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Trump-Backed Candidates, Democratic Moderates Win Primaries

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(Bloomberg) -- It was a good night for Donald Trump-endorsed Republicans -- and moderate Democrats.

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With fewer than 100 days to the midterm elections, voters in five states chose their parties’ nominees for Congress in an extended primary season shaped by redistricting and ideological fissures. Candidates in the primaries will compete for control of Congress in November, with a closely divided House and Senate.

Here are the highlights of some of the most consequential congressional primary contests Tuesday night:

Arizona

With an endorsement from Trump and financial support from Paypal founder Peter Thiel, Blake Masters won the Republican nomination to take on Democratic US Senator Mark Kelly. The GOP primary also featured solar power company founder Jim Lamon and Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a race that revolved around Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election in Arizona was rigged.

It’s become a winning formula: Trump and Thiel also joined forces to help venture capitalist JD Vance, another first-time candidate, win a crowded GOP primary for the US Senate in Ohio in May with a late endorsement from the former president and $15 million from Thiel to a super PAC backing Vance.

Masters, 35, who ran Thiel’s private foundation and venture capital fund until March, had parroted the former president’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen and voiced his staunch opposition to illegal immigration, a hot-button issue in the border state.

Michigan

Democratic Representative Haley Stevens knocked off her House colleague Andy Levin in an incumbent-vs-incumbent primary battle set up by the elimination of a Michigan congressional seat in redistricting.

Stevens, who worked as chief of staff to President Barack Obama’s auto rescue effort, had campaigned as a moderate workhorse against the more progressive Levin, the scion of a Democratic political family. Levin blamed “dark money” from a pro-Israel lobbying group for his loss. Stevens will now face Republican Mark Ambrose, a financial analyst, in the Democratic-leaning district.

In the neighboring 13th district nine Democratic candidates vied for an open seat vacated by Representative Brenda Lawrence. The district had been majority-Black before it was redrawn. Indian-American pharmaceutical entrepreneur Shri Thanedar defeated a field of eight Black candidates, leaving Michigan without a Black Democrat in Congress for the first time since 1955.

Representative Rashida Tlaib, one of the founding members of the group of House progressives known as the “Squad,” easily fended off Democratic primary challengers in her Dearborn-area district.

Representative Peter Meijer, the grocery chain heir who earned a Republican primary challenger for his vote to impeach Trump, lost to the Trump-endorsed John Gibbs. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent nearly $48,000 on television ads boosting Gibbs in a campaign designed to endear him to Trump supporters and weaken him for the general election, calling him “too conservative for southwest Michigan.” But Democrat Hillary Scholten could have the advantage as the Grand Rapids-area district now leans Democratic after redistricting.

Missouri

Primary elections for the Senate seat now held by retiring Republican Roy Blunt offered some last-minute intrigue after Trump declined to make a clear endorsement.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who supported attempts to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, defeated Representative Vicky Hartzler for the Republican nomination. Former Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 amid allegations of sexual assault, ran third as Republicans worried that the scandal -- and new allegations of violence against his then-wife and preschool child -- would imperil an otherwise safe Republican seat.

Trump made an 11th-hour non-endorsement in the primary, announcing that “Eric” had his complete support -- without specifying which “Eric” on the ballot he was supporting.

For Democrats, Anheuser Busch beer heir Trudy Busch-Valentine defeated Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran and attorney who had the unambiguous endorsement of progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders.

Washington

The Washington state delegation had two Republicans running who had voted for Trump’s impeachment, and Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse were both in tight primary races still too close to call Wednesday morning.

Unlike other states voting Tuesday, Washington has open primaries under which both parties vote in a combined contest and the top two candidates advance, giving the incumbents a better chance of at least making it to the November general election. Trump endorsed two Army veterans, Joe Kent and Loren Culp, to take on Herrera Beutler and Newhouse. Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, independent auto-repair shop owner, was leading in Herrera Butler’s southwestern Washington district, and Doug White, a global project manager, was the top Democrat in Newhouse’s Yakima-area district.

Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Tiffany Smiley, a nurse and veterans advocate, were the top two finishers in an open primary for Senate and will compete head-to-head in the fall.

Kansas

Representative Sharice Davids, the only Democrat representing Kansas in Congress, was unopposed in her primary but faces a more competitive general election after redistricting. Republican Amanda Adkins defeated John McCaughrean for the chance to run against Davids in a primary election largely defined largely by a defeated ballot measure that would have allowed the state legislature to restrict abortion.

(Updates ninth paragraph with Shri Thanedar’s Democratic primary victory in Detroit-area district)

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