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5 things to watch Tuesday in primaries in South Carolina, Nevada, Maine and more

By Eric Bradner and Gregory Krieg, CNN

Two South Carolina Republicans will attempt to hold on to their seats in primaries Tuesday after breaking with former President Donald Trump over his lies about the 2020 election and his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol.

Nevada, meanwhile, showcases Trump’s effort to take over the election machinery in a series of battleground states, as his endorsed candidates attempt to win a slate of statewide primaries.

In Texas, voters in the Rio Grande Valley will fill a seat in Congress in a special election. In Maine, they will tee up two midterm races that are expected to be hard-fought battles. And in North Dakota, Republican Sen. John Hoeven is poised to be nominated for another term.

Here are five things to watch Tuesday:

Republican Tom Rice of South Carolina vs. the pro-Trump backlash

Can a Republican House member from a deep red state who voted to impeach Trump, as Rep. Tom Rice did after the Capitol riot, win a GOP primary in 2022?

The first test will come on Tuesday, when Rice, perhaps the most surprising name on the list of 10 Republican members who joined Democrats in impeaching Trump, faces six challengers — led by state Rep. Russell Fry, who has the former President’s endorsement.

Rice is the rare Republican who initially condemned Trump after the insurrection, voted to impeach him afterward and continues to be critical of Trump even as he fights for his political life. His bet: that his deeply conservative record will win out in a district that previously has elected him five times.

Trump has been typically bombastic in his denunciations of Rice, who had been a staunch ally until the insurrection, a “coward who abandoned his constituents by caving to (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left” over Rice’s vote to impeach.

If none of the primary candidates wins a clear majority, the top two vote-getters will match up in a runoff, on June 28, to decide the nomination.

Another Republican proxy fight in South Carolina

Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina has been more circumspect talking about Trump, but her initial response to the Capitol riot helped seed a challenge from Katie Arrington, a former state representative and GOP congressional nominee who lost this seat to Democrat Joe Cunningham in 2018.

Two years later, Mace defeated Cunningham and, in one of her first acts as a member of Congress, refused to object to the 2020 election results. She responded to the deadly violence on January 6 — which took place only days after she was sworn in — in an interview shortly thereafter, saying Trump had “wiped out” his “entire legacy” with his actions ahead of the insurrection.

Since then, Mace has sought to soften her position and play up her loyalty to the former President. She did not vote to impeach Trump and she aggressively pursued rhetorical clashes with prominent Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

But Trump, again, has been unsparing. He endorsed Arrington in February, calling her policies “perfect” and, in a statement, claimed that “she has the tremendous backing of almost all who know her — especially when she is compared to Nancy Mace!”

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump’s appointee as ambassador to the United Nations and a potential 2024 presidential candidate, is not among them. She endorsed and campaigned for Mace ahead of the vote, creating a proxy battle of sorts in the coastal district.

Trump’s election lies at center of Nevada GOP contests

Trump’s lies about widespread fraud in the 2020 election loom over a series of statewide primaries in Nevada, where Trump-endorsed candidates who have embraced those falsehoods are seeking to advance in one of the most competitive states on the 2022 midterm map.

If the Trump-backed candidates win, it would move the former President one step closer to his goal of taking over election administration across a series of swing states.

Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is the favorite to face Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — a first-term Democrat who is expected to be among the party’s most vulnerable members in November. Laxalt, who has Trump’s endorsement and a famous last name in the state (he is the grandson of former governor and senator Paul Laxalt), led Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the state.

He faces a stronger-than-expected challenge from Sam Brown, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart after being badly burned in Afghanistan. Brown has cast Laxalt as a tool of the political establishment and pointed to Laxalt’s loss in the 2018 governor’s race as evidence he’d fare poorly against Cortez Masto. Brown has gained traction among the state’s GOP grassroots and received an endorsement from the Nevada Republican Party.

The Republican race to take on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak is also competitive. Trump backed Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. Long viewed as the GOP front-runner, Lombardo has acknowledged that Joe Biden is the duly elected president but said he supports repealing the state’s universal mail-in voting system. Trump chose him over two other Republicans — attorney and former boxer Joey Gilbert and former US Sen. Dean Heller — who have also aligned themselves with the former President.

The race for the Republican nomination for secretary of state also features a candidate who has embraced Trump’s election lies in former state lawmaker Jim Marchant. Democrats, meanwhile, have coalesced around Cisco Aguilar, an attorney who once worked for former Sen. Harry Reid. They are running to replace term-limited Republican Barbara Cegavske, who rejected Trump’s efforts to overturn voters’ will in 2020.

Republicans will also choose challengers in three Las Vegas-area congressional districts. Those districts’ political makeups favor Democrats, but in a political environment expected to favor Republicans, they could turn into critical races in November’s battle for House control.

Republicans want to send a message in South Texas special election

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Election Day in Texas.

This time, it is a special election to fill out the remainder of the term of former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year to take a job with a lobbying firm. The winner of the four-person contest, which could go to a runoff if no one clears 50%, will be guaranteed only a few months on Capitol Hill.

Republican activist Mayra Flores is running in both the special and November’s general election. But she will face different electorates in those races, as redistricting alters the 34th Congressional District’s borders in the fall — a change that will benefit Democratic nominee Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who currently represents the adjacent 15th Congressional District.

But Gonzalez isn’t on the ballot on Tuesday. Instead, former Cameron County commissioner Dan Sanchez is the leading Democratic candidate. He will not seek reelection if he wins.

Picking up on the unexpected jumble, Republicans have spent heavily in the district, hoping to send a message about GOP support in the border region and create momentum ahead of the general election.

Maine tees up marquee November races

Maine is set to tee up a governor’s race to watch, with bombastic former Republican Gov. Paul LePage attempting a comeback against Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. It’s the latest chapter in years of battles between the two that began when LePage was governor and Mills was attorney general.

The two are unopposed in their primaries, so Tuesday is a mere formality.

The race to watch in Maine, though, is the 2nd District GOP primary, the winner of which will take on Democratic Rep. Jared Golden. Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin is facing veteran Caratunk Selectwoman Liz Caruso, who has raised little money but has a base of energetic GOP activist supporters. Maine’s history of an independent streak could make this race a focal point in the battle for House control this fall.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the endorsements Jim Marchant has received in his 2022 race for Nevada secretary of state. It also misstated the date slated for runoffs in South Carolina.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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