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Election roundup: Mace wins early, Golden to face ex-NASCAR driver

Republicans win open Ohio seat, but must have runoff in South Carolina district

South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after a meeting on the debt limit plan with Speaker Kevin McCarthy on April 26, 2023.
South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after a meeting on the debt limit plan with Speaker Kevin McCarthy on April 26, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Republican Conference will get a new member soon after voters in an Ohio district filled a vacant seat Tuesday. In Maine, a former NASCAR driver will face a Democrat on the GOP’s target list. Republicans in South Carolina, meanwhile, backed two incumbents over their challengers in a marquee races, but an open seat is headed for a GOP runoff in two weeks. North Dakota also picked nominees for an open seat, while Republicans in Nevada chose challengers for targeted Democrats.

Here’s a rundown of those elections.

Ohio

Rulli to fill Johnson seat: Michael Rulli, a Republican state senator whose family name is on grocery stores, won a special election to the 6th District seat that has been vacant since Rep. Bill Johnson resigned in January.

Rulli had 52 percent to Democrat Michael Kripchak’s 48 percent when The Associated Press called the special election at 9:02 p.m. Eastern time. When he is sworn in, Republicans will hold 219 seats to Democrats’ 213.

Rulli won a close primary victory against a fellow state lawmaker in March in part because his state legislative district lined up with more of the House district. He said his focus will be on growing the local economy, including manufacturing and energy industries in eastern Ohio.

Maine

Ex-NASCAR driver laps opponent: State Rep. Austin Theriault, a former NASCAR driver backed by former President Donald Trump and national Republicans, won the nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Jared Golden in the 2nd District. 

Theriault had 70 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 8:52 p.m., defeating fellow state Rep. Mike Soboleski, a former actor in TV police dramas. 

Theriault was the clear fundraising leader, taking in $1.2 million to Soboleski’s $117,000 as of May 22. 

Golden, who in 2018 flipped a district that backed Trump in 2016 and won reelection by 6 percentage points in 2020 when district voters again backed Trump, had raised $3.7 million through May 22. He had $2.4 million on hand to Theriault’s $581,000.

Golden has shown he’s a good fit for voters, but Republicans think Theriault, 30, will be a strong counter to the incumbent especially with new policy dynamics that could play out this year. 

After a mass shooting in the district in 2023 left 18 people dead, Golden said he would support an assault weapons ban after previously opposing such proposals. Theriault has sought to go on offense on the issue, criticizing Golden for proposing a government gun registry.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the November race Lean Democratic.

Nevada

Brown to face Rosen: After picking up Trump’s endorsement Sunday, retired Army Capt. Sam Brown cruised to victory in Nevada’s Republican Senate primary and will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen in November in one of the most watched contests in the country.

Brown was ahead of Jeff Gunter, who served as ambassador to Iceland in the Trump administration, 57-17 percent when the AP called the race at 11:11 p.m. Eastern. Brown had the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee after running as an outsider candidate in the GOP primary for Nevada’s other Senate seat two years ago.

Inside Elections has the Nevada Senate race rated Tilt Democratic, one of four contests in that category.

Robertson to face Titus again: Retired Army Col. Mark Robertson gets a rematch with incumbent Democratic Rep. Dina Titus after securing the Republican nomination in Nevada’s 1st District.

Personal spending was not enough for restaurant owner Flemming Larsen to overcome Robertson’s name ID. Robertson was ahead of Larsen, 49 percent to 39 percent, in the five-candidate field after the AP called the race at 1:44 a.m. Eastern.

The race is rated Likely Democratic by Inside Elections.

Johnson to face Lee: Drew Johnson, a conservative policy analyst and former Washington Times columnist, emerged from a crowded primary field as the Republican challenger to Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in Southern Nevada’s 3rd District.

