Will 3 Pro-Impeachment House Republicans Survive Tuesday's Primaries?
And 11 other races in Michigan, Kansas, Washington and Tennessee we're watching.
Happy primary day, Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Washington! To celebrate, we’re catching you up on all the races to watch on the ballot today. Yesterday we previewed Arizona’s and Missouri’s primaries; today we tackle Kansas, Michigan and Washington,1 and look ahead to one interesting race in Tennessee’s unusual Thursday primary. Most notably, three Republican representatives who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump will presently learn whether they have retained the support of enough Republican voters to make the general election — arguably the biggest test of anti-Trumpism in a Republican primary to date. But that’s only a fraction of the action, so let’s go through everything state by state.
Races to watch: 3rd, 8th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th congressional districts; governor
Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern
Michigan’s race for governor is a test of what happens when a party’s leading candidates fail to make the primary ballot, as election authorities disqualified former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and businessman Perry Johnson from the Republican primary because of thousands of forged signatures in their nominating petitions. GOP voters will now have to choose among conservative media personality Tudor Dixon, businessman Kevin Rinke, chiropractor Garrett Soldano and real estate broker Ryan Kelley — although Craig has mounted a write-in campaign. The winner will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has already attracted speculation as a potential presidential candidate.
In the limited polling we have, Dixon looks to be the front-runner, and the most recent survey from Emerson College suggests her advantage grew after Trump endorsed her on Friday. Emerson polled from Thursday through Saturday, and broke down how Trump’s support shifted the numbers: Dixon led Rinke 49 percent to 14 percent after the endorsement, a sizable uptick from her 39-percent-to-24-percent-edge beforehand.2 Before Trump’s entry, many big names in the Michigan GOP had already lined up behind her, too, including the powerful DeVos family, led by Betsy DeVos, Trump’s former secretary of education.
Still, Dixon’s opponents have tried to make strong appeals to the GOP base. Rinke has portrayed himself as an outsider, while Soldano has called for an audit of the 2020 election and has promised to “restore” parental rights in schools. And Kelley has bragged about attending the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — for which the FBI arrested him on a misdemeanor charge — as evidence of his devotion to Trump’s cause. In fact, Rinke and Soldano have actually outraised Dixon, bringing in $10.4 million and $2.1 million, respectively, compared with Dixon’s $1.7 million (Kelley has raised $307,000).
That said, Dixon has benefited from $2.6 million in spending by super PACs funded by her supporters, like DeVos, who has run ads defending Dixon and highlighting Trump’s past praise for her. A group backed by the Democratic Governors Association has also spent $2 million on ads attacking Dixon, not boosting her, which is a contrast from the Democratic meddling we’ve seen in other GOP primaries and suggests Michigan Democrats view her as a credible threat.
However, we have seen Democratic meddling in the GOP primary for western Michigan’s 3rd District, where Democrats have aided freshman Rep. Peter Meijer’s challenger, John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official who has backed Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election result was fraudulent.
Meijer was one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 attack, which earned Gibbs Trump’s endorsement last year, but until very recently, Gibbs had received little outside support. However, redistricting has made this district more competitive, shifting it from R+9 to D+3, according to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric,3 and as a result, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has dropped $450,000 on ads ostensibly attacking Gibbs as “too conservative for west Michigan.” But this is a well-worn ploy designed to actually encourage GOP voters to back him.
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Democrats believe their candidate, attorney Hillary Scholten, can more easily defeat Gibbs than Meijer, who beat Scholten by 6 points under the old lines in 2020. But the DCCC’s actions infuriated congressional Democrats, who criticized the committee — which is funded in part by members’ dues — for boosting an election denier against Meijer, the rare Republican who backed impeachment and disputes Trump’s false election claims.
Meijer, the scion of the eponymous Midwestern grocery chain family, is hoping his sizable financial advantage can save him. As of July 13, Meijer had raised $2.8 million, dwarfing the $484,000 Gibbs had brought in, and Meijer has used that money to both criticize President Biden and attack Gibbs. Meijer has lambasted Gibbs for recently moving to western Michigan from California (although Gibbs is originally from Lansing), and he’s also portrayed Gibbs as the Democrats’ “handpicked candidate” in light of the DCCC’s recent ads. Meijer has also benefited from about $3 million in outside spending, according to OpenSecrets. But with no recent polling to go on, Meijer’s fate in this race is unclear.
