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What happened in every key primary race last night

It was a night of mixed success, but Tuesday’s primaries produced mostly victories for President Trump-endorsed candidates in South Carolina and North Dakota. In an unexpected upset — after a last-minute tweet from the president — Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., became only the second Republican incumbent to lose this year.

In other races of the night, a former Trump campaign official in Virginia eked out a win in the Republican race to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. And in a crucial race for Republicans in the Senate, Trump’s pick easily won the nomination to run against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. But in the South Carolina GOP primary race for governor, the president’s backing was not enough; that race is headed to a runoff in two weeks. And in Virginia, a vulnerable Republican congresswoman survived a primary challenge, despite her past criticism of the president. And another thing to consider: We also continue to see primary victories for women running against the president.

Here are a few takeaways from last night’s primaries.

South Carolina

Republican Rep. Mark Sanford conceded his re-election race to state Rep. Katie Arrington, who ran as a Trump ally. Her campaign effectively framed Sanford as anti-Trump in a state the president won by 14 percent. On Tuesday, as Trump was traveling back from his summit with North Korea’s leader, he took the time to fire off a tweet endorsing Arrington, criticizing Sanford and alluding to his 2009 extramarital affair.

Sanford is a staple of South Carolina politics, having served in Congress twice, for more than 10 years total, and two terms as governor. Also of note: Sanford is a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, so instead of running to the right of the congressman, which is often the case in primary races, Arrington out-Trumped him.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Henry McMaster failed to get enough votes to avoid a runoff against businessman John Warren. McMaster was an early supporter of Trump and the president recently endorsed the governor on Twitter. McMaster became governor when Trump tapped Nikki Haley to be his U.N. Ambassador.


Controversial candidate Corey Stewart, a Confederate monument defender who often invokes the dangers of MS-13 gang members, will face Sen. Tim Kaine in the fall. Stewart is no stranger to statewide races. He ran for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2013, but didn’t win the nomination. Last year, he ran for governor, but again failed to make it past the primary. But Stewart has gotten one step closer to holding statewide office, by narrowly beating out state delegate Nick Freitas in Tuesday’s race. Establishment Republicans in Virginia are already voicing concern that Stewart will be their representative in the Senate race.

In one of the closely-watched House races this cycle, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., also beat out her primary challenger by criticizing the incumbent for her more moderate positions in Congress. She will face another another woman, State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, who has been a favorite of the state’s Democratic leaders, like Gov. Ralph Northam.

Vangie Williams also won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 1st Congressional district. She would be the first African American woman to represent Virginia in Congress, if she beats incumbent Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., in the general election.


Gov. Paul LePage is threatening to not certify Tuesday’s results, after the voters decided to switch to a new system of “ranked-choice” voting. This means that on the ballot, voters rank the candidates from their favorite to least favorite. If one candidate gets more than 50 percent, they win. If that doesn’t happen, which is likely in the crowded governor’s race for example, they will move to multiple rounds of tabulating votes. Eventually, vote counters will narrow it down to two candidates, and whoever has the most votes wins. Voters also approved this voting system for November’s general election yesterday.

Five women and six men, including one Republican and four Democrats, are vying to replace LePage, the unpopular governor and Trump ally. LePage is term limited. At the moment, none of the Democrats are close to passing the 50 percent threshold, so the result will likely take a few days. The Independent-turned-Republican businessman Shawn Moody came out on top in the GOP primary.

The vulnerable senators

One thing to note from last night’s primary races in the northernmost Dakota was Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who’s considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democrats in this year’s midterms. She now has an opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., for the general election. The Cramer-Heitkamp matchup could potentially be a tight race, but in a state that Trump won by more than 30 percent in 2016, Heitkamp will likely lean on her moderate record and support for certain Trump policies.

Likewise in Nevada, the race is set between incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, possibly the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate, and Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen. Hillary Clinton won the state by two percent, so Heller will have to decide how much he backs Trump in a purple state where the president is unpopular.


There was a decent showing for women, particularly in Virginia, last night. Fifteen women in congressional races and four women in statewide races won their primaries last night. In Virginia alone, six women will be on the general election ballot in the state’s 11 congressional districts. There is a chance for two more female nominees, one in Maine’s gubernatorial race and the other in South Carolina’s 2nd congressional district runoff.

A final note

Adam Laxalt, 39, won the GOP primary for Nevada governor Tuesday. Laxalt is the son of the late Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico; Domenici didn’t acknowledge Laxalt was his son until 2013, four years before he died. Also, his grandfather is former Nevada Gov. and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt. Laxalt currently serves as the state’s attorney general.

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