Will Trump kill Mark Sanford's re-election? And other questions for tonight's primaries

WASHINGTON — Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican who represents South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, will soon see if losing the support of the president is lethal in a GOP primary.

Sanford, a conservative who has frequently criticized the president, is facing a primary challenge from state Rep. Katie Arrington, who has campaigned as a Trump ally. Tuesday, less than three hours before polls closed, Arrington was rewarded with an endorsement from the president, who said Sanford was “very unhelpful” and “nothing but trouble.” 

Sanford isn’t the only candidate holding his breath to see if he or she will make it to the general election in November. Polls closed in South Carolina and Virginia at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday and will close shortly in Maine, North Dakota and Nevada. 

South Carolina

Tuesday night is a test for Sanford, who has proven to be a strong campaigner despite a scandalous time in public office. Sanford had to resign as the state’s governor in 2009 after admitting to an extramarital affair with a woman from Argentina.

Sanford’s traditionally red district is on Democrats’ radar for November because it is wealthy and educated, demographics the left hopes will be turned off by President Trump’s performance. Democrats believe going against Arrington could make the race more competitive than if Sanford was their opponent.

Like Sanford, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is facing a competitive primary. But unlike Sanford, McMaster — who was an early endorser of the president’s — has gotten Trump’s blessing. If McMaster doesn’t get the majority of the vote Tuesday against his two competitors he will be forced into a runoff later this month.


In Virginia, Democrats see Virginia’s 10th Congressional District as a top pickup opportunity in November. But first, someone must emerge from the crowded field.

Virginia Republicans are also holding their breath to see if Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart is their GOP nominee for Senate. While Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is considered mostly safe in his race, Republicans are hoping to make the general election competitive. That’ll be difficult if Stewart is elected. Polling has Kaine up by double-digits. Stewart ran unsuccessfully for his party’s nomination for governor last year. He campaigned on support of Confederate monuments.


Voters in both parties will be choosing their nominee for governor because their current governor is term-limited and will finish his tenure this year.

Democrats are watching who makes it out of the primary for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. The district is held by a Republican but used to be represented by a Democrat so the left is hoping a wave election and the right candidate could put it back in their hands.

In Maine, voters spent Tuesday ranking their candidates in a new voting system called Instant Runoff Voting. First-choice votes are counted and if no one got over 50% the candidate with the lowest number of votes is removed from the race. Those who gave that candidate their first-choice pick have their votes redirected to their second choice. The process is repeated until a candidate has a majority of the vote and is declared the winner.  

Supporters of the system say it ensures the winner receives the majority of the vote and is more Democratic, while critics worried it would be confusing and could delay results. Voters used the system Tuesday at the same time they voted on a provision that would repeal ranked-choice voting.


There are also full primaries for two open seats in Nevada, both held by Democrats but considered competitive in the fall.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller escaped what was shaping up to be a competitive primary challenge from businessman Danny Tarkanian when Trump asked Tarkanian to leave the race and run for the nomination for Nevada’s 3rd District instead. Tarkanian narrowly lost the general election for that seat in 2016. Rep. Jacky Rosen (who represents the 3rd District) is expected to be the Democratic nominee.

North Dakota

No surprises are expected in the North Dakota Senate race. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is likely to face the state’s single House member, GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, in the fall.

Candidates on both sides are hoping to get their party’s nomination for Cramer’s now-open seat. Democrats say the seat is worth watching in November, particularly if Heitkamp is able to turn out the vote.

More: Sen. Jeff Flake hopes Republicans in Congress start talking back to Trump after primaries

Contributing: Elizabeth Beyer


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A resident arrives to cast her vote at a polling stationPeople wait in line at Travelers Rest City Hall inRuth Schafer, left, places her ballot into the digitalRepublican gubernatorial candidate Catherine TempletonDemocratic candidate Dan Ward, who is running in theFinn, a golden retriever puppy, decides to take a restA woman votes at Reno High School in Reno, Nev. duringPolly Schnaper, left, and Bruce Rigby vote in Utah's

  • A resident arrives to cast her vote at a polling station1 of 8
  • People wait in line at Travelers Rest City Hall in2 of 8
  • Ruth Schafer, left, places her ballot into the digital3 of 8
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton4 of 8
  • Democratic candidate Dan Ward, who is running in the5 of 8
  • Finn, a golden retriever puppy, decides to take a rest6 of 8
  • A woman votes at Reno High School in Reno, Nev. during7 of 8
  • Polly Schnaper, left, and Bruce Rigby vote in Utah's8 of 8

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