- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2022

Republicans are pouring cash into a Texas congressional district they hope to flip in a special election on Tuesday, while candidates in South Carolina, Nevada, Maine and North Dakota face off in primaries that will test former President Donald Trump’s influence on the GOP.

The winner of the special election for the 34th Congressional District in Texas will fill a seat vacated by Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat who left the House to join a lobbying firm.

The district, which stretches from Corpus Christi to Brownsville, has long been held by Democrats. But Republicans are hoping voter anger over the economy and disapproval of President Biden will help them flip the seat and gain a foothold in South Texas.

The leading GOP candidate is Mayra Flores, a former Hidalgo County GOP Hispanic Outreach chair. Mrs. Flores’ top Democratic opponent is Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez.  

Republicans and outside groups have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into boosting the Flores campaign. Their effort finally jolted Democrats into spending on last-minute advertising against Mrs. Flores.

Democrat Rene Coronado and Republican Juana Cantu-Cabrera are also on the ballot. If no one wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will compete in an August runoff. The winner will serve in the seat until January.

SEE ALSO: Rep. Cheney blames Trump for the lockup of Capitol rioters

Mrs. Flores is also running in November for a two-year term representing the district, but Mr. Sanchez is not.

She will instead face Rep. Vicente Gonzalez Jr., a Democrat who now represents the 15th congressional district. 

The November race will take place in a much tougher political climate for Republicans because the state’s redrawn congressional districts will apply and the new lines have added Democratic voters, making a win more difficult for Mrs. Flores. 

Four states hold primaries on Tuesday.

In Nevada, the Senate Republican primary has become more competitive in recent days.

Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Trump endorsee, is leading a field of eight candidates by double digits. But in recent days, Army veteran and West Point graduate Sam Brown, who was injured in the war in Afghanistan, has picked up new support. The Nevada Independent poll shows him inching higher, with 34% compared to Mr. Laxalt’s 48%.

The winner Tuesday will face Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in what will be one of the most closely watched races of the year as Republicans seek to regain a majority over the evenly divided Senate. Analysts have rated the seat a toss-up.

Nevada’s primaries include two House races where incumbents are facing tough challenges.

Incumbent Rep. Dina Titus, who was elected to Congress a decade ago, is facing far-left challenger Amy Vilela, in the state’s Democratic primary for the 1st District. Mrs. Vilela has the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who called her “a champion for working families who will fight tirelessly for a Green New Deal, Housing for All, and a progressive foreign policy.”

Eight candidates are running in the GOP primary, including David Brog, a former leader of Christians United for Israel who has former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s endorsement, military veteran Mark Robertson and Carolina Serrano, who served as an organizer for Latinos for Trump.

The winner of each primary will face off in a district that race analysts have listed as a toss-up.

In Nevada’s 2nd District primary, incumbent Rep. Mark Amodei is facing a challenge from Danny Tarkanian, who is campaigning as a more conservative choice for voters.

Mr. Tarkanian last ran for Congress in 2018, when he was defeated by Democrat Susie Lee in the race for the state’s 3rd District House seat.

He lost the 3rd District race in 2016 to Democrat Jacky Rosen and in 2012, ran unsuccessfully for the 4th District House seat, losing to Democrat Rep. Steven Horsford.

The 2nd District seat, which includes the northern half of the state, is considered safely Republican, so if Mr. Tarkanian unseats Mr. Amodei in the primary, he’d likely finally win a seat in Congress, on his fourth try.

In South Carolina, Mr. Trump‘s endorsements will be put to the test after showing mixed results in primaries held over the past few weeks.

Republican incumbent Rep. Nancy Mace faces Trump-backed Katie Arrington in the 1st Congressional District GOP primary.

Ms. Mace, the first female graduate of the Citadel, voted to certify the 2020 presidential election and also voted to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the House Jan. 6 committee.

In 2018, Mrs. Arrington won the GOP primary for the 1st District, which includes parts of Charleston, unseating incumbent Mark Sanford. But she lost the general election to Democrat Joe Cunningham, who Ms. Mace defeated in 2020.

In the state’s 7th District primary, Trump-backed Russell Fry, a state representative, will try to unseat incumbent Rep. Tom Rice, who voted for the impeachment of Mr. Trump for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot.

Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican who is working to drive Mr. Trump out of the party and is a member of the Jan. 6th committee, endorsed Mr. Rice. 

Five additional GOP candidates are on the ballot. 

The district, which stretches along the northeast coast and includes Myrtle Beach, is considered a safe GOP seat in November.

Tuesday’s primary may not produce a winner in either race. If no candidate wins 50% in the primary, the top two candidates will compete in a June 28 runoff.

In Maine, former Rep. Bruce Poliquin will attempt a political comeback after the state’s ranked-choice voting rule cost the Republican his seat in 2018.

Mr. Poliquin faces Republican Elizabeth Caruso in the primary and the winner will compete against Democratic incumbent Rep. Jared Golden in November.

In 2018, Mr. Poliquin, the incumbent, beat competitors on the November ballot but failed to break 50%, triggering a retabulation based on voters’ second and third choices. Mr. Poliquin subsequently lost to Golden by fewer than 4,000 votes. 

In solidly Republican North Dakota, incumbent Sen. John Hoeven is expected to defeat GOP primary challenger Riley Kuntz, while Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong is running unopposed in the primary.

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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