May 20, 2022
The 2022 primary elections have so far included some surprises, while other races have gone as expected. The last two weeks have been jam-packed with primaries that could determine the fate of the Senate, as well as Governors’ mansions across the nation. The first major primary was in Ohio, followed by Nebraska, and then Pennsylvania and North Carolina this week. On the Republican side, the primaries have been a direct test of former President Trump’s endorsement relative to the establishment. For the Democratic primaries, the test has been whether the party is shifting to the middle or to the left.
The first major week of primaries was spread across a few states. The most watched races in the country were the Ohio Senate race for the Republican nomination, the Nebraska Republican gubernatorial race, and the incumbent vs. incumbent race in West Virginia.
A West Virginia Republican House race pitted incumbent Congressman David McKinley against challenger Alex Mooney. Mooney was the Trump-endorsed candidate heading into the race. This ended in a favorable outcome for Mooney, as he won the primary and now gears up to face Barry Wendell.
The other Trump-backed candidate who won his primary was J.D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy. Now Vance will face off against Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, who was mostly expected to win his race. Vance’s victory is notable, given that he was in a crowded Republican primary that many thought Josh Mandel or Jane Timken could have won. However, Vance saw a surge in the last leg of the race due to the endorsement of former President Trump.
However, the Governor’s primary race in Nebraska saw a different result, as the Trump backed candidate Charles Herbster lost the Gubernatorial primary to Jim Pillen. Pillen was backed by outgoing Governor Pete Ricketts.
The second week of primaries provided more color for how this cycle may shake out the rest of the primary season. One of the must-hold seats for Republicans is in North Carolina. The Republican primary included two major candidates who represented the Trump base versus the establishment wing of the party. What looked like it could be a tight race weeks ago, ended up being a comfortable victory for Trump-endorsed candidate Congressman Ted Budd. Budd beat former Governor Pat McCrory by garnering over 50% of the Republican primary voters. On the Democratic side, Cheri Beasley, a former State Supreme Court Justice and Schumer-backed candidate, won her primary overwhelmingly. The other highly-watched race was the contest between incumbent Congressman Madison Cawthorn and State Representative Chuck Edwards. Cawthorn has been in the spotlight several times in recent weeks, and Edwards was being backed by Senator Thom Tillis and other prominent North Carolina politicians. Edwards ended by fundraising well in the last part of the race and won by roughly 2%, knocking off a Trump-backed Cawthorn. Lastly, in North Carolina, Trump notched a win via the victory of Bo Hines, who aims to win the general election in an open seat this cycle.
The other highly-followed primary was in another purple state, considered a must-win for both parties for control of the Senate in the next Congress: Pennsylvania. On the Democratic side, the battle was between Lt. Governor John Fetterman and Congressman Conor Lamb. Lamb represented the moderate faction of the Democratic party, a more traditional candidate. Whereas, Fetterman has been viewed as a somewhat polarizing candidate, as some have deemed him to be far left. A week out of the primary, Fetterman suffered a stroke, however that didn’t prevent him from winning the primary with roughly 60% of the vote. As for the Republican primary, candidates Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick are likely headed to a recount as they remain within roughly 1,000 votes of each other. Oz is the Trump backed candidate, while McCormick represents the traditional Republican candidate. The late emergence of Kathy Barnette in the primary, who notched roughly 25% of the vote, made things interesting down the stretch. Although she didn’t win, she certainly is part of the reason the contest is still this close days after polls closed. Lastly, in Pennsylvania, former President Trump jumped in late to back State Senator Doug Mastriano for Governor, who will now face Democratic opponent Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
The other two primaries that were lower profile, but just as important for both parties took place in Idaho and Oregon. For the Republicans, the race to hold the Governor’s mansion generally runs through the Republican primary, as Idaho is seen as a Republican state. Governor Brad Little held on to win the nomination as he seeks a second term, while outpacing the Trump backed candidate. In Oregon, a generally Democratic state, the contest came down to another establishment versus perceived far-left battle. Former House Speaker Tina Kotek edged State Treasurer Tobais Read, by picking up roughly 60% of the vote. Oregon voters have expressed frustration with the current state of affairs. However, this did not prevent them from voting for the more progressive candidate in the Democratic primary. Additionally, current Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader suffered a defeat in Oregon, another loss for Blue Dog Democrats.
Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia will hold the next three primaries. Alabama and Georgia’s races will be heavily watched, for similar reasons: what effect will Trump have in these races. For Alabama, a deep-red state, the Republican Senate contest is between Katie Britt, combat pilot Mike Durant and Congressman Mo Brooks. Brooks was initially the Trump-backed candidate but Trump rescinded the endorsement after anemic polling numbers and other frustrations.
In Georgia, Stacey Abrams is expected to win the Democratic primary as she aims to win the Governor’s race. However, her opponent is yet to be determined. It seems that current Governor Brian Kemp is likely to hold on to the Republican nomination. However, he still has to hold off the Trump-endorsed candidate, former Senator David Perdue. Also, in Georgia the Senate race is likely to be a contest between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Hershel Walker, who is Trump backed.
Trump still has a tight grip in the party, as he has notched some key victories in must wins for the Republicans heading into November. It is yet to be seen if his endorsements hold momentum the rest of this primary season.
Progressives are reigning supreme in Democratic primaries, as the Blue Dogs continue to suffer defeats. This means the Democratic party is finding itself heading further left, rather than towards the center this November and possibly in the next election cycle.
NY and FL Redistricting Updates
Lastly, two of the most left-leaning and right-leaning states are facing challenges with redistricting. In New York, courts struck down a map that heavily favored Democrats. The new map that is expected to be made official could lead to three Democratic incumbent vs. incumbent races this primary season. This includes a possible battle between two House Committee Chairs, Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, and a possible replacement for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hakeem Jeffries facing a freshman member. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis took charge to redraw the maps, which favor Republicans 20-8 in the state. However, the map was also struck down and it remains to be seen what the districts look like ahead of the primaries. In short, the result of gerrymandering is causing primaries to be pushed back and possibly leading to setbacks for both parties.