Republicans collide in key primaries as Trump’s pull is tested in SC


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The competing wings of the Republican Party clashed across the country on Tuesday, with a pair of congressional Republicans in South Carolina trying to survive against major challengers backed by former President Donald Trump.

Rep. Tom Rice, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year, and Rep. Nancy Mace, who angered Trump after voting to certify Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020, were the last Republicans drawn into an electoral dispute with the ex-President. To win the primary and avoid a runoff on June 28, the candidates had to obtain a majority.

Late Tuesday night, Mace led Trump-backed challenger Katie Arrington 52.7% to 45.5%, with the Associated Press estimating about 66% of the vote was tallied. Trump-endorsed nominee Russell Fry led with 50% to Rice’s 24.8%, with about 73% of the vote counted.

Tuesday’s vote in four states — Nevada, North Dakota, Maine and South Carolina — served as the final checkpoint of attitudes within the Republican Party and the former president’s ability to steer its direction. Democrats also held their own intraparty contests. Meanwhile, voters of both parties in South Texas were casting their ballots in a special election that served in part to measure Republicans’ ability to make new inroads with Latino voters in traditionally Democratic territory.

Trump’s support for the 2022 Republican primaries

Trump-backed candidates have posted a spotty record in primaries this year, including decisive statewide defeats in Georgia last month and gubernatorial losses in Nebraska and Idaho. Trump has found more success in Senate races, notably in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where his endorsed nominees have prevailed.

Tuesday’s races took place against the backdrop of a congressional panel investigating the first public hearings into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack last Thursday and Monday. Some of the GOP candidates on the ballot sought to groundlessly discredit the election or played a more direct role in the attack on the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

The former president’s influence was tested in a closely watched Nevada gubernatorial primary that pitted Trump-backed Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo against Joey Gilbert. a lawyer and former boxer backed by the state’s Republican Party who touted his presence in Washington during the attack on the Capitol.

Gilbert was also videotaped just outside the Capitol building questioning baselessly whether Biden had won his state.

Of the 10 GOP House members who voted to impeach Trump for inciting insurrection after the attack on the Capitol, only six chose to seek re-election. Rice is the second to face voters in the primaries so far this year, and he has defended his vote. The other is Rep. David G. Valadao (R-California), who hopes to qualify for the November election after the June 7 multiparty primary in his state. The votes are always counted there.

Mace voted against both Trump impeachments but angered the former president by backing Vice President Mike Pence’s position that he lacked the constitutional authority to void the 2020 election.

Against rice, Trump earlier this year, endorsed Fry, a state representative. Opposing Mace, he chose to back Arrington, a former state representative who won the GOP nomination for the seat in 2018 by defeating incumbent Republican Mark Sanford. In the general election, she lost to Democrat Joe Cunningham, who turned the seat from red to blue for the first time in decades.

Mace has won the backing of at least one major Trump associate in the state, Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador under Trump who campaigned for Mace – a move that angered the former president . Haley, who served as governor of South Carolina before entering the Trump administration, is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate.

Mace also sought to emphasize her support for Trump, once posting a video that ridiculed her in which she stood in front of Trump Tower and identified herself as “one of his earliest supporters.”

In Rice’s district, some voters said the impeachment vote was outdated.

“Tom Rice just went too far,” said Roland Kennedy, who voted in Florence County. “His response to why he voted for impeachment kind of made me sick to my stomach.” During a debate in May, Rice provided a graphic account of her experience on Jan. 6. “I’ve seen the bomb squads defuse bombs,” Rice said during the debate. “I smelled the tear gas”

But the former president was not on the minds of all GOP voters. Luder and Dale Messervy, of Charleston, said they voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. The couple, who are retired, supported Mace.

“We were big Trump fans, but the shine is gone,” says Luder, 76. “We loved all of his policies, pretty much, but his ego and personality are just off-putting, so we moved on.”

The couple braved a heat index of over 110 degrees to vote for incumbent Mace at James Island Charter High School.

“She had the courage to do what she did about the January 6 situation, which I thought was bold and brave,” said Luder de Mace, who condemned Trump’s role in the event at the Capitol.

Other primaries were also on the minds of strategists from both parties.

In Texas’ 34th congressional district, a special election to fill the seat vacated by Democrat Filemon Vela, who quit Congress to work for a lobbying firm, caught the attention of Republican officials, who hoped to do so. change from red to blue.

Mayra Flores, born in Mexico, was seen Tuesday as the main candidate of the GOP, the Democrats vying for the seat included Dan Sanchez, a former Cameron County commissioner, and Rene Coronado, a government employee.

Late Tuesday night, with the Associated Press estimating 70% of the votes counted, Flores was leading Sanchez, 50.9% to 43.5%.

In order to avoid a second round, a candidate must obtain the majority of votes. Due to the redistricting, elections will be held under different lines in November, making potentially short-lived Republican gains possible.

In the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Nevada, Trump-backed Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general, faced Afghan veteran Sam Brown, among other candidates. Trump recently hosted a town hall for Laxalt and noted that June 14 — the state’s first day — is his birthday. “Give me Adam as a birthday present,” Trump urged voters, according to the Nevada Independent.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), considered potentially vulnerable in November, was hoping to get out of her own primary.

Democratic voters in Nevada also expressed their views on their party’s direction in a U.S. House race in which Rep. Dina Titus was battling a liberal challenger, Amy Vilela. Vilela was the 2020 state co-chairman for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and earned his endorsement in the primary.

In the Republican primary for Nevada Secretary of State, Jim Marchant, who lost a race for Congress in 2020, has led a nationwide effort among far-right candidates for secretary of state. He started a group called America First SOS Coalition that supports candidates for “aggressive cleanup of voter rolls,” among other changes.

Another high-profile contender for Secretary of State is wealthy businessman Jesse Haw, who is self-funding and pledges on his website to “make the changes necessary to create a safe and secure environment for Nevada elections. Cisco Aguilar, a lawyer and founder of a sports technology company called Blueprint Sports, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

In Maine, former Gov. Paul LePage made a comeback and was unopposed in his bid to be the GOP nominee for his former position. Democrat Janet Mills was unopposed on the other side. The AP expected the two to move on in the November elections.

In Maine’s US House races, former Congressman Bruce Poliquin and Liz Caruso, a local elected official from the town of Caratunk, were contesting the GOP primary for the 2nd congressional district. Rep. Jared Golden (D), who is among the most vulnerable Democrats, was unopposed in his primary.

Sam Spence in Mullins, SC, contributed to this report. Scott Clement contributed to this report.


Washington

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