The ongoing primary season continues this Tuesday, June 14, with a swath of races across four states. South Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, and Maine are each holding contests that will ultimately determine the make up of Congress next year, and more importantly, help decide whether President Joe Biden and his Democratic Party can pass any meaningful legislation before 2024.
From testing Donald Trump’s enduring legacy to campaigns employing dirty tricks, today’s primaries are looking set to be some of the most notable this year.
The closely watched 1st congressional district race between incumbent freshman Representative Nancy Mace (R) and Trump-backed Katie Arrington will be producing headlines for weeks to come. This contest – in which Mace is considered the firm favorite polling five points clear – is likely to be used as a gauge of the former president’s grip on the GOP.
Mace herself has the backing of former Ambassador to the United Nations and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Having lost the GOP presidential nomination to Trump in 2016, it is highly possible that Haley wants another bite of the apple. She is presently a 16/1 underdog for the presidency, coming in sixth place odds just behind Mike Pence and Kamala Harris. If Mace wins the primary, it is a good look for the former governor and one she can use to leverage her standing prior to 2024.
Incumbent GOP Rep. Tom Rice is facing a plethora of primary challengers after he voted to impeach Trump. All six hopefuls have cited that fateful vote as the key motivation behind their campaigns. Trump himself is backing state Rep. Russell Fry, who, according to a Trafalgar Group poll, is 17 points ahead of Rice. However, with such a crowded field, the seven-way split means this could be a very close contest.
The gubernatorial primary race in Maine was over before it began. With incumbent Democrat Governor Janet Mills running unopposed, she will, in November, battle the only Republican candidate on the primary ballot: former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who left office in 2019 due to a two-consecutive term limit state law.
LePage is certainly a charismatic and colorful figure. Once describing himself as “Trump before there was Trump,” he has been in and out of hot water for his politically incorrect remarks. He won more votes for his second term than he did for his first, however, suggesting that despite what some consider his personal “issues,” he retains a certain amount of popularity within the state.
Due to recent redistricting that followed the 2020 census, 98 of the 141 North Dakota state legislature seats are on the ballot today. A number of GOP competitors are running unendorsed as the party had failed to settle on candidate questions in advance … this will be a true free-for-all.
On the more stable side, incumbent GOP Senator John Hoeven is seeking a third term and looks likely to win his nomination. Katrina Christiansen, an engineering professor, is running for the Democrat nomination against Michael Steele, a Fargo art and antiques dealer who is apparently a complete unknown to the party.
The Donald has hitched his endorsement wagon to former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt to win the nomination for the US Senate. With a proven track record, Laxalt is a known entity in Washington, DC. His father was late New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici, and his grandfather, Paul Laxalt, was both a senator and governor of Nevada. However, despite having the DC connections and wide national GOP support, he does not possess the backing of the Nevada Republican Party – that has gone to his main competitor, retired Army Capt. Sam Brown. The latest Nevada Independent polling gives Laxalt a 14-point lead.
Biden took Nevada in 2020 with just a 2.39% lead over Trump. However, in 2016, Hillary won the state by 2.42%, making it one of the states where Trump improved his performance overall. Should Laxalt prevail in November, a Trump loyalist in the Senate might just make the difference if 45 tries to become 47.
Of note is that the Republican gubernatorial primary is not only being funded by the candidates’ campaigns but also by Democrat groups. As part of a November strategy, opposition organizations and PACS are spending dollars on candidates they see as easier pickings when the general election comes around. With a Trump endorsement, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo is the firm favorite to pick up the GOP nomination and would be a solid contender against incumbent Governor Steve Sisolak, who is considered somewhat vulnerable. As such, weaker Republican primary candidates like former US Sen. Dean Heller and Joey Gilbert are receiving Democrat backing in an effort aimed at blocking a Lombardo appearance on the November ticket.
This under-the-table support of GOP candidates by Democrat-led PACs is not an isolated Nevada incident; it is a strategy taking place in states across the country and in terms of managing a campaign budget, may turn out to be money well spent.
A special election for Texas’ 34th congressional district is taking place today to replace Democrat Filemon Vela, who resigned this year. This race is between Republican Mayra Flores and Democrat attorney Dan Sanchez, and it is billed as a very close contest. The GOP is hoping to flip this seat red and take one more vote away from Dems in the US House. To avoid a runoff, the winning contender will need to garner more than 50% of the vote, which seems unlikely with many other candidates also in the field. However, Flores is polling a robust nine points ahead of Sanchez, so even in the event of a runoff, she has a solid shot at a win.