Johnson, who made his case in an interview with CQ Roll Call during early voting, was traveling to the far-flung reaches of the district outside Las Vegas looking for voters who were potentially being ignored by top candidates Marty O’Donnell and Dan Schwartz. Turnout in Nevada appeared to be low, contributing to the unpredictability of the primary. The general election contest is rated Likely Democratic by Inside Elections.

Johnson was ahead with 32 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 1:38 a.m. Eastern. Schwartz, a former state treasurer, was running second with 23 percent.

North Dakota

Fedorchak wins nod to succeed Armstrong: Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak won the Republican primary to succeed Rep. Kelly Armstrong in the state’s at-large House seat.

Fedorchak had 46 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 10:19 p.m. Eastern time. Former state Rep. Rick Becker had 29 percent in the five-candidate field. Trygve Hammer won the Democratic primary.

Armstrong won the Republican nomination for governor and had 68 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 9:21 p.m. He’ll face Merrill Piepkorn, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Both races in November are rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections.

South Carolina

Mace crushes rival: Rep. Nancy Mace, who battled with some ultraconservative members of the Republican conference but also voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy, pushed back a primary challenge from fellow Republican Catherine Templeton in the 1st District.

Mace, who is seeking her third term, had 58 percent of the vote to Templeton’s 29 percent in a three-candidate race when The Associated Press called the race at 8:40 p.m.

Since coming to Congress in 2021, Mace has cultivated a reputation as a fiscally conservative but socially moderate Republican who craves the limelight. 

Templeton, the former director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, had the backing of McCarthy. Mace was endorsed by Trump.

The race got expensive: Some outside groups have spent $5.3 million to help Templeton, while others spent $2.6 million to help Mace.

Templeton’s backers included $3.8 million from South Carolina Patriots PAC, a super PAC that reported most of its money coming from another super PAC that has not disclosed most of its donors. She also benefited from $652,000 spent by WFW PAC, which backs Republican women running for Congress.

Outside spending to support Mace included $1 million by Club for Growth Action and another $1.5 million by Win It Back PAC, a group whose top donors include Club for Growth Action.

Mace will face the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary, business executive Michael B. Moore, in November. Inside Elections rates the race Likely Republican.

GOP runoff in 3rd District: The Republican primary for an open seat held by retiring Rep. Jeff Duncan will be decided June 25 after none of the seven candidates got more than 50 percent of the vote. 

Trump-endorsed pastor and motivational speaker Mark Burns and psychiatric nurse practitioner Sheri Biggs were the top two vote-getters, with 31 percent and 30 percent, respectively, when the AP declared at 9:16 p.m. that the race would go to a runoff.

Paint store manager Byron Best easily won the Democratic primary, with more than 60 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 8:30 p.m.

The seat has been held since 2011 by Duncan, a Republican who routinely won with 70 percent of the vote. Duncan said in January he would not seek reelection. Inside Elections rates the November race as Solid Republican. 

Good night for fours: Rep. William R. Timmons IV won the nomination for a fourth term in the 4th District, defeating state Rep. Adam Morgan in a primary that attacked Timmons’ support for House GOP leadership.

Just before midnight Tuesday, when the AP called the race, Timmons had 52 percent of the vote. 

The primary contest featured two conservative Republicans whose differences were more strategic and stylistic than ideological. Both Timmons and Morgan are strong conservatives, but Morgan charged that the incumbent failed to aggressively battle party leaders such as McCarthy. 

Timmons won Trump’s endorsement and questioned his opponent’s commitment to the former president.

Timmons had the clear financial advantage. He raised more than $2.4 million since the start of the election cycle to Morgan’s $578,000. Defend American Jobs, a super PAC affiliated with the cryptocurrency industry, spent $1.9 million to support Timmons, while the American Principles Project, a conservative PAC, spent $274,000 on ads backing Morgan.

Democrat Kathryn Harvey was unopposed in the primary, but the November race in the upstate district that includes Greenville and Spartanburg is rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections.

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