Trump, progressives suffer a rough night: 5 takeaways from Tuesday's primaries


Tuesday’s contests in Colorado, New York, South Carolina and Utah saw the first incumbent House Democrat to lose in a primary this cycle, along with several losses for Trump-endorsed candidates. 

The progressive wing of the Democratic Party suffered a major blow when Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) lost to Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a moderate, in one of the most tumultuous primaries so far. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s near-perfect endorsement track record this cycle took a hit almost everywhere, while Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), a political lightning rod, all but ensured her survival in Congress in November.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s primary results: 

Bowman’s loss deals the Squad a blow 

The New York lawmaker’s defeat was not a shock. As a member of the House’s progressive “Squad,” who stirred controversy on several issues and generated unflattering headlines, Bowman went into Tuesday’s primary facing a steep climb. But his defeat is nonetheless a major setback for the progressive wing of the party, who had made a public show of support in the days and weeks leading up to the race. 

The race gained widespread national attention as a test of the Democratic divisions that have been exposed following the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas after Oct. 7.

Latimer’s attacks on Bowman centered on Israel, criticizing the incumbent for his votes against providing additional aid to Israel, calls for a permanent ceasefire and comments initially calling the reports of sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attack “propaganda” and “lies.” Bowman later walked back those comments and apologized. 

Bowman defended his stance on Israel, which he has accused of committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. He also slammed pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for pouring millions into the race against him. 

Both candidates sought to portray each other as out of touch with the district, but Bowman was ultimately unable to convince his district that he deserved another two years in office. He’s the first member of the Squad to lose a primary challenge since the group formed, and his loss could serve as a warning to other lawmakers who criticize Israel.

The next test for progressives will take place in August, when another Squad member, Rep. Cori Bush (D), faces a competitive primary in Missouri.

Trump’s endorsed candidates have a bad night 

Arguably no political figure in the country has single-handedly wielded more influence than Trump, whose endorsements are often enough to carry a candidate across the finish line in a GOP primary. 

But that wasn’t the case in three high-profile races Tuesday in which Trump-backed candidates fell short. 

In a South Carolina runoff to determine the Republican nominee and likely eventual House member for the solidly red 3rd Congressional District, nurse practitioner Sheri Biggs narrowly bested Trump-endorsed pastor Mark Burns for the nomination. Her victory was also a win for Gov. Henry McMaster (R), himself a Trump ally, who had backed her.

In Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, controversial state GOP Chair Dave Williams lost his primary against Jeff Crank despite having Trump’s endorsement. Crank had establishment backing from Republican leaders like House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), while Williams had drawn the ire of many within his own party over his divisive behavior and past statements.

And in Utah, Trump-endorsed Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs lost the Republican primary for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). Instead, Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), a more moderate candidate, prevailed. 

Tuesday did also include some victories for Trump, with his endorsed candidate in Colorado’s 8th District, Gabe Evans, winning his primary against the state GOP-endorsed candidate. 

But while the former president remains the dominant force in his party, Tuesday’s results underscored that not everything he touches turns to political gold.

Boebert cruises to victory 

After Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) nearly lost her House seat in November 2022, many observers in both parties were ready to write her political obituary.

But the controversial firebrand clinched an opportunity for a safer path to reelection when Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) announced his retirement, leading to running in the more safely red 4th District instead of the swingy 3rd District she has been representing. 

Still, she faced a competitive primary in the 4th District amid accusations of carpetbagging. 

She also had to grapple with a lingering controversy after she was kicked out of a theater last year where she was accused of causing a disturbance, leading to a rare apology from the congresswoman. 

But Boebert received help when the leading candidate for the special election to fill Buck’s seat decided to only run for the remainder of the term instead of a full term. And Trump’s endorsement allowed her name to be placed first on the ballot. 

All of that, along with opposition to Boebert not centralizing around a single candidate, likely contributed to her pulling off a win in the primary and ensuring she continues to be able to serve in the House. 

A win for AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups 

One of the main storylines in the Latimer-Bowman race was the large influx of dollars that pro-Israel groups like AIPAC spent in the race to oppose the incumbent. 

Bowman regularly railed against the spending from those groups, accusing them of being part of right-wing efforts to oust him. The race was the most expensive House primary in U.S. history, and a majority of the spending came from pro-Israel groups. 

Spending overall for Latimer outpaced spending for Bowman by a margin of 7 to 1. 

Latimer defended the sources of his fundraising, noting that most of the funding directly to his campaign came from within the district and emphasizing his deep ties to the area. He also attacked Bowman for funding coming from outside the district. 

Pro-Israel groups like AIPAC have previously shown willingness to weigh in on races to prop up their preferred candidates but their role took a focus in this race much more significantly than in most other cases in the past. 

Dem intervention in Colorado primary doesn’t pay off 

Democrats nearly pulled off a shock upset two years ago when Adam Frisch fell short of defeating Boebert by just a few hundred votes. Frisch is running again as the Democratic nominee for Colorado’s 3rd District, but this time against a different candidate after Boebert moved to Buck’s district.

Hoping to get their preferred opponent to potentially make Frisch’s election easier, Democrats waded into the GOP primary for the seat between establishment-backed attorney Jeff Hurd and former state Sen. Ron Hanks, an election denier. 

Frisch’s campaign and other Democrats saw Hanks as an easier opponent to beat and aired ads to prop him up or attack Hurd for avoiding debates or certain policy positions. 

But that effort was ultimately unsuccessful, with Hurd comfortably winning the nomination over Hanks and a few other candidates. 

The race is still in play for Frisch to potentially win, but it may be a more difficult contest for Democrats now. The Cook Political Report rates the race as “lean Republican.”

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