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Primary takeaways: Abortion rights backers notch Kansas win; Trump's candidates find success

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/3/2022 Phillip M. Bailey and Ella Lee, USA TODAY
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The August primaries kicked off Tuesday in some of the most consequential battleground states in the country and included the first referendum on abortion since the Supreme Court dismantled Roe v. Wade this summer.

Voting booths on Oct. 22, 2018, in Tampa, Florida. © Joe Raedle/Getty Images Voting booths on Oct. 22, 2018, in Tampa, Florida.

Kansas stole the headlines and got President Joe Biden's attention as voters flocked to the polls to pick sides on an abortion amendment to the state constitution.

Voters in Michigan chose between Democratic House incumbents representing the moderate and far-left wings of the party, while former President Donald Trump was on the ballot by proxy across Arizona.

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Here are the main takeaways from Tuesday's primaries.

Kansas rebukes anti-abortion measure

Kansas voters were the first to express how their state constitution should address abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's monumental ruling in June, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

It was a drubbing against anti-abortion forces.

By roughly 20 percentage points, the Sunflower State rejected the so-called Value Them Both amendment, which would have allowed the Republican-controlled state Legislature to put new restrictions on the procedure or prohibit it entirely.

Democrats and liberal activists touted the amendment's failure Tuesday as a sign of how unpopular overturning Roe is nationally.

Politics: Abortion rights face test in Kansas vote, the first of its kind since the fall of Roe

More: The fight over abortion will be on the ballot this November in at least 5 states

Trump influence in Arizona

Arizona's Republican primaries continued the proxy wars Trump has engaged in with GOP officials, including former Vice President Mike Pence.

At the gubernatorial level, former TV journalist Kari Lake, who's backed by Trump, and Karrin Taylor Robson, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, who was endorsed by Pence and incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey, are in a tight race to be the state's Republican nominee. As of early Wednesday, Lake had pulled ahead.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who battled false assertions about fraud in the 2020 presidential election, easily grabbed the Democratic nomination for governor. 

Mark Kelly's opponent is ...

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly's GOP opponent in the fall will be Trump-backed Blake Masters, who outpaced businessman Jim Lamon and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Masters tried to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the midterm elections. He also has the backing of tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

Kelly, a prolific fundraiser, has raked in $52 million, but Republicans are determined to make his reelection one of the more competitive contests in November. The Arizona Senate race is one of a handful of toss-up elections that will determine who controls the upper chamber in 2023.

Election denier prevails in Arizona

This midterm season, many candidates who argued the 2020 presidential race was stolen seek to oversee the next round of elections in bids for secretaries of state nationwide.

Mark Finchem, an Arizona legislator, has long promoted Trump’s false claims about the election. He won his GOP primary to be the chief election officer against multiple rivals.

Finchem is part of a Trump-backed coalition of secretary of state candidates running in swing states.

In Georgia, Rep. Jody Hice lost his bid in May to kick out incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who defied Trump's demands to find more votes in the 2020 election. In Nevada, another swing state, Jim Marchant, who said the election was "stolen" from Trump, easily won a seven-way GOP primary for secretary of state in June.

Arizona speaker goes down

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers is among the Republicans who rejected Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Bowers testified publicly this summer at one of the hearings by the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, telling lawmakers he refused to say the election was rigged.

The GOP speaker lost to Trump-backed David Farnsworth, a former state legislator, according to early results.

Schmitt wins 'Eric' showdown

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt won the state's contest to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, which probably had many Republicans breathing a sigh of relief.

From the start, it was a crowded field, but it had a lightning rod candidate in former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 amid allegations of sexual assault and campaign fundraising violations. Greitens denied wrongdoing.

Greitens dipped in the polls after his ex-wife detailed domestic abuse claims, which he denied. Establishment Republicans bolted, worrying the seat could be more vulnerable if the former governor prevailed.

In a final twist before Election Day, Trump issued a statement Monday evening to make his endorsement in the race.

The former president said he supported "ERIC" but left out whether that meant Schmitt or Greitens.

Politics: Blunt won't run for reelection, complicating GOP's bid to retake the Senate

More: Trump endorses 'Eric' in Missouri Senate race – but doesn't say which one

Michigan GOP nomination for governor goes to political newcomer

Trump-backed Tudor Dixon, a businesswoman and former conservative TV commentator, won the GOP primary for Michigan's governor Tuesday.

After her win, Dixon said she suspected her race this fall against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will be an "epic battle" and vowed to work "to make sure the next four years are filled with opportunities and not locked classrooms and massive grocery bills."

Dixon bested businessman Kevin Rinke and chiropractor Garrett Soldano. Whitmer faced no primary opponent and holds the advantage of incumbency in November

Remember the anti-Trump 10?

In the aftermath of Jan. 6, 10 House Republicans supported removing Trump from office on charges of inciting the riot.

The former president sought revenge, and three of those GOP lawmakers – Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington and Peter Meijer of Michigan – were opposed by pro-Trump challengers Tuesday.

Meijer lost his primary bid to candidate John Gibbs. Herrera Beutler and Newhouse led their Trump-endorsed challengers in Washington's open primary, making it likely they'll secure a spot on the general election ballot this fall.

Liberal Dems lose

Michigan saw two House incumbents pitted against each other.

Rep. Haley Stevens defeated fellow Rep. Andy Levin in the newly drawn 11th Congressional District outside Detroit.

It was the latest House race this primary season in which moderate Democrats bested representatives of the more liberal wing of the party. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, an anti-abortion Democrat, won his primary in June, and Rep. Shontel Brown of Ohio defeated left-leaning Nina Turner in May.

Levin criticized Israel’s human rights record and brought in Sen. Bernie Sanders to campaign for him. Stevens was backed by party leaders and boosted by more than $4 million spent on her behalf by a new group launched by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Pengate in Arizona?

A conspiracy theory that the pens passed out by poll workers in Arizona make it possible for voters' choices to be changed came to a head Tuesday when the Maricopa County Attorney's Office ordered a Republican candidate to stop spreading the story.

In a cease-and-desist letter to county Board of Supervisors candidate Gail Golec, she was told to stop urging voters to replace government-issued pens at polling stations.

"As you well know, theft of any sort is unlawful," Deputy County Attorney Joseph La Rue said in the letter. "Moreover encouraging theft of the fast-drying ink pens specifically recommended for election day voting is a deliberate attempt to interfere with election administration."

The Maricopa County Elections Department says on its website that ballpoint pens have slow-drying ink that can easily smear inside the ballot counting machine, causing the tabulator to shut down and slow election results.

Golec shot back on Twitter, writing that her intention was to "Protect Our Vote, not encourage you to steal pens."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Primary takeaways: Abortion rights backers notch Kansas win; Trump's candidates find success

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