Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 35

August 18, 2022

In this issue: The big stories from Tuesday’s elections and satellite spending updates in two battleground House districts

Primary results roundup

Wyoming’s U.S. House District: Harriet Hageman defeated Rep. Liz Cheney 66%-29%. Hageman had backing from former President Donald Trump (R), dozens of incumbent House Republicans, and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Cheney’s supporters included Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), and former President George W. Bush (R).

Hageman founded the Wyoming Conservation Alliance and has worked as an attorney. In 2014, Hageman worked for Cheney’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. Hageman said she challenged Cheney this year because of Cheney’s focus on the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. Cheney is vice chairwoman of the committee

Cheney has represented Wyoming in the House since 2017. She was the third-highest-ranking Republican when she chaired the House Republican Conference from 2018 to May 2021, when House Republicans voted to remove Cheney from the position after she criticized Trump and voted to impeach him. 

Cheney is the 12th House incumbent and eighth Republican to lose a primary this year. Five defeated incumbents faced fellow incumbents in primaries due to redistricting. 

Before we get into Alaska’s results, here’s a refresher: Alaska held top-four primaries for several offices and a ranked-choice special general election for U.S. House on Tuesday. This year’s are the first elections under the system voters approved in 2020.

Alaska’s special U.S. House election: This race won’t be callable until at least Aug. 31, the deadline for mail ballots to arrive for the special election. After all eligible ballots are in, election officials will begin ranked-choice voting tabulation. As of Wednesday, Mary Peltola (D) had 38% of first-choice votes, followed by Sarah Palin (R) with 32% and Nicholas Begich III (R) with 29%. Write-in candidates received votes as well. 

In initial rounds of tabulation, last-place finishers will be eliminated, and the votes from people who voted for those candidates will be redistributed to those voters’ second-choice candidates (if they ranked someone second). The process continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes.

Al Gross (I) had also advanced from the special top-four primary, but he withdrew from the race in June.

Rep. Don Young (R) died in March. The special election will fill the remainder of Young’s term, which ends Jan. 3, 2023. The winner will be sworn in after results are certified. Certification is currently scheduled for Sept. 2.

Alaska’s top-four U.S. House primary: Peltola, Begich, and Palin are leading the 22-candidate field with 35%, 31%, and 27%, respectively, as of Wednesday. Tara Sweeney (R) was fourth with 4% and Chris Bye (L) fifth with 1%. This is for the regular two-year term from January 2023-2025.

Alaska U.S. Senate top-four primary: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Kelly Tshibaka (R) led with 44% and 40%, respectively, as of Wednesday. Patricia Chesbro (D) had 6%, Buzz Kelley (R) had 2%, and five candidates had 1% each.

Murkowski is the only GOP senator running for re-election this year who voted guilty during Trump’s 2021 impeachment trial. Tshibaka is a former state Department of Administration commissioner. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) endorsed Murkowski. Tshibaka has Trump’s and the state GOP’s endorsements.  

Alaska Governor top-four primary: Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) had 42%, and Les Gara (D) and Bill Walker (I) had 22% each as of Wednesday. Charlie Pierce (R) had 7% and Christopher Kurka (R), 4%. Five other candidates ran.

Walker was governor from 2014 to 2018 when Dunleavy was elected. Walker initially ran for re-election in 2018 but withdrew from the race. Gara is a former state House member, and Kurka currently serves in the chamber. Pierce worked as a manager at ENSTAR Natural Gas Company.

Media analysis

Politico Huddle wrote about Cheney’s loss in the context of other Republicans who voted for impeachment: 

Of the 10 House Republicans who bucked their party and standard bearer of the new GOP to vote to impeach the-President [sic] Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 insurrection, just two are left with a chance to return to Congress next year.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the leading critic of Trump within the Republican party, was toppled last night by primary challenger Harriet Hageman, who embraced Trump and won his endorsement. Cheney is the fourth impeachment Republican to lose a primary this cycle. Four others chose retirement over a bruising reelection effort.

The last men standing are Reps. David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), who succeeded in primaries but still must survive a general election.

“I have said since Jan. 6 that I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office, and I mean it,” Cheney said at the close of her concession speech in Jackson, Wyoming, last night.