For Democrats, the biggest primary today is in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, where redistricting threw Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens together. (A majority of Levin’s current constituents actually live in the new 10th District, but that district now has a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean of R+6, so he decided to run in the D+15 11th District instead.) At first glance, Stevens has the geographic advantage, considering that she currently represents 45 percent of the new district to Levin’s 25 percent, but things are more even when you look at the people likely to vote in a Democratic primary: Among 11th District residents who voted for Biden in 2020, 38 percent are current Stevens constituents, while 29 percent are Levin constituents.
Levin has the backing of the progressive wing of the party (e.g., Sen. Bernie Sanders) as well as several labor unions, a powerful political force in Michigan. However, Stevens has the support of neighboring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who represents 30 percent of the new 11th. She’s also benefited from $7.4 million in outside spending from groups connected to her allies at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (which has spent profusely against progressives all cycle long) and EMILY’s List. That has helped this race go from a toss-up in February to a 58-percent-to-31-percent lead for Stevens in July, according to Target Insyght polling.
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As for the now-open 10th District, five Democrats are competing to be the one who tries to keep it blue in November. Early polling gave a healthy lead to former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga, thanks in part to his high name recognition: The 75-year-old has been around Michigan politics forever, having lost campaigns for Senate in 1994 and Congress in 2002. But he’s been outraised by attorney Huwaida Arraf ($524,000 raised) and Warren City Council Member Angela Rogensues ($328,000), both younger women in their 40s.
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Marlinga also came under fire for previously comparing his judicial philosophy to Antonin Scalia’s and Clarence Thomas’s, though he says he supports abortion rights. On the Republican side, meanwhile, businessman John James should easily dispatch his one opponent; after James’s impressive performances (albeit in losing efforts) in Michigan’s 2018 and 2020 U.S. Senate races, Trump and the National Republican Congressional Committee are all-in on his candidacy.
The 13th District is an open seat, too, though with a D+46 partisan lean, only the Democratic primary will matter here. This Detroit-based seat or one of its predecessors has elected a Black member of Congress since 1954, but with Rep. Brenda Lawrence retiring this year and the seat having lost Black constituents in the redistricting process, that streak is now in jeopardy.
State Rep. Shri Thanedar, who is Indian American, has poured $8.2 million of his own money into his campaign, arguably putting him in pole position. Meanwhile, Black leaders fret that the race’s multiple prominent Black candidates will split the vote. State Sen. Adam Hollier has raised the most money when you exclude self-funding ($943,000), and outside groups linked to AIPAC and cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried have also spent more than $5 million to support him or tear down Thanedar. However, Lawrence has gotten behind nonprofit CEO Portia Roberson, who has raised the second-most from donors at $410,000. Other Black candidates with high name recognition (but not much cash) include former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail and John Conyers III, the son of longtime former Rep. John Conyers Jr.
A recent Target Insyght poll gave Thanedar the lead, but the race was within the margin of error. Thanedar took 22 percent of likely voters, Roberson 17 percent, Hollier 16 percent and Conyers and McPhail 7 percent each.
Detroit’s other congressional seat, the 12th District, is also hosting a Democratic primary of note, but it doesn’t look nearly as competitive. Many Democrats still aren’t big fans of incumbent Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and for the second consecutive cycle, they’re trying to oust the outspoken progressive in a primary. But a January poll gave Tlaib 62 percent support, and since then Tlaib has outraised her closest competitor, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, $2.8 million to $327,000.
Finally, three Republicans are squaring off for the right to take on vulnerable Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee in the R+1 8th District. Former Trump administration official Paul Junge has been named to the NRCC’s “Young Guns” list and raked in a whopping $1.4 million, but businessman Matthew Seely has raised a respectable $535,000, too. Junge would likely be a stronger general-election candidate against Kildee, who has a track record of outperforming his districts’ partisan leans, as Seely was a vocal proponent of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. But Republican voters haven’t always opted for the most “electable” candidate this cycle.
Races to watch: Attorney general, Value Them Both amendment
Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern in most of the state, 9 p.m. Eastern in four western counties
Kansas’s two biggest races in the fall — for governor and the 3rd Congressional District — are likely to be snoozers in the primary: Republicans are very likely to nominate Attorney General Derek Schmidt to take on Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and former Kansas Republican Party Chair Amanda Adkins to take on Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids.
