Fierce Competition in South Carolina as Four States Hold Primaries
It is primary day in four states with voters heading to the polls in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota and South Carolina.
In Maine, Republican voters will choose between former Rep. Bruce Poliquin and longtime Selectwoman Liz Caruso, a far-right candidate whose campaign has reportedly been picking up momentum and cash support in recent days.
Whichever candidate prevails will have to face incumbent Democrat Rep. Jared Golden as well as attorney Tiffany Bond, running as an independent, in the fall. Golden narrowly defeated Poliquin in 2018.
In Nevada, former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, Nevada co-chair of former President Trump’s 2020 campaign, is running, with Trump’s endorsement, for U.S. Senate. He’s facing Republican businessman and retired Army Capt. Sam Brown in the primary.
The contest could provide the first sign of any impact the past week’s televised hearings by the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol will have on this year’s elections.
The winner will face Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
There are also two congressional races to watch in Nevada. In the 1st Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Dina Titus is facing off against progressive candidate Amy Vilela, who was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., just last week.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Susie Lee faces a challenge from Randell Hynes and five Republicans are vying for the chance to flip the seat to the red column.
North Dakota is kind of the oddball of the bunch this primary day, with much of the action occurring down ballot.
Incumbent Republican Sen. John Hoeven is seen as gliding to election for a third term in the state’s GOP primary over Riley Kuntz, an oil field worker and political novice. Money tells the story as much as any other factor — Hoeven raised more than $3.2 million leading up to the primary, according to the Federal Election Commission. Kuntz raised less than $5,000.
Katrina Christiansen, a University of Jamestown engineering professor, and Michael Steele, a Fargo art and antiques dealer, are running in the Democratic primary, with Christiansen being the establishment candidate.
Meanwhile, 98 of the North Dakota Legislature’s 141 seats are being contested Tuesday due largely to redistricting.
For the first time in many years, divisions within the state Republican party made it impossible for it to settle on a preferred slate of candidates and scores of unendorsed GOP candidates gathered the required 300 signatures needed to be on the ballot. As a result, several districts have as many as five candidates hoping to survive the primary and be the party’s candidate for the Legislature come November.
Adding another interesting wrinkle to all this is Gov. Doug Burgum, a former software executive and Republican who has poured more than $1.2 million into a super PAC to defeat far-right members of his own party.
A report in The Bismarck Tribune said Burgum’s political spending is focused on eight legislative districts throughout North Dakota.
During a May press conference, State Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, who is not running for reelection, called Burgum’s actions “improper” and “likely illegal.”
He went on to cite a provision of the state constitution that says, “legislators must be free of coercion, menace and threats from the governor so as to avoid any undue influence.”
“The governor’s actions are so broad and so impactful that they do indeed constitute a threat to legislators,” Becker said.
But the governor has been unapologetic.
“Supporting candidates who best understand what it takes to protect our freedoms, strengthen North Dakota’s economy, cut red tape, and continue moving our great state forward has been a focus of mine for decades,” Burgum said in a written statement.
“Dakota Leadership PAC has earned my support because they are promoting healthy competition in Republican primaries, which ultimately empowers voters with more choices and greater transparency.”
Last but not least in today’s primary stakes is South Carolina, where incumbent Republican Rep. Nancy Mace is being challenged by Katie Arrington, who made an unsuccessful bid to represent the 1st Congressional District in 2018.
Mace drew the ire of former President Trump and his supporters by criticizing him after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Since then she has tried to make amends, even going so far as filming a video in New York this year outside Trump Tower to remind her constituents that she was one of the former president’s “earliest supporters.”
She worked for his 2016 campaign and had his backing in her 2020 run.
But the wounds she inflicted apparently run deep. Besides criticizing Trump for the Jan. 6 insurrection, Mace went against the former president’s wishes by voting to certify President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.
Trump has thrown his support behind Arrington, a former state representative, who won the GOP nomination for the seat in 2018 by defeating another Trump “enemy,” incumbent Mark Sanford.
She went on to lose the seat to Joe Cunningham in the general election in Democrats’ first flip of a South Carolina seat in decades.
Mace then narrowly defeated Cunningham in 2020.
The other important race in South Carolina also features a Republican incumbent who angered Trump, Rep. Tom Rice.
Rice not only criticized Trump after the Jan. 6 riot, he was among the 10 House Republicans who crossed party lines to vote to impeach the former president.
Rice, a five-term congressman, has attracted a half-dozen GOP challengers as a result of his vote to impeach Trump, and all have made his supposed “disloyalty” an issue in the campaign.
Rice, an otherwise consistent supporter of Trump’s policies, has stood by his vote, acknowledging it may lead to his ouster but saying he followed his conscience.
Trump has endorsed state Rep. Russell Fry in the race.
With a field of seven Republicans, it’s likely no candidate will capture more than 50% of the vote and the primary will head to a June 28 runoff.