Former President Donald Trump’s rule over Republican voters was tested again this week as primaries took place in both Nebraska and West Virginia†
Unlike last week’s primaries, Trump’s endorsement this time had mixed results.
These are the winners and losers of the primaries in Nebraska and West Virginia.
Winner: Donald Trump
After helping to move all 22 candidates he supported in last week’s primaries to victory, Trump faced another major test of his influence on Tuesday.
of all his approvals this week, two were considered particularly telling: that of businessman Charles Herbster for Governor of Nebraska and of incumbent Representative Alex Mooney in West Virginia. Herbster lost; Mooney won. The fact that nearly all of Trump’s primary picks have won makes him a winner this week. But the Nebraska result is an important reminder that Trump’s endorsement does not guarantee victory.
With returns rolling in, it quickly became apparent that scandal-plagued Herbster was chasing his two adversaries: University of Nebraska pig producer and regent Jim Pillen, who ultimately won and was backed by the Provisional Republican government Pete Ricketts, and state senator Brett. Lindstrom.
Although Herbster himself had stated that the race was a proxy battle between Trump and the GOP establishment, his loss may not reveal much about where the party stands. Rather, it is the result expected from a troubled candidate who has been openly criticized by a popular Republican governor.
Herbster was accused of groping eight womenwhat he has denied, taking the allegations as a attack by the Republican establishment† Him too examined for being with members of the Trump family during the January 6 uprising. Ricketts even went so far as to explain Herbster unqualified for governor†
In West Virginia, Trump’s support seemed to Rep. Alex Mooney in a primary for the second congressional district, where he ran against fellow incumbent Rep. David McKinley. The two were forced into a primary when population loss and reclassification combined their districts.
Trump backed Mooney after McKinley voted in favor of a bipartisan infrastructure bill and to set up a independent commission to investigate January 6† Mooney quickly made the former president’s support the centerpiece of his campaign, using it to answer questions about a… campaign finance ethical research and allegations that he was a carpet dredger (although he has represented West Virginia since 2015, Mooney once headed the Maryland GOP).
Mooney’s victory can be read as a sign of Trump’s lasting influence. Still, the fact that Trump went up against a popular incumbent Republican governor doesn’t bode well for him in some of the upcoming primaries, such as in Georgia, where he backed former US Senator David Perdue to challenge Governor Brian Kemp.
—Nicole Narea and Li Zhou
While both Mooney and McKinley are quite conservative, the latter has been known to take more bipartisan stances than his counterpart. Last year eg. McKinley was one of 13 Republicans who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure law and one of 35 Republicans who voted to set up an independent commission to investigate the January 6 uprising.
McKinley’s record — including his vote for infrastructure — also led to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) not only supporting a campaign ad for him, but also participating in it.
Polls have shown that most voters, including at least some Republican voters, favor a bipartisan government. But his willingness to take these more bipartisan votes doesn’t seem to have helped McKinley, who ended up losing the primaries to Mooney by significant margins.
During the campaign, Mooney chided Republicans who supported the infrastructure bill, echoing Trump’s rhetoric and arguing that they were “sold out.” McKinley, meanwhile, emphasized how much the state’s roads and bridges needed funding, given the extent to which West Virginia has historically relied on federal dollars for these projects.
Ultimately, messages like this didn’t seem to resonate with enough Republican voters, suggesting that, at least in this district, Trump’s support was more important than McKinley’s commitment to policy.
– Li Zhou
Loser: “The Big Lie”
As with many GOP primaries in secretary of state races across the country this year, the focal point of the Nebraska race was Trump’s 2020 election lies. Incumbent Secretary of State Bob Evnen, who stole Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen , easily repelled two challengers — Robert Borer and Rex Schroder — who falsely claim Trump won the 2020 election.
Both accused Evnen of depriving the former president of one electoral vote as a result of voter fraud in the state’s 2nd congressional district. In reality, Biden won the district by 22,000 votes, and Evnen has said his office has investigated every case of alleged voter fraud and found no “validity or merit for any of them†
However, Evnen’s victory is not exactly a victory for voting rights. Like other Republicans who have refused to put forward Trump’s election warnings, Evnen still tried to soften the ground with his support for what the GOP calls “election integrity” measures. For example, he supported legislation passed earlier this year that: improves ballot box security† He has also said he supports stricter voter identification laws.
– Nicole Narea
Winner: A top Democratic recruit in a top priority race
Despite what is expected to be a rough election for Democrats in general, there are some potential bright spots in nine Red House districts that Biden carried in 2020. Among them is Nebraska’s 2nd District, which remained competitive for Democrats after reclassification.
State Senator Tony Vargas won the Democratic primary over mental health practitioner Alisha Shelton and will face incumbent Republican Representative Don Bacon in the fall. The result keeps Democrats’ hopes of turning the district around.
Although the Democratic establishment did not pick a favorite in the race, Vargas was generally seen as the stronger candidate, as he already has legislative experience in government. He has also served on the Omaha Public Schools Board. During the primary, he praised his record of bipartisanship while serving in the state senate.
Vargas also proved to be a strong fundraiser, winning more than $1 million compared to Shelton’s $300,000.
NE-02 went 6 percentage points ahead of Biden in 2020, although Bacon also won the district that year, meaning Vargas probably doesn’t have an easy race ahead of him. Still, he leaves the primaries in a solid position to help Democrats try to save their majority in the House.