Rep. Mark Sanford lost his primary to a pro-Trump challenger in South Carolina Tuesday night, as GOP voters turned against one of congressional Republicans’ most vocal critics of the administration.
State Rep. Katie Arrington took just over half of the GOP primary vote — 50.6 percent — with 99 percent of precincts reporting, just over the threshold to win the nomination instead of facing Sanford in a one-on-one runoff. Sanford had 47 percent after a campaign focused on his criticism of Trump’s fiscal policy and rhetoric.
Arrington, who won an endorsement from President Donald Trump via Twitter late Tuesday, told POLITICO that Sanford “has ostracized [himself] to the point where there will never be a seat at the table for him.”
Sanford is the second House member to lose a primary in 2018, following Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.). And Sanford is the second Republican Trump critic in two weeks to run into primary trouble; last week in Alabama, Rep. Martha Roby fell below 50 percent of the vote and was pulled into a runoff in her first primary since declaring she would not vote for Trump in 2016, following the publication of his vulgar comments in the “Access Hollywood” tape. Roby has since tried to mend fences, but she still suffered a sharp drop in Republican primary support this year.
Sanford, a fiscal conservative in his second stint in the House, was first elected to Congress in 1994 and later became South Carolina’s governor before resigning in disgrace over an affair.
Trump also played a central role in South Carolina’s gubernatorial race. Gov. Henry McMaster, an early Trump backer, is running on the president’s endorsement as his top qualification as he seeks a full term against a crowded primary field. But he fell short of a majority in his primary, and McMaster will have to compete against businessman John Warren head-to-head for the Republican nomination in a primary runoff on June 26.
In Nevada, Trump publicly prodded Danny Tarkanian to drop his Senate primary bid against GOP Sen. Dean Heller, and Tarkanian instead walked away with an endorsement tweet for another battleground House campaign, where he won the primary late Tuesday.
“The nod from Trump is enormously helpful in Republican primaries,” said Ryan Hamilton, a Republican consultant based in Nevada.
Trump looms over Democratic voters and candidates too, and primaries around the country are rife with rhetoric and ads about taking on the president. Democrats in Northern Virginia nominated state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, who’s promised to be a “check on the president,” in one of the most anti-Trump districts still held by a House Republican — Rep. Barbara Comstock won reelection in D.C. suburbs’ 10th District even as Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by 10 points in 2016. Democrats nominated women in all four potential battleground districts in Virginia, continuing a trend of strong performance by female candidates in this year’s primaries.
Here’s a state-by-state guide to what’s on the ballot Tuesday:
McMaster, then the lieutenant governor, was the highest-ranking elected official to endorse Trump when he jumped aboard the president’s campaign in January 2016. And after Trump’s appointment of Nikki Haley to the Cabinet made McMaster governor, Trump returned the favor with an endorsement of his own in October 2017, tweeting that McMaster was “with me from the beginning.”
But McMaster will head to a runoff for the GOP nomination, the Associated Press projected, as he fell short of the majority needed to win the primary outright. McMaster will instead face businessman John Warren head to head on June 26. The governor had 44 percent of the primary vote with 60 percent of precincts in, while Warren had 26 percent.
State Rep. James Smith, backed by Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Jim Clyburn, won the Democratic nomination for governor outright against businessman Phil Noble and attorney Marguerite Willis.
In contrast to McMaster, Sanford’s vocal criticism of the president in Congress left a primary opening for state Rep. Katie Arrington, whose TV ads tagged the congressman as an opponent of the Trump agenda. The tight race forced Sanford, a notoriously frugal candidate, to dump last-minute cash into TV ads.
Numerous outside groups and over a dozen candidates are competing in a raucous Republican primary to replace Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is retiring in the 4th District. That race is almost certain to go to a runoff; the question is who makes it to the June 26 head-to-head contest. Lee Bright was way out in front of the field, but several candidates are piled up in the fight for second place and the other runoff slot.
In South Carolina’s 5th District, Democrat Archie Parnell is running again to take on GOP Rep. Ralph Norman in a rematch of their 2017 special election, after Parnell ignored calls from national and state Democrats to drop out after admitting that he physically abusing his ex-wife in the 1970s.
