Rep. Mark Sanford, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, appeared to be on the verge of losing his South Carolina congressional seat Tuesday after the president injected himself into the bitter Republican primary by stoking memories of the incumbent’s public extramarital affair seven years ago.
Four other states voted Tuesday, including several races that will be key to determining which party controls the House.
As votes still were being counted in South Carolina, Sanford told supporters he was “going to lose this race” to state Rep. Katie Arrington, who had criticized the former governor for disloyalty to Trump. But as Sanford spoke to the crowd, the race still was too close to call. A Sanford loss would be an abrupt end to a roller-coaster political career that included a resignation as South Carolina’s governor following his admission of the affair.
In other races:
Incumbent governor faces runoff
Sanford was not the only establishment Republican to face challenges Tuesday. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a close ally of Trump, was forced into a runoff after failing to muster the required 50 percent vote to win outright.
McMaster, an early supporter of the president’s 2016 campaign, had Trump’s full endorsement, marked by a tweet.
But while Trump remains very popular in the state, McMaster has been shadowed by a corruption probe involving a longtime political consultant. McMaster received the most votes of the four Republicans running, but will face Greenville businessman John Warren in a second contest June 26.
House bellwether in Virginia
Democratic State Sen. Jennifer Wexton was the clear winner in a six-way primary in Virginia’s 10th District, and will challenge Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock.
Besides that district, considered key to the House battleground map this fall, Democrats in two other Virginia districts they hope to retake nominated women, including Abigail Spanberger in the 7th District and Elaine Luria in Virginia’s 2nd District.
In Comstock’s district, Wexton was the best-known in the field, and was viewed as the Democratic Party’s establishment choice. She had the endorsement of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
Comstock, a moderate Republican who easily beat back a challenge from conservative Shak Hill, is one of the Democrats’ top targets in November. The second-term House member’s district leans Republican, although Democrat Hillary Clinton received more votes there than Trump did in 2016.
Democrats need to gain 23 seats to win the majority in the House.
In another big Virginia race, Republican Corey Stewart – once a state chairman to Trump’s presidential campaign who was fired for protesting the Republican National Committee – won the Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.
Turning the LePage
Maine voters are deciding how they’d prefer to veer in their search for the successor to term-limited, conservative Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
In a state represented by moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King, voters will choose from GOP candidates who echo LePage’s conservative policies but shy away from his controversial tone.
The field includes top Republicans in the state legislature, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason and House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette; LePage’s former state health agency chief, Mary Mayhew; and businessman Shawn Moody, who’s trying to claim the outsider mantle.
Democrats, with just 16 of the nation’s governorships, view the seat as one of their top pick-up opportunities.
First they must settle a seven-way primary field led by Attorney General Janet Mills and former state House Speaker Mark Eves.
See you in November
Nevada and North Dakota are home to two of the most pivotal Senate races this year. What they don’t have is competitive Senate primaries.
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, the only Republican seeking re-election in a state that Clinton carried in 2016, and Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen sailed through their primaries, and already have begun focusing their criticism on each other in what is expected to be among the most competitive Senate races this year.
One of the most interesting GOP primaries in Nevada involves legal brothel owner Dennis Hof challenging GOP state Rep. James Oscarson for his seat in the statehouse.
There’s also the return of Sharron Angle, the conservative who once ominously threatened to “take out” then-Sen. Harry Reid. Angle, who lost to Reid in her 2010 bid for Senate, is challenging Rep. Mark Amodei, who is favored in his campaign for renomination in Nevada’s 2nd District.
The most competitive choice for Democrats appears to be the battle between Clark County commissioners vying to be Nevada’s first Democratic governor in two decades.
Steve Sisolak is running as a centrist, and fellow board member Chris Giunchigliani is running as a progressive, knocking Sisolak for his positive rating from the National Rifle Association in light of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October. Four lesser-known candidates are also running. Republican Attorney Gen. Adam Laxalt easily cleared the GOP field.
In North Dakota , GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer will face moderate Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. She is seeking re-election in a state Trump carried by 36 percentage points in 2016.