Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 36

August 25, 2022

In this issue: Takeaways from primaries in New York and a look ahead to New Hampshire

Primary results roundup

Florida and New York held statewide primaries Tuesday, while Oklahoma held a statewide primary runoff. We were watching two battleground Republican primaries in those states. Here’s how those races unfolded:

New York’s 23rd Congressional District: Nicolas Langworthy defeated Carl Paladino 51%-47%.

Langworthy is a former chairman of the New York Republican Party who was also a member of the executive committee for Donald Trump’s (R) presidential transition in 2016. Paladino was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2010 and co-chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in New York.

Both candidates won endorsements from national Republicans. Langworthy’s endorsers included U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R), and Paladino’s included U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R).

The 23rd District is currently vacant following Tom Reed’s (R) resignation in May amidst an allegation of sexual misconduct. 

Election forecasters rate the general election Solid/Safe Republican.

Oklahoma U.S. Senate special runoff: Markwayne Mullin defeated T.W. Shannon 65%-35%.

Mullin is a member of the U.S. House who was first elected in 2012. Shannon is the CEO of Chickasaw Community Bank and a former state representative.

Mullin and Shannon were the top two finishers from a 13-candidate field running for the Republican nomination for the four remaining years in Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R) term. Inhofe will retire in January.

Mullin’s endorsers include former President Donald Trump (R), and Shannon’s included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).

Media coverage

Politico wrote about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) endorsements:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political muscle was on full display Tuesday night, as candidates he endorsed won a handful of key state legislative races and a wave of school board seats, which were a main focus for the governor in the final weeks of the 2022 midterm.

DeSantis’ biggest legislative win was Republican Kiyan Michael, who is running for a Jacksonville state House seat. Michael was running against more established and better funded politicians, including a former state representative.

DeSantis did not endorse until late in the race, but his support gave Michael immediate momentum to overcome her Republican rivals. She ended up securing 47 percent of the vote in a three-way primary.

For the final weeks of primary season, DeSantis put an outsized effort, including contributions from his personal political committee, into local school boards across the state. It’s part of his broader agenda to reshape Florida’s education system.

It worked. Of the 30 school board candidates that got DeSantis’ formal support, 21 won their election bids Tuesday night.

The Tampa Bay Times wrote about incumbents’ performance in Florida’s primaries:

If the Democratic establishment had a good night, the Republican Party institution had a great one.

Senate President Wilton Simpson comfortably defeated primary challenger James W. Shaw in the GOP primary for agriculture commissioner. Several incumbent U.S. representatives — Vern Buchanan, for example — crushed primary opponents challenging them from the right.

Then there were the candidates who lost.

During his two terms in office, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, made enemies around the Florida Legislature. He repeatedly clashed with his own party’s leadership, calling Chris Sprowls, the top Republican in the Florida House, a RINO: Republican In Name Only. As Sabatini geared up for the 7th Congressional District GOP primary, it was apparent that top state Republicans were rooting for him to lose.

He did, by more than 10,000 votes, to veteran Cory Mills, whose campaign netted more than a dozen endorsements from GOP U.S. representatives. After the race was called, Sabatini blamed the result on “the Swamp.”

In The Villages-area 11th Congressional District primary, a similar story played out in far-right activist Laura Loomer’s challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster. Loomer, who has called Islam a “cancer on society,” lost the primary by about 5,000 votes. (She refused to concede Tuesday, citing “big tech election interference.”)

State legislative incumbents defeated

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

Three state legislative incumbents—two Democrats and one Republican—lost primaries in Florida and New York on Aug. 23. One incumbent faced a contested primary runoff in Oklahoma and won. Overall, there are 11 uncalled state legislative primaries featuring incumbents: four Democratic and seven Republican.

Across the 42 states that have held statewide primaries so far, 202 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 42 states that have held primaries, 11 have Democratic trifectas, 21 have Republican trifectas, and 11 have divided governments. Across these states, there are 5,479 seats up for election, 87% of the nationwide total.

St. Anselm poll finds most voters undecided, Mowers and Leavitt about even in NH-01

A recent St. Anselm College poll shows that most Republican voters in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District are undecided about who they will vote for, with Matt Mowers and Karoline Leavitt leading.

The poll, conducted between Aug. 9-11, found Leavitt and Mowers about even with 25% and 21% support, respectively. The only other candidates to register more than 5% support were Gail Huff Brown at 9% and Tim Baxter at 8%. 

Another 33% of respondents said they were undecided. The poll’s margin of error was 4.8 percentage points.

