7 primaries to watch in Virginia and Oklahoma

House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good could lose renomination.

June 17, 2024, 4:27 PM

With multiple competitive House primary races in Virginia, a challenge to an 11-term incumbent in Oklahoma and a primary runoff in Georgia, there's plenty of action in Tuesday's elections. Here is a rundown of the key races to watch this week:

Virginia

Races to watch: Senate; 2nd, 5th, 7th and 10th congressional districts
Polls close: 7 p.m. Eastern

In the solidly red 5th District in Central Virginia, Republican Rep. Bob Good is fighting for his political life after having angered both former President Donald Trump and the GOP's more traditional party establishment. Last October, Good joined seven other House Republicans in backing the motion to vacate that ousted then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which has prompted outside groups to target Good, who chairs the hard-right House Freedom Caucus. But a more costly move for Good likely came back in May 2023, when he endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's presidential bid instead of Trump's. While Good tried to keep Trump in his corner by joining many other Republicans in defending the former president outside his New York trial in mid-May, Trump endorsed Good's primary challenger, state Sen. John McGuire. As a result, Good stands a real chance of becoming the first House incumbent this cycle to lose renomination to a non-incumbent. (In March, Alabama Rep. Jerry Carl lost to Rep. Barry Moore in a GOP primary matchup precipitated by redistricting.)

Any way you slice them, the numbers don't look especially, well, good for Good. Unusually for a primary challenger, McGuire had slightly outraised Good as of May 29, $1.2 million to $1.1 million, and McGuire had three times as much in the bank for the final stretch of the campaign. Outside groups have deployed at least $5.9 million attacking Good or supporting McGuire, compared with about $4.5 million to help Good or oppose McGuire, according to OpenSecrets. Similarly, the polls suggest Good could be in real danger: An early June survey by WPA Intelligence conducted for the Virginia Faith and Freedom Coalition found McGuire leading 41 percent to 31 percent, largely in line with numbers from an earlier survey for McGuire's campaign by Battleground Connect. Still, Good's allies at the Champions of Freedom super PAC countered with a poll conducted in late May and early June by Neighborhood Research and Media that put Good ahead 39 percent to 30 percent.

Both incumbent and challenger have staked a claim to being the most conservative candidate in the race. McGuire and his allies have promoted Trump's endorsement and have argued that Good betrayed Trump. They've also emphasized McGuire's past service as a Navy SEAL while arguing that Good has voted against funding for the U.S. military and veterans' health care. Ads from Good and his supporters have promoted the incumbent as a hardline conservative who'll deport undocumented immigrants, while claiming that McGuire has "sided with leftists" and supports transgender athletes. Good has also received support from some in Trump's orbit, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. But with the main man himself having lined up behind McGuire, Good's electoral fate could take a bad turn on Tuesday.

In the fairly blue-leaning, Northern Virginia-based 10th District, three-term Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton announced her retirement due to progressive supranuclear palsy, a condition she described as "Parkinson's on steroids." That sad turn of events has had major political ramifications: A dozen candidates have entered the Democratic primary in the hopes of succeeding Wexton. The wide-open field is led by state Del. Dan Helmer, state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam and former state House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. But five other candidates of note are also in the mix: state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, defense contractor Krystle Kaul, former state Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, state Del. David Reid and state Del. Michelle Maldonado.

Helmer, Subramanyam and Filler-Corn each have important feathers in their caps. Helmer's campaign has brought in $1.5 million, compared with around $1 million each for Subramanyam and Filler-Corn (all three have self-funded to a small extent). Back in 2018, Helmer ran for the old version of this seat (coming in fourth while Wexton won the primary), but this time around he has an endorsement from The Washington Post, which has influence in D.C.-area contests. While Helmer's current state House seat only makes up 1 percent of the district's population, per Daily Kos Elections, his old seat covered a somewhat larger portion before redistricting. But Subramanyam has Wexton's endorsement, and his current state Senate seat entirely lies in the 10th District. For her part, Filler-Corn has backing from some state party grandees like former Gov. Ralph Northam and former state Attorney General Mark Herring. But while Filler-Corn held a prominent office, she didn't previously represent voters in this district — her old House of Delegates seat sat next door.

A difference-maker in this contest may be the outside spending that's sought to boost Helmer. Groups have invested $5.4 million to aid him, including about $4 million from the pro-cryptocurrency group Protect Progress and $1.3 million from VoteVets — amounts that dwarf the rest of the field. By comparison, Subramanyam has received $574,000 in backing from The Impact Fund, which assists Indian American candidates. Their support could also play an outsized role, given that Loudoun County — the core of the districthas a population that's about one-fifth AAPI, and Subramanyam would be the first Indian American to enter Congress from Virginia (he was the first to win a seat in the General Assembly). Some campaign finance maneuvering here has raised eyebrows, based on reporting by HuffPost. Filler-Corn is subject to a formal complaint to the Federal Election Commission because her state political action committee, an entity not subject to campaign finance laws, transferred money to the pro-Israel DMFI PAC, which has endorsed her and spent money on her behalf. Meanwhile, Helmer's federal PAC sent money to VoteVets last fall just days before he announced his campaign and VoteVets endorsed him.

