2022 midterms

Illinois Republicans Go MAGA While Moderates Prevail in Colorado Primaries

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

June 28 wasn’t among the biggest Republican primary nights for the 2022 midterm elections, but two states did offer some significant and distinct choices. Illinois was the only June 28 primary state where Donald Trump made endorsements in competitive contests. And though he had a bad day in Washington, with former aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s damaging testimony before the House select committee investigating the events of January 6, the former president got some solace from the Land of Lincoln.

His Illinois gubernatorial endorsee, Darren Bailey, easily defeated the one-time front-runner, Aurora mayor Richard Irvin. As the New York Times noted, Bailey, a farmer and a freshman state senator, “called Chicago a ‘hellhole’ during one primary debate, was once removed from a legislative session for refusing to wear a mask and has said he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest.” He was a Trump delegate to the 2020 Republican convention and won a late endorsement from the former president, which helped. But the most important figures in his campaign were two billionaires, right-wing busybody Richard Uihlein, who spent an estimated $18 million backing Bailey and attacking Irvin, and his November opponent, Governor J.B. Pritzker, who spent in the neighborhood of $30 million on ads attacking Bailey in ways that helped his campaign with conservatives. He will be a decided underdog in November, which is precisely why Pritzker helped him win the GOP nomination.

Trump’s other Illinois winner didn’t need any bank-shot Democratic help. In an incumbent-versus-incumbent congressional primary in a deep-red district created by redistricting, Mary Miller defeated Rodney Davis, a moderate by contemporary standards (he supported the creation of a January 6 commission and voted to certify Biden’s election). Davis’s real problem is that his old district was competitive in general elections, leading him to make bipartisan gestures and to emphasize his skill in assembling agriculture legislation. Miller is a House Freedom Caucus member who echoes Trumpian themes routinely. It was no real contest. The winner is probably best known nationally for once having quoted Hitler on the political importance of youth, and much more recently for calling the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade a “victory for White life” while standing on a platform with Trump (her campaign announced she was trying to say “right to life”). Miller may now go on to future gaffes.

Fortunately for the 45th president, he did not weigh into two ideologically freighted statewide primaries in Colorado, because the Trumpier, more conservative candidates lost both. In the contest to choose an opponent for potentially vulnerable Democratic senator Michael Bennet, wealthy business executive Joe O’Dea dispatched state legislator Ron Hanks, a 2020 election-denier and hard-core no-exceptions abortion opponent. O’Dea is the rare Republican who supports the right to early-term abortions and billed himself as a problem solver who could work with Democrats. Meanwhile, in the gubernatorial primary, state university regent Heidi Ganahl defeated Greg Lopez, a loser in two previous statewide campaigns, another hard-core anti-abortion activist, and a supporter of a rollback in Colorado policies making voting easier. Both winners had to overcome a Democratic PAC’s heavy expenditures for ads calling Hanks and Lopez “too conservative for Colorado,” which was intended to help them in the primaries and hurt them in the general election.

Now Democrats have to deal with more difficult opponents for Bennet and for Governor Jared Polis, though both incumbents are initially favored.

An even more notorious conservative extremist who lost in the Colorado primary was Mesa county clerk Tina Peters, a big-time election denier who is under indictment for tampering with election equipment. Peters was running for secretary of state but finished third. She was controversial enough that some Republicans feared she could sink the whole ticket. Instead, former Jefferson County clerk Pam Anderson will take on incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

One famous Colorado extremist did win, and she was Trump’s one endorsee in the primary: congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who handily defeated State Senator Don Coram, despite Coram’s success in getting some Democrats to re-register to take down the gun-toting MAGA ultra. Boebert will be a problem for Republicans if they try to go into November advertising themselves as a party of reasonable people.

Illinois GOP Goes MAGA While Moderates Prevail in Colorado