By Jim Ellis
Aug. 4, 2016 — Voters in four states went to the polls Tuesday, and the primary evening’s top news featured western Kansas Republicans unseating their three-term Freedom Caucus congressman.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler) fell to Dr. Roger Marshall (R), 56-44 percent, effectively ending his six-year tenure in the House. Huelskamp was at odds with the Republican leadership from the very beginning of his congressional career, even driving them to remove him from the Agriculture Committee, the industry of premier dominance in his district. The situation deteriorated to the point that even the Kansas Farm Bureau and the state Livestock Association officially backed Dr. Marshall.
Though national issues drove Huelskamp, it was the local agriculture situation that cost him the seat. The successful opposition campaign centered around Huelskamp’s ouster from the Agriculture Committee in one of the nation’s richest farm producing districts, and the incumbent’s refusal to support the farm bill in several Congresses. Dr. Marshall will easily win the seat in the general election.
Rep. Huelskamp is the third sitting member to be denied re-nomination in the 2016 election cycle. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Chesapeake) lost his post-redistricting primary battle after the court-mandated mid-decade plan forced him into a brand new district. Earlier, Pennsylvania Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Philadelphia) lost his bid for a twelfth term because he was convicted of multiple federal corruption charges.
Elsewhere, all other federal Senate and House incumbents facing primary challenges were easily victorious or, in the case of Washington state, advanced to the general election from the jungle primary.
Turning to open seats, Michigan produced two upset victories. Retired Marine Corps General Jack Bergman (R) defeated establishment favorite state Sen. Tom Casperson (R) and ex-state Sen. Jason Allen (R) in the Upper Peninsula’s 1st District. The latter man ran the last time the seat was open, in 2010, and lost to current Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls/Upper Peninsula) by just 15 votes in that year’s primary. This time, the final split was 39-32-29 percent.
For the Democrats, state party chairman Lon Johnson scored a robust 72-28 percent win over 2014 congressional nominee Jerry Cannon. Johnson will now pair with Gen. Bergman in the general election, an affair that promises to be hotly contested. This race will likely enter the toss-up category.
In the open 10th District, where Rep. Candice Miller (R-Harrison Township) is seeking local office, businessman Paul Mitchell (R), aided with a multi-million dollar expenditure from his own pocket, defeated three current and former state legislators and a businessman to claim the GOP nomination. In 2014, Mitchell ran in the open 4th District and also spent more than $3 million only to lose. His spending, against opponents who had little in the way of finances, allowed him to reverse his fortunes last night. Mitchell now becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election.
Switching to Missouri, both Sen. Roy Blunt (R) and Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) topped and equaled the 70 percent mark in their respective party primaries. The four-way Republican race for governor went to former Afghan/Iraq War veteran Eric Greitens who won the primary by a 10-point margin over businessman John Brunner, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and former US Attorney and ex-House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. Greitens now faces Attorney General Chris Koster who was an easy winner on the Democratic side. Democratic incumbent Jay Nixon is ineligible to seek a third term.
In Washington, Sen. Patty Murray (D) cruised to a first-place finish in the state’s jungle primary and will face former state Republican Party chairman and ex-King County Councilman Chris Vance who also advanced to the general election. In the race for governor, incumbent Jay Inslee (D) could manage only 49 percent of the vote, placing ahead of Republican Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant who posted 38 percent. This contest could become surprisingly competitive in the general election.
All incumbents advanced to the general election. In the 4th District, freshman Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Sunnyside) will likely again face his past Republican opponent, former NFL pro football player and conservative activist Clint Didier (R), in the general election. With almost 40 percent of the mail votes to count, Didier maintains a five-percentage point advantage over his next closest rival.
The open 7th District (Rep. Jim McDermott D-Seattle) will send two Democrats to the general election, though it will be several days before we see exactly which one. State Sen. Pramila Jayapal (D) has clinched one of the general election positions, easily placing first. Separated by about 500 votes with just over 20 percent of the ballots remaining to be counted, are King County Councilman and former state legislator Joe McDermott (D) and state Rep. Barry Walkinshaw (D).