Today’s Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2018 — Today brings another set of primaries, this time from five states: Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia.


the-primariesSen. Angus King (I) stands for a second term, and today’s primary will be a non-event. Both the Republicans and Democrats have only one candidate on the ballot. State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Kennebec County), who was the Maine State Director for the 2012 Ron Paul for President campaign, will be the GOP nominee, while teacher Zak Ringelstein is the Democratic candidate. Sen. King is a prohibitive favorite for re-election.

The open governor’s race is a wild affair for both parties. Gov. Paul LePage (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. The Democrats are fielding seven candidates and the Repblicans, four. Expect the general election to be competitive.

The 2nd District Democratic congressional primary is of keen interest, as a three-way contest culminates among state Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston), wealthy conservationist Lucas St. Clair, and former Islesboro Selectman Craig Olson. The resource battle is between Golden and St. Clair, and both figure to spend more than $800,000 in attempting to secure the party nomination. The winner will challenge two-term Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) in the general election.


The Silver State political card is full with contested races for Senate, governor, and three House races.

Though the Senate primary results are a foregone conclusion, the general election campaign between Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) could well become one of the premier national Senate races. This is a must-win race for the Democrats. On the other hand, a victory for Sen. Heller will very likely ensure that the Republicans retain the Senate majority.

In the open governor’s race, Attorney General Adam Laxalt appears set to easily defeat state Treasurer Dan Schwartz for the Republican nomination. The Democratic contest comes down to a virtual two-way contest between a pair of Clark County Commissioners, Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani. The general election winner will succeed term-limited Gov. Brian Sandoval (R).

In the House races, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) should have little trouble turning back a primary challenge from former US Senate nominee and ex-state legislator Sharron Angle and two other GOP candidates. Rep. Amodei is the prohibitive favorite today and for the general election.

The 3rd District is open for the second time in two election cycles because freshman Rep. Rosen is running for the Senate. The big question here is whether perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian will again win a plurality primary election in a crowded Republican candidate field. State Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) and former television news reporter Michelle Mortensen appear to be his strongest competitors. Tarkanian has lost four general elections and a statewide Republican primary, but he has been successful in winning other past nomination battles. In 2016, he lost the congressional general election to Rosen, 47-46 percent. The Democratic favorite is education activist Susie Lee, who has amassed strong party establishment support.

The 4th District is open because freshman Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) is not seeking a second term, and a today’s vote is likely to produce a general election re-match. In 2014, then-Rep. Steven Horsford (D) lost his seat to Republican Cresent Hardy. Two years later, Rep. Kihuen would unseat Hardy. The pair of 2014 nominees are again favored to meet in this year’s general election, though Mr. Horsford must first get past state Sen. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) in the Democratic primary. Both parties also have several minor candidates on the ballot. This will be a campaign to watch for the general election.


Due to the state’s strong party convention system, the nominations are essentially set even before the first votes are tabulated in today’s primary election.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) seeks her first re-election and at-large US Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) became the de facto Republican nominee at the state party convention in April. The general election campaign is already well underway.

In the open at-large House seat, the general election nominees will be state senator and former North Dakota Republican Party chairman Kelly Armstrong (R-Dickinson) and ex-state Senate Democratic Leader Mac Schneider (D-Grand Forks). While Schneider is unopposed in his primary, Sen. Armstrong faces two minor opponents. An Armstrong-Schneider at-large general election will heavily favor the Republican.


Two major races are on the ballot. The governor’s campaign features incumbent Henry McMaster (R) running for his first term after he ascended to the position when Gov. Nikki Haley (R) resigned to become US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Today’s question is whether Gov. McMaster can win the Republican nomination outright, or will be forced to a secondary run-off election scheduled for June 26. His main opponents are former state cabinet official Catherine Templeton and businessman John Warren. Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, appointed to replace McMaster when the latter man left the office to become governor, lags way behind the top three candidates in polling. For the Democrats, state Rep. James Smith (D-Columbia) appears to be the heavy favorite to win the nomination outright.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg) is retiring after four terms, and a crowded Republican field is left in his wake. A grand total of 13 Republicans are running for the nomination, meaning a run-off is a certainty. Several business people, state legislators, and military veterans are working to secure one of two run-off slots. The eventual Republican nominee should be a lock for the general election.


The Commonwealth of Virginia’s unique nomination system culminates tonight with primaries in the US Senate race and various congressional districts.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D) will learn the identity of his general election opponent. He will likely have an easy ride to re-election whether he faces Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart, state Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), or pastor and former lieutenant governor nominee E.W. Jackson.

Two congressional nominations were already decided in convention. Republican state Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge County) won the party nomination and now becomes the prohibitive favorite to replace retiring Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke). In the neighboring 5th District, businessman Denver Riggleman (R) was nominated in convention. He will oppose former 60 Minutes producer Leslie Cockburn (D) in the general election. Riggleman will be the favorite to replace retiring freshman Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville). This will likely become a competitive general election campaign, however.

The top race of the evening will be the Democratic primary in the state’s 10th Congressional District where six Democrats are vying for the opportunity of challenging two-term Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) in a northern Virginia district where Hillary Clinton outpaced President Trump by 10 full percentage points. Comstock is being challenged from the right, however, as financial consultant and frequent political candidate Shak Hill returns to compete for the district’s party nomination. Among the top Democrats are state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-Loudoun County), former State Department official Alison Friedman, and Iraq/Afghan War veteran Dan Helmer.

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