Key results from Tuesday’s primaries in seven states

California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota held primaries

Voters in seven states had primaries on Tuesday.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Voters in seven states had primaries on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 7, 2022 at 10:11pm, Updated June 8, 2022 at 2:19pm

Voters in seven states picked nominees in primaries, and one district held a special election to fill a House vacancy on Tuesday. Here are some of the highlights of the results.

California

Conway headed to Congress: Connie Conway, a former Tulare County supervisor and Republican leader in the State Assembly, won Tuesday’s special election runoff in California’s 22nd District for the remainder of former GOP Rep. Devin Nunes’ term.

She beat Democrat Lourin Hubbard, a state water department operations manager. Conway had nearly 60 percent of the vote to Hubbard’s 40 percent. The Associated Press called the race at 1:03 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday.

She is not running for a full term and plans a short six-month stay as a member of Congress. “I didn’t always have a desire to run, to serve in Congress,” she said during a recent interview. “It was hard for people to grasp.”

Nunes resigned on Jan. 3 to run a new media venture for former President Donald Trump. Conway has been a fixture in California Republican circles, and she had an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. The 22nd District will look different in November, as reliably Republican areas have been parceled out and the new seat would have backed President Joe Biden over Trump by 13 points.

Valadao’s fate uncertain: GOP Rep. David Valadao was the leading contender for the No. 2 spot coming out of Tuesday’s all-party primary in California’s 22nd District. With an estimated 30 percent of the vote counted at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Democrat Rudy Salas had already been declared by the AP as having secured the top spot, with 48.3 percent. Valadao, who currently represents the state’s 21st District but switched because of new congressional lines after redistricting, voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, though the former president had not endorsed in the race. Valadao had 26 percent, while fellow Republican Chris Mathys had 19.5 percent. 

Kim leading GOP challenger: Rep. Young Kim, who was one of the first Korean American women elected to Congress in 2020 and is viewed as a rising star in a Republican Party eager for more diversity, was leading a Republican challenger in the battle for the second general election ballot spot in the 40th District. Kim was in second place with 34 percent at 8:30 a.m. with an estimated 55 percent of votes counted, according to the AP. Democrat Asif Mahmood had nearly 40 percent. Kim was keeping at bay fellow GOPer Greg Raths, a former Mission Viejo city council member, who had 25 percent. Kim and the GOP super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund launched advertising campaigns to boost her candidacy in recent weeks. Inside Elections rates the race as Likely Republican.

Steel, Garcia challengers set: In a pair of races rated Toss-up by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, Republican Rep. Michelle Steel will face Democrat Jay Chen in California’s 45th District. And in the 27th District, Rep. Mike Garcia will once again run against Democrat Christy Smith, a former member of the State Assembly who lost both a special and a general election to Garcia in 2020. 

Porter will face Baugh: Democratic star fundraiser Rep. Katie Porter and Republican Scott Baugh, whom the NRCC has put on its Young Guns program for extra campaign help, advanced to the general election in the 47th District. Porter had 51 percent of the vote to Baugh’s 31 percent as of 2 a.m. Eastern Wednesday, when the AP called the race. 

Iowa

Franken beats Finkenauer: Retired Adm. Michael Franken blocked former Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s Senate run Tuesday by capturing the party’s nomination with 57 percent to her 38 percent at 10:13 p.m. Eastern, when the AP called the race. Finkenauer lost her House seat to GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson in 2020 after serving only one term. Franken, who had $250,000 cash on hand as of May 18, will face an uphill race for the seat against longtime Sen. Charles E. Grassley, who held more than $4.3 million in his campaign account May 18. Inside Elections rates the race as Solid Republican.

Axne-Nunn race set: Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne will face state Sen. Zach Nunn, who won the GOP primary in Iowa’s 3rd District, one of the nation’s signature November battlegrounds for control of the House. Nunn beat fellow Republicans Nicole Hasso, an insurance executive, and business owner Gary Leffler with 68 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 10:15 p.m. Eastern. The race is expected to attract big outside spending, as some of the chief congressional super PACs have already reserved air time heading into the fall. Inside Elections  rates the race a Toss-up.

Mississippi

The only Republican in Mississippi’s delegation to vote to have an independent commission investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol will have to win a runoff in less than two weeks to keep his seat. Two-term Rep. Michael Guest, a former prosecutor and self-described “conservative Christian leader” who listed his top priorities in 2018 as securing the border and building a wall, was running behind Navy veteran and one-time test pilot Michael Cassidy.

With an estimated 96 percent of the vote counted, The Associated Press made the call Wednesday at 2:06 p.m. Eastern that the two would be in a runoff. Cassidy had 47.5 percent to Guest’s 46.9 percent in the three-candidate race. Candidates in Mississippi have to get more than 50 percent to win primaries or the top two finishers meet in a runoff on June 28.

Cassidy cited Guest’s vote for the Jan. 6 commission on his campaign website, deriding the incumbent as a “pro-amnesty RINO” who has “been silent on the spread of Leftist social values.” He pledged to “hold the Establishment’s feet to the fire on numerous America First issues, including election integrity and the removal of all COVID mandates and restrictions.”

