Posted: 5:55 am Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
Tuesday was another good primary night for incumbent lawmakers in the Congress, as voters in seven states advanced all but one of those U.S. House members to the November ballot, once again raising questions about whether widespread ‘voter anger’ will change Congress in January of 2017.
The only House member to lose was Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), as she lost to fellow Republican Rep. George Holding (R-NC), in a primary match up forced on them by redistricting in the Tar Heel State.
Ellmers had been endorsed by Donald Trump, but his help had been limited to a simple robocall in the district, which was filled with voters that were new to Ellmers, but not to Holding.
Ellmers had managed in recent months to aggravate just about everyone in the Republican Party – she was mocked in defeat by former American Idol singer Clay Aiken, who had unsuccessfully tried to defeat her in 2014.
— Clay Aiken (@clayaiken) June 8, 2016
North Carolina also saw the closest primary of the night, as Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) – already under investigation by the FBI – survived by just 135 votes.
At a minimum, there will be a recanvass of the votes – and maybe a full recount in that primary race as well.
The defeat of Ellmers means that two incumbents in Congress – one Republican and one Democrat (Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania) have been defeated in the primaries so far.
But – as my scoreboard indicates – there will still be a minimum of an 11 percent turnover in Congress, because so many lawmakers decided not to run for re-election or to run for another office.
22 states have now held their primaries for the U.S. House and Senate, so there will still be a lot of chances for sitting lawmakers to be tripped up through the summer – but so far, this does not look like a year where voters are taking out their anger on the Congress.
Most of the Congressional primary action was in California on Tuesday night, but the unique “Top Two” primary there did not cause much in the way of incumbent damage.
Maybe the biggest story of the night was that Republicans won’t even have a candidate on the ballot in November for the U.S. Senate, as two Democrats qualified to replace the retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
For first time, no Republican will appear on general election ballot for Senate in California: https://t.co/LtfOtNTsri
— Christina Bellantoni (@cbellantoni) June 8, 2016
There could be as many as six Congressional districts where the GOP failed to get a candidate on to the November ballot as well – but most of those were in heavily liberal areas, where there were few Republican voters.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) almost did not have a GOP challenger for November, but Republican Bob Miller squeezed by two other candidates to gain that spot, with just 8 percent of the vote.
Because California has such a large number of mail-in ballots, some of the numbers in these races could still change in coming days and weeks – but for now, most of the Golden State seems a secure battleground for members of the U.S. Congress.
And that’s been true around the nation as well.
One other note – voters in Ohio elected a new member of Congress on Tuesday, as Republican Warren Davidson won easily in the 8th District, to replace ex-Speaker John Boehner.
Davidson will be sworn in to his seat later this week.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.