Primaries in four states could have big say in who will control Congress


Four states will hold congressional primaries on Tuesday, and the results could have sweeping implications for this year’s battle over control of Congress.

In Nevada, a dozen Republicans are vying for their party’s Senate nomination, but the primary appears to have become a two-person race between the retired army captain Sam Brown and former US ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter. Polling indicates Brown has a significant lead over Gunter, and Brown has received a last-minute boost from Donald Trump, who made a much-awaited endorsement in the race on Sunday.

The winner of the Republican primary will go on to face the Democratic incumbent, Jackie Rosen, in one of the most closely watched Senate races this year, as the Cook Political Report rates the seat as a toss-up.

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Further down the ballot, the Democratic congresswoman Susie Lee faces a tough re-election campaign in Nevada’s third congressional district. Seven Republicans – including video game music composer Marty O’Donnell and former state treasurer Dan Schwartz – are running for the chance to face off against Lee, but Trump has stayed out of the primary so far. The former president’s only House primary endorsement in Nevada went to the former North Las Vegas mayor John Lee in the fourth district, but the winner of that race will face a much steeper climb to defeat the Democratic incumbent, Steven Horsford, in the general election.

One of the most competitive House races this year will unfold in Maine, which will also hold its congressional primaries on Tuesday. In Maine’s second congressional district, two Republican legislators will compete for the opportunity to unseat the Democratic congressman Jared Golden, who faces yet another difficult re-election campaign. The former Nascar driver turned state representative Austin Theriault appears to be the favorite in his primary race against fellow state representative Michael Soboleski, and Republicans are hopeful that Theriault has the résumé to defeat Golden.

But Golden has proven politically resilient since he was first elected to Congress in 2018, when he narrowly defeated the Republican incumbent, Bruce Poliquin, thanks to Maine’s ranked-choice voting system. In 2022, Golden again defeated Poliquin by six points in the second round of voting, even though Trump had carried the second district by seven points two years earlier.

The Cook Political Report rates Golden’s seat as a toss-up, so the Republican primary will kick off what is expected to be a heated and closely contested race in the general election.

Down in South Carolina, tensions within the Republican party have run high as two House members face primary challenges. In the first congressional district, Representative Nancy Mace will face off against the former state government official Catherine Templeton, who has received the backing of the former House speaker Kevin McCarthy. The grudge match is personal for McCarthy, as Mace was one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust the then speaker last year.

The high stakes have made the race a costly one, with outside groups dumping millions of dollars into the district. The South Carolina Patriots Pac has spent nearly $4m backing Templeton’s primary bid, while the Win It Back Pac and Club for Growth Action have collectively invested roughly $2.5m supporting Mace. Despite Templeton’s external support, Mace is viewed as the favorite after Trump endorsed her in March.

Over in South Carolina’s fourth district, the Republican congressman William Timmons faces a primary challenge from state representative Adam Morgan, who leads the South Carolina legislature’s freedom caucus. Like Mace, Timmons has the benefit of Trump’s endorsement, but the race could still be a nail-biter for the three-term congressman.

And at least one of South Carolina’s House Republican primaries is expected to advance to a runoff later this month. The retirement of Representative Jeff Duncan in the reliably Republican third district has kicked off a highly competitive primary, as seven candidates vie for their party’s nomination. With none of the candidates expected to cross the 50% threshold on Tuesday, the top two vote-getters will face off in a runoff on 25 June.

The fate of South Carolina’s abortion laws rests in part on the results of three Republican primaries in state senate races. State senators Katrina Shealy, Margie Bright Matthews, Mia McLeod, Sandy Senn and Penry Gustafson collectively blocked a near-total abortion ban in South Carolina earlier this year. The “Sister Senators” were feted as a profile in courage by the Kennedy Center, but the three Republicans among them – Shealy, Senn and Gustafson – face primary challengers from their right on abortion. If two of the three lose to challengers, abortion foes will have the votes to restrict abortion beyond the current six-week ban.

Although South Carolina will host some closely contested primaries this week, none of its congressional races are expected to be toss-ups in November. The same is true of North Dakota, which will hold its congressional and gubernatorial primaries on Tuesday.

Five Republicans and two Democrats are running to replace the Republican congressman Kelly Armstrong representing North Dakota’s at-large congressional district, but no Democrat has won the seat since 2008. Rather than seeking re-election, Armstrong has launched a gubernatorial bid, and he is widely favored to replace the outgoing governor, Doug Burgum, who has been named as a potential running mate for Trump.

North Dakota voters will also weigh in on a ballot measure regarding age limits for congressional candidates. If approved by a majority of North Dakota voters, the measure would prevent candidates from running for Congress if they would turn 81 during their term. Although the policy would only apply to congressional candidates, the age cutoff is noteworthy considering Joe Biden, who is four years older than Trump, turned 81 in November.



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