NE+WV: 2022 Primary Guide
Bacon-Biden voters are in demand in Nebraska. Two US House incumbents face off in West Virginia.
West Virginia will hold primaries for its two US House districts after losing a seat in the recent redistricting process.
Nebraska will hold primaries for its three US House districts as well as a gubernatorial primary.
Races to Watch: NE-2, WV-2, NE-GOV
My Take: Redistricting didn’t flip party control in either state but it still shifted the partisan makeup. Old campaign tactics may not work in new districts.
What I’m Watching
For me, this week’s races are all about taking the temperature on the effects of redistricting now that districts are set. West Virginia’s panhandles are both more populous and politically moderate than other regions of the state. This marks the first election in the state’s history where both panhandles are voting in the same district. This could pose an issue for Republicans if their heated WV-2 “battle of the incumbents” pushes the eventual winner off the ideological edge.
Meanwhile in Nebraska, candidates in NE-2 face a rare split-ticket district where both Pres. Joe Biden and the district’s Republican House incumbent nabbed wins in 2020. Candidates here are already jockeying for the center and distancing themselves from the more ideologically extreme wings of their respective parties. The twist of the knife for Democrats may be waiting in the general election as Nebraska Republicans managed to make NE-2 ever-so-slightly less Democratic than its previous configuration. That minuscule shift may mean the world come November if both parties nominate strong candidates.
West Virginia’s US House Primaries
West Virginia lost a congressional district after its population shrank by 3.2% over the last decade; the largest drop seen of any state in the 2020 census. This forces Republican House incumbents Rep. Adam McKinley and Rep. Alex Mooney into the same district: a brand new WV-2. The two incumbents are joined by three other challengers, making this one of the hottest races of the night. Take a look at my West Virginia redistricting post for a full breakdown of the WV-2 Republican primary. Meanwhile, incumbent House Republican Rep. Carol Miller is expected to cruise to a win in WV-1 as she’s outspent all four of her challengers by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The state’s Democratic primary map mirrors the Republican landscape in competitiveness: all eyes are on WV-2 as it holds two of the state’s three Democratic House candidates. Democrats will see Angela Dwyer face off against Barry Wendell in WV-2. Eugene ‘Lacy’ Watson is the lone Democratic candidate in WV-1 and will run in the general election in November. His platform includes commitments to improving rural broadband access and ending the incarceration of non-violent drug offenders.
Nebraska’s US House Primaries
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry was all set to run for re-election in NE-1 until he went and lied to the FBI about foreign campaign donations. He resigned from Congress following his conviction in late March, thereby opening up his seat for the 2022 midterms. A slate of challengers has emerged to fill his seat, all attempting to “out-MAGA” one another via calls to fire Nancy Pelosi and build a wall. 🙄
Meanwhile, candidates in both of NE-2’s primaries are running in the opposite direction: toward the center. The state’s second congressional district is known as “the blue dot,” due to how it sent Pres. Joe Biden its electoral vote in the 2020 election. (Nebraska is one of two states that splits its Electoral College votes by congressional district rather than awarding them all to the statewide winner.) It’s also an increasingly rare split-ticket district: voters here re-elected Republican House incumbent Don Bacon by a slim margin of 4 points in the 2020 election.
Both the Republican and Democratic primaries in NE-2 will be contested: Rep. Bacon will be challenged by Steve Kuehl and Democrats will see Alisha Shelton and state senator Steve Vargas face off in a one-on-one race. Expect candidates on both sides to jockey for the center lane in hopes to court “Bacon-Biden” voters.
Last but not least, incumbent Rep. Adrian Smith faces off against Marine Corps veteran Mike Calhoun in NE-3. Democrats will watch political newcomers David Else and Daniel Wik face off against one another here as well in what is likely to be one of the reddest districts in the nation this cycle.
Nebraska’s Gubernatorial Primaries
Nebraska’s current governor, Pete Ricketts (R) is term-limited and unable to run for re-election. Even though the seat is open, a Republican is expected to fill the seat as no Democrat has won an election for statewide office in Nebraska since Sen. Ben Nelson in 2006.
Republican voters have their pick of the litter to choose from: a whopping nine candidates are running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. One candidate has been nabbing headlines for months: controversial agriculture businessman Charles Herbster. Herbster has faced sexual assault allegations from eight different women, so of course he got Donald Trump’s endorsement. Polling has shown that Herbster’s lead is shaky with challengers like Brett Lindstrom and Jim Pillen surging ahead in recent weeks. Meanwhile, many Democrats are already lining up behind state senator Carol Blood as her opponent, Roy Harris, is a lesser-known candidate with no campaign website.