Mowers was the 1st District nominee in 2020 and earlier served as an aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). Mowers won 59% of the vote in the 2020 primary, defeating four other candidates, before losing to Chris Pappas (D), 51% to 46%, in the general election.

Leavitt worked as a presidential writer and assistant press secretary in President Donald Trump’s (R) administration. After Trump left office, Leavitt was communications director for U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik. 

Leavitt launched her first TV ad on Aug. 16, describing herself as a conservative outsider and New Hampshire native.

National Republicans are supporting both Mowers and Leavitt. Mowers’ endorsers include former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

Leavitt’s include U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and U.S. Reps. Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.).

As of June 30, Mowers had raised $1.57 million to Leavitt’s $1.27 million.

Primaries in New Hampshire are semi-closed, meaning a voter must either be a member of the party or not be a member of any party in order to participate. 

The winner will face two-term incumbent Pappas. Two election forecasters rate the general election a toss-up, and a third says it tilts towards Democrats.

Poll shows over a third of New Hampshire Republicans are undecided in U.S. Senate race

Don Bolduc and Chuck Morse lead in New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate primary, according to the same St. Anselm College poll that shows a tight race in the 1st Congressional District. 

The poll found Bolduc leading Morse 32% to 16%, with nearly 40% undecided. No other candidate had support from more than 5% of respondents. “It’s very unclear who’s going to win this,” said Fergus Cullen, a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

According to Politico’s Natalie Allison, “two potentially decisive endorsements loom: That of former President Donald Trump, and [New Hampshire Gov. Chris] Sununu.” Though he has not endorsed a candidate, Sununu has criticized Bolduc, saying, “I don’t take Bolduc as a serious candidate. I don’t think most people do.”

In an Aug. 14 debate sponsored by the Government Integrity Project, Bolduc, Bruce Fenton, and Kevin Smith all said they doubted the outcome of the 2020 election. Bolduc said, “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it].” Fenton said that “we can’t tell what’s true,” but that there was “a lot of fraud” during the election. Smith said “it’s very unlikely that Joe Biden got 81 million votes” and said he’d support investigations into the 2020 election if elected.

The three candidates also offered their positions on the FBI following the department’s search of former President Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago. “The first question we have to ask is, do we still need the FBI? If we answer that question no, then get rid of them,” Bolduc said. “It’s time to abolish the FBI and replace it with nothing,” Felton said. “I believe at its core, it’s a good institution, and I believe there are fine men and women who want to do their jobs and want to protect us,” Smith said.

As of June 30, Fenton had raised $1.6 million to Morse’s $1.3 million. Smith raised $700,000, and Bolduc raised $500,000.

The incumbent is Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), who was first elected in 2016. The two preceding Senate elections were split in competitiveness. In 2020, incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D) won re-election against Bryant Messner (R) by a margin of 15.6 percentage points. In 2016, Hassan (D) defeated incumbent Kelly Ayotte (R) by 0.1 percentage points.

New Hampshire uses a semi-closed primary system. Unaffiliated voters may vote in the primary, but in order to do so, they have to choose a party before voting. This changes their status from unaffiliated to affiliated with that party unless they fill out a card to return to undeclared status.

Competitiveness data: New York

We’ve crunched some numbers to see how competitive New York’s primaries were compared to recent cycles. The state legislative numbers include figures for both the state Senate primaries held earlier this week and the state Assembly primaries in June.

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.

Nevada voters to consider implementing top-five primaries

Nevada voters will consider a constitutional amendment that would implement a top-five primary system in their state on this year’s November ballot.

Earlier this year, Alaska became the first state to hold top-four congressional primaries. 

The Nevada proposal would allow five candidates to advance from the primary. It would adopt the new voting system for state executive and state legislative elections as well as congressional races. The measure would not affect presidential or local elections.

Alaska is not the first state to end the use of partisan primaries for congressional nominations. California and Washington use a top-two system in which only two candidates advance from the primary, eliminating the need for ranked-choice voting in the general election. 

Louisiana uses a majority-vote system which is similar to the top-two system but allows a candidate who wins more than 50% of the primary vote to win the election outright.

Although Maine still uses partisan primaries, it uses ranked-choice voting for general elections for Congress.

Supporters of the initiative include the Institute for Political Innovation and Vote Nevada. Opponents include Gov. Steve Sisolak (D), U.S. Sens. Jacky Rosen (D) and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D), and the state branch of the AFL-CIO.

Nevada requires that initiated constitutional amendments win approval twice before taking effect. This means voters would need to approve the measure again in 2024 if it passes this year before the new system is adopted. 

Between 1985 and 2020, 73% of citizen-initiated constitutional amendments that made the ballot in Nevada won approval after voters passed them twice.