National News

Trump Helps Boost Two Preferred Candidates While Progressive Democrats Gain

Posted June 27, 2018 12:51 a.m. EDT

COLUMBIA, S.C. — President Donald Trump helped lift a pair of incumbent Republicans locked in difficult races to victory Tuesday while the liberal wing of the Democratic Party scored its most significant successes yet in the primary season, with progressive candidates unseating the fourth-ranking House Democrat and claiming the nominations for governor in Maryland and Colorado.

Already triumphant after the Supreme Court ruled in his favor in two major cases Tuesday morning, Trump propelled Gov. Henry McMaster to a decisive victory in a runoff in South Carolina, a day after appearing with him at a rally.

And Trump got another victory in New York, where Staten Island Republicans renominated Rep. Dan Donovan, thwarting the comeback bid of Michael Grimm, who was seeking to overcome his conviction on tax fraud and regain his former House seat. Trump endorsed Donovan, saying the party could not afford a Grimm candidacy in a district that could swing to the Democrats.

But the most stunning, and consequential, contest of the night was in Trump’s native borough of Queens, where Rep. Joseph Crowley, who made no secret of his designs on the House speakership, was upset by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old political newcomer who ran to his left.

In Colorado, Rep. Jared Polis, who would be the nation’s first elected gay governor if he prevails in November, won the Democratic nomination for governor. Another progressive, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, claimed the nomination for governor in Maryland.

Seven states went to the polls Tuesday, including Utah, where Republicans launched Mitt Romney’s political revival in his bid for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Orrin Hatch.

It was here in South Carolina, though, that Trump’s willingness to take a gamble for an ally paid off.

Trump has proved adept at bruising his adversaries but had less success in office propelling allies to victory — until Tuesday.

With 97 percent of the vote counted, McMaster had 53 percent and his opponent, John Warren, a businessman and former Marine, 47 percent. Claiming victory, McMaster, 71, thanked the president and told supporters that this state had not had a closer relationship with a president in decades.

“As President Trump says, ‘We’re going to keep on winning, winning, winning in South Carolina,'” he crowed.

Putting his political capital on the line to repay McMaster, Trump flew into the state Monday night to appear with the governor and urge Republican voters to back one of the few elected officials who were willing to get behind his candidacy at the outset of 2016. McMaster ascended to the governorship last year when Trump appointed Nikki Haley as his ambassador to the United Nations.

The president acknowledged he was taking a risk in standing with McMaster, telling voters in a suburb just west of here that the news media would portray a loss as a “humiliating defeat” for the White House. But his staff had also gotten assurances from the governor last week that he was ahead in the polls.

A political veteran who was battered for representing the status quo at a moment when Republicans are hungry for outsiders, McMaster was forced into a runoff two weeks ago by Warren, 39, after failing to garner a majority of the vote in the state’s primary.

But the White House staged something of a rescue mission to ensure the governor’s renomination, sending Vice President Mike Pence to campaign with McMaster on Saturday in addition to Trump’s Monday night rally. After Tuesday’s results were announced, the president congratulated McMaster in a tweet.

McMaster will face James Smith, a Democratic state lawmaker who is close to former Vice President Joe Biden, in the general election. It is a race that could become competitive if Smith is able to raise the money needed to increase his visibility.

In a House Republican runoff for the seat being vacated by Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina voters nominated William Timmons, a state senator who defeated a conservative hard-liner with a history of making inflammatory remarks that made many mainstream party officials uneasy.

In Utah, where Hatch is retiring, Romney easily won the Republican Senate nomination. Returning to politics six years after his presidential defeat, and two years after he emerged as a leading anti-Trump voice in his party, the former Massachusetts governor faced some criticism for running in a state that he has not called home for many years. Utah’s heavily conservative Republican convention attendees even backed Romney’s opponent, Mike Kennedy, at the state’s nonbinding nominating convention in April.

But Romney is a deeply admired figure in Utah. In addition to being among the most prominent Mormons in the world, he helped rescue the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. In fact, his political standing is secure enough in the state that on Sunday, he wrote an op-ed informing Republican voters that he would continue to speak out against Trump as he saw fit.

In Colorado, Polis, a Boulder-based progressive who spent over $11 million of his own money, is competing for the seat being vacated by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited. Polis’ victory Tuesday illustrated the party’s break from more moderate Democrats such as Hickenlooper and former Sen. Ken Salazar. He defeated Cary Kennedy, a former state treasurer who was hoping to be the state’s first female governor.

Polis will face the state treasurer, Walker Stapleton, a Bush family relative, who won the Republican nomination. Also in Colorado, veteran Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat, easily fended off a spirited challenge on her left from Saira Rao, an Indian-American book publisher who has complained that her party has not done enough to support candidates of color. DeGette, a 22-year incumbent, had to spend over $720,000 to fend off Rao.

In Maryland, Democratic voters turned to a more liberal choice for governor, nominating Jealous, who was a leading surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race. Jealous, who enjoyed the support of a group of 2020 White House prospects including Sanders, defeated Rushern Baker, the Prince George’s County executive, as well as a large group of other candidates.

Thanks to an infusion of out-of-state money, Jealous and his allies outraised Baker, who was backed by many establishment-aligned Democrats in the state, such as Sen. Chris Van Hollen and former Gov. Martin O’Malley. In the general election, Jealous will face Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who enjoys broad popularity but is running in a deep-blue state filled with voters eager to register their contempt for Trump.

And in a House district that includes parts of the Washington suburbs, David Trone, the co-founder of Total Wine, prevailed after spending more than $11 million of his own money in a race to succeed Rep. John Delaney, who is leaving the House to run for president. Two years ago Delaney defeated Trone in the primary despite the retail magnate’s spending $13.4 million out of his own pocket.

Oklahomans also voted Tuesday, deciding on whom to nominate in the race to replace Gov. Mary Fallin, who is term-limited. Democrats nominated a former state attorney general, Drew Edmondson, and Republicans were headed toward a runoff between former Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City and one of several other candidates.