But Schmidt’s attempt at a promotion has left behind an unsettled GOP primary for attorney general. The biggest name in the field is former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has earned a national reputation for his zealous crusades against illegal immigration and voter fraud. That celebrity helps explain his leads in every public poll of the race thus far (even those conducted by his opponents). But Kobach also has serious baggage: His much-hyped pursuits of voter fraud have largely come up empty, his biggest accomplishments were so overreaching that they were struck down in court, and he was held in contempt of court in 2018 and ordered to take remedial legal classes for failing to follow basic legal procedures — not exactly an asset if you’re trying to become your state’s top lawyer.
Kobach’s most serious opponent looks to be state Sen. Kellie Warren, who has actually outraised Kobach $273,000 to $218,000 this year. Warren also boasts endorsements from former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, which has spent six digits to help elect her. However, a third candidate, Tony Mattivi, has also raised $165,000 this year and has contrasted his record as a former federal prosecutor with his two “career politician” opponents.
Really, though, the biggest race in Kansas today is the Value Them Both amendment, a ballot measure that, if passed, would clarify that the Kansas Constitution does not protect abortion rights. As the first time abortion is on the ballot since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, this has been a fiercely fought campaign; the only poll of the amendment so far showed a 4-point race. Check out our standalone preview of this race for more.
Races to watch: U.S. Senate; 3rd, 4th and 8th congressional districts
Polls close: 11 p.m. Eastern
Tuesday’s nightcap is Washington, which uses a top-two primary in which all candidates run on the same ballot, regardless of party, and the two top vote-getters advance to the general election. This system arguably rewards moderation more than traditional party primaries, and that could help save the careers of two Republicans who voted to impeach Trump: Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse. After all, pro-impeachment House Republicans are still just 1 for 2 this cycle, with Rep. David Valadao of California, the other top-two primary state, being the one success story — although he nearly failed to advance. (South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice lost his primary.)
Herrera Beutler may be more at risk in the 3rd District, a R+11 seat in southwest Washington. That’s because she has to fend off two strongly pro-Trump Republicans, former Army Green Beret Joe Kent and evangelical Christian author Heidi St. John, as well as one notable Democrat, auto shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. Both Kent and St. John got into the race because of Herrera Beutler’s impeachment vote, and they could also attract Republican votes with their support for Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. Kent earned Trump’s endorsement and looks like the likeliest threat to Herrera Beutler, having raised $2.3 million to her $3.5 million (St. John has raised $1 million, Perez $241,000).
But with four candidates competing for two spots, this race has some unusual dynamics. Because Perez is the only Democrat, we’d usually expect her to get the lion’s share of Democratic votes, around 40 percent overall. Such a showing would likely be enough to finish first and leave one spot open for the three Republicans battling over much of the remaining vote. Yet Herrera Beutler, whose impeachment vote could attract some Democrats who know the seat will likely go red in November, has appealed to them with ads that make her sound like, well, a Democrat — highlighting her support for caps on insulin prices and attacking Kent for wanting to privatize social security.
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Meanwhile, outside groups have mostly spent to help Herrera Beutler and hinder Kent. The one poll we have explains why: Back in May, the Trafalgar Group found Kent ahead of Herrera Beutler, 28 percent to 22 percent, with a Democrat who later dropped out to back Perez running third with 12 percent and St. John in fourth with 9 percent. With that in mind, Winning for Women Action Fund has spent $1.7 million going after Kent and $618,000 boosting the incumbent. The second-biggest outside spender is more mysterious but may be looking to help Herrera Beutler by splitting the GOP base: Conservatives for a Stronger America has spent $932,000 supporting St. John and $521,000 opposing Kent, prompting Kemp to claim the group wanted to help St. John, the “spoiler candidate.” Despite all this financial help, however, Herrera Beutler could still come up short against Kent, who has ties to white nationalists.
