going to be a fascinating race,” Mitchell said. “In my opinion, none of the men (in the Republican field) could have beaten Whitmer.”

State legislative incumbents defeated

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

Thirteen state legislative incumbents—six Democrats and seven Republicans—lost in the Aug. 2 primaries in Kansas, Ohio, and Missouri. No incumbents have lost in Arizona, Michigan, or Washington so far, but this will likely change. Eighty-seven House and Senate primaries featuring incumbents—24 Democratic, 33 Republican, and 30 top-two—remain uncalled.

Across the 33 states that have held state legislative primaries so far this year, 156 incumbents, 4.7% of those running for re-election, have lost, continuing an elevated rate of incumbent primary defeats compared to recent election cycles.

Of the 33 states that have held primaries so far, nine have Democratic trifectas, 18 have Republican trifectas, and six have divided governments. Across these states, there are 4,306 seats up for election, 70% of the nationwide total.

Hogan comments on direction of GOP after Cox primary win

As we wrote last month, Dan Cox won Maryland’s gubernatorial primary with Trump’s backing. Among the candidates Cox defeated was Kelly Schulz, whom incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) endorsed. Hogan said this did not deter him in his efforts to influence the party’s direction.

Hogan told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I think in November we’re going to have a different story when a lot of these fringe candidates lose, and then we’re going to have to start thinking about, between November’s election and the election two years later, what kind of a party are we going to be, and can we get back to a more Reaganesque, big-tent party that appeals to more people, or are we going to double down on failure?” 

According to The Washington Post, Hogan “has been weighing a presidential bid after he leaves office in January.”

Trump said the night of the gubernatorial primary, “RINO Larry Hogan’s Endorsement doesn’t seem to be working out so well for his heavily favored candidate. Next, I’d love to see Larry run for President!”

Cox faces Wes Moore (D), David Lashar (L), and Kyle Sefcik (I) in the general election. Three election forecasters view the race as Likely or Solid Democratic.

Pence endorses different candidate than Trump endorsed for Wisconsin governor

Former Vice President Mike Pence (R) endorsed Rebecca Kleefisch in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial primary. Trump will be in Waukesha on Friday to rally with the candidate he endorsed, Tim Michels.

This was Pence’s fifth gubernatorial endorsement of 2022 and the third time he and Trump backed different candidates. They endorsed different candidates in Arizona’s and Georgia’s gubernatorial primaries.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also recently endorsed Kleefisch.

Meanwhile, Club for Growth Action spent $1.1 million on ads opposing Kleefisch. Freedom Wisconsin PAC has spent $2.3 million opposing Michels.

Kleefisch served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Scott Walker (R) from 2011 to 2019. Michels co-owns a construction company and served in the Army for 12 years.

The primary is on Aug. 9.

Competitiveness data: TN, CT, MN, and WI

Tennessee holds primaries on Aug. 4. Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin hold primaries on Aug. 9. We’ve crunched some numbers to see how competitive the primaries will be compared to recent election cycles.

Tennessee

Connecticut

Minnesota

Wisconsin

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.



About the author

Amee LaTour

Amee LaTour is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.