AOC-Backed Democrat Candidates Shellacked in Primaries


Super Tuesday changed the landscape of American politics, as Joe Biden’s surprise victories in 10 states and Sanders’s large delegate haul knocked out several candidates.

This could set the stage for either a clear path to the nomination for Biden, or a bruising two-man showdown between them that could go all the way to the convention in Milwaukee this summer.

But the Democrat nomination for president was not the only race on the ballot last Tuesday.

Here’s a roundup of the down-ballot races from Super Tuesday:

In ALABAMA, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is seeking to reclaim his old Senate seat in the Republican primary. He placed second, two points behind former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, but Alabama requires a runoff since no candidate reached 50 percent. Sessions and Tuberville will now face off March 31st for the Republican nomination against incumbent Democrat Sen. Doug Jones, who eked out a victory in a 2017 special election after Republican nominee Roy Moore went down in scandal. (Moore did run again in the primary, but only garnered 7 percent of the vote.)

Image by Gage Skidmore

There was an odd race in the NORTH CAROLINA Democrat primary to nominate a candidate to take on Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis. A group called Faith and Power PAC ran $2 million in ads supporting state Sen. Erica Smith, a more liberal upstart seeking to beat Cal Cunningham, a more establishment Democrat and Army veteran. The ads praised Smith for leftist positions such as supporting the “Green New Deal” and “Medicare for All”. It turned out the PAC’s ads were actually funded by the Republican Senate Leadership Fund. The tactic appeared to be an effort to boost the weaker candidate for an easier general election, while also forcing state and national Democrat groups to spend critical dollars to help Cunningham. The SLF admitted to buying the ads, saying they were taking a page out of the Democrat playbook, citing previous examples of Democrats meddling in Republican primaries. Cunningham won soundly by a margin of 57 percent – 35 percent.

In TEXAS, Democrats sent Air Force veteran MJ Hegar and state Sen. Royce West to a May 27th runoff for the nomination for U.S. Senate to take on Republican incumbent John Cornyn. Democrats are hoping that Robert (Beto) O’Rourke’s loss to Sen. Ted Cruz, in which O’Rourke spent more money than any Senate candidate in history but still lost by a quarter-million votes, was the harbinger of their long-sought goal of turning Texas blue. But Cornyn has a clear lead against both incumbents in early hypothetical polling and it’s unlikely that Hegar or West will be able to capture the rockstar energy and money that brought O’Rourke to such prominence.

Also in Texas, Pierce Bush, grandson of the late President George HW Bush, became the first Bush to lose a race in Texas in over 40 years, placing third in the primary for Congress in the Houston-area 22nd District. Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls got 40% of the vote but did not get the required majority, so he will advance to a runoff with Kathaleen Wall, who spent $6 million of her own money in 2018 in a failed run in a different district.

Another interesting race in Texas was the 28th District, where Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar is one of the last three pro-life Democrats in Congress. He survived a fierce and well-funded primary challenge by 26-year-old immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, who was backed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Cuellar edged out Cisneros 52 percent – 48 percent.

Image by Gage Skidmore

In CALIFORNIA, which eliminated traditional partisan primary voting in favor of a free-for-all primary in which the top two candidates advance to the general election, six Democrats and five Republicans sought the top two spots to succeed former Congresswoman Katie Hill, who resigned after an affair with a congressional staffer. Democrat state Assemblywoman Christy Smith will face Republican former Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia in the runoff on May 12 to fill out the rest of Hill’s term. Cenk Uygur, creator of the far-left media outlet The Young Turks, also ran but finished with 6 percent.

Also in California, former Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, who served nine terms in Congress but resigned in 2018 to head the U.S. Trade & Development Agency, ran for the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, who resigned after a campaign finance scandal. Issa advanced to the November runoff against Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, edging out former, liberal San Diego Mayor Carl DeMaio for the second spot.

Looking ahead, the next batch of primaries are in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington on March 10th. The big states of Florida, Illinois, and Ohio, as well as Arizona, will vote on March 17th.

Thomas Valentine

Thomas Valentine is a columnist for

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