The commission, which would have been bipartisan and modeled after one that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, passed the House with support from 35 Republicans, but it did not advance in the Senate. After that, House Democrats and two Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — voted to create a select committee that was more under the Democrats’ control. That panel is due to hold a public presentation of its findings Thursday. 

Palazzo headed to runoff: Rep. Steven Palazzo, a Republican facing ethical scrutiny for allegedly spending campaign money on personal expenses, asking official staff to perform personal and campaign-related tasks and misusing his position to boost his brother’s Naval career, is headed to a runoff after failing to win a majority of the vote in Tuesday’s primary. 

Palazzo had 32 percent in the five-way race when the AP reported at 10:34 Eastern that he would be one of the candidates in the runoff. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell took the second spot with 25 percent in a call made Wednesday at 1:40 p.m. The allegations against Palazzo surfaced after a 2019 primary challenger noticed irregularities in his campaign finance reports and hired a private investigator, who turned his findings over to the Campaign Legal Center. The nonprofit watchdog group filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, Mississippi Today reported. The OCE detailed its findings in a report released in 2021 and handed the matter to the House Ethics Committee, which has said it is looking into the allegations.

Montana

Zinke battles in bid for comeback: Former Rep. Ryan Zinke’s bid to return to Congress was too close to call Wednesday morning. The former Interior secretary was leading former state Sen. Al Olszewski in a field of five candidates in the 1st District Republican primary.

With an estimated 93 percent of the vote counted before 2 p.m. Eastern, Zinke had 41.4 percent to Olszewski’s 40 percent. The nominee will face Democrat Monica Tranel, an attorney.

Zinke previously represented the state as an at-large member before the state gained a seat through reapportionment after the 2020 census. Inside Elections rates the race as Likely Republican.

New Jersey

Payne beats back challenge from ‘extreme left’: Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. won the Democratic primary for New Jersey’s 10th District with 84 percent of the vote, while challenger Imani Oakley had 12 percent when AP called the race at 9:26 p.m. Tuesday.

Oakley’s primary challenge sparked Payne to step up his fundraising and campaign efforts this year, as he sought the Democratic nomination in his bid for a sixth full term. Payne also secured endorsements from several other House members, who noted his support for progressive policies. 

“Rep. Payne, a proven progressive, is facing a primary challenge from the extreme left,” Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Terri A. Sewell of Alabama and Cheri Bustos of Illinois said in a joint statement through Team BLUE PAC before voting closed on Tuesday. The race in November is rated Solid Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

Menendez Jr. takes nomination: Attorney Rob Menendez won the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Albio Sires in New Jersey’s 8th District, taking 82 percent of the vote in a three-candidate field when AP called the race at 10:07 p.m. Eastern. 

Menendez is the son of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who held the seat before Sires. He will face Marcos Arroyo, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination, in the general election. Inside Elections rates that race Solid Democratic. Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report with Amy E. Walter on Tuesday called it “perhaps the least competitive open seat race in the country.”

Kean set for Malinowski rematch: Former state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. won the GOP nomination in New Jersey’s 7th District with 45 percent of the vote, setting up a 2020 rematch with Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski. Six other Republicans also ran in the primary, which the AP called for Kean tat 10:03 p.m.

Kean, whose father is a former governor, came within 1.2 percentage points of defeating Malinowski two years ago, and the district became more favorable for Republicans this cycle. Malinowski has also had to contend with an ethics investigation after he failed to report stock trades.

Some of Kean’s primary opponents argued that he isn’t conservative enough, but the National Republican Campaign Committee named him to its “Young Guns” program for promising candidates who meet certain fundraising and communications benchmarks.  Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as a Toss-up. 

New Mexico

Vasquez to face Herrell in 2nd District: Progressive former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabriel Vasquez won the Democratic primary to challenge GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell in November. Vasquez, a former aide to New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, had 79 percent of the vote to 21 percent for physician and labor leader Darshan Patel when the AP called the race at 9:01 p.m. Eastern. Herrell was unopposed in her primary. The race in November is rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections.

South Dakota

Johnson fends off challenge: GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson fended off a primary from his right brought by state Rep. Taffy Howard, who accused him of not being vigorous enough in his support for Trump. 

Johnson had 61 percent of the vote to Howard’s 39 percent when the AP called the race at 10:43 Eastern. 

Johnson had raised $1.9 million to Howard’s $310,000 as of May 18, and the incumbent still had $2.5 million in the bank. But the race attracted the attention of outside groups representing different factions of the GOP. The traditional conservative Defending Main Street PAC spent $218,000 to help Johnson, who also got $147,000 in outside support from American Dream Federal Action, a super PAC solely funded by cryptocurrency billionaire Ryan Salame. The far-right Drain the DC Swamp PAC and Freedom’s Action PAC spent $552,000 to boost Howard’s campaign. 

The race in November is rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections.