From Candidacy to Congress pt. 4

The following candidates from New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia and New Mexico have won congressional primaries this year in districts where their party is largely in control. These party nominees almost certainly will win election in November and become House Members in the 116th Congress, which will convene in January 2019. Additional names will be added to the list following primaries in other states, which will extend until September. These bios are an initial version of the profiles that will appear in the 2020 Almanac of American Politics, which will be published by Columbia Books.

New Jersey-2

Jeff Van Drew won the Democratic nomination on June 5 with 55 percent of the vote against three more liberal candidates who split the remaining vote. A veteran state senator, he is the strong favorite to replace Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who is retiring after 12 terms in the district that extends from the Philadelphia suburbs to Atlantic City. Despite his conservative views on issues such as gay rights and gun control, Van Drew was endorsed by local and national party leaders as the most likely Democrat to flip control of the seat.

In the primary, liberal interest groups and his opponents criticized his relatively moderate viewpoints and bipartisan approach. “We’re just too divided,” Van Drew told voters. He benefited from superior fundraising and the backing of Democratic leaders across the district who described him as “the strongest candidate.” He has voiced conventional Democratic views on most economic issues.*

New Mexico-1

Debra Haaland won the June 5 Democratic primary with 41 percent of the vote in the Albuquerque-based seat of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is the Democratic nominee for governor in November. Damon Martinez, a former congressional aide and the local U.S. Attorney for two years during the Obama Administration, was runner-up with 26 percent in the six-candidate contest. Haaland, a tribal activist, would be the first Native American woman elected to Congress.

During her campaign, Haaland ran on a liberal agenda and was endorsed by labor unions and women’s groups. She has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, especially on immigration issues; she cited her own family’s unhappy experience with government-forced family separation programs. “Congress has never heard a voice like mine,” she told The Albuquerque Journal, citing her experience as a single mother who struggled through poverty to get her education. Haaland said that her top priorities included expansion of renewable energy and opposition to oil-company drilling on tribal lands, especially in her home state.*

North Dakota-1

Kelly Armstrong won the Republican primary for North Dakota’s at-large District. He got 56 percent of the vote against three other candidates and is well-positioned to replace Rep. Kevin Cramer, who is the Republican nominee to oppose Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in November. Armstrong, a state senator and former chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, has been a close ally of the state’s governor, Doug Burgum.

Cramer’s decision in February to seek the Senate seat left a relatively brief campaign for the House primary. Armstrong took a major step when he was endorsed by state Republicans at their convention on April 7. State Sen. Tom Campbell was the distant runner-up at the convention and in the primary, though he suspended his campaign following the convention. Armstrong has criticized President Donald Trump’s moves toward a trade war with China, and said that it would harm North Dakota’s soybean exports. Otherwise, he has largely supported Trump’s policies to reduce taxes and regulations. *

South Dakota-1

Dusty Johnson comfortably won the June 5 Republican primary for South Dakota’s at-large House seat, with 47 percent of the vote. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs finished second with 29 percent. Johnson’s campaign took a relatively pragmatic approach, in which he emphasized his own experience as a veteran public official—both in elected and appointed office. Compared to most other Republican congressional candidates this year, in his home state and elsewhere, Johnson has kept some distance from President Donald Trump, especially his rhetoric.

During his campaign, Johnson voiced concerns about the mounting federal deficit plus the “general dysfunction” in Washington, and supported changes in how Congress handles the budget. He cautioned that Trump’s international trade policies could cause problems for South Dakota’s producers. The Sioux Falls Argus-Leader endorsed him as “a mature and moderate Republican voice,” with “a consistency in his ideals and demeanor.” *


Ben Cline became the Republican nominee after he won the May 19 convention of 6th District Republicans, which virtually assured him of election in the Shenandoah Valley area of western Virginia. Cline has served eight terms in the state House of Delegates, where he has been a conservative leader. Having served as chief of staff to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the House Judiciary Committee chairman who is retiring from Congress, Cline is in line to become his successor.

A graduate of Bates College and the University of Richmond Law School, Cline, 46, was an assistant prosecutor in Rockingham County. He worked for Goodlatte for eight years following college. He was first elected in 2002 to the state House, where he has chaired the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee; his successful legislative initiatives include a limitation on the use of unmanned drone aircraft by state and local law enforcement agencies. He also has been the House chairman of the Conservative Caucus. In addition to practicing law, he has been an advisor on rural services to internet and high-tech companies in his private life.*

*These profiles were prepared with the assistance of biographical and campaign information from the Ballotpedia website.


Comments are closed.