Wacky Wins in a Senate Primary; Incumbents Watkins & Clay Lose

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 5, 2020 — We review last night’s primary action in the states of Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Arizona and Washington:


Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend)

The 2020 election cycle’s wackiest Senate primary ended last night with a big victory for Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) as he defeated former secretary of state and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach and Kansas City Plumbing Company owner and self-funder Bob Hamilton in the statewide Republican primary.

The Marshall victory margin is 40-26-19 percent over the two men, while former Kansas City Chiefs football player and state Turnpike Commission chairman Dave Lindstrom captured 6.7 percent of the vote, best among the also-ran candidates.

The race featured both parties making seven-figure media buys. The national Republican leadership, however, came in to run negative spots against Kobach, a risky strategy in case he would become their nominee. It was clear that Republican survey research provided virtually the same results that Democrats were seeing, namely Kobach winning his primary would give the Democrats the inside track toward snatching away what should be a safe Republican seat.

The other unusual Kansas Senate facet was seeing Democratic organizations come into the state to actively boost Kobach in the GOP primary. He lost the 2018 governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly, and the party leaders believed Kobach would be the weakest general election candidate to oppose their party’s consensus nominee, state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills). Now, she must run against the Republicans’ presumed strongest candidate, Rep. Marshall.

Interestingly, the most recent publicly released poll, which dated back to the beginning of June from the Civiqs organization surveying for the Daily Kos Elections website, found Rep. Marshall and Sen. Bollier falling into a virtual tie. It is likely, however, as the new Republican nominee, that Marshall will become a clear favorite to win in November.

In Topeka, freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R), who was recently indicted for voter fraud from actions in an election other than his own, captured a mere 34 percent of the vote in a three-way race and lost to state Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R), who posted just under the 50 percent mark. LaTurner now advances into the general election against Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla, who easily won the Democratic primary. The nature of the district favors the Republican nominee, as last night’s almost 2:1 turnout factor yielded, so LaTurner should be considered the favorite for the Fall.


In Kansas’s neighboring state of Missouri, another House member, this time 10-term veteran Lacy Clay, was upended in the Democratic primary. Pastor and 2018 congressional candidate Cori Bush, with the outside help of the national Justice Democrats PAC, knocked Congressman Clay out of office with a 4,600 vote win, translating into a three percentage point victory.

Watkins and Clay became the sixth and seventh House members to be denied re-nomination during the current election cycle. The pair join Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Steve King (R-IA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Scott Tipton (R-CO), and Eliot Engel (D-NY) as members failing to win re-nomination in their respective primaries.


All congressional incumbents seeking re-election were re-nominated last night, with the biggest surprises coming in the state’s 6th District. There, state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), the clear favorite in the race after raising just under $1.4 million, looks to have barely slipped past educator Jen Richardson who spent less than $100,000. The second surprise was 17-term Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) obtaining only 62 percent of the vote against a candidate who literally spent nothing on her campaign. This now becomes a very interesting general election campaign.

The open 10th District Republican primary will likely take some time to determine a winner. According to the latest results release, financial executive Lisa McClain holds about a 3,200 vote lead over state Rep. Shane Hernandez (R-Port Huron) in a race that still has thousands of votes to count and has reported seesaw results between these two competitors. Ultimately, the declared winner becomes the next representative in the safely Republican district.


Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) was nominated with 76 percent of the vote and faces retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) in the general election. The latter man, who has already raised over $46 million for his campaign, was unopposed last night.

In the state’s expansive and politically marginal 1st District, two-term Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona) was unimpressive in scoring only a 59 percent Democratic primary win over former Flagstaff City Councilwoman Eva Putzova despite outspending her by more than a 2:1 margin. Advancing into the general election is attorney Tiffany Shedd, who captured the Republican nomination with a 54 percent primary win. In the 2nd District, Defense contractor and Army veteran Brandon Martin won the Republican nomination with a plurality vote and now faces an uphill challenge against Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Tucson) in the Fall.


In the state’s jungle primary, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) came just short of the 52 percent mark in a field of 35 candidates. He is a major re-election favorite in November against local police chief Loren Culp (R), who placed second in the field and advances into the general election.

With only about half of the all-mail ballots counted, it appears every House incumbent with the exception of freshman Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Sammamish) will at least reach the 50 percent mark. Schrier was only hovering around the 44 percent mark in what looks like an even turnout between Democrats and Republicans, which is a surprisingly low position at this point in the counting for the incumbent.

In the open 10th District, it appears that two Democrats will advance into the general election. Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland is first, but the battle is for second place and a slot on the general election ballot. State Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia) maintains only a small lead over former state representative Kristine Reeves, but with only 41 percent of the vote reporting. It is clear no Republican will qualify for the general election, and the finalists will be two of the three aforementioned Democratic candidates.

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