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Tag: 2022 republican primaries

GOP Split: Far Right Gains Ground In East, While Losing Out West

The Republican Party’s radical right flank is making inroads among voters and winning key primaries east of the Mississippi. But out West, among the five states that held their 2022 primary elections on May 17, a string of GOP candidates for office who deny the 2020’s presidential election results and have embraced various conspiracies were rejected by Republicans who voted for more mainstream conservatives.

In Pennsylvania, Douglas Mastriano, an election denier and white nationalist, won the GOP’s nomination for governor. He received 568,000 votes, which was 44.1 percent of the vote in a low turnout primary. One-quarter of Pennsylvania’s nine million registered voters cast ballots.

In Idaho, by contrast, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who also claimed Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate and has campaigned at white supremacist rallies, according to the Western States Center, an Oregon-based group that monitors the far-right, lost her bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination to incumbent Gov. Brad Little.

Idaho also saw two 2020 election-denying candidates vying for the GOP nomination for secretary of state lose to a career civil servant and election administrator who defended 2020’s results as accurate. On the other hand, an ex-congressman who is an election denier won the GOP primary for attorney general.

“In addition to Janice McGeachin, who was defeated in her bid for governor, a number of other anti-democracy candidates were rejected by voters, including Priscilla Giddings, who ran for [Idaho] Lieutenant Governor; Dorothy Moon, who ran for Secretary of State; and Chad Christensen, Todd Engel and Eric Parker, who mounted bids for the state legislature,” the Western States Center’s analysis said. “In Ada County, anti-Semitic sheriff candidate Doug Traubel was soundly defeated, alongside losses for Proud Boy and conspiratorial candidates in Oregon.”

Voters in western states with histories of far-right organizing and militia violence have more experience sizing up extremist politics and candidates than voters out east, the Center suggested. However, as May 17’s five state primaries make clear, the GOP’s far right flank is ascendant nationally.

Various stripes of GOP conspiracy theorists and uncompromising culture war-embracing candidates attracted a third or more of the May 17 primary electorate, a volume of votes sufficient to win some high-stakes races in crowded fields.

Low Turnouts Boost GOP Radicals

The highest-profile contests were in the presidential swing state of Pennsylvania, where Mastriano, a state legislator, won the gubernatorial primary with votes from less than seven percent of Pennsylvania’s nine million registered voters.

In its primary for an open U.S. Senate seat, several thousand votes separated two election-denier candidates, a margin that will trigger a recount. As Pennsylvania’s mailed-out ballots are counted and added into totals, the lead keeps shifting between hedge-fund billionaire David McCormick and celebrity broadcaster Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Mastriano campaigned on his rejection of President Joe Biden’s victory, chartered buses to transport Trump supporters to the U.S. Capitol for what became the January 6 insurrection, is stridently anti-abortion and often says his religion shapes his politics. On his primary victory night, he sounded like former President Trump, proclaiming that he and his base were aggrieved underdogs.

“We’re under siege now,” Mastriano told supporters, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report. “The media doesn’t like groups of us who believe certain things.”

That “siege” appears to include a cold shoulder from pro-corporate Republicans who campaigned against Mastriano as the primary crested, fearing that he would lose in the fall’s general election. A day after the May 17 primary, the Republican Governors Association downplayed his victory, a signal that it was unlikely to steer donors toward him, the Washington Post reported.

Other election-denying candidates sailed to victory across Pennsylvania, including five GOP congressmen who voted against certifying their state’s 2020 Electoral College slate: Scott Perry, John Joyce, Mike Kelly, Guy Reschenthaler and Lloyd Smucker. Their primaries, while not garnering national attention, underscore Trump’s enduring impact on wide swathes of the Republican Party.

It remains to be seen if any of the primary winners will prevail in the fall’s general election. It may be that candidates who can win in crowded primary fields when a quarter to a third of voters turn out will not win in the fall, when turnout is likely to double. But a closer look at some primary results shows that large numbers of Republican voters are embracing extremists – even if individual candidates lose.

That trend can be seen in Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor’s race. The combined votes of three election-denying candidates (Rick Saccone, 15.63 percent; Teddy Daniels, 12.28 percent; Russ Diamond, 5.87 percent) was about 35 percent. That share of the party’s electorate, had it voted for one candidate, would have defeated the primary winner, Carrie Delrosso, a more moderate Republican who received 25.88 percent of the vote and will have to defend conspiracies as Mastriano’s running mate.