“This primary election is over, but now the real work begins,” she said.

What that “real work” is, still isn’t clear. In the near term, Cheney will return to Capitol Hill for more Jan. 6 select committee hearings. She could mount a bid for the White House, though either a GOP primary or independent run would be long shots.

Our friends at Playbook scooped that Cheney will launch a new organization in the coming weeks “to educate the American people about the ongoing threat to our Republic, and to mobilize a unified effort to oppose any Donald Trump campaign for president,” Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler told Playbook.

Anchorage Daily News wrote about the challenges Alaska’s top three U.S. House candidates have faced and their prospects both in the current elections and in the regular general election:

Palin has a devoted following but is also resented by many longtime Alaskans who recall her decision to resign the governorship and become a reality television star. Begich is running with the support of the Alaska Republican Party establishment, but is battling an association with his Democratic uncle, former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. Either Begich or Palin would have to rely on second-place votes in order to overtake Peltola in the ranked choice tabulation.

Matt Shuckerow, a political consultant who has previously worked for Young, said the results put Palin “in the driver’s seat.” If she remains in second position, he said she will likely get a sufficient number of Begich voters’ second-place votes to propel her ahead of Peltola.

After results came in Tuesday night, Begich said in a phone call that he remains “really optimistic” about his November run. Peltola’s campaign manager Anton McParland also said they were already looking ahead to November.

Shuckerow said the November election results could be different from the special election results. Turnout is typically significantly higher in November compared to the August primary, which can change both campaign strategies and the makeup of the voters.

John-Henry Heckendorn, a political consultant who runs Ship Creek Group, which has advised Peltola’s campaign, said the results are particularly encouraging for the Democrat’s campaign. Rural Alaskans and progressives — two groups that are likely to favor Peltola — have higher turnout in the November election. And Peltola has had less money to spend on getting her name out there, meaning that there are still many voters who aren’t familiar with her, polling suggests, he said.

“Mary has the biggest ceiling of any of the candidates,” Heckendorn said.

State legislative incumbents defeated

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

Fourteen state legislative incumbents—five Democrats and nine Republicans—lost primaries in Hawaii and Wyoming over the past week. No incumbents faced contested primaries in Alaska. Overall, there are seven uncalled state legislative primaries featuring incumbents: two Democratic and five Republican.

Across the 41 states that have held state legislative primaries so far, 198 incumbents, 4.8% of those running for re-election, have lost, continuing an elevated rate of incumbent primary defeats compared to recent election cycles.

Of the 41 states that have held primaries, 11 have Democratic trifectas, 20 have Republican trifectas, and 10 have divided governments. Across these states, there are 5,319 seats up for election, 85% of the nationwide total.

Updates from Utah’s U.S. Senate election: Republican vs. Republican-turned-independent

A Republican incumbent faces a Republican-turned-independent, two third-party candidates, and no Democratic challenger in Utah’s U.S. Senate election

Incumbent Sen. Mike. Lee (R) was first elected in 2010. Evan McMullin (I) is a former CIA officer and former policy director of the House Republican Conference. McMullin ran for president in 2016 as an independent. 

Lee voted for McMullin partly because of Trump’s proposal to temporarily prevent Muslims from entering the country. McMullin received 21.5% of the vote in Utah and 0.5% nationally.

In April, the state Democratic Party voted not to nominate a Senate candidate and endorsed McMullin. McMullin has said he won’t caucus with either party if he wins. 

Politico wrote that “McMullin says his state deserves two [Sen. Mitt] Romneys and vowed that ‘I will be in a coalition in the Senate as I am in Utah, with other pro-democracy senators.’”

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Divisions over Mr. Trump are set to be front and center in this year’s Senate race, with Mr. Lee having the backing of Mr. Trump—and Mr. McMullin calling the former president the reason he left the party.”

McMullin has criticized Lee’s initial support for legal challenges to the 2020 presidential election results immediately following the election, as shown in text messages between Lee and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

McMullin said, “When you advise spurious legal challenges to a free and fair election that were designed to convince tens of millions of Americans that the election was stolen … that is not what a constitutional conservative does.”

