From Candidacy to Congress Pt. 5

The following candidates 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.

Colorado-2: Joe Neguse won the June 26 Democratic primary with 66 percent of the vote for the Boulder and Fort Collins-area seat of Rep. Jared Polis, who is the Democratic nominee for governor. Neguse is the son of refugees from the African nation of Eritrea, and would be the first African-American from Colorado to serve in Congress. He defeated Mark Williams, a former Air Force pilot who later became a tech-industry executive.

Neguse took liberal views on issues such as single-payer health care and environmental protections. An outspoken critic of President Donald Trump and his immigration policies, Neguse cited his parents’ experiences in seeking asylum in the United States from their war-torn nation. He had a huge fundraising advantage over Williams and was supported in the congressional primary by many Democratic leaders, including former Vice President Joseph Biden and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and by the liberal-advocacy group Democracy for America. Williams embraced “citizen” campaigns and criticized Neguse’s experience from “the world of old politics.”*

Mississippi-3: Michael Guest won 65 percent of the vote in the June 26 Republican run-off for the Jackson-area and south-central Mississippi seat. He will replace Republican Rep. Gregg Harper, the House Administration Committee chairman, who is retiring. Although he was forced to a second run of voting, Guest had a relatively easy ride, with a two-to-one lead over businessman Whit Hughes in the first round of voting. Guest, a veteran local official, was widely supported by Mississippi’s Republican establishment, including Gov. Phil Bryant.

During the campaign, he voiced support for President Donald Trump and said that his top priority was improved border enforcement, including the construction of a wall to reduce illegal immigration and drugs. “Guest and Hughes did little to differentiate from each other on policy issues during the campaign,” Mississippi Today reported. As a prominent official in the urban core of the district, Guest was better-known than Hughes, whose private-sector work has been in economic development.*

New York-14: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the unexpected winner with 57 percent of the vote in the June 26 primary for the district, which includes many Hispanic neighborhoods in Bronx and Queens. She defeated 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley, who chairs the Queens Democratic Party and has chaired the House Democratic Caucus; he had become a potential successor to the party’s top leaders in the House. Ocasio-Cortez identified herself as more closely connected to the local communities and ran an active social-media campaign.

Crowley, who out-spent his opponent by more than 10-to-1, made limited campaign appearances and was surprised by the outcome of the contest. Crowley, who faced his first primary since 2004, was the first House Democrat from New York to lose a primary since 1992. He agreed to support Ocasio-Cortez in the November election and offered praise, with an election-night rendition of Bruce Springsteeen’s “Born to Run.” In her low-profile campaign, she was backed by progressive groups advocating change in Congress. Following her victory, Ocasio-Cortez offered support to other Democratic candidates who are advocates of change.*

New York-25: Joe Morelle won the Democratic primary on June 26 for the Rochester-area seat of 16-term Rep. Louise Slaughter, who died in March. Morelle got 45 percent of the vote against three opponents, who split support from progressive groups. As a 28-year veteran of the state Assembly, where he has served as Majority Leader since 2013, Morelle’s lengthy political experience is unusual among next January’s likely Democratic newcomers to Congress.

In its endorsement of Morelle, the Rochester City Newspaper cited “his long experience in local and state politics and his political connections and influence,” which would make him “an effective member of Congress.” With the support of the Monroe County Democratic Committee in the abbreviated campaign following Slaughter’s death, he was criticized by his opponents as a political insider. “We need different experiences,” Rachel Barnhart, a citizen activist who had been a local television reporter, said during a candidate debate. She finished second in the primary, with 20 percent of the vote. During the campaign, Morelle backed Medicare for All legislation, which has been supported by liberal groups.*

South Carolina-4: William Timmons won the Republican run-off on June 26 with 54 percent of the vote in the Upstate district that covers the Greenville-Spartanburg area. He will replace retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Former State Sen. Lee Bright led the initial contest two weeks earlier with 25 percent in the 13-candidate field to 19 percent for Timmons. But Timmons prevailed in the final showdown between competing wings of the GOP, in which he and his allies attacked Bright as out of the political mainstream.

Timmons, 34, graduated from George Washington University and got his Master’s and law degrees from the University of South Carolina. He worked in the state prosecutor’s office and later created his own small businesses in the Greenville area. He was elected to the state senate in 2016. In the congressional primary, Timmons was endorsed by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida; Bright had the support of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.*


*These profiles were prepared with the assistance of biographical and campaign information from Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics.


Comments are closed.