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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Rice goes down, Mace hangs on

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

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Good morning, Early Birds. Keep those tips coming: earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition … Republican backers of the Senate gun violence deal seek to build support within GOPWho paid Kimberly Guilfoyle’s $60,000 speaking fee on Jan. 6? The Post's Isaac Stanley-Becker and Beth Reinhard have the answer … but first …

The campaign

Impeachment vote fells GOP Rep. Tom Rice

Former president Donald Trump's endorsement remains a powerful force in Republican primaries. But it's not all-powerful.

Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), a reliable conservative who shocked his colleagues last year by voting to impeach Trump, lost his primary on Tuesday in a blowout to state Rep. Russell Fry, whom Trump sought revenge by endorsing. Fry avoided a runoff by winning 51 percent of the vote, far ahead of Rice's 25 percent.

But Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who didn't vote to impeach but enraged Trump by criticizing him and voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, defeated former GOP state Rep. Katie Arrington, the challenger Trump endorsed. Mace led with 53 percent of the vote early this morning to Arrington's 45 percent.

Arrington defeated then-Rep. Mark Sanford in the Republican primary in 2018, only to lose to Democrat Joe Cunningham in the general election. South Carolina Republicans redrew the district last year to make it harder for a Democrat to win.

First test for Republicans who voted to impeach

Rice is the first of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump to succumb to a Trump-backed primary challenger.

Four of the Republicans who voted for impeachment chose not to run for reelection. Another one, Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), faced primary voters last week, but his race still hasn’t been called. Valadao leads his Republican challenger Chris Mathys with 26.3 percent of the vote to Mathys’ 22.4 percent. (California is notoriously slow to count its ballots.)

Valadao was the only Republican to vote for impeachment not facing a Trump-backed primary challenger, which could help him hang on. He also represents a Democratic-leaning district that might be tough for another Republican to hold in November.

Valadao also has a powerful ally: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who represents a neighboring district. “I strongly support David Valadao,” McCarthy told KGET late last year.

The other four Republicans running for reelection who voted to impeach will face primary voters in August. Here’s a look at each race:

  • Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.): Meijer, a freshman, is running in a swing district that went for Joe Biden in 2020. He has a cash advantage: His campaign had $1.5 million on hand on March 31; John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official whom Trump endorsed, had less than $82,000, according to campaign finance reports.
  • Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.): Herrera Beutler, who represents a Republican-leaning district that includes some Portland, Ore., suburbs, is facing an array of Republican challengers. Joe Kent, the former Army Special Forces officer who is Trump’s pick to take her on, had more than $1 million in campaign cash on March 31, but Herrera Beutler could benefit from the split field.
  • Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.): Newhouse represents a redder district than Herrera Beutler, but the challenger Trump endorsed — Loren Culp, who as the Republican nominee for governor in 2020 refused to concede despite losing to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee by a wide margin — has reported dismal fundraising numbers. His campaign had less than $24,000 on hand on March 31. Newhouse and Beutler are “both in better shape than the others because of Washington’s top-two primary system,” in which the two candidates who win the most votes advance to the primary regardless of party, Dave Wasserman, who analyses House races for the Cook Political Report, told the Early.
  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.): No Republican who voted to impeach Trump has been more outspoken than Cheney, the vice chairwoman of the House committee investigating Jan. 6 — and none of them are in more trouble. Trump has campaigned aggressively to defeat her. Cheney’s biggest advantage heading into the Aug. 16 primary may be her campaign account, which had $6.8 million in it on March 31. But it’s unclear whether any amount of money can convince Wyoming Republicans to defy Trump by sending her back to Congress. Rice's cash advantage over Fry didn't save him.
Meanwhile, in Texas

Republican Mayra Flores defeated Democrat Dan Sanchez in the special election to fill the seat of former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned from Congress in March to join a Washington lobbying firm.

Joe Biden narrowly carried Vela's district in 2020 after Hillary Clinton won it by more than 20 points in 2016, and Flores' performance is further evidence that the district is trending Republican. But Texas Republicans made the seat more Democratic during redistricting as part of a play to turn a neighboring district red, so Democrats will have a good shot at winning it back in November.

Flores will face Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) in the fall. The Cook Political Report rates the race “Lean Democratic.”

In the short term, though, Flores victory make Democrats' already-slim House majority even tighter.

Primary results from Nevada, Maine

Here are Tuesday's other notable results:

  • Nevada governor: Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo was leading the Republican primary with 72 percent of the vote. He'll face Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in November.
  • Nevada Senate: Former state attorney general Adam Laxalt won leading the Republican primary with 55 percent of the vote. He'll face Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who's running for a second term.
  • Nevada's 1st District: Democratic Rep. Dina Titus fended off a primary challenge from/was leading Amy Vilela, who secured endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). Titus took 84 percent of the vote to Vilela's 16 percent. She'll face Republican Mark Roberston in November in a newly competitive district.
  • Nevada's 3rd District: April Becker won the Republican primary with 68 percent of the vote. She'll face Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in the swing district in November.
  • Nevada's 4th District: Sam Peters was leading the Republican primary with 49 percent of the vote. He would face Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in the competitive district in the fall.
  • Maine's 2nd District: Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who lost his seat to Democratic Rep. Jared Golden in 2018, easily won the Republican primary and will face Golden in a rematch.

