What a month of May it has been in politics. With the real start of the 2022 midterms underway, and with four straight weeks of primary contests that started May 3rd, there are a lot of storylines to review. From incumbents falling, to surprisingly close races to surprising blowouts from across the country. Admittedly, it was mostly in the east and midway parts, but Oregon held primaries – so I can say nationwide.
Either way, I’ll be going week by week from the 3rd to the 24th and give my thoughts on those primaries: key takeaways, what I think it says to the bigger picture and how it shapes the narrative in the state/states in November
May 3rd: Establishment wins in Indiana, Trump’s word reigns supreme in Ohio
Starting off, we had two state start off the month, with key races in Ohio and Indiana. In Indiana, all there was to watch were two GOP primaries in IN-01 and IN-09. In Indiana’s 1st, Jennifer-Ruth Green dominated the seven-person field, taking 47% of the vote. It was an unsurprising domination and she heads to the general against Frank Mrvan in a seat we rate as Leans Democratic. Then in Indiana’s 9th, establishment Republicans saw their favored candidate, Erin Houchin, win that primary. Houchin beat back Freedom Caucus endorsed Mike Sodrel in a 37-26 victory. This is a Safe Republican seat, as Houchin got more votes for herself than were cast in the Democratic Primary.
Then, the significantly more interesting races in Ohio. Not only was there the fascinating GOP Senate primary, but there were some key GOP House primaries as well. By the end of the night, it was a clear first victory for former President Trump. Not only did both his endorsements in open House seats win, but his endorsement unquestionably carried JD Vance to victory in that Senate primary. Vance was stagnant at around 13-15% of the vote before the Trump endorsement. He ended up with 32% of the vote, and now has a very good shot at becoming a Senator. Incumbent Governor Mike DeWine did finish with only a plurality of the vote, but with two opponents, he cruised to victory.
May 10th: Trump gets his man in West Virginia, but his endorsement falls for the first time in Nebraska
A week later on May 10th, we saw another key Trump endorsement succeed. In an incumbent vs. incumbent primary in the new WV-02, Congressman Alex Mooney got the Trump endorsement. This was after fellow Congressman David McKinley voted in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, garnering the anger of Trump. And while McKinley did have more of his district in the new one, Mooney had some key population centers in his area, specifically Berkeley and Jefferson counties, which he won with massive margins. Mooney basically held even with McKinley everywhere else, and he coasted to a 19 point victory.
However, in Nebraska we saw the first failed Trump endorsement of this cycle. Much has been made by the media and the former President of his record in primary endorsements this year. It is mainly as a litmus test for his directional hold on the party, but it makes little sense if we count his noncompetitive endorsement “victories”. Digressing from that though, the primary to replace Pete Ricketts in Nebraska got nasty. Three major candidates were in the race, with Ricketts-endorsed Jim Pillen and Trump endorsed Charles Herbster being the key two. They were both in danger of being cut off by more moderate State Senator Brett Lindstrom from Omaha, though. Early polls did show Herbster having a slight lead, but his campaign was hit with strong allegations of sexual misconduct with about a month to go.
Those allegations may have been what killed Herbster’s campaign in the end. Even a Trump rally in Omaha couldn’t save Herbster, as he ended up losing by 3 to Pillen on election night. That loss started a trend this month of Trump endorsements in Gubernatorial races doing poorly.
May 17th: Big Wins in PA and NC, along with a large defeat for statewide extremism in Idaho
In North Carolina, a very early Trump endorsement saw Ted Budd jump in the polls. However, he was not dominant until he started campaigning. He then proceeded to blow Pat McCrory out of the water come primary day, and is favored in the general against Cheri Beasley. Trump also got an endorsement win in NC-13. The new competitive district in the Raleigh suburbs saw Republicans nominate Trump-endorsed Bo Hines. But across the state, we saw Madison Cawthorn fall to the heavy pressure his campaign was under and lose his primary. State senator Chuck Edwards beat Cawthorn by two percentage points, 33-31, the first of two Trump endorsements to lose that night.
In Pennsylvania, Trump-endorsed Dr. Oz narrowly squeaked out a win over David McCormick setting up a matchup between himself and LG John Fetterman. The governors race saw incredibly controversial candidate Doug Mastriano win the GOP nod, which we’ve already discussed numerous times here.
Oregon saw Kurt Schrader fall in his primary as Tina Kotek and Christine Drazen won the Democratic and GOP nominations for Governor respectively. Then in Idaho, Janice McGeachin became the second Trump-endorsed candidate to lose on the night. She was blown out by current governor Brad Little. Statewide Idaho candidates also mainly pushed back far right primary attempts. The only one to succeed statewide was former congressman Raul Labrador primarying the current AG. Labrador is not aligned with the militant groups in Idaho, however.
May 24th: Shock and awe in Georgia, Runoff in Bama
The final primary night of the month saw some of the more shocking results of the cycle so far. Not only did Brian Kemp maul David Perdue by 50 points in the Gubernatorial primary, but Brad Raffensberger won his primary without a runoff. Most analysts, including ourselves, believed that Raffensberger was dead in the water once he was forced into a runoff. That just didn’t happen however, as he ended up with just over 53% of the vote to avoid that runoff.
In Alabama, incumbent governor Kay Ivey survived a late surge from key opponents in Linda Blanchard and Tim James to avoid a runoff in her primary. Blanchard ran for the governors mansion expecting a Trump endorsement that never came. In the key Senate primary to replace Richard Shelby, Katie Britt and Mo Brooks will head to a June 21st runoff. Britt finished with 44.5% of the vote, while Brooks got just over 29% in second. Mike Durant came in 3rd with 23% and is expected to endorse Brooks. However, former President Trump seems to be staying out of this race. It is not known whether that is out of an abundance of caution after recent key endorsement failures or whether he just dislikes both candidates. Either way, Trump will not effect this runoff.
Arkansas also saw John Boozman fend off well funded primary challengers. While in Texas, the runoff between Henry Cuellar and Jessica Cisneros is currently still uncalled. Other runoffs in Texas saw Ken Paxton potentially end the Bush dynasty, as he won his primary by a large margin.