The primaries are upon us, and parties have already begun to pick their party’s candidates for midterm elections. Republicans are already concerned about losing the Senate — and maybe even the House — in the midterms. And for a number of incumbents, that concern is exacerbated by unexpected challengers trying to oust them as nominees.
Here are five GOP candidates facing primary challengers from the far, far right:
1. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner
Rauner already looks like he’s in serious danger when it comes to re-election. According to the latest polling, Rauner is trailing all of his possible Democratic challengers by double-digits — and this is even with a third-party candidate in the mix.
If it isn’t already clear enough that no one is happy with Rauner, state Representative Jeanne Ives is taking him on in the primary, too. According to local polling, the far-right, rabidly anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights Ives isn’t doing very well in a head-to-head with Rauner.
In fact, Governor Rauner is leading her by about 20 points in primary polling. Which makes a person wonder — if Rauner is already so unpopular and he’s still trouncing Ives, how bad must she really be?
2. Nevada Senator Dean Heller
Heller ended up on the bad side of President Donald Trump during the first year of his presidency for not being aggressive enough in repealing Obamacare. Now, Heller, who’s considered one of the most vulnerable GOP senators up for re-election in 2018, faces a challenge from the far-right on that issue.
“In the final analysis, ‘D.C. Dean’ doesn’t have any convictions for the positions he holds. He is willing to change them depending on whether or not he thinks it will help him get re-elected. If you don’t like his position on an issue, just wait a few days; it’s liable to change,” writes GOP primary challenger Danny Tarkanian. “The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an independent; you can’t trust Dean Heller. He needs to be repealed and replaced, and that’s why I’m running against him in the 2018 primary.”
3. Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker
As a fairly solid Trump supporter, Wicker was likely the last to expect a primary challenger — especially in such a solidly red state. But state Senator Chris McDaniel may make a run, even though he doesn’t really seem to be that adamantly opposed to Wicker or his policies. In fact, this may just be a practice run for his next Senate campaign.
Some Mississippi Republicans expected that with the downfall of Steve Bannon, who’d encouraged McDaniel to challenge Wicker, and the expectation that Sen. Thad Cochran could soon step down, he would wait to run for Cochran’s seat. But McDaniel was running out of time to decide: Thursday is Mississippi’s filing deadline.
If McDaniel is successful, the race could shape up more as a referendum on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — the sort of contest Bannon expected last year as he recruited what he’d hoped would become an insurgent slate of candidates.
4. North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger
Pittenger must have made God angry, because he has a pastor coming after him. But it’s not the first time — he and former Baptist Pastor Mark Harris have a bit of a past.
“Harris, who is a former president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention, narrowly lost to Pittenger in the 2016 Republican primary. He also was a candidate in the US Senate primary in 2014 and was a leader in the successful effort in 2012 to amend North Carolina’s constitution to prohibit gay marriage,” reports the Fayetteville Observer.“Pittenger and Harris have been bashing each other as they have striven to assert their conservative bona fides to Republican voters.”
5. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson
Some people run against sitting politicians to make a point. Others do it to drive them away from the center. And then there are some who really just don’t seem to like the incumbent at all.
Jan Morgan appears to be running for all three reasons as she challenges sitting Governor Asa Hutchinson. Morgan, an occasional Fox News commentator, calls the governor “an establishment progressive,” despite his GOP moniker. She also claims that regardless of the outcome of her quixotic primary campaign, there’s no way she will back him in the general.
“Absolutely not, no I can’t, and here’s the reason…if Asa was even remotely conservative I wouldn’t be in this race,” Morgan told a local news station.