The only recent survey of this primary contest came from SurveyMonkey in late May on behalf of Qarni's campaign, which found Helmer and Subramanyam running neck and neck with 17 and 16 percent, respectively, Qarni at 12 percent, Filler-Corn at 9 percent and Boysko at 7 percent. But a late-breaking development could also shake things up: Four current or former members of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee have accused Helmer of inappropriate behavior that led them to add a sexual harassment policy to the committee's bylaws. Helmer labeled the claims "baseless," while some of his opponents have called on him to exit the race.

Just to the south, both the Republican and Democratic primaries are competitive in Virginia's open 7th District, one of the state's most competitive. With incumbent Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger leaving to run for governor in 2025, Republicans are hoping they can take back the open seat, which they held for nearly half a century before Spanberger's election in 2018. Spanberger has narrowly held onto her seat in the past two cycles, so with the right candidate, the GOP could very well be victorious — but of course, Democrats are equally hopeful they can hang on.

Duking it out on the Republican ticket are two military veterans: former Green Beret Derrick Anderson and former Navy SEAL Cameron Hamilton. Anderson has the fundraising edge — he's raised $1.1 million to Hamilton's $722,000 — and the backing of House leadership, while Hamilton is supported by the House Freedom Caucus. The schism has resulted in some nasty attack ads and at least one cease-and-desist letter, with the two wings of the party battling for their preferred candidate. Anderson again has a slight edge in outside spending, with $1.7 million coming his way from outside groups, compared to Hamilton's $1.4 million.

On the Democratic side, it's a full slate. Candidates include two members of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, Andrea Bailey and Margaret Angela Franklin, Del. Briana Sewell and former state Del. Elizabeth Guzman. But the favorite is former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman, who has managed to raise gobs of cash in part due to his notoriety as one of the key whistleblowers whose actions led to Trump’s first impeachment. Vindman has raised over $5 million, funneling donations from outside of the district and putting him head and shoulders above the next-highest fundraiser, Bailey, who has raised just over $330,000. Though the only polling we have on this race is from an internal Vindman poll, it did show him with a sizable lead, and it's a good bet he'll be taking on the GOP winner in November to try to keep a grasp on this seat.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the 2nd District — which includes much of the Hampton Roads area and Virginia's Eastern Shore — are hopeful they may be able to reclaim this swing seat. The 2nd District has been in a tug-of-war between the two major parties for the last decade, with Democratic former Rep. Elaine Luria unseating the incumbent Republican in 2018, before being unseated herself by the current incumbent, Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans, in 2022. Kiggans won that election with 52 percent of the vote. Given that tight margin, the history of the district, and the fact that President Joe Biden won this district in 2020 (though with less than a 2-percentage-point margin), the Democratic primary to challenge Kiggans is one to watch.

On paper, Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal seems to be the front-runner. She has raised more than double what her opponent, attorney Jake Denton, has, and also secured the endorsement of former Govs. Ralph Northam and Terry McAuliffe, and Reps. Spanberger and Wexton. But with no polling in this race and two political newcomers on the ballot, there are no guarantees. Either candidate may be taking on Kiggans in November.

Lastly, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is running for a third term, and the GOP primary for Senate is also up for grabs. Virginia has become Democratic-leaning, but it's not solidly blue, and five Republicans are battling for the right to take on Kaine this fall. The front-runner appears to be retired U.S. Navy Capt. Hung Cao, who lost to Wexton in 2022 as a House candidate. Critically, Cao has Trump's endorsement and has raised $2.5 million. But Cao has faced questions regarding the alleged misuse of funds raised by a super PAC he founded to help GOP candidates in Virginia's 2023 elections, and he also recently made headlines for complaining about having to travel to Southwest Virginia for a debate. This may have opened the door for one of his opponents, perhaps Club for Growth official Scott Parkinson, who's raised $930,000 and has also received $469,000 in support from a super PAC backing him. The other three contenders are attorney Jonathan Emord ($933,000 raised, two-thirds self-funded), former Virginia Beach GOP chair Chuck Smith ($557,000 raised) and Army veteran Eddie Garcia ($341,000 raised, a quarter self-funded).

Oklahoma

Races to watch: 4th Congressional District
Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern

In 2024, not even an 11-term incumbent Republican congressman in a deep-red district can rest on his laurels. Rep. Tom Cole, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, is facing his most competitive challenger since he was first elected in Oklahoma's 4th District in 2002. His competition is Paul Bondar, a wealthy businessman who has almost entirely self-funded his more than $5 million campaign. While the relatively moderate Cole has Trump's endorsement, Bondar has tried to position himself as the more conservative, Trump-aligned pick and attacked Cole as a Washington insider and "liberal Republican."

Bondar recently moved to the state from Texas — a fact that could be politically lethal in the Sooner State. Though Bondar is originally from Wisconsin and has explicitly noted he is "not a Longhorns fan," the whiff of a Texan carpetbagger and Cole's incumbency may be enough to overcome Bondar's stacks of cash. But it's obviously not a race that mainstream Republican PACs think is in the bag — both the Defending Main Street Super PAC and the American Action Network, which back center-right candidates, have been spending money on Cole's behalf. If nothing else, it's been competitive enough to lead to some entertaining campaigning. Cole recently described the race to Roll Call as an "old fashioned bar fight," adding: "The guy who wins a bar fight isn't the guy with the most money, it's the guy with the most friends. And I have a lot of friends in that district."

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