The 4 Most Interesting Kinds of House Primaries in 2022

The dome is seen at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on November 5, 2021.  (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP / Getty Images)The dome is seen at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on November 5, 2021. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP / Getty Images)

(CNN) — Fewer competitive House districts means that some of 2022’s most consequential congressional elections are happening well before November. The real action in many districts is this spring and summer as Republican and Democratic candidates jockey for their parties’ nominations.

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But some primaries are more interesting than others; either because they offer a test of the direction of a party or they help determine how competitive a district will be in the fall or simply because of a high-profile candidate.

One of the biggest factors in this year’s primaries is former President Donald Trump. Ahead of a possible 2024 White House bid, Trump is wading into this year’s midterms, often seeking revenge against Republican incumbents who he believes crossed him by certifying the results of the 2020 election or by voting to impeach him after the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol. And even when he’s not doling out endorsements, the former President’s influence can be felt as GOP candidates up and down the ballot embrace his “Make America Great Again” rhetoric and, in many cases, rush to repeat his lies about the last presidential election.

Democrats have their own internecine battles, including one that has attracted early involvement from President Joe Biden.

Here are four major categories of House primaries to watch, which will be updated as the season unfolds.

Member vs. member races

Incumbents don’t often run against each other in primaries, but the redistricting process that follows the once-a-decade census can scramble congressional maps, sometimes drawing two members into the same geographic area. That’s especially the case when states lose seats because of population changes.

WV-02 (May 10)

West Virginia has three representatives in the US House. But after reapportionment following the 2020 census, it only has two districts, which has prompted an all-Republican face-off between four-term Rep. Alex Mooney and six-term Rep. David McKinley for the state’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday.

It’s the first primary of 2022 between two incumbents — and a powerful test of Trump’s endorsement. Trump has backed Mooney, who objected to the certification of Biden’s election win and opposed the bipartisan infrastructure law. McKinley voted to certify Biden’s victory and supported the infrastructure law and an independent commission to investigate the insurrection, all of which Trump has railed against. Republican Gov. Jim Justice has backed McKinley.

The most recent player in this race, however, has been a Democrat: Sen. Joe Manchin cut an ad for McKinley after growing annoyed at Mooney’s attacks on the congressman. “I’m pissed off,” Manchin told CNN’s Manu Raju in early May, calling Mooney “someone who doesn’t know my state.” Mooney previously served in the Maryland state Senate and is the former chairman of the Maryland GOP.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will be the heavy favorite heading into the general election.

GA-07 (May 24)

Georgia hosts the first primary between two Democratic incumbents. Rep. Lucy McBath, who flipped the current 6th District in 2018, is running in the new 7th District in the Atlanta suburbs after the GOP-controlled state legislature redrew her seat to be more safely red. She’s facing Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, the 7th District incumbent, who was the only Democrat to flip a competitive House seat from red to blue in 2020.

IL-06 (June 28)

The Democratic drama continues in June in Illinois, which lost a seat in reapportionment. Reps. Marie Newman and Sean Casten are both running for the new 6th District in the southwest Chicago suburbs. Newman is no stranger to taking on incumbents — she defeated longtime Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in the House, in a 2020 primary. But now she, too, is an incumbent, and is facing a House Ethics Committee investigation for allegedly promising federal employment in exchange for political support. She has denied the allegations. Casten, who flipped a GOP district in 2018, has a fundraising advantage.

IL-15 (June 28)

Illinois Republicans have their own incumbent versus incumbent matchup, which has seen Trump and House GOP leadership at odds. Trump endorsed freshman Rep. Mary Miller, a controversial member of the House Freedom Caucus who had been left without a seat after redistricting. She then decided to run against fellow GOP Rep. Rodney Davis in the new 15th District. As CNN reported last year, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was among those lobbying Trump to back Miller, while GOP leadership was pleading with the former President to stay out of it. Davis, who served as co-chair of Trump’s campaign in the state, voted to certify Biden’s electoral victory.

MI-11 (August 2)

The race between two Democratic incumbents, both elected in 2018, for Michigan’s new 11th District captures some of the divides within the party. Rep. Haley Stevens belongs to the more moderate New Democrat Coalition, while Rep. Andy Levin, the son of longtime Rep. Sander Levin, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has backing from Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Democratic Majority for Israel are backing Stevens while J Street is backing Levin, who is Jewish.

The impeachment 10

Ten House Republicans voted for Trump’s second impeachment and many of them quickly earned Trump’s wrath. Four have decided not to run for reelection, and although Trump likes to take credit for pushing them out, some of those decisions likely had at least as much to do with how their seats changed in redistricting than with threats from the former President or his allies. Trump has endorsed challengers to all but one of the six in this group who are running for reelection.

Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio (retiring; primary on May 3)

One of Trump’s first post-impeachment endorsements was of former aide Max Miller against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in the 16th District. But Gonzalez, first elected in 2018, announced seven months later that he would not run for reelection, citing family reasons as well as “the toxic dynamics inside our own party.” After redistricting, however, Miller is running in the 7th District, currently represented by longtime GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs. But Gibbs announced his retirement shortly before the GOP primary, which Miller won.

David Valadao of California (June 7)

Valadao is the only California Republican who voted to impeach Trump, and the former President has not weighed in on his race. The congressman lost a perennial swing seat in 2018 and then won it back in 2020 at the same time that Biden was comfortably carrying his district. This year, after redistricting, he’s running in a slightly more competitive district that lost some conservative pockets.

Tom Rice of South Carolina (June 14)

Trump endorsed state Rep. Russell Fry against five-term Rep. Tom Rice in February. The congressman defended his impeachment vote in a recent debate, where he spoke about the violence of the insurrection, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. He has argued that his vote was the right thing to do while pointing out that he supported most of Trump’s policies. Fry appeared at a Trump rally in the state in March, arguing that Rice “broke our trust” with his impeachment vote. The congressman had a fundraising advantage over Fry heading into April.

Adam Kinzinger of Illinois (retiring; primary on June 28)

Six-term Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans serving on the House select committee investigating the insurrection, announced last fall that he would not run for reelection shortly after the updated Illinois congressional map showed him drawn into the same district as another GOP incumbent.

“I cannot focus on both a reelection to Congress and a broader fight nationwide,” Kinzinger said in a video at the time. The congressman has been an outspoken critic of the GOP’s embrace of Trump and misinformation. “I want to make it clear. This isn’t the end of my political future, but the beginning,” he said in the video. He hasn’t ruled out a White House bid in 2024.

John Katko of New York (retiring; primary on August 23)

Rep. John Katko, an elusive Democratic target in cycles past, announced in January that he would not seek a fifth term. He would have been in line to chair the Homeland Security Committee if Republicans win the majority in November, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had privately urged Trump not to back a challenger to Katko, CNN previously reported, given his experience holding the Empire State seat. But it wasn’t just his impeachment vote that put him out of step with his party — he backed the bipartisan infrastructure law and had negotiated a proposal for an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection, which McCarthy later opposed and the Senate eventually killed.

Fred Upton of Michigan (retiring; primary on August 2)

Rep. Fred Upton, who was likely facing a race against another Republican incumbent thanks to redistricting, announced in April that he would not seek a 19th term. Trump had endorsed that other incumbent, Rep. Bill Huizenga, the month before. The former chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton is known for building relationships across the aisle — a rarity in today’s Trump-dominated GOP. Trump had first endorsed state Rep. Steve Carra against Upton, but then switched to backing Huizenga when the district was redrawn. Carra has since dropped out.

Peter Meijer of Michigan (August 2)

Trump has endorsed John Gibbs, a former official in his administration, against first-term Rep. Peter Meijer. As CNN’s KFile has reported, Gibbs has a history of conspiratorial and inflammatory tweets and has defended a notorious anti-Semitic troll banned by Twitter. KFile’s first reporting on Gibbs, dating back to 2018, stalled his nomination to be Office of Personnel Management director and his nomination was never voted out of committee. Meijer has a strong fundraising advantage over Gibbs.

Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington (August 2)

Trump has backed Joe Kent, a retired Green Beret, against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who’s running for a seventh term. It was the congresswoman who first publicly mentioned Trump’s comment on a phone call to McCarthy that the would-be insurrectionists must have cared more about the election results than the California Republican did. Near the end of Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial, she called on her fellow Republicans to speak up about any conversations Trump had had on January 6.

Kent is backed by billionaire tech mogul Peter Thiel, who’s funded groups boosting candidates like Ohio’s newly minted GOP Senate nominee J.D. Vance. Kent has been outspoken against Covid-19 public health measures, including claiming at a town hall that masks and vaccines “don’t work,” and he spoke at the right-wing “Justice for J6” rally on Capitol Hill.

Kent is not the only Republican challenging Herrera Beutler. Under Washington state’s top-two system, candidates from all parties run together on the same primary ballot, which could benefit the incumbent if GOP opposition to her is split.

