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Primary takeaways: Women keep winning and a Trump tweet can be fatal

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/13/2018 Eliza Collins

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WASHINGTON — For Mark Sanford, the Republican Party looks a lot like the party of President Trump. 

The sitting Republican House member looked to be losing his race to state Rep. Katie Arrington, who campaigned as a Trump ally, after the president made a last-minute endorsement of Arrington. Sanford has been one of the few members to criticize the president, and GOP primary voters punished him for it, handing him his first electoral defeat. 

Some folks who were not feeling the sting of defeat? Women, particularly Democratic women, who won primary elections across the country.

And the effects of Maine's new voting system was still to be determined. Hours after the polls closed votes were still being tabulated. 

Here are some takeaways from Tuesday's primaries in South Carolina, Maine, North Dakota, Virginia and Nevada.

It's Trump’s party

Just three hours before the polls were supposed to close in South Carolina, Trump inserted himself into an already tight race between Sanford and Arrington. Trump said he endorsed Arrington over his party's incumbent lawmaker because Sanford — who has never hesitated to criticize the president — was “very unhelpful” and “nothing but trouble.” 

It was the first election loss for a politician who is no stranger to controversy. Sanford had to resign as governor in 2009 over an affair but won his House seat just a few years later. Arrington had been running as a Trump ally while highlighting Sanford's criticism of the president.

Sanford isn’t the only incumbent whose criticism of Trump hurt in the primary. Alabama Republican Rep. Martha Roby was forced into a runoff last week. She came under fierce fire in her GOP primary for withdrawing her endorsement of Trump in the 2016 presidential race after the "Access Hollywood" tape revealed Trump's boasts about grabbing women by the genitals without their consent. Roby's opponent, Bobby Bright, a one-time Democratic congressman, ran ads accusing Roby of turning “her back on President Trump when he needed her the most.” 

On the flip side, support from the president was not enough to keep South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster from a runoff after he failed to secure over 50 percent of the vote, but it did have him leading by a significant margin. McMaster — who was an early endorser of the president’s — has gotten Trump’s blessing via Twitter.

a man and a woman looking at the camera: In this Wednesday, April 11, 2018 photo, Virginia State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudon, center, talks with Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, left, during the Senate special budget session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. Wexton is one of the candidates in the crowded June Democratic primary that will produce a viable contender in the district representing northern Virginia suburbs and challenge Republican Barbara Comstock. © Steve Helber, AP In this Wednesday, April 11, 2018 photo, Virginia State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudon, center, talks with Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, left, during the Senate special budget session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. Wexton is one of the candidates in the crowded June Democratic primary that will produce a viable contender in the district representing northern Virginia suburbs and challenge Republican Barbara Comstock.

Women — especially Dems — keep winning

In almost every race where a women ran in Virginia she won. Democratic women won their primaries in Virginia’s 7th and 10th Congressional Districts. Both districts are held by Republicans but are on Democrats radar for the fall, with the 10th being one of their top targets. Former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger won Democrats’ nomination for Virginia’s 7th District and State Sen. Jennifer Wexton beat a crowded field for the 10th. 

Republican Shion Fenty, an administrative assistant, was the rare Virginia woman to lose her primary to a man. She lost to evangelical pastor Ryan McAdams for the GOP nomination for Virginia’s 4th Congressional District.

In Nevada, Rep. Jacky Rosen easily secured the Democratic nomination for Senate. Susie Lee, an education advocate, won her crowded primary for the 3rd Congressional District by a majority of the vote.

But it wasn't just Democratic women who won. Arrington beat incumbent Sanford for the GOP nomination in South Carolina.

Tuesday's results weren't the first example of Democratic women succeeding this primary season. From Pennsylvania to New Mexico and Kentucky to Nebraska, female candidates, particularly Democrats, have been winning their primaries.

a couple of people that are talking to each other: Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, left, who is one of seven Democrats facing off in a gubernatorial primary, greets voters outside a polling place, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Portland, Maine. The election is the first statewide primary to utilize ranked-choice voting. © David Sharp, AP Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, left, who is one of seven Democrats facing off in a gubernatorial primary, greets voters outside a polling place, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Portland, Maine. The election is the first statewide primary to utilize ranked-choice voting.

New voting systems still a guess

Like we found in California with its new system, there's still much to be determined about new voting systems. Maine voters tried Instant Runoff Voting for the first time Tuesday, and at the same time they voted on whether to keep the system.

Under Instant Runoff Voting, first-choice votes are counted and, if no candidate gets over 50 percent, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is removed from the race. Those who gave that candidate their first-choice pick have their votes redirected to their second choice. The process is repeated until a candidate has a majority of the vote and is declared the winner.  

Mainers voted in 2016 to start using the service. Voters went back to the polls Tuesday to determine if they would keep using it. 

But as of early Wednesday morning, many of the key results in the state had yet to come in. 


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