House Incumbents From Both Parties Defeated in Primaries (1)

(Updates with primary results in Michigan House races in 9th and last paragraph.)

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Challengers defeated two more House members in primaries Tuesday, bringing to seven the total number of incumbents who’ve been denied renomination.

It’s the most House incumbent primary losses in a year without redistricting since 1974.

The losses by Reps. Steve Watkins (R-Kan.), a freshman recently charged with felonies for voting fraud, and Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who’s represented St. Louis for the past 20 years following his namesake father’s 32 years in the same seat, led a primary night that set up competitive general election contests, likely decided new members of Congress in safely Republican open seats, and had repercussions on the Senate.

Vulnerable Incumbents

Along with Clay and Watkins, the list of defeated incumbents so far this cycle includes Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), Steve King (R-Iowa) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.).

There is little connection between the seven, other than their losses continued the congressional upheaval of the 2018 midterm elections. Their challengers’ arguments have been ideological, generational and personal.

Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images
Cori Bush celebrates after defeating Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) in Tuesday’s primary.

Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who won the 2nd District primary 49%-34%, cited Watkins’ narrow general election victory two years ago and recent legal troubles to contend that Republicans were far more likely to hold the seat if he were nominated. LaTurner will face Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla (D) in the general election. She’s included on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue list that offers fundraising and organizational support in targeted seats.

Clay became the first Congressional Black Caucus member to lose in a primary since 2016, when two who faced legal issues were defeated. Cori Bush, a nurse and pastor who held Clay to a 57% primary win two years ago, won this round 49%-46% after the progressive activist campaigned on the 1st District needing new representation in this time of social justice action. In the safe Democratic seat, Bush is all but certain to become the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress.

Bush was backed by Justice Democrats, a group that supported Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) primary victory over a longtime incumbent in 2018.

The group also supports Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). She held off a primary challenge Tuesday from former Rep. Brenda Jones (D), who served out the late John Conyers’ term in 2018.

Kansas Senate

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach lost his Republican primary bid to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R), putting a damper on Democratic hopes of facing the polarizing figure in the general election. The race invited more than $14 million in outside spending, as both parties sought to shape the general election matchup.

State Sen. Barbara Bollier (D) will instead take on Rep. Roger Marshall (R) as she attempts to break the Democratic losing streak in Kansas Senate races that dates back to 1932. President Donald Trump, who appointed Kobach in 2017 to help lead a commission to uncover alleged voter fraud, endorsed Marshall in a Wednesday morning tweet.

Democrats need a net gain of either three or four seats to take control of the Senate, depending on which party wins the White House. Adding Kansas to the competitive map would widen the path.

Unsettled House Races

There were several races still uncalled Wednesday morning. But Tuesday’s primaries formalized potentially competitive races against Reps. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), among others, and to replace retiring Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.).

They also were set to decide the next member of Congress in two open seats in safe Republican districts. Former Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann won the GOP primary in the race to replace Marshall in Kansas’ 1st District, while businesswoman Lisa McClain won the primary in the race to replace Rep. Paul Mitchell(R) in Michigan’s 10th District.

Read Greg Giroux’s preview for more on the seats contested yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Trygstad in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at; Heather Rothman at

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