Dan Newhouse of Washington (August 2)

Trump has endorsed 2020 GOP gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp to challenge four-term Rep. Dan Newhouse. The former police chief lost by more than 500,000 votes to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee but refused to concede, repeating similar election lies as the former President. Newhouse had a significant fundraising advantage over Culp heading into April.

Liz Cheney of Wyoming (August 16)

Trump’s highest-profile target of his revenge tour has been Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Underscoring the House GOP’s loyalty to Trump, Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was booted from her leadership position in the conference because of her outspokenness against Trump’s election lies. The former President has endorsed Harriet Hageman against the three-term congresswoman, as has McCarthy. Hageman, who also has support from Thiel, previously supported Cheney — she advised her during Cheney’s brief 2014 Senate bid — but now argues the incumbent “betrayed Wyoming” with her impeachment vote. Cheney has consistently outraised Hageman.

Other races where Trump has endorsed against an incumbent

GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina didn’t vote to impeach Trump last year, but she did vote to certify the results of the 2020 election and was critical of Trump after the insurrection. The former President has endorsed Mace challenger Katie Arrington, a former state lawmaker who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2018. With backing from Trump four years ago, Arrington defeated then-Rep. Mark Sanford in the GOP primary, but she went on to lose the general election to Democrat Joe Cunningham.

Mace, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, put the seat back in Republican hands two years later, narrowly unseating Cunningham. The district has become more Republican in redistricting, which could benefit Arrington in the primary. But Mace also has a significant local endorsement from former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Establishment vs. progressive Democrats

NC-01 & NC-04 (May 17)

A pair of open-seat primaries in North Carolina has been upended by outside spending against progressive candidates.

In the state’s 1st District, state Sen. Don Davis has gotten a big lift from the United Democracy Project, an AIPAC-aligned group, against former state Sen. Erica Smith, the progressive headliner in the four-person race. UDP has spent nearly $900,000 supporting Davis, whose voting record on abortion rights has come under criticism.

UDP has spent about the same for state Sen. Valerie Foushee in the new 4th District, where progressives favor Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, the first Muslim woman elected to public office in North Carolina. Foushee lost the endorsement of the state Democratic Party’s progressive caucus over her UDP support, with its chairman citing AIPAC’s financial backing of GOP candidates who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Former American Idol star Clay Aiken is also running here.

OR-05 (May 17)

Rep. Kurt Schrader has been a thorn in the side of the Biden agenda, voting against a measure allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, against initial passage of the American Rescue Plan, and for Build Back Better only after working to decouple it from the bipartisan infrastructure bill — a move that progressives say effectively killed the President’s would-be signature policy achievement.

Despite it all, Biden gave Schrader his first congressional endorsement of 2022. The move underscored the party establishment’s desire to aid the endangered incumbent, who will be facing a lot of unfamiliar voters in a redrawn district where some local party leaders have endorsed his top rival, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and requested that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which routinely helps incumbents, “immediately stop campaigning for Schrader.”

PA-12 (May 17)

Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee, a progressive favorite backed by Justice Democrats, is up against a late blitz of attack ads from outside groups supporting lawyer Steve Irwin, a moderate who’s also vying for the Democratic nomination in this open Pittsburgh-area seat. If she won in November, Lee would be the first Black woman elected to represent the Keystone State in Congress.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey — a progressive who defeated the incumbent mayor in 2021 — and other local Democrats have called on Irwin to condemn the ads, paid for by the AIPAC-connected United Democracy Project, saying they were “full of outright lies.” One spot says that Lee, the only Democratic elected official in the primary, has “done everything in her power to (dismantle the Democratic Party).” But the group, which has shelled out nearly $1.1 million on the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, has made clear it will continue spending against Lee.

TX-28 runoff (May 24)

Perhaps the most divisive Democratic House primary is the runoff between Rep. Henry Cuellar and Jessica Cisneros, the Justice Democrats recruit who’s challenging the incumbent for the second time in two years.

In a three-candidate race back in March, Cuellar finished about 2 points ahead of Cisneros but failed to cross 50% of the vote, which was needed to avoid a runoff. It was a disappointing result for Cisneros, who got a major boost in late January when the FBI raided Cuellar’s Laredo home and campaign office. The congressman has denied any wrongdoing, but the probe hung over the final month of the campaign. Since then, momentum seemed to be shifting back to Cuellar. In mid-April, his lawyer announced that Cuellar was not the subject of the FBI’s investigation.

Cuellar is the lone remaining House Democrat to consistently vote against abortion rights legislation and, with the issue now front and center to many in the party, it’s a position that could cost him precious votes — even if top House Democrats don’t seem bothered. Majority Whip James Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, recently campaigned for the congressman.

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