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Electoral victories by Trump allies demonstrate his grip on the GOP base

PHOENIX — Primary victories in Arizona and Michigan for allies of Donald J. Trump on Tuesday confirmed his continued influence in the Republican Party, as the former president sought to purge the party of his critics, install loyalists in key swing state offices and to scare the odds Opponents of 2024 with a show of brute political force.

In Arizona, Mr. Trump’s Senate pick, Blake Masters, won a closely contested primary, as did his secretary of state pick, Mark Finchem, a recusal who has publicly acknowledged his ties to the far-right militia group. Oath Keepers. The governor’s race was essentially tied early Wednesday, even though Mr. Trump’s pick, Cary Lake, fared badly.

And in a particularly symbolic victory for Mr. Trump, Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House who gained national attention after testifying against Mr. Trump at congressional hearings on Jan. 6, lost his nomination for the Senate.

In Michigan, a House Republican who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, Representative Peter Major, was defeated by a former Trump administration official, John Gibbs, and conservative commentator Tudor Dixon in Mr. Trump’s last-minute pick. for governor. His false allegations of voter fraud easily won her primary.

Mr. Trump and his allies have focused heavily on the vote-counting and certification process in both Arizona and Michigan, seeking to oust those who stood in the way of their efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The victory for Mr. Finchem, who marched on Capitol Hill on January 6, was a key sign of how the “Stop Theft” movement that formed in a lie around 2020 has turned into a broad campaign to try to take control of the levers of democracy in the face of coming elections.

Tuesday’s primaries in five states – Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Washington state – kicked off the latest in a six-week series of contests that will provide the fullest picture yet of the GOP’s priorities in 2022, how tight Mr. Trump on the ground and the extent to which his lies about a stolen election in 2020 have infected the electorate.

In Washington State, Mr. Trump had endorsed challengers to two Republican House members who voted to impeach him. But both of those incumbents appeared to be in strong positions to advance against Mr. Trump’s preferred nominees — benefiting from the state’s first-two primary system, although neither race had been declared early Wednesday.

Many Republican strategists are eager to move beyond the primaries and this season of infighting to focus squarely on defeating Democrats this fall and capitalizing on President Biden’s slipping support and growing voter disillusionment with inflation. and the state of the economy.

In a relief for national party strategists, Missouri Republicans rejected a political comeback attempt by Eric Greitens, the scandal-plagued former governor who ran for Senate. Party leaders had worried that Mr. Greitens would have jeopardized an otherwise safe seat for Republicans in the Senate. Mr. Trump had stayed out of that race until Monday’s strange last-minute double endorsement of “Eric” — no last name — a boon that covered both Mr. Greitens, who finished a distant third, and Eric Schmidt . the state’s attorney general, who won the Senate nomination.

In Kansas, voters offered a warning sign to congressional Republicans as an abortion measure showed the issue’s electoral strength and political shift following the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. Voters there soundly rejected an attempt to amend the state Constitution to remove the protected right to abortion.

Several of the Republican contests on Tuesday were in Arizona, a top presidential battleground with an open governor’s race, contested Senate seat and multiple competitive House races in 2022.

In the gubernatorial contest, Mr. Trump endorsed Ms. Lake, a telegenic former news anchor who had become an unrelenting champion of Trumpism. Mr. Trump is seeking some redemption after struggling earlier this year in other gubernatorial races, most notably failing to oust Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Unlike Mr. Kemp, Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who earned Mr. Trump’s ire by endorsing the 2020 election results, was term-limited and not on the ballot himself. Mr. Ducey backed Karrin Taylor Robson, a wealthy real estate developer who spent more than $18 million to run it and which also had the backing of Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s former vice president.

Ms. Lake, who has made voter fraud a centerpiece of her candidacy, declared victory at a time when she was actually behind in the vote count. “We won this fight,” Ms. Lake said at her party on election night. “Period.” He later took the lead for the first time, but this contest remained too close to call.

In the Senate race, Mr. Masters, a 35-year-old political newcomer, won the Republican nomination to face Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat, who is seeking a full six-year term after ousting a Republican in 2020. The race is expected to are among the most contested of the fall midterms.

The primary victory represents the second major win for Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist and major Republican donor who co-authored a book with Mr. Masters. Mr. Thiel put $15 million of his own money into a super PAC backing Mr. Masters and another $15 million into a separate super PAC backing JD Vance, who won his Ohio Senate primary this year. spring.

Mr. Masters defeated Jim Lamon, a businessman who poured $14 million of his personal fortune into his campaign, and Mark Brnovich, the Arizona attorney general whom Mr. Trump had repeatedly attacked for not investigating the baseless allegations. his theories about voter fraud.

Holly Law, a 53-year-old who lives in Phoenix, said the deciding factor in her votes for Ms. Lake and Mr. Masters was the former president’s blessing.

“Trump’s endorsement — that’s it,” he said Monday at a campaign rally. Ms. Law insisted, despite a lack of evidence of fraud, that the 2020 election was stolen by Mr. Trump and said she stopped watching Fox News altogether because it was the network that first called her state for Mr. Biden.

“Newsmax — 100 percent,” she said of her current viewing habits, referring to the conservative news network.

In Michigan, Mr. Trump had given a late endorsement to Ms. Dixon, who easily won the Republican nomination for governor after two top challengers were kicked off the ballot for filing fraudulent claims. Among those on the ballot and among those defeated Tuesday was Ryan Kelley, who he was ahead in an early poll after he was arrested in June by the FBI and charged with trespassing and other crimes in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion. Mr. Kelley was in fourth place early Wednesday.

Tuesday’s Democratic primary for statewide offices was less drama-filled. In Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs won the Democratic nomination for governor, and in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer officially became her party’s nominee for a second term.

Michigan has had some intense Democratic House primaries, including a close one in suburban Detroit where Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens ran in the same district. Ms. Stevens won with the heavy financial support of the new super PAC arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, among others.

But the highest-stakes Michigan House race was Mr. Meijer’s re-election. His primary opponent received a surprise late boost from the political arm of House Democrats, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads, because Mr. Gibbs was seen as easier to beat this fall in a swing seat.

“I am proud to have remained true to my principles, even when it came at a significant political cost,” Mr. Meijer said in a statement conceding defeat.

Mr. Trump call personally Mr. Gibbs to congratulate him.

“Yes, sir, your approvals have a really, really good record,” Mr. Gibbs told him.

“I’m very proud of you. That’s a great job,” Mr. Trump said.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s meddling of a pro-Trump nominee has drawn backlash from fellow Democrats, who saw the meddling as undermining the party’s overall message that pro-choice voters are a threat to democracy.

“I am disgusted that hard-earned money meant to support Democrats is being used to boost candidates that Trump supports,” Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota said last month, calling Mr. Meijer. “One of the most honest Republicans in Congress.”

Trump’s other two accusers were poised to take advantage of Washington state’s primary system, which drew a larger pool of candidates and split the vote among their Republican opponents.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was ahead of her Trump-backed challenger Joe Kent, a retired Green Beret, with more than half the votes counted. Mr Kent, whose wife was killed by a suicide bomber in 2019 in Syria, met Mr. Trump for the first time at Dover Air Force Base when he went to see the remains of his late wife.

Representative Dan Newhouse, another Republican who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, is among the challengers to Lauren Culp, a Trump-backed candidate running for governor in 2020 and refused to concede that race despite losing by a wide margin. Mr. Culp was not among the top two candidates with about half the votes counted.

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