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2022 Midterms: What To Watch In Maine, Nevada, North Dakota And South Carolina

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Primary voters on Tuesday will resolve the fate of two South Carolina Republicans who’re clinging to their seats within the U.S. House after defying Donald Trump, while in Nevada an establishment favorite with the previous president’s endorsement is facing a tougher than expected challenge for the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, in Maine, a bellicose former governor who once said he was “Trump before Trump” has come out of retirement in Florida to challenge a nemesis for his old job.

Primary contests in South Carolina, Nevada and Maine on Tuesday will offer the most recent test of the Trump political brand. North Dakota can also be holding elections, though Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven doesn’t face a serious challenger.

Republican Nevada Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, left, poses with Donald Trump Jr. during a campaign event last week.

Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via Associated Press

NEVADA

Trump has backed former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt for the U.S. Senate and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo for governor. Just how well they do on Tuesday will gauge the potency of a Trump endorsement, which has delivered mixed results this midterm campaign season.

Laxalt’s political pedigree has helped make him a front-runner. His grandfather Paul Laxalt was a Nevada governor and senator. And Laxalt’s father is late U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici of Latest Mexico, who publicly acknowledged his paternity for the primary time in 2013. Besides Trump, Laxalt also has the endorsement of much of Washington’s GOP establishment as he seeks to run in November against first-term Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who is taken into account amongst probably the most vulnerable senators.

But Laxalt, who was largely raised near Washington, D.C., and served as a judge advocate general within the Navy, has faced a stronger than anticipated challenge.

Retired Army Capt. Sam Brown, a West Point graduate and Purple Heart recipient who was badly burned in Afghanistan, is running as a conservative outsider. He has drawn crowds and has won the support of those that view Laxalt as too cozy with the establishment. He also has the endorsement of the Nevada Republican Party.

Within the governor’s race, Lombardo, the top of the Las Vegas Police Department, is hoping to face Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in November. But first he has to get past a Republican primary challenge from former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and Joey Gilbert, a lawyer and former boxer, who was outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Beyond the marquee races, the state’s Republican primary for secretary of state may also offer a measure of Trump’s enduring grip on the GOP.

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, is leaving office due to term limit laws. In 2020, she refused to cave to Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn his defeat within the state’s presidential election, vowing she wouldn’t “put my thumb on the dimensions of democracy.”

Six Republicans are vying for the seat, including Jim Marchant, a former state lawmaker who has embraced Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud within the state. His website makes his position abundantly clear: My “primary priority shall be to overhaul the fraudulent election system in Nevada.”

Democrats have united behind secretary of state candidate Cisco Aguilar, an attorney who previously worked for Harry Reid, the previous Democratic Senate leader who died last 12 months.

Rep. Nancy Mace earned Trump's ire when she went on national TV to declare that Trump’s “entire legacy was wiped out” by the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.Rep. Nancy Mace earned Trump’s ire when she went on national TV to declare that Trump’s “entire legacy was worn out” by the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Mic Smith via Associated Press

SOUTH CAROLINA

Loyalty generally is a fickle thing for Trump. And a perceived lack of it’s the driving force behind heated primary challenges to 2 South Carolina Republicans within the U.S. House.

Rep. Nancy Mace worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and earned his endorsement when she ousted incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham from a coastal swing district 4 years later.

But shortly after her swearing-in, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, and Mace went on national TV to declare that Trump’s “entire legacy was worn out” by the attack. Trump was furious and recruited a challenger, former state Rep. Katie Arrington, who helped oust Mark Sanford from the U.S. House in 2018.

In Congress, Mace has sought to fix fences — kind of. She voted against Trump’s second impeachment and opposed the creation of a 9/11-style commission to analyze the origins of the Jan. 6 attack, which was inspired by Trump’s lies a few stolen election.

But she also voted to carry former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 investigation. And she or he has feuded publicly with Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a far-right flamethrower and Trump acolyte.

Mace just isn’t the one South Carolina candidate to attract his ire.

Trump also solicited challengers to primary U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, after he voted to question the the president over the Jan. 6 rebellion. Now Rice is facing six other Republicans, all of whom have cited the impeachment vote as a chief motivator to their campaigns.

Trump eventually settled on endorsing state Rep. Russell Fry, who has run TV ads likening Rice to villains including Devil. Fry told voters during a recent debate that “we’re going to vote to question Tom Rice on the ballot box.”

Rice, on then again, has focused on essential but way more mundane matters, like his successes securing flood remediation funding and assistance for the region’s farmers over his five terms in office.

Republican candidate Paul LePage, left, and Democratic incumbent Janet Mills will eventually face off in November for Maine's governorship.Republican candidate Paul LePage, left, and Democratic incumbent Janet Mills will eventually face off in November for Maine’s governorship.

MAINE

Maine’s gubernatorial primaries are a mere formality, with one Democrat and one Republican looking for the office. But they may lock in what guarantees to be a doozy of a general election, pitting two longtime foes against one another.

Democratic incumbent Janet Mills is looking for a second term. She’s a former district attorney, state lawmaker and Maine attorney general who steadily clashed with Republican Paul LePage when he was governor. Now he’s difficult her.

That the 2 are even competing against one another is somewhat of a surprise.

LePage, who once described himself as “Trump before there was Trump,” moved to Florida after leaving office in 2019 following two raucous terms that usually drew national attention for his indecorous remarks.

However the draw of elected office was apparently too great. By 2020, he was back in Maine pledging to challenge his old nemesis, whom he accuses of “reckless spending” and “heavy-handed” pandemic directives.

Up to now, LePage lags in fundraising behind Mills, however the race is anticipated to be amongst probably the most competitive governor’s races within the country this 12 months.

Associated Press writers Meg Kinnard in Columbia, S.C., David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report.

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