Fissures Inside the GOP

While Trump-appeasing candidates won primaries in May 17’s four other primary states – Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oregon – some outspoken and badly behaved GOP radicals, such as North Carolina’s Rep. Madison Cawthorn, lost to a more traditional conservative Republican.

Cawthorn was defeated by Chuck Edwards, a pro-business Republican and state senator described by the Washington Post as “a McDonald’s franchise owner [who] was head of the local chamber of commerce.”

Edwards campaigned on returning the House to a GOP majority and backed a predictable obstructionist agenda to block the Biden White House, as opposed to Cawthorn’s embrace of 2020 election conspiracies and incendiary antics – which included taking loaded guns on planes and accusing other GOP congressmen of lurid and illegal behavior.

Edward’s focus, the Post reported, “will be on ‘removing the gavel out of Nancy Pelosi’s hand, and then taking the teleprompter from Joe Biden and restoring the policies that we enjoyed under the Trump administration, to help get this country back on track.’”

Cawthorn’s defeat came as North Carolina Republicans chose a Trump-praising candidate, Ted Budd, for its U.S. Senate nomination over an ex-governor, Pat McCrory.

As Tim Miller noted in the May 18 morning newsletter from The Bulwark, a pro-Republican but anti-Trump news and opinion website, McCrory had “criticized Trump over his Putinphilia and insurrectionist incitement… he lost bigly to Ted Budd, a milquetoast Trump stooge who will do what he’s told.”

As in Pennsylvania, a handful of incumbent congressmembers in North Carolina who voted to reject their 2020 Electoral College slate, easily won their primaries.

“Virginia Foxx and Greg Murphy voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election after the events of January 6 and have been endorsed by Trump in their 2022 campaigns,” said a May 17 factsheet from ProjectDefendDemocracy.com, a website that tracks the GOP’s election-denying candidates. “Foxx was later fined $5,000 for failing to comply with security measures put in place in the House after the January 6 attack and Murphy has claimed that antifa may have been responsible for the violence at the Capitol.”

Foxx won her primary with 77 percent of the vote. Murphy won his primary with 76 percent of the vote.

Idaho Republicans Clash

The election-denial and conspiracy-embracing candidates fared less well in May 17’s primaries out West, the Western States Center’s analysis noted.

“Yesterday in elections in Oregon and Idaho, anti-democracy candidates were defeated in several marquee races,” it said. “Most notably, Idaho gubernatorial hopeful Janice McGeachin, whose embrace of white nationalism and militias was soundly rejected by voters.”

In the GOP primary for secretary of state, which oversees Idaho’s elections, Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, narrowly beat two 2020 election deniers, state Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) and state Sen. Mary Souza (R-Coeur d’Alene). McCrane had 43.1 percent or 114,392 votes. Moon had 41.4 percent, or 109,898 votes. Souza had 15.5 percent or 41,201 votes.

“Donald Trump carried Idaho by 30 points in 2020, but… State Rep. Dorothy Moon has alleged without evidence that people are ‘coming over and voting’ in Idaho from Canada and called for the decertification of the 2020 election,” said ProjectDefendDemocracy.com’s factsheet. “State Sen. Mary Souza is part of the voter suppression group the Honest Elections Project and has blamed ‘ballot harvesting’ for Biden’s victory. Only Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane has stated that he believes that Idaho’s elections are legitimate, and that Joe Biden was the winner of the 2020 election.”

Another way of looking at the contest’s results is that an election-denying candidate might have won, had Idaho’s Republican Party more forcefully controlled how many candidates were running for this office. Together, Moon and Souza won nearly 57 percent of the vote, compared to McCrane’s 43 percent.

McGrane will be part of a GOP ticket that includes an election denier who won the primary for attorney general. Former congressman Raul Labrador received 51.5 percent of the vote, compared to the five-term incumbent, Lawrence Wasden, who received 37.9 percent. Labrador accused Wasden of “being insufficiently committed to overturning the 2020 election,” ProjectDefendDemocracy said.

On the other hand, another 2020 election defender won his GOP primaries. Rep. Mike Simpson won 53.3 percent of the vote in Idaho’s second U.S. House district in a field with several challengers who attacked him for being one of 35 House Republicans who voted in favor of creating the January 6 committee.

What Do GOP Voters Want?

But Mastriano’s victory in Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial primary, more so than any other outcome from May 17’s primaries, is “giving the GOP fits,” as the New York Times’ Blake Hounshell, its ‘On Politics’ editor, wrote Wednesday.

“Conversations with Republican strategists, donors and lobbyists in and outside of Pennsylvania in recent days reveal a party seething with anxiety, dissension and score-settling over Mastriano’s nomination,” Hounshell said.

