Heart of the Primaries 2022, Democrats-Issue 39

September 15, 2022

In this issue: A recap of major themes throughout the 2022 primary season, plus our reader survey

Welcome to our 39th and final issue of 2022’s The Heart of the Primaries, and thanks for joining us throughout the primary season! 

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Highlights from the final Democratic primary night

Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island rounded out the 2022 party primary season Tuesday. Here are the highlights: 

Rhode Island Governor: Incumbent Dan McKee defeated four other candidates. As of Wednesday morning, McKee led with 33% to Helena Foulkes’ 30% and Nellie Gorbea’s 26%.

Delaware Auditor: Lydia York defeated incumbent Kathy McGuiness 71% to 29%. We wrote last week about the misdemeanor charges McGuiness was convicted of ahead of the primary.

State legislative incumbents defeated

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

Ten state legislative incumbents—four Democrats and six Republicans—lost in primaries on Sept. 13, but that may change. There are 15 Democratic primaries and 24 Republican primaries that remain uncalled.

Across the 46 states that held state legislative primaries this year, 216 incumbents, 4.5% of those running for re-election, have lost, an elevated rate of incumbent primary defeats compared to recent election cycles.

Forty-seven of the defeated incumbents (22%) this year lost in incumbent vs. incumbent primaries.

Build Back Better and Infrastructure Act positions in spotlight

Throughout the year, incumbent Democrats’ positions on last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Build Back Better Act were points of debate in primaries. The conflicts involved arguments over bipartisanship, divisiveness, and furthering the president’s agenda. 

In August 2021, the House passed a resolution to advance both the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills. The resolution contained a nonbinding commitment to vote on the infrastructure bill in September (which did not happen). The House passed the infrastructure bill and then Build Back Better in November. The Senate didn’t take up Build Back Better. Both chambers passed and President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, a smaller reconciliation bill, this year.

The Infrastructure bill “no” voters

Six lawmakers said they voted against the infrastructure bill because it was separated from the Build Back Better Act. Among the six, four faced primary opposition: Reps. Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Cori Bush (MO-01), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13). Each faced criticism from opponents and opponents’ supporters for their votes. 

Critics, including the incumbents’ primary opponents, said the representatives were divisive and not focused on getting results. The representatives said passing the infrastructure bill separately from Build Back Better threatened the fate of the latter bill. 

Each of the four incumbents above won their primaries. For more on the conflict in each of the races, including quotes from candidates and opponents, see the Heart of the Primaries stories below.

The budget resolution debaters

Nine Democratic House members signed a letter in August 2021 saying they would not support a budget resolution needed to pass Build Back Better unless a vote on the infrastructure bill, which the Senate had passed, happened first. Reps. Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07) were among the nine who signed. 

The letter said, “The country is clamoring for infrastructure investment and commonsense, bipartisan solutions. This legislation does both[.] … [W]e simply can’t afford months of unnecessary delays and risk squandering this once-in-a-century, bipartisan infrastructure package.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) held a rally for Jessica Cisneros, who challenged Cuellar in a rematch this year. Ocasio-Cortez said, “If you’re upset about Build Back Better, you can elect Jessica Cisneros.” 

And in Georgia’s 7th, where Boudeaux faced fellow incumbent Lucy McBath (D) due to redistricting, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Patricia Murphy and Greg Bluestein wrote that “Bourdeaux drew the wrath of progressive groups — and [Stacey] Abrams allies — for joining other moderates with a stand that threatened to derail a $3.5 trillion social policy plan.” 

Bourdeaux and Cuellar supported the budget resolution with the nonbinding agreement and both bills when they came up in November. Cuellar won a primary runoff against Cisneros, while Bourdeaux lost to McBath.

Three satellite groups spent $55 million in Democratic primaries in 2022

Throughout the year, the satellite groups United Democracy Project, Protect our Future PAC, and Democratic Majority for Israel made headlines for their involvement in Democratic U.S. House primaries. According to Open Secrets, the groups spent a combined $55 million of the total $106 million all groups spent in those primaries.

United Democracy Project and Protect Our Futures PAC were the biggest spenders at $24 million a piece. 

United Democracy Project is a super PAC affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The group spent $14 million supporting Democratic primary candidates and $11 million opposing Democratic candidates. 

