The Biggest Winners and losers of the U.S. Midterm primaries
The 2022 midterms are well underway with the completion of state primaries. Before the general election on November 4, voters are tasked with sifting through the remaining candidates and policies that will be placed on their ballots. Each state had its own heavily controversial or competitive races in the primaries, with results that shocked many. The biggest winners and losers were made evident by their vote count and overall support. Due to the interconnectedness of politics, it's unsurprising that some of the biggest players in the primary elections were not even the candidates themselves.
The 2022 primaries began in Texas on March 1 and concluded with Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island on September 13. The primaries pit Democrats against Democrats and Republicans against Republicans to decide who will be their nominee for the general election. Primaries also include municipal elections, but for the purposes of this analysis, the key players will be those running for state or national elections.
Biggest Winners: Election Denial
As many political commentators and followers have observed, the biggest Republican winner of the 2022 primaries was ultimately former President Donald Trump. According to National Public Radio, of the over 200 candidates he endorsed, “91% of Trump's candidates won their open primaries, and 4 of 10 challengers topped incumbents.”
His wins don’t end there. Eight 2020 election deniers running for Secretary of State positions will be on the ballot for the general election, and two of them are endorsed by Trump. Since the Secretary of State runs the elections division of each state’s government, Trump could be presented with the unique opportunity to erode the nonpartisan process with party interests. These new Secretaries of State have the potential to erode the nonpartisan process of elections if given the power to make decisions on behalf of Trump. Election denial goes beyond the candidacy for Secretaries of State: according to FiveThirtyEight, “Out of 552 total Republican nominees running for office… 201… fully denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election.”
For example, Mark Finchem (R-AZ), a Trump-endorsed candidate for Arizona’s Secretary of State, will appear on the ballot in November. Not only is Finchem an election denier, but he allegedly “communicated with leaders from the Stop the Steal organization regarding a January 6th event on the U.S. Capitol grounds…at which [he was] scheduled to speak.” “[He] also indicated that [he was] at the Capitol Grounds on January 6 and ‘took a few photos.’”
Biggest Winners: Trump Supported Candidates
Overall, Trump's biggest wins in this primary include Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL), John Gibbs (R-MI), and Kari Lake (R-AZ).
Governor Ron DeSantis has become a household name for his heavily conservative policies spreading across Florida and the United States. His popularity among conservatives meant that his primary race for gubernatorial re-election was essentially unopposed, and he is even considered a primary Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election. According to Pulse Opinion Research for U.S. Term Limits, 64% of Florida voters support DeSantis as the current governor.
John Gibbs, a Trump-endorsed candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan's 3rd congressional district, secured a revengeful win for Trump. Gibbs beat Peter Meijer, one of the 10 Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment, by just 3%.
Kari Lake, a Trump-endorsed candidate for Arizona Governor, beat former Vice President Mike Pence’s pick, Karrin Taylor Robson. Despite Robson’s endorsement by both Pence and outgoing Governor Doug Ducey, she was defeated by Lake with a 40,000 vote difference.
Biggest Winners: Democratic nominees
On the Democratic ballots, there were also largely anticipated results and wins. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried (D-FL) and former Republican Governor and Congressman Charlie Christ (D-FL) fought for the Democratic nomination for Governor. The Democratic party largely endorsed Christ, assuming his moderate policies would be more competitive than Fried’s in unseating incumbent DeSantis. Christ ultimately won 62.14% of the vote over Fried’s 32.50%.
Fried’s policies, although more in line with the Democratic platform, are very progressive for the general Florida population. Her policies support the legalization of marijuana, widespread public transportation, women's choice, and more. Ultimately, this race was a big win for Christ, who had taken a decade hiatus from state government. His policies on gun reform and border security have fluctuated since he started in the Florida Senate. However, his official campaign platform states that he favors reproductive rights and prison reform, leading many to believe he may have finally settled on supporting the Democratic agenda.
In Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey (D-MA), the first openly gay Attorney General, ran for governor, receiving over 500,000 more votes than her competitor, Congresswoman Sonia Chang Diaz (D-MA). This massive win for Healey encapsulated over 85% of the vote.
Biggest losers: Conservative Extremism
One of the most talked about candidates was North Carolina’s Madison Cawthorne (R), a self-proclaimed traditionalist running for re-election to the House of Representatives. From being ridiculed on social media to news reports on his inappropriate behavior, the offensive conduct of the youngest member of Congress alienated North Carolinian voters and key, more moderate leaders of the G.O.P. establishment, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Despite Trump’s backing, Cawthorne could not outrun his controversies. From tweets stating “There’s only one God and two genders” to his virulent views on hypermasculinity, illegal gun carrying, sexual assault allegations, and revealing photos, Cawthorne lost respectability and credibility in the eyes of NC voters throughout his re-election bid. Although he lost marginally, his reputation was potentially the biggest loser of this election.
Not all losses came in the form of elections this primary. Kansas voters had a controversial choice about an abortion ballot initiative. An overwhelming majority voted to reject the initiative, which would have “opened the door to allowing lawmakers to significantly restrict abortion rights in the state.” This conservative loss can also be considered a win in the eyes of the Kansas voters who feared what impact the initiative could have had on their rights.
What races should voters look out for?
Although not endorsed directly, Bob Burns (R-NH) is a Pro-Trump candidate running in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District. In this general election, he will run against Democratic Representative Annie Kuster (D-NH), a five-term incumbent. As can be observed by multiple primary elections this season, Trump affiliation appears to be a strong indicator of success, so voters are very interested to see how Burns will do against such an experienced member of Congress.
As mentioned before, Maura Healy won over 85% of the Democratic vote. Her Republican counterpart only received 149,000 votes in comparison to her 642,000. However, the race between Healy and Geoff Diehl (R-MA) is one to monitor as its results seem apparent at first glance but might be unpredictable as Massachusetts begins to “purple” and turn away from the “true-blue” Democratic establishment.
Speaking of purple, the state of Arizona is an example of a state that has been tightrope walking on the partisan line for decades. Unsurprisingly, Republican Kari Lake’s competitor for Governor received comparable votes: Lake’s 398,860 is not too far off from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ (D-AZ) 431,059. Given that the partisan split in the 2020 election was 0.3%, this election's outcome is a toss-up.
The primaries were incredibly unpredictable, but they help provide evidence for changing trends the government might be experiencing in coming years, both state and national. The general election may have similar outcomes depending on the number of voters who turn out this fall, given the extreme lack of participation in this primary. Ultimately, it's in the hands of those who take the time to participate in this fundamental aspect of democracy.