That assessment may be accurate. But one key voice – or GOP sector – is missing from the Times’ analysis: the GOP’s primary voter, a third or more on May 17, embraced conspiratorial candidates – though more widely in the East than in the West.

“For decades we’ve seen that our [western] region has been a bellwether for white nationalist and paramilitary attacks on democratic institutions and communities, but also home to the broad, moral coalitions that have risen up to defeat them,” said the Western States Center’s Eric K. Ward. “The defeat of anti-democracy candidates with white nationalist and paramilitary ties up and down the ballot is evidence that those of us committed to inclusive democracy, even if we have vastly different political views, do indeed have the power to come together to defeat movements that traffic in bigotry, white nationalism, and political violence.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Battlecry Of Republican Primary Rumbles: 'You're Soft On China!'

With most conservative candidates in primary races across the country pledging allegiance to former President Trump and disseminating his Big Lie, what is a Republican candidate to do to get ahead? Why, just accuse their Republican opponent of having ties to China, of course!

Spurious, misleading, and even exaggerated accusations of connections with China are a source of anxiety for Republicans in the 2022 races, while campaign strategists and candidates have labeled such allegations a “prime attack in a Republican primary,” according to the Washington Post.

Incumbent Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — who is running against four other candidates in the Peach State primary, chief among them former Senator David Perdue — ran a TV spot accusing hisTrump-backed rival Perdue of outsourcing jobs to China before becoming a senator.

"Millionaire David Perdue got rich sending jobs to China," the narrator in Kemp’s ad claimed. The ad used a clip of Perdue in his days before the Senate, when he said, "I lived over there. I’ve been dealing with China for over 30 years," and another clip from a Georgia Public Broadcasting interview where Perdue claimed, “We outsourced every single product that we sold in our stores."

Kemp’s communications director touted the effectiveness of the China ad in a statement to the Post. “We tested a number of hits, and that was the best-polling one — the outsourcing to China.” Tying Perdue to China has become central to the incumbent governor’s paid advertising and messaging.

Invoking China is a crucial strategy in the Pennsylvania primary, too. Candidate Mehmet Oz, whom Trump is backing, has accused opponent David McCormick of carrying out business deals with China. McCormick struck back, as one would expect, alleging that Oz made bank from dealings with Chinese state TV and patronized products made in China.

In a blistering attack last Friday night, Trump accused McCormick of being a “liberal Wall Street Republican” who has managed money for China. “I don’t know David well, and he may be a nice guy, but he’s not MAGA,” the former president added.

A pollster who has worked for Trump and is polling in many 2022 primaries told the Post that tough talk on US-China relations, even far-fetched claims, is all the rage in this year’s Republican primary debates because that’s what Republican voters want to hear.

“If you coddle China, or you are soft on China, that makes you not so much America first and not so tough,” pollster Tony Fabrizio said. “Being tagged as soft on China is not a good thing. Trump focused and catalyzed some of it. But China has been seen as the primary world foe for at least the last decade or more.”

Fabrizio also spoke of a poll he conducted earlier this year which showed that Republicans consider China a bigger threat to national security than Russia, even after Russia’s missile bombardment of Ukraine has claimed thousands of civilian lives.

Two years of battling the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with Trump’s litany of anti-China messaging, has increased the Republican voters' negative perception of China. In March, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs conducted a poll that found that 75 percent of Republicans considered Beijing’s development a “critical threat” to the interests of the United States of America, up from 67 percent in 2020 and 42 percent in 2018, according to the Washington Post.

Last year, Trump’s team ran a poll to ascertain the former president’s most effective messages and found that the former president’s supporters love his attacks on China.

An informal adviser for Trump, Michael Pillsbury, weighed in on this seismic perception shift. “It is something quite new — Republicans used to be the business of party and free trade,” Pillsbury told the Washington Post. “And I remember during the early considerations of President Trump — putting heavy tariffs on China — there were voices within the White House and within the party that this goes against Republican traditions.”

“The current mood toward China,” Pillsbury added, “is darker than it has been in decades in the United States.”

Anti-Semitic Remarks By GOP State Senator Inflame Tennessee Primary Dispute

In a bold display of defiance against the self-proclaimed leader of the Republican party, the Tennessee Republican Party voted Tuesday to kick a Trump-endorsed candidate, Morgan Ortagus, and two others from the primary ballot in the state’s newly-drawn Fifth Congressional District.

