A rare Republican who supports abortion rights has won success in Colorado in the first primary since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as New York’s first female governor positioned herself to be a major voice in the post-Roe landscape.
In Illinois, Democrats helped boost a Republican gubernatorial candidate loyal to former President Donald Trump in hopes he would be the easiest candidate to beat in November. And in at least two states, election deniers were defeated, even as pro-Trump lightning rods won elsewhere.
Takeaways from the final round of primaries:
ABORTION IS ON THE VOTE
The abortion debate consumed the nation this week, but there hasn’t been a race where it mattered more than Colorado’s Republican primary for the US Senate, where businessman Joe O’Dea is became one of the only Republicans in the country supporting abortion rights to win a statewide primary this year.
O’Dea fended off a strong challenge from State Representative Ron Hanks, a Trump loyalist who has opposed abortion without exception for rape, incest or the life of the mother.
O’Dea will face Democratic Senator Michael Bennett in November, and if he wins, he would become just the third Republican in the Senate – and the only man – to support abortion rights.
He said he supported banning late-term abortions and government funding of abortions, but that the decision to terminate a pregnancy in the early months was “between a person and their God”.
Democrats had spent at least $2.5 million on ads designed to spur O’Dea’s opponent by promoting, among other things, that he was “too conservative” to support a comprehensive abortion ban.
Democrats hoped the Roe decision would give them an advantage in several swing states, including Colorado. But, at least for now, O’Dea’s victory would seem to complicate the Democrats’ plans.
A VICTORY FOR TRUMP OR THE DEMOCRATS?
In the final weeks of a campaign, Trump once again attached himself to a Republican who was leading the race. This time it was farmer Darren Bailey in Illinois, who easily won the GOP nomination in the gubernatorial race.
But while Trump may add Bailey to his endorsement record, Democrats are betting his win could be short-lived.
Bailey will now face Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker in the November general election, which is exactly what Pritzker and his allies wanted. Pritzker, the billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, and the Democratic Governors Association spent big on publicity to help Bailey win the GOP nomination. Among other things, the ads reminded the state’s Democratic-leaning electorate that they are “100% pro-life.”
It’s a risky bet. While Bailey may look like an easier challenger in the general election, it’s possible he could ride a red wave — if it materializes — toward the Illinois governor’s mansion. Pritzker’s predecessor in office was a Republican.
Bailey showed political savvy by defeating Republican front-runner Richard Irvin, the mayor of Illinois’ second-largest city, Aurora. Irvin lost despite benefiting from a staggering $50 million investment from billionaire Ken Griffin. Irvin, who is black, declined to say whether he voted for Trump and largely avoided talking about abortion, delivering the kind of moderate message that might have crossed ideological lines in a general election.
Instead, Republicans nominated Bailey, a Trump loyalist who reads Bible verses in campaign videos and proudly touts his anti-abortion policies in a state Trump has lost by 17 percentage points in 2020.
THE HOCHUL OPPORTUNITY
Scandals from the men around her haven’t derailed New York’s Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, who defeated major challengers right and left to win her first electoral test as state chief executive. .
Now Hochul, New York’s first female governor, is well positioned to become a leading voice in the Democratic Party as it navigates the post-Roe landscape.
The low-key Hochul stepped into one of the nation’s most important governorships last fall after Andrew Cuomo resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal. She had promised to restore New Yorkers’ faith in their government, only for her handpicked lieutenant governor to be arrested this spring in a federal corruption probe.
Hochul was either “systematically shamefully out of the loop or shamefully empowering by his inaction”, charged one of his main opponents, elected New York public attorney Jumaane Williams.
The attack ultimately did not land in the primary. But don’t expect those critics to fade away as New York’s gubernatorial race enters its next phase.
Rep. Lee Zeldin emerged from a crowded Republican field to win the GOP nomination for governor. He beat Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, among others.
And while Hochul has a serious re-election test coming up, expect her to step into the national spotlight as the abortion debate rages on.
The Democratic governor has said in recent days that New York will be a “safe harbor” for those seeking abortions.
ELECTORAL DENIATORS ARE DECREASING
They celebrated their allegiance to Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories during the campaign trail. But on Tuesday evening, a handful of these so-called Holocaust deniers had nothing to cheer about.
In Colorado, Republican voters failed to reward Secretary of State candidate Tina Peters for defending Trump’s lies about voter fraud. She was defeated by Pam Anderson, a former county clerk who previously led the state clerks association and championed the state’s mail-in election system.
Some officials from both parties feared that Peters would win the primary. This is even after Peters, the Mesa County Clerk, was indicted over a security breach spurred by conspiracy theories tied to the 2020 presidential election. The state’s GOP had called on her to suspend his campaign.
Now Anderson, not Peters, will face incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who led the national fight against Holocaust deniers in the 2020 election.
Elsewhere in Colorado, Senate candidate Hanks had also promoted lies about the last presidential election. In addition to being an outspoken opponent of abortion rights, he had attended the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
And in Mississippi, Trump loyalist Michael Cassidy lost a runoff to incumbent Rep. Michael Guest, who voted to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. Cassidy said in campaign speeches that Guest had done nothing to stop “the January 6 persecution of political prisoners.”
LIGHTNING RODS WIN
Two Republicans familiar with the controversy tested for the first time whether Republican voters deemed them too extreme to return to Congress. They both prevailed.
First-term Rep. Mary Miller, who campaigned alongside Trump over the weekend, defeated five-term Rep. Rodney Davis, who was seen as more moderate. The primary victory all but assures that Miller will return to Congress for another term given the heavy Republican advantage in his 15th congressional district, which is the most Republican district in the state.
Miller won just days after outlining the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade as “a victory for white life”. A spokeswoman later said she intended to call the decision a victory for a “right to life”.
Miller is no stranger to provocative statements. Shortly after joining the House, Miller quoted Adolf Hitler as saying he was right to say that “he who has youth has the future”.
And in Colorado, Trump loyalist Lauren Boebert defeated a moderate state representative who ran a primary campaign focused on Boebert extremism. It did not work.
Boebert’s controversial moves are numerous. She swore to carry a handgun on the floor of the house. She faced calls for her to be censored last year after she was filmed making Islamophobic comments about Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. And she heckled President Joe Biden in his first State of the Union address.
But after winning her primary, she is almost certain to return to Congress for another two years. His GOP-leaning 3rd congressional district in western Colorado became even more Republican after the redistricting.