WASHINGTON – Two of Congress’ staunchest conservatives repelled more centrist alternatives 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 won her primary over fellow incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis just days after she called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade a “historic victory for white life” during a weekend rally with former President Donald Trump. Her spokesperson said she misspoke.
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 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.
In all, six states held congressional primary elections, primary runoffs or special elections. In addition to testing Trump's national influence, they provided hints of how voters are reacting to the high court's decision on abortion.
Some of the top elections:
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 slammed what he calls Boebert’s extremism.
Boebert trumpeted her gun-toting Second Amendment credentials and opposition to COVID-19 restrictions that briefly shuttered her “Shooters” restaurant.
Long known for controversial statements, Boebert said Sunday, “I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution.”
The phrase doesn’t expressly appear in the Constitution, though the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thomas Jefferson was president when he wrote in an 1802 letter that such phrasing should amount to a “wall of separation” between church and state.
Boebert referred to Jefferson's writing as a “stinking letter.”
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 President Joe Biden, added to his name on the ballot.
Lamborn faces an ongoing House ethics investigation over whether he misused official resources for personal purposes. He is an ardent opponent of abortion and backs the significant U.S. military presence in Colorado Springs.
TWO INCUMBENTS LOSE IN ILLINOIS
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 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.
JESSE JACKSON'S SON WINS DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY
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 GOP runoff against former Navy fighter pilot Michael Cassidy. Guest will face Democrat Shuwaski Young in November.
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 picked a replacement for the rest of his term.
State Republican Rep. Mike Flood defeated Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks 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.
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.
This story was first published on June 29, 2022. It was updated on June 29, 2022 to correct an erroneous report that Republican Rep. Michael Guest had won a third term. He won his GOP runoff and will face a Democrat in November.