Tennessee Republican Party chair Scott Golden confirmed Tuesday that Ortagus and two other congressional hopefuls, Baxter Lee and Robby Starbuck, had been booted from the ballot by the party’s executive committee. The announcement came one week after party officials confirmed that official challenges were filed against all three candidates.

The move is a culmination of a months-long effort by state and local Republicans, including legislators and activists, to challenge Ortagus’ candidacy because she had moved to the state just last year, according to NBC News.

Ortagus expressed her “deep disappointment” in a statement blasting the move, saying, “I’m a bonafide Republican by their standards, and frankly, by any metric.” Only three members of the state GOP’s executive committee voted to keep her on the ballot, according to CNN, and a whooping seventeen members voted in favor of the boot.

“As I have said all along, I believe that voters in Middle Tennessee should pick their representative — not establishment party insiders," she continued. "Our team is evaluating the options before us,” Ortagus added in her statement. However, the state GOP’s rules grant the executive committee power to disqualify candidates who don’t adhere to the party’s bylaws.

Golden has shrugged off the criticism generated by the move — which saw him called many names, but not his chair title — saying, "Never Trumper, establishment, RINO, fascist, whatever. It’s just the rules of the Republican Party."

Ortagus’ campaign argued that she had met all the requirements listed in the bylaws, touting her vote in recent GOP primaries, activity in the party’s women’s group, and her endorsement by former President Trump.

Republican State Senator Frank Niceley dismissed the endorsement when speaking to NBC News. "I don't think Trump cares one way or the other. "I think Jared Kushner — he's Jewish and she's Jewish — I think Jared will be upset. Ivanka will be upset. I don't think Trump cares."

Niceley recently came under fire himself for a tirade in which he used Adolf Hitler as an example of how homeless people can turn their lives around. Citing this gaffe, Ortagus fired back Tuesday by saying Niceley "should be ashamed of his repeated anti-Semitic rhetoric."

“I voted for Trump. I supported him,” Niceley said in an interview. “I’ll vote for Trump as long as he lives. But I don’t want him coming out here to tell me who to vote for.”

In a report this week, the Tennessean said it had obtained an April 10 email from GOP committee member Beth Campbell that said "RNC sources" had informed her that former President Trump was “OK” with the move, a claim Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich vehemently denied.

"That is a dirty lie, which should not surprise anyone, given there are RINOs in Tennessee trying to quietly pull strings and illegally remove President Trump’s endorsed candidate, Morgan Ortagus, from the ballot," Budowich said, according to NBC News.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) derided the Tennessee GOP on Twitter, saying, "I can't imagine having the 2024 Republican National Convention in a state that would allow this type of corrupt politics."

Former President Trump’s son, Don Jr., attacked the move in a tweet, too.

Trump, whose endorsement instigated this drawn bout of infighting, has yet to issue a public statement on Ortagus’ removal.

Republican Candidates Vilifying Fauci To Excite Their Base Voters

In a Republican Party dependent on ginning up its base's rage, the villain of choice has become President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who now often supplants GOP archenemy and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

As the New York Times reports, "Fire Fauci" became the inaugural ad for Jane Timken last fall as she launched her bid to win Ohio's open Senate seat. Wackadoodle celebrity doc Mehmet Oz, who's running for Pennsylvania's open Senate seat, doesn't want to debate his opponents—he wants to debate Fauci. And Wisconsin Democrat-turned-Republican Kevin Nicholson, who's running for governor, said Fauci "should be fired and referred to prosecutors.”

In Fauci, many Republicans see an amalgam of favorite conservative resentments.

“Populism is essentially anti: anti-establishment, anti-expertise, anti-intellectual and anti-media,” GOP strategist Whit Ayres told the Times. Fauci, he added, “is an establishment expert intellectual who is in the media.”

But while demonizing Fauci could whip up the GOP base, the strategy could just as easily haunt Republicans in the general election, as Ayres noted.

However, another GOP strategist, John Feehery, argued that anger at Fauci over lockdowns was an issue that could cross party lines with voters desperate to move on from the pandemic.

But it wouldn't be the first time Republicans fixated on a base strategy that saddles them in the general election. One big question is whether the pandemic will still have the resonance it does today.

The strong and steady U.S. recovery is starting to suggest that the nation's economy has moved beyond the reaches of the highly unpredictable pandemic. Some Democratic officials are also ending pandemic restrictions that had been in place for months on end. Democratic governors in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware have all laid out timelines for ending statewide mask mandates in schools and elsewhere.

So while Republicans fixate on Fauci and the pandemic, Democrats are working to move the nation beyond its clutches.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos