Nebraska & West Virginia Primary

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, May 14, 2024


Only minor primary opposition today adorns the key races in the Cornhusker State of Nebraska. Republicans hold the two US Senate and all three of the state’s House seats, but only one race appears highly competitive in the general election.

Appointed Sen. Pete Ricketts, the former two-term governor, must win nomination tonight and the election in November to serve the balance of the current term. Sen. Deb Fischer is unencumbered toward winning a third term in November. She has only minor Republican opponents today, and no Democratic opposition in November.

Last year, Sen. Ben Sasse (R) resigned his seat to become president of the University of Florida. Should Sen. Ricketts be successful this year, and such is expected, he has already committed to run for a full term in 2026.

The three House incumbents, Reps. Mike Flood (R-Norfolk), Don Bacon (R-Papillion/ Omaha), and Adrian Smith (R-Gering) face only minor opposition today. Rep. Bacon will again have another difficult general election challenge in his swing 2nd District. This time, as was the case in 2022, state Sen. Tony Vargas (D-Omaha) will be his general election opponent. In that election, Rep. Bacon was re-elected with a 53-4 percent victory margin.

West Virginia

The West Virginia primary also features a key open Senate race. Gov. Jim Justice (R) is the prohibitive favorite to defeat Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) in that race this evening. In the general election, he will likely face Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott, who is favored for the Democratic nomination.

Converting the West Virginia seat will be the lynch pin to Republicans potentially capturing the Senate majority. With Sen. Joe Manchin (D) not seeking re-election, this seat becomes the top national Republican conversion opportunity and one they are not likely to miss.

Of the remaining five-top tier (or eventual top tier) races, winning West Virginia would mean the Republicans would need to win only one of the remaining five to hold an outright majority. With the Senate map favoring the Republicans in this election, but not in 2026 or 2028, it is imperative for the GOP to reach 53 or 54 seats if they are to develop a sustained majority. Democrats sweeping the top tier, however, would allow the party to hold the majority at 50-50 if President Joe Biden is re-elected.

In Rep. Mooney’s open 2nd District, state Treasurer Riley Moore, nephew of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R), has the inside track for the Republican nomination. He has opposition from four Republicans, the most substantial of whom are retired Air Force General Christopher Walker and cyber security consultant Joe Early. In WV-2, winning tonight’s GOP primary is tantamount to claiming the seat in November.

The open governor’s race is likely to be the most interesting race of all. Polling has been erratic here, but Attorney General Patrick Morrisey looks to have the best chance for victory. Former state Delegate Moore Capito, Sen. Capito’s son, is a formidable contender as is Chris Miller, son of US Rep. Carol Miller (R-Huntington). The race has turned highly negative.

AG Morrisey has won three terms as state attorney general but lost a close 2018 campaign against Sen. Manchin. Capito has the family name which goes a long way in this state’s politics. Miller is also from a political family and has become a viable candidate. It is unlikely, however, that he has enough to overtake either Morrisey or Capito, but it appears he will make a credible showing. Secretary of State Mac Warner is also competitive but has never placed higher than fourth in any polling conducted after the first of the year.

Next up on the primary schedule, slotted for next Tuesday, May 21, are Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, and Oregon.

Runoffs – North Carolina

Today is also runoff day in the Tar Heel State for those candidates not receiving 30 percent in the March 5 primary. Two congressional races featured runoffs, but in both cases the second place finisher has dropped their candidacy.

Therefore, legislative advocate Addison McDowell in the open Greensboro anchored 6th District, and Brad Knott, in the newly configured 13th CD, will be officially made the Republican nominees tonight. In both situations, the two men will have easy runs in the general election (McDowell is even unopposed) and will succeed Democrats Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) and Wiley Nickel (D-Cary) in the respective districts. Both are important conversion seats for the GOP.

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