Trump-Backed Republicans Take on mainstream conservatives in South Carolina and Nevada primaries.
Representatives Tom Rice and Nancy Mace of South Carolina on Tuesday hoped to avert defeat at the hands of the Republican primary challengers backed by Donald J. Trump, even as scrutiny of the former president intensifies after his 2020 defeat.
Both incumbents had crossed Mr Trump as he struggled to maintain power after the Jan. 6 attack, which is now in the spotlight of congressional hearings. Mr Rice, a staunch Conservative in a coastal district conservative, was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting the riot. Ms Mace said in her maiden speech as a newly elected freshman that Mr Trump was responsible for the deadly chaos, although she did not vote to impeach him.
Mr. Trump backs Katie Arrington to take on Ms. Mace and State Representative Russell Fry to challenge Mr. Rice, who said Mr. Trump is on a “traveling revenge tour.” Mr Trump, who turned 76 Tuesday, called on South Carolina voters to get him “a beautiful, beautiful birthday present” — two defeats to Ms. Mace and Mr. Rice.
Outside of South Carolina, Mr. Trump’s rule was put to the test in Nevada, where a series of Republican primaries pitted candidates from Mr Trump’s wing against more mainstream conservatives.
The South Carolina games have their own dynamics: Mr. Rice was defiant and disdainful of Mr. Trump to the end, while Ms. Mace tried her best to regain the good graces of Trump administration officials, if not Mr. Trump himself. But their defeats would have deep meaning for the party if it considers renaming the former president for another White House run.
Speaking to a handful of reporters after casting her vote in Charleston, Ms Mace said on Tuesday that she remained confident in her campaign’s chances, describing herself as “cautiously optimistic.” Across the street, supporters of her opponent taunted her with chants of “Katie! katie! Katie!”
Tuesday’s election comes at a sort of midpoint in a Republican primary season that has sent decidedly mixed signals to party leadership. Mr. Trump has racked up a number of significant victories, propelling his elected Senate candidates to primary victories, such as JD Vance in Ohio and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. However, his approved candidates have lost primary runs for governor in Georgia and Nebraska, as well as a key secretary of state in Georgia.
There are still contests high on his revenge list, such as Representative Liz Cheney’s primary in Wyoming on Aug. 16. Ahead of the Aug. 2 primary in Arizona, Mr. Trump has backed Kari Lake, a promoter of his bogus stolen election claims to be the state’s next governor. To take on Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, he singled out Blake Masters, who was caught on tape promoting the conspiracy that a third of the people outside the Capitol were FBI agents on Jan. 6. Republican leaders worry that Mr. Trump will soon support disgraced former Missouri governor Eric Greitens for an open Senate seat.
In South Carolina, Mr. Rice was only the second of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Mr. Trump for presenting his advocacy for reelection to the party’s primary voters. The other, Representative David G. Valadao of California, clings to a narrow lead over a Trump-aligned challenger as the vote count continues after last week’s primary there. if mr. Rice, half of ten next year would not return to Congress, while other contests are yet to come, including Ms. Cheney’s ascent.
A loss to Ms. Mace could be even more ominous for any Republican who could thwart Mr. Trump. While voting to endorse President Biden’s victory, she generally avoided open clashes with Mr Trump, interpreting her initial denunciation of his January 6 actions as situational anger: “Everyone knows I was unhappy that day. “, she said.
The Trump administration’s most prominent South Carolinians — former Governor Nikki Haley, who served as United Nations ambassador, and former Representative Mick Mulvaney, Mr Trump’s budget director and acting chief of staff — both supported Ms. Mace for reelection, concerned that the party could lose its seat in the fall if Mrs Arrington prevailed.
The same scenario played out in 2018, when Ms Arrington challenged then-Representative Mark Sanford after berating Mr Trump. Mrs. Arrington, a former state legislator, won the primaries and then lost the general election to a Democrat, Joe Cunningham.