In central Washington’s 4th District, Newhouse may have better odds than Herrera Beutler because the R+25 district is red enough to potentially send two Republicans to the general election, having done so in 2014 and 2016 under the district’s old but similarly drawn lines. Newhouse does have to contend with Loren Culp, the GOP’s failed 2020 gubernatorial candidate who has Trump’s endorsement, but Culp and other notable Republicans — former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler, marketing professional Corey Gibson and state Rep. Brad Klippert — have all struggled to fundraise. Newhouse has garnered $1.6 million, compared with Sessler’s mostly self-funded $508,000 and Culp’s $311,000. Given their weaker campaigns, Newhouse could also advance along with the lone Democrat in the race, businessman Doug White, who could benefit from a unified Democratic front while the heavily Republican vote is divided among multiple GOP contenders.
The incumbent has also benefited from a little over $1.5 million in outside spending, mostly by Defending Main Street, a moderate GOP super PAC that has spent $504,000 supporting Newhouse for protecting American farms and $660,000 attacking Culp as a “tax dodger.” Unfortunately, we don’t have any recent polling of this race, so it’s hard to say — like Herrera Beutler, Newhouse may not be out of the woods.
We’re also monitoring the 8th District, a politically neutral district that stretches from the Seattle suburbs into central Washington. Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier is defending this seat, and the top-two primary will decide her November opponent as well as provide clues about what to expect in the fall. She’ll meet either former Army Ranger Jesse Jensen (whom Schrier beat in 2020 by about 4 points); businessman Matt Larkin, who lost as the GOP’s candidate in the 2020 attorney general’s race; or King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, whose mother represented this area from 1993 to 2005.
All three candidates have posted similar fundraising numbers, with Jensen bringing in $1.1 million, Larkin $970,000 (more than half from his own pocket) and Dunn $833,000. But Jensen has also benefited from $336,000 in outside support from Lead the Way, a super PAC backing his candidacy. The group has attacked Dunn, running ads claiming he voted to cut law enforcement funding and sent out mailers portraying Dunn as an abusive alcoholic (Dunn has discussed his drinking struggles, including a 2014 DUI charge). Given the national environment, however, whichever Republican advances with Schrier should have a decent shot at flipping the swing seat.
Lastly, we are watching the race for Senate, in which Democratic Sen. Patty Murray is seeking her sixth term. But despite Washington’s D+12 partisan lean, this election could get interesting. After all, during the 2010 “red wave,” Murray won by roughly 5 points, her closest margin since she first won in 1992. Republicans have coalesced around Tiffany Smiley, a former nurse who became a veterans advocate after her husband was blinded while serving in the Iraq War. She’s shown signs of competitiveness, too, having raised $7.1 million. But Murray has still brought in twice as much money and has run ads using audio of Smiley saying she’s “100 percent pro-life,” which could be damaging in a state as blue as Washington.
Two independent surveys conducted in early July found Murray ahead by just under 20 points, so Smiley clearly has her work cut out for her. But watch how the two-party vote breaks down tonight: Back in 2010, Republican candidates actually won a slightly larger share than the Democrats did, a harbinger for Murray’s narrow margin in the general election.
Races to watch: 5th Congressional District
Polls close: Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern
Finally, Tennessee isn’t one of the six states going to the polls on Tuesday, but it will host one interesting GOP contest on its primary day, Thursday, Aug. 4. Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly redrew the state’s 5th Congressional District from a safely blue seat to a safely red one in redistricting, and a dozen Republicans initially filed to take advantage.
Former State Department official Morgan Ortagus, whom Trump endorsed over the objection of several local Republicans, stood out from the field early on. But, just like in the race for Michigan governor, disqualifications soon changed the trajectory of the race. In April, the state GOP kicked Ortagus and two other candidates off the ballot for not voting in three out of the last four GOP primaries in Tennessee (a requirement that Ortagus, who moved to Tennessee just last year, could not meet).
That’s left us with an uncertain primary, even with just a few days remaining. None of the nine candidates remaining on the ballot have the benefit of Trump’s endorsement, but three do have something else significant going in their favor. Retired Brigadier General Kurt Winstead has self-funded $1.1 million and raised almost $1 million more from other donors. Former state House Speaker Beth Harwell has a long history in local politics and the endorsement of multiple GOP women’s groups, such as VIEW PAC. And Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles has benefited from almost $2 million in outside spending from tea-party-aligned super PACs.
Got plans for tonight? If not, now you do: Come join us for our live blog of the Aug. 2 primary results. See you back here at 8 p.m. Eastern.