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At the Races: He’s Off the Trail

Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns

Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter by subscribing here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. —Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

This week … a second GOP incumbent lost his primary, Republicans weren’t that concerned about it, and more general election matchups took shape.


South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford will be leaving Congress without regrets. “It may have cost me an election in this case, but I stand by every one of those decisions to disagree with the president,” the congressman said Tuesday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford will be leaving Congress without regrets. “It may have cost me an election in this case, but I stand by every one of those decisions to disagree with the president,” the congressman said Tuesday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Starting Gate

It’s Fine, We’re Fine: South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford is the second Republican to lose his primary this year — in part because of the energy of the Trump base. Two more Republicans are facing tough primary challenges in the coming weeks. So are GOP lawmakers concerned they might have a bigger problem on their hands? Not exactly, but they’re also taking steps to protect their own. 

 *BOOKMARK* Where are the next primaries? Keep track with Roll Call’s midterm guide.

Low Country Loss: Sanford had never lost an election before this week. But he conceded the 1st District Republican primary Tuesday night even before The Associated Press had called it for state Rep. Katie Arrington, whose challenge forced him to spend money on TV for the first time in five years. Besides questioning Sanford’s loyalty to President Donald Trump, she simultaneously attacked him for not securing enough money for infrastructure in the district and for not being a real fiscal conservative. Despite trying to run to his right, Arrington told Roll Call last year she does not want to join the House Freedom Caucus. “I’m a Republican. I think our party is so fractionalized that we need to come back together,” she said.

Sanford has been a rare breed on Capitol Hill, where he first arrived in 1995. Not only has he dared to criticize the president, he talks to the press — candidly. “He’s unafraid when approached by a reporter in a hallway to ponder the actual question asked — not just reflexively spout the talking points of the day,” Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings wrote

Silver State Slugfests Set: Nevada will host one of the hottest Senate races this year, but Tuesday’s primary action was on the House side. The matchups were set for two Democrat-held open seats: the 3rd and 4th districts. Nevada is one of the few places where Republicans are on offense, but Democrats are confident of their chances here. The 3rd District will see the return of the the Tark — he’s 0 for 5 in previous races. The 4th District will host a 2014 rematch between two former lawmakers — so what could that look like?

Get Ready for TV Ads, D.C.: Virginia state Sen. Jennifer Wexton easily secured the Democratic nomination for the 10th District on Tuesday night, setting up one of the year’s most competitive House elections right in the Capitol’s backyard. The only elected official in the primary, Wexton defeated five other women and a male candidate who earned attention for his offbeat campaign videos. GOP incumbent Barbara Comstock comfortably won her primary, but not without spending $600,000 to boost her conservative credentials. The AP actually called the Democratic race before it called Comstock’s victory over retired Air Force Colonel Shak Hill.

 Democratic women won primaries across the state, with Navy veteran Elaine Luria securing the nomination in the 2nd District, and retired CIA officer Abigail Spanberger crushing Marine veteran Dan Ward in the 7th District. Get the full roundup of Virginia primaries here.

At the Senate level, Republicans don’t have much of a shot of defeating Democratic incumbent Tim Kaine, but with Corey Stewart winning the GOP nod, their bigger concern is that the top of the ticket could be a liability for House candidates.

Watch and Wait: As of midday Thursday, we don’t yet know who won the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd District. That was expected. Maine used ranked-choice voting for the first time (more of that here), which is delaying results. State House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden is still shy of the majority needed to avoid the so-called instant runoff with 88 percent of precincts reporting.

The Count: 11

The political arm of the moderate New Democrat Coalition added 11 more candidates to its watch list Thursday. It’s now supporting 40 congressional hopefuls. Inclusion on the PAC’s watchlist comes with a $1,000 check, but does not signify a full endorsement (although the PAC is making those too). The new additions include some recent primary victors.

Nathan’s Notes

Yes, Republicans could lose control of the House. But what does it mean for the GOP baseball team?? Nathan L. Gonzales dug into how the wave of retirements and competitive re-elections could affect the 2019 Republican roster. And he joined Jason Dick on Roll Call’s Political Theater podcast to discuss tonight’s game, which has taken on new meaning after last year’s shooting at the GOP baseball practice. Come for the conversation about the time-honored Capitol Hill tradition, stay for the Vance McAllister reference.

Candidate Confessions

Even though the GOP baseball team could be losing some star players, they might have a new teammate if Republican banker John Chrin ousts Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright this fall. Chrin said he played baseball as a kid, primarily as a catcher, and he’d be interested in joining the team, if elected. The former banker at JP Morgan Chase is challenging Cartwright in the redrawn 8th District, and argues the incumbent is too liberal and out of step with voters there. He moved back to the district from an affluent New Jersey neighborhood outside New York City, but said he has always considered the area his home. Chrin also brings his own wealth to the race and has so far sunk more than $1 million into his campaign.

Reader’s Race

A crowded field of Democrats will face off on June 26 to take on GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik in New York’s 21st District — a field that a local newspaper editor deemed “unprecedented” in the rural, upstate, and reliably Republican area. Stefanik won her second term by 35 points, and Trump carried the district by 14 points. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican, but the district is on the DCCC’s expansive list of targets.

Seven Democrats filed for the seat and five are left in the race. The pre-primary campaign finance reports were due Thursday, so it’s not yet clear who has the financial advantage in the final stretch before the primary. Former MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan is the only candidate with a pre-primary report up so far, and he raised just $41,000 between April and June, and had $60,000 on hand as of June 6. Ratigan has already been criticized by the NRCC for moving to the district from New York City. Other candidates include former Lawrence County Legislator Tedra Cobb; nonprofit operations director Emily Martz; political operative Patrick Nelson, who volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign; and small-business owner Katie Wilson. Wilson has been critical of the DCCC, telling MSNBC the committee gave her bad advice regarding political consultants.

For next week, reply to this email and let us know which race you want to know more about: Oklahoma’s 1st or South Carolina’s 4th Districts.

We Want to Hear from You!

Talk to us. It’s easy. Reply to this email and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. As always, send us any race you think we should pay more attention to and we’ll look into it. 

Photo Finish

Play ball! Get pumped for the Congressional Baseball Game tonight by checking out Roll Call’s coverage and revisiting last year’s game from the batter’s box (footage shot with a GoPro we gave GOP catcher Rodney Davis).


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