WASHINGTON—Primary voters on Tuesday will decide the fate of two South Carolina Republicans who are clinging to their seats in the U.S. House, while in Nevada an establishment favorite with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement is facing a tougher than expected challenge for the U.S. Senate.
Meanwhile, in Maine, a former governor has come out of retirement in Florida to challenge a nemesis for his old job.
North Dakota is also holding elections, though Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven doesn’t face a serious challenger.
What to Watch
Trump has backed former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt for the U.S. Senate and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo for governor. Just how well they do on Tuesday will gauge the potency of a Trump endorsement, which has delivered mixed results this midterm campaign season.
Laxalt’s political pedigree has helped make him a front-runner. His grandfather Paul Laxalt was a Nevada governor and senator. And Laxalt’s father is late U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, who publicly acknowledged his paternity for the first time in 2013. Besides Trump, Laxalt also has the endorsement of much of Washington’s GOP establishment as he seeks to run in November against first-term Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who is considered among the most vulnerable senators.
But Laxalt, who was largely raised near Washington and served as a judge advocate general in the Navy, has faced a stronger than anticipated challenge.
Retired Army Capt. Sam Brown, a West Point graduate and Purple Heart recipient who was badly burned in Afghanistan, is running as a conservative outsider. He has drawn crowds and has won the support of those who view Laxalt as too cozy with the establishment. He also has the endorsement of the Nevada Republican Party.
In the governor’s race, Lombardo, the head of the Las Vegas Police Department, is hoping to face Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in November. But first he has to get past a Republican primary challenge from former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and Joey Gilbert, a lawyer and former boxer.
Beyond the marquee races, the state’s Republican primary for secretary of state will also offer a measure of Trump’s influence on the GOP.
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, is leaving office because of term limit laws.
Six Republicans are vying for the seat, including Jim Marchant, a former state lawmaker who believes widespread voter fraud occurred in the state. His website makes his position clear: My “number one priority will be to overhaul the fraudulent election system in Nevada.”
Democrats have united behind the secretary of state candidate Cisco Aguilar, an attorney who previously worked for Harry Reid, the former Democratic Senate leader who died last year.
The Republican primary in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District pits incumbent Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), a candidate Trump supported in 2020, against former state Rep. Katie Arrington, who currently has Trump’s endorsement.
Mace worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and earned his endorsement when she ousted incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham from a coastal swing district four years later.
Mace voted to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election and has frequently blamed Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol breach.
This led Trump to give Arrington his stamp of approval to unseat Mace.
Trump also solicited challengers to primary U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, after he voted to impeach the president over the Jan. 6 Capitol breach. Now Rice is facing six other Republicans, all of whom have cited the impeachment vote as a chief motivator to their campaigns.
Trump eventually settled on endorsing state Rep. Russell Fry. Fry told voters during a recent debate that “we’re going to vote to impeach Tom Rice at the ballot box.”
Rice, on the other hand, has focused on important but far more mundane matters, like his successes securing flood remediation funding and assistance for the region’s farmers over his five terms in office.
Maine’s gubernatorial primaries are a mere formality, with one Democrat and one Republican seeking the office. But they will lock in what promises to be a doozy of a general election, pitting two longtime foes against each other.
Democratic incumbent Janet Mills is seeking a second term. She’s a former district attorney, state lawmaker, and Maine attorney general who frequently clashed with Republican Paul LePage when he was governor. Now he is challenging her.
That the two are even competing against each other is somewhat of a surprise.
LePage moved to Florida after leaving office in 2019.
But the draw of elected office was apparently too great. By 2020, he was back in Maine pledging to challenge his old nemesis, whom he accuses of “reckless spending” and “heavy-handed” pandemic directives.
So far, LePage lags in fundraising behind Mills, but the race is expected to be among the most competitive governor’s races in the country this year.