Lee said, “I made phone calls. The rumors were not true. And I voted to certify the election.”

Lee has criticized McMullin’s support for expanding background checks on gun purchases.

An independent poll from mid-July found Lee apparently leading McMullin 41% to 36%. The poll’s margin of error was +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Put Utah First PAC spent $575,000 supporting McMullin last week. According to Federal Election Commission filings, that’s the first big satellite expenditure of the general election. Daily Kos wrote that Put Utah First PAC is “funded by Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman.” 

According to Open Secrets, Americans for Prosperity Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund have spent a combined $545,000 supporting Lee throughout the cycle.

More than $3 million in satellite spending in OK-02 primary runoff

The Frontier reported that two super PACs have spent more than $3 million combined in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District between the June 28 GOP primary and next week’s primary runoff.

Avery Carl Frix and Josh Brecheen advanced from the 14-candidate primary field with 14.7% and 13.8%, respectively. Brecheen served in the state Senate from 2010 to 2018. Frix has served in the state House since 2016.

School Freedom Fund, a Club for Growth affiliate, is supporting Brecheen and has spent $1.8 million in the runoff. A recent ad features Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) saying Brecheen “opposed every tax increase in the legislature. He fought for parents’ rights in education. And he defended the Second Amendment.”

The Frontier wrote,

The group’s attacks on Frix have been trying to paint him as a pro-tax legislator, claiming in mailers he voted for $2.7 billion in tax hikes during his time in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. 

“They’re missing the fact that we were able to balance the budget,” Frix said. 

The Fund for a Working Congress has spent $1.3 million. According to The Frontier,

In mailers, Fund for a Working Congress accused Brecheen of wanting to end the electoral college, saying that if he “had his way Hillary Clinton would be President.”

“A half-truth is a whole lie,” Brecheen said. “They’re taking a vote out of context.”

Brecheen voted for a National Popular Vote bill in the state Senate in 2014 and said he regretted the vote.

Oklahoma’s 2nd District is open as incumbent Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R) is running in the special U.S. Senate election. This is a safe Republican district. The primary runoff is Aug. 23.

Florida’s 13th Congressional District primary leads the state in satellite spending 

Satellite groups have spent millions in Florida’s 13th Congressional District ahead of next week’s GOP primary, including more than $1.7 million in recent weeks both supporting and opposing two candidates: Kevin Hayslett and Anna Paulina Luna. 

Florida Politics’ Kelly Hayes wrote that political committees have spent $900,000 on pro-Hayslett/anti-Luna ads and $800,000 on pro-Luna/anti-Hayslett ads. 

According to Open Secrets, satellite groups have spent more in this race than in any other Florida primary for federal office this year. 

The highest spenders in the primary are Stand for Florida, supporting Hayslett, and Club for Growth Action, supporting Luna. Stand for Florida, a single-candidate super PAC, has spent $630,000 supporting Hayslett and $1.4 million opposing Luna. Club for Growth Action has spent $1.3 million opposing Hayslett and $620,000 supporting Luna.

Hayslett and Luna both completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Click their names to read their full responses.

Hayslett, a private practice lawyer and former Florida assistant state attorney, said he was “running for Congress to lower taxes and protect our hard earned money.” He said, “We must combat our current affordability crisis, lower gas prices, and work to lower inflation that is crushing Florida families.” Hayslett said, “I am law enforcement’s choice for Congress, and will always support policies that protect our communities and support law enforcement.”

Luna, a U.S. Air Force veteran and conservative commentator who has worked for Turning Point USA and Prager U., said she wanted to “[b]ring America Back to Energy INDEPENDENCE aka American Oil from American Soil,” “[d]efund China and bring back American manufacturing,” and “[e]mpower people over government to include in our education system (parent’s rights), medical decisions (I am against mandates), and against big tech!”

Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Luna in September 2021. 

Five candidates are running in the Aug. 23 primary. The winner will face Democrat Eric Lynn in the general election, which independent forecasters view as Likely Republican after redistricting. Incumbent Rep. Charlie Crist (D) is running for governor.

Competitiveness data: Florida

Florida’s primaries are on Aug. 23. 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.