Wednesday, June 13News That Matters

Top takeaways from Tuesday's Trumped-up primaries


Donald Trump can crow about Republican Rep. Mark Sanford’s ouster in South Carolina. But overall, the president had a mixed night in Tuesday’s primary elections.

Across the five states that voted, women performed well — yet again — as did Harry Reid, who showed he’s still got some game even in retirement. And both parties will come away from the election with candidates who are likely to cause them fits in November.

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Here are POLITICO’s five takeaways from Tuesday’s elections in South Carolina, Virginia, Maine, North Dakota and Nevada:

Trump’s mixed bag

Rep. Mark Sanford, one of Trump’s most outspoken Republican critics in Congress, suffered the most striking defeat of the night — with his undoing at least partially at Trump’s hands. Sanford, ran into a buzz-saw in state Rep. Katie Arrington, who tore into the congressman and former two-term governor as disloyal to the president and bounced him from elected office.

Trump himself had weighed in before polls closed, tweeting, “Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina.”

Sanford’s defeat will likely give Republicans more reason to pause before crossing the president. The result comes a week after Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), who criticized Trump in the wake of the Access Hollywood scandal, was forced into a runoff by Republican voters in her conservative district.

But Trump hardly ran the table Tuesday. Virginia Rep. Scott Taylor cruised through his primary despite a long-shot opponent’s effort to use Taylor’s critical comments about the president against him. And despite Trump’s support — which included a supportive tweet Tuesday before polls closed — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, one of the first statewide elected officials to support Trump in 2016, was forced into a runoff in his primary.

Another big night for women

Democratic women carried the “Year of the Woman” banner into another primary night, dominating House races across the country.

All four of the top Democratic House targets in Virginia now boast a female candidate. In the Northern Virginia-based 10th District, the top three finishers in the primary were all women — state Sen. Jennifer Wexton won, followed by a pair of former Obama administration officials, Alison Friedman and Lindsey Davis Stover.

Democratic operatives believe that a female candidate would be best positioned to cut into GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock’s appeal among suburban, ticket-splitting women, a key voting bloc for Democrats seeking to flip a seat that backed Hillary Clinton by double-digits in 2016.

In Nevada, philanthropist Susie Lee crushed her six male primary opponents in a battleground district. She’ll face Republican Danny Tarkanian, who dropped down from a Senate GOP primary challenge into the House contest at Trump’s prodding. Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen also easily clinched her nomination to run against Republican Sen. Dean Heller, one of the few offensive races for Senate Democrats in 2018.

So far, Democrats have nominated women in just under 50 percent of their open House primaries, 73 out of 150 races, according to the Cook Political Report.

“Women are winning primaries at an unprecedented rate,” said Ian Russell, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee deputy executive director. “It’s not just opposition to Trump that is causing it. That’s part of it, no question, but it’s also a sign that Democrats see the importance of women in our general election prospects.”

The Class of 1994 teeters on extinction

The Republican Party’s historic class of 1994 is fading away, replaced by a new force on the right — Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, Sanford became the latest casualty, falling short in his re-election bid. With that, the once influential class of Republicans that stormed Washington in 1994 is now verging on extinction.

Nearly a quarter century ago, Sanford was part of the massive wave of Republicans who took control of Congress for the first time in 40 years, touting their “Contract with America” and installing Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Today, that class that is down to just a handful of members, two of whom — New Jersey Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Rodney Frelinghuysen — are not seeking re-election.

Even before the Associated Press called the race for Sanford’s opponent, the congressman told supporters, “I think I’ll end up losing this election.” Sanford, of course, has left Congress before, when he left Washington to become governor of South Carolina.

Outcasts score a victory

Both Democrats and Republicans will come away from Tuesday’s elections with candidates they might rather have left behind.

In South Carolina, Democrat Archie Parnell cruised in his congressional primary, racking up about 60 percent of the vote — despite revelations that he physically abused his former wife in the 1970s.

State and national Democrats had called for Parnell to drop out, with South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson saying “his actions, though long ago, directly contradict the values of the Democratic Party.”

No such luck. Now Parnell will carry the party’s banner in a rematch with Republican Rep. Ralph Norman in the state’s 5th Congressional District.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Virginia are sweating their new Senate nominee, Corey Stewart, who said when he began his campaign that “the era of the kinder, gentler Republican is over.”

Stewart, coming off a narrow loss in Virginia’s GOP primary for governor, made a name for himself — and sparked jitters among Republicans — with his sharp rhetoric on immigration, abortion rights and, most significantly, his vocal opposition to the removal of Confederate monuments.

After Stewart narrowly defeated Republican rival Nick Freitas on Tuesday, Virginia’s former lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling, said in a tweet, “I am extremely disappointed that a candidate like Corey Stewart could win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. This is clearly not the Republican Party I once knew, loved and proudly served. Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight.”

Harry Reid’s still got it

Famous for his iron grip on Democratic politics in Nevada, Tuesday’s election served as a reminder that even in retirement, the 78-year-old Reid still wields significant power.

Susie Lee, endorsed by the former Senate Democratic leader in the state’s 3rd District, won her primary, while another Reid acolyte, Steven Horsford, cruised to victory in the Democratic primary in the neighboring 4th District.

In the contentious primary for governor, Reid endorsed Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak over Commission Vice Chair Chris Giunchigliani — and was active on Sisolak’s behalf behind the scenes. Not only did Reid work to steer donors away from Giunchigliani, he told her directly that Sisolak would be a stronger general election candidate.

On Tuesday, Sisolak beat Giunchigliani by double digits.

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