Elections

GOP Reps. Boebert, Miller Win Primary Battles Against More Centrist Candidates

Six states held primary elections, runoffs or special elections, providing hints of how voters are reacting to Roe v. Wade being overturned

FILE - Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., speaks before a gathering of potential voters in Magee, Miss., June 16, 2022
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

Two of Congress’ staunchest conservatives repelled more centrist challengers to lock up Republican nominations on Tuesday — even as the party’s voters chose to turn out a six-term incumbent in Mississippi.

Illinois Republican Rep. Mary Miller called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that had legalized abortion nationwide a “historic victory for white life” during a weekend rally with former President Donald Trump. Her spokesperson said she misspoke. She defeated fellow GOP incumbent Rodney Davis.

Another Trump ally, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of Congress’ most polarizing members, easily beat back a challenge from a more mainstream Republican.

Mississippi Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, a six-term incumbent, lost in a rare runoff to Sheriff Mike Ezell. But his Republican House colleague, Michael Guest, won a runoff race in the state, despite defying Trump and voting to create an independent commission to investigate last year’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In Illinois, Democratic Rep. Sean Casten beat progressive Rep. Marie Newman for a seat in suburban Chicago after a declining population cost the state a House seat.

Six states are holding congressional primary elections, primary runoffs or special elections. In addition to testing Trump's national influence, they are providing hints of how voters are reacting to the high court's decision on abortion.

Some of the top elections:

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BOEBERT’S STAYING POWER

Boebert, a first-term firebrand, saw her GOP-leaning 3rd Congressional District in western Colorado become even more Republican after redistricting. She had little trouble with moderate state Rep. Don Coram, a rancher and hemp farmer, who slams what he calls Boebert’s extremism.

Boebert has railed against the “Biden regime” and “socialist” Democrats. She trumpeted her gun-toting Second Amendment credentials and opposition to COVID-19 restrictions that briefly shuttered her “Shooters” restaurant.

Her opponent had been betting voters alienated by Boebert’s provocations would choose someone more in the tradition of centrists that have played well in the area, including five-term Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, who lost to Boebert in an upset last cycle. That didn't happen.

In Colorado’s deeply conservative El Paso County, meanwhile, eight-term Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn staved off a challenge from the right from state Rep. Dave Williams for his 5th Congressional District seat. Williams failed to get the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon,” code for an obscenity against Biden, added to his name on the ballot.

Lamborn faces an ongoing House ethics investigation over whether he misused official resources for personal purposes, has survived primary challenges in the past as an ardent opponent of abortion and backer of the significant U.S. military presence in Colorado Springs. Earlier this year, Williams led a 24-hour filibuster in the statehouse over a bill allowing unrestricted access to abortion. The bill eventually became law.

MILLER TOPS FELLOW INCUMBENT

Miller bested Davis for the GOP nomination in a sprawling, heavily red district in central Illinois that was redrawn after the state’s shrinking population cost it a congressional seat.

Miller, first elected in 2020, is no stranger to controversy. She quoted Adolf Hitler shortly after winning her seat, saying during a rally that “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’” She later apologized after Democrats in Illinois called for her resignation. She also voted against certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election and is a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.

On Saturday night, she made the “white life” comment as Trump stood behind her at a rally in Mendon, drawing cheers from the crowd. Miller has since said she's not racist, and her spokesperson said she had intended to say the ruling was a victory for the “right to life.”

Davis was a co-chair of Trump’s 2020 Illinois campaign but voted to certify the 2020 presidential election results. He had the backing of almost all of the district’s 35 county party chairs and vowed to “reimplement” Trump policies, including walling off the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the state's 6th Congressional District, Casten defeated his fellow Democratic colleague Newman, who was first elected to the House in 2020. She faces an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation over whether she promised federal employment to a political opponent.

Casten is a two-term congressman who flipped a suburban seat in 2018 that Republicans had held for decades.

FLOOD OF CANDIDATES FOR OPEN ILLINOIS SEATS

Jonathan Jackson, the son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, emerged from a crowded field vying to replace 15-term Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush, the only lawmaker who has ever beaten Barack Obama in a race. Obama challenged Rush in a 2000 U.S. House primary and lost.

The heavily Democratic 1st Congressional District that Jackson will now run in November to represent was redrawn after the 2020 census and now stretches from Chicago's South Side to Kankakee.

In Illinois' open 17th Congressional District, Esther Joy King won the GOP nomination, while Eric Sorensen, a former meteorologist, won the Democratic nomination. They are vying to replace five-term Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos, who decided against seeking reelection in the largely rural swath of northwestern Illinois.

In Illinois' heavily Democratic 7th District, longtime Democratic Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago beat progressive and gun violence prevention activist Kina Collins on Tuesday — though the margin was far narrower than his commanding primary win over her in 2020.

MISSISSIPPI RUNOFFS: ONE INCUMBENT WINS, ONE LOSSES

One of two Mississippi congressmen facing a rare primary runoff election lost his seat.

Palazzo blamed the coronavirus pandemic and the Biden administration for his defeat to Ezell, the sheriff of a coastal county. But the congressman had also been accused in a 2021 congressional ethics report of abusing his office by misspending campaign funds.

He said that Mississippi voters “hired me to fight the woke, liberal agenda and to push back against government overreach, and I’ve done that for 12 years.”

But Palazzo also added: “With COVID and because of what the Biden administration is doing to this country, they took their anger out on me.”

Ezell said he won because of connections he forged during more than 40 years in law enforcement. “When people call and need something, I’ve been accessible to them.”

Meanwhile, Guest won a third term after being forced into a runoff against former Navy fighter pilot Michael Cassidy.

NEBRASKA SPECIAL ELECTION OVERLAPS WITH SENTENCING

Former Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska was sentenced to probation on Tuesday for lying to federal agents just as voters were picking a replacement for the rest of his term.

Fortenberry resigned in March after being convicted of intentionally misleading FBI agents about his knowledge of an illegal, $30,000 campaign contribution from a Nigerian billionaire at a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles.

A judge sentenced him to two years of probation, a $25,000 fine and community service.

Two state lawmakers, Republican Mike Flood and Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks, are running in a special election to succeed Fortenberry, who served nine terms in the Republican-heavy district that includes Lincoln and dozens of smaller, rural communities. They'll compete again in November to determine who serves a new term, beginning in January.

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The latest NBC News poll shows young Americans' approval of President Joe Biden is falling. When it comes to the 2022 midterm elections for House and Senate seats, conservatives are showing much more engagement than young left-leaning voters. "If the election were held today, it would be a Democratic bloodbath," NBCLX Political Editor Noah Pransky says.
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