Primary election: Trump-backed challengers could shake up South Carolina as Nevada, Maine and North Dakota also vote


The marquee contest in the Palmetto State features Rep. Tom Rice — one of the 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment after the January 6, 2021, US Capitol riot — and six challengers, led by Trump-endorsed South Carolina state Rep. Russell Fry.
Despite facing a severe backlash over his impeachment vote, including death threats in its aftermath, Rice has not backed off his criticism of Trump or decided, like some of his impeachment-backing GOP colleagues, to leave office at the end of his term rather than face voters again. A staunch conservative and Trump supporter before the insurrection, the five-term congressman has instead taken his case out on the campaign trail — and now, as polls are closing, awaits the verdict of Republicans in the 7th District.

Another South Carolina Republican who has occasionally broken with Trump, Rep. Nancy Mace, is also in a tight race for renomination. Mace did not vote to impeach the former President but she also refused to join congressional objectors to President Joe Biden’s victory. She is facing off with Trump-endorsed Katie Arrington, who defeated then-Rep. Mark Sanford in the 2018 primary but went on to lose the general election.

Nevada, Maine, North Dakota and a special election in Texas’ 34th Congressional District are also on the menu Tuesday, with the most fierce contests featuring Republicans vying for nominations ahead of a midterm general election that looks increasingly dire for Democrats trying to hold on to their narrow majorities in the US House and Senate.
Recent Democratic dominance in Nevada is in for a stress test in the fall, but Silver State Republicans still need to sort through a handful of testy primaries, for top statewide offices and the chance to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, featuring candidates up and down the ballot who have embraced Trump’s lies about the 2020 election to varying degrees.

In the Senate primary, former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race, has Trump’s endorsement — along with that of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other leading conservatives with eyes on the 2024 presidential race — after serving as the former President’s 2020 campaign co-chair in the state and peddling unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud after Trump’s loss there became apparent.

But Laxalt, whose late grandfather Paul Laxalt served as Nevada’s governor and then as one of its US senators for two terms, first needs to fend off a late charge from political newcomer Sam Brown, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart after suffering severe burn injuries in Afghanistan.

The contest for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, and a November date with Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, is particularly emblematic of the modern-day Republican Party — all three candidates have aligned themselves with Trump, a symbol of his movement’s growing power. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, though, is the candidate with the former President’s endorsement and the perceived front-runner over former Sen. Dean Heller and Joey Gilbert, a lawyer and retired boxer.

Tuesday's secretary of state primary in Nevada looms large over the 2024 election

In years past, the race to fill the seat of term-limited Republican Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske might have flown under the national political radar. But in the wake of Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 results — efforts Cegavske dismissed — and with more recent, successful Republican attempts to restrict ballot access in mind, Democrats are renewing their focus on offices that oversee elections.

Cisco Aguilar, an attorney and former staffer for the late Sen. Harry Reid, is running unopposed for the post in the Democratic primary. The Republican favorite, former state Assemblyman Jim Marchant, filed an unsuccessful lawsuit after losing his 2020 House race and has said he would not have certified Biden’s victory in Nevada if he’d been in Cegavske’s seat after the election.

Down the ballot, a handful of the state’s Democratic House members are facing primary challenges. Rep. Dina Titus’ challenger, progressive Amy Vilela, was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders last week. The Vermont independent won the Nevada caucuses during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Down in Texas, the Tuesday night lights are on again, this time for a special election to finish out former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela’s term in the soon-to-be-former 34th Congressional District. Vela’s resignation in late March to work for a law and lobbying firm opened the seat in a district Biden narrowly won in 2020 but that is poised to become more comfortably blue-leaning after redistricting comes into effect in the November election. The special election is taking place under the existing district boundaries, with the winner serving until January.

Republicans try to send message to Democrats in Texas special election

Despite the apparently low stakes, Republicans are heavily invested in the race, hoping to give Mayra Flores — already their general election nominee for the new district — a head start in her coming race against Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, currently of the 15th Congressional District. Gonzalez is staying put for now, so former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez is the Democratic favorite on a four-candidate ballot, evenly split between the parties and likely to be decided, if no one can win a clear majority, in an August runoff.

If she prevails, Flores would become the country’s first Mexican-born member of Congress — a piece of history Republicans are hoping to wield as a signal of the party’s growing foothold with Hispanic voters in South Texas ahead of her clash with Gonzalez.

In Maine, more familiar faces are dominating the primary night landscape.

Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage — the man who once declared himself “Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular” — is on the ballot again as he seeks to win back his old job from Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, a longtime political foe. Both are running unopposed in their primaries ahead of their November showdown.

The Republican field is more competitive in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, where the nominee will take on one of the Democratic Party’s most endangered incumbents, Rep. Jared Golden. The race features former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who lost his seat to Golden in 2018 after neither managed to secure a majority and the race was decided by Maine’s ranked-choice system. Poliquin, though, must first outlast Caratunk Selectwoman Liz Caruso.

There was less drama in North Dakota, where CNN projects Republican Sen. John Hoeven will win the nomination over conservative activist Riley Kuntz. Hoeven is expected to comfortably win reelection in the deep red state over either Katrina Christiansen or Michael Steele, the Democratic candidates, in November.

This story has been updated with additional developments.


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