As Republicans in South Carolina looked for signs of Mr Trump’s hold on the party, they also expected harbingers of potential victories elsewhere in November. In a special election in Texas on Tuesday, Republicans hoped to take the Rio Grande Valley seat from Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat who resigned in March, and snag Democrats’ wafer-thin majority.
A special election victory for Republican nominee Mayra Flores could herald wider Republican gains, especially with Hispanic voters in South Texas and beyond. Ms. Flores raised 16 times the amount registered by her closest Democratic competitor, Dan Sanchez.
Republicans also hope that a victory by Mrs. Flores, the wife of a Border Patrol agent, will give their candidates a boost in two other Texas border districts.
An outright win for Ms. Flores could shed light on the splintering of the Latino vote in South Texas, where Hispanic residents have often been overlooked by national campaigns and have no right to the state election process.
The assumption had been that greater Latino turnout would benefit Democrats, but South Texas has emerged as a major battleground after Mr. Trump saw swings in his favor in 2020 in Latino and largely rural working classes near the border. The gains have led Republicans to believe they have a chance to make that invasion permanent and have sparked Democratic power struggles over the best approach to countering Republican enthusiasm.
Due to the sheer number of tossup competitions, few states will rival Nevada this fall. Republicans see opportunities to oust a host of top Democrats, including administration Steve Sisolak; Lt. Governor Lisa Cano Burkhead; three Democratic members of the House; and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the upper chamber of Congress.
Republican candidates have largely tried to align themselves with Mr Trump, taking hard-right stances on abortion, guns, immigration and teaching race and gender in schools.
In Nevada governor’s race, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo would win the Republican nomination on Tuesday and face Mr. Sisolak in November. He got Mr Trump’s approval and had about $3 million cash on hand as of April. He had criticized the governor for his mask mandates and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Sisolak, who had more than $9 million in campaign funds, left the state mask mandate in February, strongly promoting Nevada’s economic recovery and the billions of dollars pumped into the state from federal coronavirus aid packages.
Ms. Cortez Masto will likely face Adam Laxalt, who led Mr. Trump to reverse the 2020 election results. Mr. Laxalt — a former state attorney general and the grandson of a former Nevada governor and senator — must stop a late wave of veteran Sam Brown. mr. Brown was seriously injured in the fighting in Afghanistan and has run like Mr. Trump.
Another proponent of Mr Trump’s campaign to reject the 2020 election results, Councilor Jim Marchant is expected to win his party’s nomination for Secretary of State, a position that would allow him to oversee the 2024 election. .
Some Nevada House games show even clearer lines between the Trump wing of the party and the more traditional Republicans. Potential Republican challengers to Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat, include Sam Peters, an insurance agent backed by far-right Arizona congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, as well as Annie Black, a more regular meeting woman who is battling Mr. . Pieters.
Five Republicans hope to challenge Representative Susie Lee, a Democrat. Among them is April Becker, a real estate attorney who has raised by far the most money and has the backing of House Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy.
Representative Dina Titus, a Democrat, has eight Republicans vying to challenge her, including a former member of the House, Cresent Hardy. But Carolina Serrano, a Colombian-American immigrant, has the support of both Republican leaders and the Trump world, with approvals from New York Representative Elise Stefanik, the party’s No. 3 House, as well as Mr. Laxalt and Richard. Grenell, a former national security official in the Trump administration.
In Nevada, where the late Senator Harry Reid and the state’s Culinary Union have built an influential Democratic political machine, a racially diverse coalition of workers and Latino voters has won crucial Democratic victories in presidential elections since 2008. But the president’s party tends to lose ground in midterm elections — especially true for Nevada Democrats. Democratic turnout in the state’s midterm elections tends to take a sharp nosedive, in Republicans’ favor.
Not helping Nevada Democrats is a slight drop in the number of registered party members in the state and a tourist-driven economy that has taken a hard knock from the coronavirus pandemic. The combination of factors makes Democratic leaders and candidates susceptible to criticism over the skyrocketing costs of rent, gas and groceries.
Maya King reporting contributed.