United Democracy Project made its largest expenditure in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District primary. We covered conflict over the group’s involvement in the race, and J Street Action Fund’s counter-involvement, in our July 14 issue. United Democracy Project spent $4.3 million opposing former U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards and $1.7 million supporting former Prince George’s County state attorney Glenn Ivey. Ivey defeated Edwards 51% to 35% in the July 19 primary. 

The group also spent $3.9 million supporting Rep. Haley Stevens in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District. Stevens defeated fellow incumbent Andy Levin 59.5% to 40.5%. For stories on satellite spending in Michigan’s 11th and the candidates’ positions on Israel, see our March 10, July 7, and August 4 issues. 

Protect Our Future PAC is associated with cryptocurrency exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried. According to Open Secrets, $23.3 million (96%) of the group’s expenditures supported Democratic candidates.

Protect Our Future PAC spent $10.4 million supporting Carrick Flynn in Oregon’s newly created 6th Congressional District Democratic primary. The group spent $936,000 opposing Andrea Salinas. Salinas, the only Democratic primary candidate Protect Our Future PAC spent against, won the May 17 primary with 36% of the vote. Flynn finished second with 18%.

Protect Our Future PAC’s spending made Oregon’s 6th District the congressional district with the most satellite spending this primary season. See our April 14 and May 19 issues for more on the group’s involvement in this district.   

Democratic Majority for Israel spent $6.6 million in Democratic primaries. Almost half was spent in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District. The group spent $1.6 million supporting Shontel Brown and $1.5 million opposing Nina Turner, who were in a rematch from last year’s special primary election. (Note that figures include spending in both the special and regular primaries.) Protect Our Future PAC and United Democracy Project were also active in this race, both spending to favor Brown’s re-election. Brown defeated Turner in the May 3 primary 66% to 34%.

Democratic Majority for Israel was also active in Illnois’ 6th District, where Rep. Sean Casten defeated Rep. Marie Newman 68% to 29%. The group spent more than $500,000 opposing Newman.

See our March 10, May 19, and June 30 issues for more on this group’s involvement in 2022’s primaries.

Redistricting and the primaries: By the numbers

This year’s primaries were the first using new district boundaries enacted after the 2020 census. Forty-four states adopted new congressional district maps. Six states only have one congressional district.

Forty-nine states adopted new legislative district boundaries, except for Montana. The state’s Legislature only meets in odd-numbered years and adjourned before the U.S. Census Bureau delivered data to the states on Aug. 12, 2021.

Seven new congressional districts

There are seven new congressional districts as a result of six states gaining U.S. House districts during apportionment: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas (which gained two seats). 

Seven states—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—lost one district each.

Six member vs. member elections

As a result of redistricting, six U.S. House districts had two incumbents running against each other in their party’s primaries (winner is underlined):

In the 2012 House elections following the last round of redistricting, 11 primaries featured two incumbents: seven Democratic, three Republican, and one all-party primary in Louisiana with two Republican incumbents.

Two House general elections will feature two incumbents in November. Neal Dunn (R) faces Al Lawson (D) in Florida’s 2nd, and Mayra Flores (R) faces Vicente Gonzalez Jr. (D) in Texas’ 34th.

Click here for more on these multi-member matchups.

In 2022, there were 48 incumbent vs. incumbent state legislative primaries: 16 for Democrats and 32 for Republicans.

Two rescheduled primaries

Two states held contests for different types of offices on two different dates because of court decisions regarding redistricting. 

New York held statewide and state Assembly primaries as originally scheduled on June 28 and congressional and state Senate primaries on Aug. 23. The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, overturned the state’s congressional and state Senate maps on April 27, ruling that both violated the state’s constitutional redistricting process.  

Ohio held congressional and statewide primary elections on May 3 and legislative primaries on Aug. 2. The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s adopted legislative district boundaries on April 14, after previously overturning three other sets of legislative maps that the legislature or state redistricting commission had approved. The state ultimately used maps the Ohio Redistricting Commission adopted.

U.S. House incumbent primary losses exceed last two redistricting cycles

Overall, 15 House incumbents lost in 2022 primaries—nine Republicans and six Democrats. (Those figures include Republican Bob Gibbs (OH-07), who unofficially withdrew but whose name still appeared on the ballot.) Six incumbent losses were inevitable this year due to primaries featuring two incumbents. Still, the number exceeds the previous two post-redistricting elections in 2012 and 2002. In 2012, 13 House incumbents lost primaries. And in 2002, eight incumbents lost.

Here’s 2022’s list of defeated U.S. House incumbents:

See you next primary cycle, and thanks again for reading!