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3 House incumbents lose as primary challenges flood the map

POLITICO logo POLITICO 6/29/2022 By Zach Montellaro
Rep. Steven Palazzo, left, (R-Miss.) speaks during a debate with Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell at WLOX-TV on Friday, June 24, 2022, in Biloxi, Miss. © Hannah Ruhoff/The Sun Herald via AP Rep. Steven Palazzo, left, (R-Miss.) speaks during a debate with Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell at WLOX-TV on Friday, June 24, 2022, in Biloxi, Miss.

House members from both parties were in peril in Tuesday’s primaries — with redistricting, perceived loyalty to Donald Trump and ideological and generational opposition all challenging the current order in Congress.

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), fell in his primary runoff after facing attacks on his congressional record and ethics questions. And two more members of Congress lost in a pair of primaries that pit incumbents against each other for the same seat.

Democratic Rep. Sean Casten defeated fellow Rep. Marie Newman in a primary for a Chicago-based district, while Republican Rep. Mary Miller capitalized on Trump's endorsement and beat GOP Rep. Rodney Davis, who conceded Tuesday night, in a district along the state’s western border.

Those two losses were guaranteed Tuesday night due to redistricting-fueled contests. But a handful of Republicans who voted for a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission are also on the ballot, including Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), who got dragged into a runoff — but won renomination Tuesday night — after failing to garner 50 percent of the vote in the initial primary earlier this month.

And 13-term Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) narrowly defeated a progressive challenger in Chicago.

Republicans are also nominating candidates for several high-profile, blue-state races, including for governor in Colorado and Illinois and for Senate in Colorado, where Democratic groups — and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker — spent millions of dollars in each race to try to pick the nominee they’d rather face in November. The gambit succeeded in Illinois, but not in Colorado's Senate race. Voters in heavily blue New York and deep-red Oklahoma are also picking nominees for key statewide posts.

Here is the latest on Tuesday’s primaries

An incumbent free-for-all

The two member-on-member primaries in Illinois will likely headline the night, with the Republican matchup taking the top spot.

Trump backed Miller in the 15th District and rallied on her behalf over the weekend. Public polling has shown a tight race, which featured an eleventh-hour gaffe by Miller at that Trump rally, in which she called the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade a “victory for white life.” (Miller’s spokesperson has said she misspoke.)

Davis, who is in line to chair the House Administration Committee should he win on Tuesday and Republicans take the majority, has vowed to probe the congressional investigation of Jan. 6.

The other member-on-member primary pit the victorious Casten against Newman, a fellow Democratic member, in Chicago. Both candidates pulled back their campaigning after Casten’s teenage daughter passed away earlier this month.

Guest also features among a group of House Republicans who all voted to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol. That group also includes Reps. John Curtis (Utah), Stephanie Bice (Okla.), Blake Moore (Utah) and Davis. Each won their primaries.

Guest only narrowly finished in first place in the early June primary against former Navy fighter pilot Michael Cassidy, and the runoff drew House Republicans’ main super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund, into the fray with big spending on behalf of Guest.


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Other Republican incumbents who didn’t vote for the commission but are also facing primaries include Palazzo and Doug Lamborn (Colo.). Palazzo, who is facing allegations of misusing funds, finished first in the June primary with a weak 31 percent and lost to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell in the runoff. Lamborn won his primary, though he has had close calls with GOP challenges in the past.

On the Democratic side, longtime Rep. Danny Davis also saw off a primary challenge from Justice Democrats-backed organizer Kina Collins in Chicago. Davis, who got a late endorsement from President Joe Biden, easily defeated Collins in a 2020 primary, but this time the challenger outraised the longtime lawmaker across several quarters.

Democrats meddling in potential battlegrounds

Democrats have been very active this year in Republican primaries, boosting further-right candidates in the hopes that they end up being easier to beat in the general election. And no race is more emblematic of that than the Illinois Republican gubernatorial primary.

There, the Democratic Governors Association and Pritzker have spent tens of millions going after Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and boosting GOP nominee Darren Bailey, a state senator. Bailey (and the Democrats) have sold him as a card-carrying member of the GOP’s MAGA wing, and he was rewarded with Trump’s endorsement over the weekend —after public polling already showed him with a comfortable lead in the primary.

It is a bitter defeat for Republican megadonor Ken Griffin, a hedge funder and Pritzker archrival. Griffin poured $50 million of his own money into backing Irvin.

Democrats also opened up a similar playbook, though on a smaller scale, in Colorado’s two big statewide races. Democrats have boosted more conservative candidates and tried to tank the campaigns of businessman Joe O’Dea in the Senate race and Heidi Ganahl, a member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, for the governor’s race. But O'Dea and Ganahl captured the GOP nominations in their respective races anyway.

Democratic groups also spent some money in Colorado's new 8th District, but Barbara Kirkmeyer won the GOP primary for the potential swing seat anyway.

And while the Colorado secretary of state primary hasn’t drawn Democratic meddling, the race was another major test for the election conspiracy theorist wing of the Republican Party. In the GOP primary, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters — who was indicted for allegedly facilitating a breach of her county’s voter system — lost the GOP nomination to former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson. Anderson will take on Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold in November.

Open seat scrambles

A special election to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe in Oklahoma has drawn a crowded Republican field. There, Rep. Markwayne Mullin nabbed one of two spots in an August GOP primary runoff, out of a field that also includes former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon; Scott Pruitt, a former Trump EPA chief; state Sen. Nathan Dahm; and Luke Holland, Inhofe’s former chief of staff, among others.

Former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn is the Democratic nominee, but the Republican nominee will be at a major advantage in the fall.

Democrats are also nominating a pair of members-in-waiting for two safe blue House seats in Chicago. Longtime Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) is calling it quits, and the field to replace him has 17 Democratic candidates. The Democratic primary for the nearby 3rd District, which was redrawn to give Chicago Latinos more voting power, went to state Rep. Delia Ramirez.

The Democratic primary in the battleground 17th District was small by comparison, with six candidates vying to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos. Republican Esther Joy King is leading the GOP charge to take the district in the fall.

Hochul moves to consolidate power in New York

New York’s congressional primaries were delayed until August after the Democratic-drawn, gerrymandered map was thrown out, but the state is still holding its primaries for statewide office Tuesday, featuring Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first time leading the ticket after succeeding ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned last year.

Despite early noise about a contested primary, Hochul cruised to the nomination over a field that included Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

But there was a competitive race to be Hochul’s No. 2. Hochul recently named Antonio Delgado as her lieutenant governor to replace Brian Benjamin, who was indicted on federal corruption charges. Delgado, who gave up a battleground House seat for statewide office, saw off a strong challenge from progressive activist Ana Maria Archila.

The Republican primary to challenge Hochul has been contentious. Rep. Lee Zeldin snagged the GOP nod over a field that included big-spending businessman Harry Wilson, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and Andrew Giuliani, the son of Trump confidante and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

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