By WILL WEISSERT
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Mississippi congressman facing questions about misspending campaign funds lost a rare Republican runoff on Tuesday, and an Illinois House Democrat lost her primary at the hands of a fellow incumbent.
Mississippi Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, a six-term incumbent, was defeated by Sheriff Mike Ezell. That came as his Republican House colleague, congressman Michael Guest, won a runoff race in that state, despite defying former President Donald Trump and voting to create an independent commission to investigate last year’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
But another Trump ally, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of Congress’ most polarizing members, easily beat back a challenge from a more mainstream Republican – immediately making her the favorite to retain her seat in November.
In Illinois, Democratic Rep. Sean Casten beat progressive Congresswoman Marie Newman for a seat in suburban Chicago both competed for after a declining population cost the state a House seat. Meanwhile, Illinois Republican Rep. Mary Miller, who called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade a “historic victory for white life” during a rally with Trump — her spokesperson said she misspoke — is going up against a fellow GOP incumbent.
Six states are holding congressional primary elections, primary runoffs or special elections. Many of the Republican races are testing Trump’s national influence, and others could provide 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 slams what he calls Boebert’s extremism.
Coram had argued that the incumbent’s fealty to Trump has meant neglect of her sprawling territory’s all-important agriculture issues as she seeks social and conservative media celebrity. Boebert has railed against the “Biden regime” and “socialist” Democrats. She also trumpets her gun-toting Second Amendment credentials and opposition to COVID-19 restrictions that briefly shuttered her “Shooters” restaurant.
Boebert criticized Coram for working with legislative Democrats. Her opponent was betting voters alienated by Boebert’s provocations will choose someone more in the tradition of centrists that have played well in the area, including five-term Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, who lost to Boebert in an upset last cycle. It didn’t resonate.
Also Tuesday, in Colorado’s deeply conservative El Paso County, 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 Biden, added to his name on the ballot.
Lamborn faces an ongoing House ethics investigation over whether he misused official resources for personal purposes, has survived primary challenges in the past as an ardent opponent of abortion and backer of the significant U.S. military presence in Colorado Springs. Earlier this year, Williams led a 24-hour filibuster in the statehouse over a bill allowing unrestricted access to abortion. The bill eventually became law.
ILLINOIS INCUMBENTS CLASH
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 Joe 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.”
As polls closed, Miller faced five-term Republican Rep. Rodney Davis on Tuesday for the GOP nomination for the 15th Congressional District, a sprawling, heavily red district in central Illinois that was redrawn after the state’s shrinking population cost it a congressional seat.
Davis was a co-chair of Trump’s 2020 Illinois campaign but voted to certify the 2020 presidential election results. He has the backing of almost all of the district’s 35 county party chairs and has vowed to “reimplement” Trump policies, including walling off the U.S.-Mexico border.
In suburban Chicago, meanwhile, Casten beat Newman to secure the Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional District.
Newman is a progressive first elected in 2020, when she defeated longtime Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of Congress’ last anti-abortion Democrats. She faces an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation over whether she promised federal employment to a political opponent.
Casten flipped a suburban seat in 2018 that Republicans held for decades.
FLOOD OF CANDIDATES FOR OPEN ILLINOIS SEATS
More than 20 candidates are vying for the chance 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 was redrawn after the 2020 census and now stretches from Chicago’s South Side to Kankakee.
Among the field running to replace Rush is Jonathan Jackson, the son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Karin Norington-Reaves, a federal workforce trainer endorsed by Rush; Pat Dowell, a member of the Chicago City Council whose ward is in the district; and businessman Jonathan Swain.
Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos also is not seeking reelection in the 17th Congressional District in northwestern Illinois, a largely rural swath that Republicans are hoping to flip in November.
Republican Esther Joy King, who came close to defeating Bustos in 2020, won the GOP nomination on Tuesday after leading her primary rivals in fundraising. The Democratic field includes former meteorologist Eric Sorensen, Rockford City Council member Jonathan Logemann and educator Angie Normoyle, who has served on both her local school board and county board.
TWO RARE MISSISSIPPI RUNOFFS
Guest won a third term after voting to create an independent commission investigating the Capitol. But Palazzo couldn’t overcome accusations in a congressional ethics report last year of abusing his office by misspending campaign funds.
Both Guest and Palazzo failed to cross the 50% threshold to win outright in their June 7 primaries. Guest topped former Navy fighter pilot Michael Cassidy, while Ezell, the sheriff of a coastal county, defeated Palazzo.
The congressional runoffs are rare. The Associated Press researched state records dating back 70 years, to 1952, and found that no U.S. representative from Mississippi had been in a party primary runoff during that time.
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 were picking a replacement for the rest of his term.
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.
Two state lawmakers, Republican Mike Flood and Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks, are running 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.
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