On the Hill

Republican backers of gun violence deal seek to build support within GOP

Critical forces are lining up behind the bipartisan Senate proposal responding to mass shootings. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday he was “comfortable” with the framework, adding that he'll “be supportive” if the legislative text matches the framework. McConnell's support is a significant boost to the proposal and senators allied with GOP leadership are gently laying out a case for supporting the deal. 

At their weekly closed-door lunch, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the co-architect of the measure, presented polling that showed “broad support” for the policies in the package. 

Cornyn said he presented the polling to “give people some confidence (that) this sort of direction we are going is one that enjoys broad support.” 

The polling, sent to The Early, showed significant support — 84 percent — among gun owning households who are registered to vote for the ideas behind the Senate framework, including expanded background checks for people under 21 as well as funding for safe schools and mental health counselors. Support for red flag laws and a mandatory waiting period to purchase an AR-15-style gun also had support of 79 and 83 percent of respondents respectively — although those proposals aren't part of the Senate plan. 

The polling was conducted for Kevin McLaughlin of the Common Sense Leadership Fund by a coalition of pollsters. McLaughlin is a former Cornyn aide and a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. McLaughlin's involvement is a sign that leadership is working to convince their members to back the plan. McLaughlin said in a statement that he was “shocked” of how much support the initiatives had. “The numbers speak for themselves,” he added.

Good GOP politics?

Few Senate observers, including us, thought that Cornyn and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) would reach agreement on gun safety legislation as Republicans have rejected modest proposals for years. 

This time around, Republicans said that backing this proposal is good politics for their members less than five months ahead of the midterms. They argued that the proposal is a winning issue for suburban women, whom Republicans have struggled to appeal to in the last two election cycles, and are fearful of their shootings at their kids school. 

And as the country braces for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, an issue that is also expected to anger many suburban women, Republicans proponents say bipartisan action on guns is an attempt to show independent voters that Republicans aren't obstructionists and can embrace more moderate policy proposals even as many GOP members take hard right positions on abortion and gun rights and some also express extremist views on the 2020 election and the subsequent attack on the Capitol. 

“Republicans have at least something, if they wish to support it, to say ‘we did something to address your concerns,’” one Republican strategist told The Early of why Republicans might get behind the bipartisan proposal. 

NRA staying quiet — for now

The National Rifle Association, which has said it won't take a position on the framework until it sees legislation, is also laying low. Cornyn, who has an A+ rating from the group, said he has not spoken to a representative of the organization, but they offered “suggestions, advice, I guess, or technical pointers” after members began drafting the legislation. “But, you know, we've been soliciting that from a broader range of people,” Cornyn added. 

Red-flag law incentives

Some Republicans continue to raise concerns about the red flag component of the bill. Cornyn is characterizing that portion of the proposal as something much broader. The “state intervention crisis grants” can also be used for things such as drug courts, veterans' courts, mental health courts, homelessness courts and outpatient treatment programs, a Cornyn aide said. 

“Some have mischaracterized this provision as an incentive for states to pass a red-flag law, but that's something I'm trying to avoid,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Congress should not only send federal funding to those states, but also other states that are doing things to deal with people in crisis.”

Mass killings since 2015: Could proposed laws have made a difference?

Our colleague Glenn Kessler dove into the details of recent gun restriction proposals to evaluate whether they could have stopped, or made less deadly, mass shootings over the past seven years.

The takeaway is nuanced: Only about one-third of these mass killings might have been prevented by any major proposals, Glenn writes. “But some ideas — such as not allowing people under age 21 to buy assault rifles and banning ammunition storage and feeding devices known as magazines that hold more than 10 bullets — might have minimized the bloodshed.”

Jan 6. committee splits on possible criminal referral for Trump

The skinny on criminal referrals: The chief disagreement between lawmakers on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot “revolves around one of the most closely watched questions the committee will face: whether to make any criminal referrals, particularly of Trump,” our colleagues Jacqueline Alemany and Devlin Barrett report. “Do they issue a criminal referral that spells out their findings in the clearest terms possible, but that runs the risk of adding political pressure to the Justice Department’s work? Or do they let their findings speak for themselves?”

  • Reality check: “Legally, there is little substantive difference. A congressional referral would carry no weight in court and leaves the decision on whether to charge Trump or others where it stands today: with prosecutors.”

‘The big rip-off’: Publix heiress Julie Fancelli, 72, paid Kimberly Guilfoyle’s $60,000 speaking fee at the rally that preceded the Capitol riot.

  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) “pointed to the payment as an example of what she described as a misleading marketing effort run by the Trump campaign, which raised roughly $250 million in the weeks after the Nov. 3 election with promises of a massive legal effort to uncover voter fraud,” our colleagues Isaac Stanley-Becker and Beth Reinhard report. “But the payment did not come from the campaign or affiliated political committees.” It came from Turning Point Action, a conservative nonprofit led by Charlie Kirk. The sponsoring donor was Fancelli, Isaac and Beth report.

What we're watching

Happening today: The Supreme Court is expected to release five more decisions as it attempts to clear its docket by the end of the month or early July. With Monday’s blockbuster immigration ruling out of the way, all eyes are on abortion, gun control, climate regulation and religious rights. 

The conservative majority is expected to overturn Roe v. Wade and New York’s gun control law, limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation authority and rule in favor of religious interests

The Media

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