The last big primaries of June took place on Tuesday as voters in Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah, Illinois, New York, Mississippi, and South Carolina headed to the polls.
Former President Donald Trump’s election lies were, once again, on the ballot in several Republican primaries, while progressives faced off against moderates in key Democratic districts. Tuesday’s contests also included some tight gubernatorial match-ups, face-offs between Republican and Democratic incumbents due to redistricting, and some surprising runoffs in the South.
Here are 2 winners and 3 losers from this week’s primaries.
Loser: Democrats’ attempts to sabotage GOP primaries
Democrats tried to meddle in several GOP primaries in Illinois and Colorado, with some voters switching party affiliation to vote for their preferred GOP opponent and Democratic Party allies spending exorbitant amounts of cash to boost extremist Republicans with mixed results.
In Colorado’s Third Congressional District, far-right Republican and QAnon supporter Rep. Lauren Boebert fended off a challenge from more traditionally conservative state Sen. Don Coram, despite thousands of Democrats renouncing their party affiliation to try to vote her out and support Coram. The seat is safe for Republicans, leading Democrats to try to boost the less extreme of the GOP options. Voters can cast ballots in the GOP primary in Colorado if they are registered with the party or unaffiliated with a party. There were at least 3,700 more unaffiliated voters in this year’s primary for that district than in the last election cycle, but that didn’t turn out to be enough to oust Boebert on Tuesday.
There were also unprecedented levels of Democratic spending to boost the prospects of far-right Republicans who were seen as making for weak opponents in the November general election.
In the GOP primary for Colorado’s US Senate seat, Democratic groups spent roughly $4 million on ads designed to make far-right candidate Ron Hanks more appealing to GOP voters over his more moderate opponent, Joe O’Dea. Some Democratic strategists believed incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet might have had a better chance of beating Hanks than O’Dea in a state that Biden easily won in 2020. Hanks embraced Trump’s 2020 election lies, attended the rally held ahead of the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, and has said that all abortions should be outlawed. Despite the heavy Democratic spending, O’Dea nevertheless claimed victory on Tuesday.
In the Illinois Republican primary for governor, however, the strategy of boosting the far-right candidate was more successful. Incumbent Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association, which he funds using his billion-dollar fortune, spent almost $35 million total trying to paint state Sen. Darren Bailey, a pro-Trump Republican, as the most conservative candidate in the race.
One television ad they paid for seems engineered to entice conservative GOP voters: It claims that Bailey tried to stop the governor’s Covid-19 mandates, embraces the Trump agenda, protects gun owners, and is “100% pro-life.” They also paid for ads attacking Bailey’s main GOP opponent, Mayor Richard C. Irvin of Aurora, a moderate suburbanite, arguing that he was a Democrat attempting to pass himself off as a Republican.
Ultimately, Bailey handily won the nomination. He faces an uphill battle in a state that went for Biden by 17 percentage points and against an incumbent Democratic governor with a $132 million war chest. —Nicole Narea
Winner: Trump and his 2020 election lies
It was a good night for the MAGA crew, with Trump apologists and 2020 election deniers largely sailing to their party’s nominations in Illinois, Utah, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who enthusiastically backed Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, fended off two more-moderate primary challengers who didn’t vote for the former president in 2020: former Utah House member Becky Edwards and political operative Ally Isom. Both of Lee’s opponents had criticized him for his unwavering loyalty to Trump, trying to tap into Utah Republicans’ discontent with the direction of their party.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt — who was endorsed by Trump in March and has embraced right-wing stances on guns, abortion, and other culture war issues — easily won the nomination. That’s despite strained relations with Native American tribes in the state and some Republicans in the state legislature after he vetoed key pieces of a budget deal earlier this year. The runner-up, the head of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Joel Kintsel, didn’t even come within striking distance.
In addition to state Sen. Darren Bailey, another Trump-endorsed Illinois Republican prevailed in the 15th District, where Rep. Mary Miller ousted her colleague Rep. Rodney Davis in a member-on-member primary. They were facing off because the Illinois legislature, looking to maximize its Democratic delegation, redrew the state’s electoral map to eliminate Miller’s current district and turn Davis’s once-purple district into a safe Republican one.
Among the exceptions to the overall strong showing from Trump candidates was Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, who won his primary despite refusing to embrace Trump’s election lies. He defeated Tulsa pastor Jackson Lahmeyer, who was endorsed by Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and who’d argued that the senator wasn’t sufficiently conservative.