Nevada Democrats chose Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak to carry their hopes of snapping a 20-year losing streak for the governorship in 2018, boosting Sisolak past fellow county commissioner Chris Giunchigliani.
Giunchigliani, known as “Chris G,” attacked Sisolak for his moderate record on education and gun control and received a late endorsement from Hillary Clinton. But Sisolak had a financial edge and support from power brokers like former Sen. Harry Reid on his side.
Sisolak will face Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who romped to victory in his primary.
Voters selected nominees in a pair of open, Democratic-held battleground House districts. Democrat Susie Lee will square up against Republican Danny Tarkanian, who lost a run for the district in 2016 against Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.). Rosen is now running for the Senate.
A rematch is shaping up in Nevada’s 4th District, left open after Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) announced he wouldn’t seek reelection after facing allegations of sexual harassment. Former Rep. Steven Horsford will face off against former Rep. Cresent Hardy, who unseated Horsford in 2014 before losing to Kiheun in 2016.
But the Culinary Union, a turnout machine in the district, said that they plan to “focus our resources on it,” said Bethany Khan, a spokeswoman for the labor group. “We call it affectionately, ‘Culinary District 4.’”
Democratic women in Virginia dominated their primaries.
In Virginia’s 10th District, the top three finishers in the Democratic primary are women. Wexton won the race, followed by former Obama administration officials, Alison Friedman and Lindsey Davis Stover. Dan Helmer, a veteran who tried to go viral in his ads by spoofing a scene out of “Top Gun” and comparing Trump to Osama bin Laden in ads – came in fourth place. Democrats are looking forward to putting the crowded – and expensive – primary behind them. Hillary Clinton won the district by double-digits in 2016, and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam carried it by a 20-point margin in 2017.
Farther south, Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer, will face GOP Rep. Dave Brat in a district Trump won outside Richmond. Elaine Luira, a retired Navy commander who picked up early establishment support, picked up the Democratic nomination to face GOP Rep. Scott Taylor in Virginia’s southeast.
In the Senate race, Corey Stewart narrowly won the nomination to face incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine a year after falling short in the gubernatorial primary. Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, led state Del. Nick Freitas by 1.4 percentage points.
Stewart is a controversial candidate — Freitas attacked him aggressively in the final days of the campaign, arguing his controversial past allowed Democrats to caricature the party as racist. Some Republicans worry his place atop the ticket could hurt other Republicans on the ticket.
“The establishment wing of the party does not want Stewart,” former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis told POLITICO before the primary. “They think he’s going to be an embarrassment in the general.”
Stewart rejects that notion. An ardent supporter of the president, he argues Virginia Republicans have lost by not being tough enough.
“These establishment Republicans keep trying to hang on to a party and a type of politics that is going away and that doesn’t work anymore,” Stewart said in an interview before the primary. “You can’t just put an R after your name and be the gentleman Republican and expect to win elections anymore in Virginia. You have to be aggressive.”
Kaine remains the heavy favorite. He and Hillary Clinton carried the state by 5 percentage pionts in 2016 and he starts the race wtih a $10.6 million war chest.
It’s a sleepy primary affair in North Dakota. GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer faced only token opposition and will square off against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a general election that will be among the most closely watched in the country.
State Sen. Kelly Armstrong won the three-way Republican race to replace Cramer. He heads into the general election as a heavy favorite against Democrat Mac Schneider, the former state Senate minority leader, in a state that Trump won by nearly 36 points in 2016.
Voters in Maine will cast ranked-choice primary ballots on Tuesday, a first for a statewide contest in the United States. Voters will participate in an “instant runoff” vote, ranking Democratic candidates for governor 1-through-7 or Republicans 1-through-4. If no one gets 50 percent of the first-choice votes, the tally will take additional choices into account. GOP Gov. Paul LePage is term limited.
But it may also be the last time voters will use the system. A 2018 ballot measure will decide the fate of ranked-choice voting, which critics call confusing and supporters say is a “simple, fair and common sense form of voting,” according to Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who filmed a pro-Question 1 ad.
Democrats will also nominate a candidate to go up against GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a perennial battleground district, choosing among four options on the ballot. State Rep. Jared Golden, a combat veteran, and conservationist Lucas St. Clair are battling for the top slot.
Politico · by Elena Schneider · June 12, 2018