August 14, 2022, 15:35


4 winners and 1 loser from the Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and Michigan primaries

4 winners and 1 loser from the Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and Michigan primaries

Voters in five states — Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington — went to the polls Tuesday to select who will move on to a slew of competitive general election races and, in one case, tell us about the political ramifications of the Supreme Court’s June decision rolling back abortion rights.

Here are four winners and one loser based on what we know from Tuesday’s results so far.

Winner: Abortion rights

Kansas was the first state to put abortion rights on the ballot, in a referendum, since this summer’s Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade. And abortion rights won big.

Kansans rejected an amendment to the state’s constitution that would have removed protections for the right to an abortion, voting to do so by double digits. The Kansas state Supreme Court had previously ruled that the state constitution protected the right to an abortion. This amendment, backed by conservative organizers, would have removed one crucial barrier to the Republican state legislature’s ability to enact more aggressive abortion bans than the 22-week one it currently has.

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Abortion was on the ballot in Kansas. Access won.

Tuesday’s outcome is a pretty big statement considering the obstacles abortion rights advocates faced: Confusing wording on the measure (voting “no” meant keeping protections in place), a state where Republicans vastly outnumber Democrats, and a slate of GOP primaries that Republicans hoped would juice their voter turnout relative to Democrats’.

This calculus, however, was mistaken. Turnout was massive across the political board, far exceeding the previous two primaries. In Johnson County, which contains suburbs of Kansas City, almost four times as many early votes had been cast this year, compared to the same primary in 2018, according to the Kansas City Star.

For now, abortion rights are preserved in a state that, as Vox’s Rachel Cohen reported, expects a huge influx of women from neighboring states seeking abortion care. And, for Democrats who saw blowback over the Supreme Court decision as a way to mobilize their voters, the first bellwether is a big win.

Winner: ERIC (Schmitt, that is)

After months of lobbying from Missouri’s GOP Senate candidates, former President Donald Trump issued a trollish non-endorsement on the eve of the primary. In a statement on Monday, he said he was “proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” leaving candidates Eric Greitens, Missouri’s disgraced former governor, and Eric Schmitt, the state’s current attorney general, both empty-handed and happy to issue simultaneous tweets touting the “endorsement.”

Schmitt wound up beating both six-term Rep. Vicky Hartzler — who had the backing of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) — and Greitens, by double digits. It’s a notable victory for Schmitt, who won without help from Trump, and who is the favorite going into the general election this fall given the state’s Republican tilt. The prospect of a scandal-plagued Greitens winning had many Republicans concerned — and Democrats hopeful for a pickup opportunity. Schmitt has clearly defined himself as a “Trump Republican,” and previously joined other GOP officials to back unsuccessful lawsuits challenging the 2020 election outcomes in other states. But he has a lot less baggage than Greitens, and his win will dampen the likelihood of a safe Republican seat becoming competitive.

Schmitt will face off against Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, a nurse and scion of the famous Anheuser-Busch family, in the general election.

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Loser: Progressives

Redistricting pitted two Democratic incumbents in Michigan against one another in the state’s 11th District, and incidentally also set up a direct contest between the two wings of the party.

Progressive Rep. Andy Levin lost that contest to his moderate colleague, Rep. Haley Stevens. The contentious race involved fights over support for Israel (Stevens was backed by the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC) and appeals to Black voters, and drew in hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside contributions.

In the Missouri Senate primary, veteran Lucas Kunce also lost to Busch Valentine after mounting a populist campaign focused on challenging corporate power, and garnering the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

There were bright spots for progressives in Missouri and Michigan, where Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) easily held off primary challengers.

Winner, at least in the short term: Democratic meddling in GOP races

Democrats got what they wanted in Michigan’s Third District. But there’s a big looming question about whether landing in the winner column is worth it.

As they have in multiple races this cycle, Democrats spent significant money to boost a more extreme, and they hope, more beatable Republican candidate in Trump-backed election denier John Gibbs. And more than they have in other races this cycle, they faced harsh criticism for the tactic from inside and outside their party over their efforts to take down incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer, a rare Republican who voted to impeach Trump.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in this case spent more than $400,000 in ads linking Gibbs and Trump. Given his massive cash disadvantage to Meijer, it seems the infusion of ads by Democrats was probably decisive. Meijer conceded early Wednesday.

Meijer castigated Democrats as hypocrites for boosting extremists, and plenty of people agree with him. But other Democrats say it’s justified — it’s ultimately Republicans picking between candidates. “It’s clear that, no matter what Republican is nominated, they are going to get pushed to move to where their base is,” Democratic strategist Jared Leopold told Vox’s Nicole Narea last month. “So the best path is to do what you can to set up the best environment for Democrats to win.”

Gibbs will face Democrat Hillary Scholten in a seat Democrats now have a chance to flip — it’s rated a toss-up by Cook Political Report. But it’s also possible Democrats put another extreme Republican on the path to a seat in Congress.

Winner: Trump acolytes in Arizona and beyond

Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial primary, where Democrats spent to boost election denier Kari Lake, has yet to be called. Lake currently has a narrow lead as of Wednesday morning.

Lake’s race is closer than many Arizonans would have expected earlier this year given Trump’s fervent early backing of her. But his picks dominated other races in the state. His preferred candidates for secretary of state, state Rep. Mark Finchem, and Senate, venture capitalist Blake Masters, successfully beat back candidates who held Trump’s election lies at least at arm’s length. Separately, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers lost a bid for state Senate after previously refusing to challenge the state election results in 2020 and testifying about pressure he faced from Trump before the January 6 committee.

These wins were a decisive victory for Trump in a state where establishment Republicans, including his former Vice President Mike Pence and current GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, backed more establishment picks. All of Trump’s candidates fully embraced the denial in a primary that was largely focused on relitigating the 2020 election.

Trump also saw victories in Michigan and Kansas. Businesswoman and political commentator Tudor Dixon, a Trump-backed candidate for the gubernatorial seat, won a five-person primary. Unlike the Arizona candidates, however, Dixon has more recently skirted questions about the 2020 election despite previously arguing that it was stolen. In Kansas, longtime Trump ally and former state Attorney General Kris Kobach also won his primary for secretary of state, his third attempt to return to state government after losing the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly in 2018.

Update, August 3, 8 am Eastern: This post has been updated to reflect results in Michigan and Arizona.

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