Tuesday night saw primary elections in four different states. The biggest surprise was in how few surprises there were; for one night at least, the establishment wings of both parties got what they wanted.
In the most high-profile race on Tuesday night, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, defeating Rep. Evan Jenkins and relegating coal baron Don Blankenship to a distant third place.
On the Democratic side of the West Virginia Senate race, incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin won with 70 percent of the vote against progressive challenger Paula Jean Swearengin. Manchin outraised Swearengin by 30 to 1.
That Swearengin—who, in addition to the fundraising disadvantage, had never run for elected office before and was running against the most dominant figure in West Virginia politics for over a decade—cracked even 30 percent is nothing to scoff at. It’s yet another reminder, however, that building a resilient progressive infrastructure rivaling what has existed in the center and on the right for decades takes time and, above all else, money.
This is especially important because, even in West Virginia, it’s clear that things are becoming more favorable for the left, albeit slowly. First-term state senator Richard Ojeda, an old-school West Virginia labor Democrat who voted for Trump and now says he regrets it, easily won a Democratic primary to succeed Jenkins in the Third Congressional District on Tuesday night, and has built a national profile for himself after vocally supporting the teachers’ strike and spearheading West Virginia’s medical marijuana law.
While Ojeda is not a leftist by any stretch of the imagination, he’s also not a carbon copy of Manchin, and it’s an indicator that the future of the party after the 70-year old senator is up for grabs.
West Virginia wasn’t the only state with big elections on Tuesday:
- In neighboring Ohio, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray soundly defeated former congressman Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic primary for governor. Kucinich was dogged by stories about his ties to a pro-Syrian government group and frequent appearances on Fox News, and got less than a quarter of the vote; Cordray, whose running mate is former congresswoman Betty Sutton, won every county in the state except for two. Cordray will face Ohio Attorney General and former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine in the general election.
- In Ohio’s other big statewide race, Trump-backed Congressman Jim Renacci won the primary for U.S. Senate and will take on incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown. In addition, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a plan to overhaul the state’s Congressional redistricting process, which should be welcome news for a state that’s notoriously gerrymandered.
- In Indiana, two Republican congressmen—Luke Messer and Todd Rokita—are giving up their seats after losing the Senate primary to businessman Mike Braun, in what was a truly nightmarish race between three ghouls who really wanted to prove their loyalty to Donald Trump. In the general election, Braun will face Sen. Joe Donnelly, who is considered to be one of the more vulnerable Democrats this year. Meanwhile, Mike Pence’s brother won the primary to replace Messer in the House. How fun!
- Most of the incumbents running for re-election had a good night, but in North Carolina, one didn’t: Charlotte-area Republican Congressman Robert Pittenger, who lost a rematch with former pastor Mark Harris. Pittenger is the first incumbent to lose a primary challenge in the 2018 cycle; Harris was instrumental in the state’s 2012 constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Dan McCready, a moderate who easily won the Democratic nomination for the same district on Tuesday, has a huge fundraising advantage over Harris, which means a district where Pittenger won re-election in 2016 by 16 points could be in play for Democrats in November.