Though Trump-endorsed Boebert prevailed in Colorado, other vocal supporters of the former president didn’t fare as well in the state. In addition to Hanks, gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez, House candidate Lori Saine in the Eighth District, and Secretary of State hopeful Tina Peters also lost their primaries.
Lopez was known for floating a proposal to replace Colorado’s popular vote electoral system with a state-based electoral college to advantage rural Republican voters, and lost to establishment Republican Heidi Ganahl. Saine has echoed Trump’s claims about voter fraud in 2020 and also adopted strict anti-abortion and pro-gun rights positions. And Peters, the Mesa County clerk and recorder, was indicted for election tampering and misconduct because she tried to break into the county’s election equipment to look for nonexistent fraud.
Overall, however, after a tough day for him in Congress, there was a lot for the former president to like about Tuesday’s election results. —NN
Winner: The House progressive caucus
While several progressive candidates posted disappointing performances on Tuesday, there were still some bright spots for Democrats’ left flank, particularly in Illinois. State House Rep. Delia Ramirez, a vocal champion of Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal, won her primary against moderate Chicago Alderman Gil Villegas in Illinois’s Third Congressional District. Ramirez has sponsored legislation expanding Medicaid access and campaigned on finding ways to reduce violence through community-based interventions.
Ramirez wasn’t the only Illinois progressive to win on Tuesday. In the state’s First District, Jonathan Jackson, a nonprofit spokesperson and son of civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, also came out on top, beating 16 opponents, including Karin Norington-Reaves, a former Cook County official who had been endorsed by retiring First District Rep. Bobby Rush. Both Ramirez and Jackson were backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Progressives were less successful, however, in other races.
In the New York governor and lieutenant governor elections, progressive candidates Ana María Archila and Jumaane Williams lost by large margins to incumbents Kathy Hochul and Antonio Delgado, respectively. Former Illinois state Rep. Litesa Wallace, backed by progressive groups Our Revolution and Indivisible, was defeated by former broadcast meteorologist Eric Sorensen in Illinois’s 17th District. Incumbent Rep. Marie Newman, who was seen as the more liberal option in a member-on-member contest against Rep. Sean Casten, lost in Illinois’s newly drawn Sixth District. And organizer Kina Collins seemed poised to lose her second challenge to incumbent Rep. Danny Davis in Illinois’s Seventh District.
Despite the losses they experienced this week, progressives still made notable gains in two safe Democratic seats that are set to add to their presence in Congress this fall. Those victories are likely to bolster a growing progressive caucus in the House of Representatives, helping their ideas to have even greater sway in the Democratic Party for years to come. —Li Zhou
Loser: Giuliani (Andrew, not Rudy)
Name recognition — and close ties to the former president — weren’t sufficient to get Andrew Giuliani, son of Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani, a win in the Republican primary for New York governor.
Giuliani, a former Trump aide himself, had an early lead Tuesday night. But in the end, he came in second behind Rep. Lee Zeldin, a four-term lawmaker from Long Island who garnered a national profile for defending President Trump in his first impeachment proceedings. Zeldin and Giuliani ran on similar platforms, emphasizing how they’d be tougher on crime, including pushing back on the state’s bail reforms.
Zeldin will be up against Hochul this fall and isn’t favored to win given the race’s “solidly Democratic” rating. —LZ
Loser: Scott Pruitt
Unlike fellow Trump Cabinet member Ryan Zinke, who recently won a Montana House primary, former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt didn’t fare so well in his attempt to run for Congress.
Pruitt, a scandal-plagued Trump official who resigned after allegations of multiple ethical breaches — including using taxpayer money to take expensive flights and asking aides to complete personal chores — was among a long list of contenders vying to replace Sen. James Inhofe in his safe GOP seat in Oklahoma. Inhofe had announced his retirement earlier this year, setting up a special election for the rest of his term in November.
During his campaign, Pruitt leaned into his track record as the head of the EPA, which included championing fossil fuels, leaving the Paris climate accords, and delaying new regulations on clean water and greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, he didn’t even come close: He received just over 5 percent of the vote, placing far behind House Rep. Markwayne Mullin and former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, both of whom advanced to a runoff.
The outcome wasn’t necessarily a surprising one. Mullin, a small-business owner who voted against certifying the 2020 election, had long been seen as a frontrunner for the seat given his strong fundraising numbers and conservative bona fides. Pruitt, meanwhile, was fielding questions about ethical issues at the EPA even during his Senate campaign. —LZ