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Two Republican women - a Trump critic and a devotee - await primary results

Published Aug 03, 2022 10:29AM ET Updated Aug 03, 2022 10:46AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Arizona Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Kari Lake speaks during former U.S. President Donald Trump's rally ahead of Arizona primary elections, in Prescott Valley, Arizona, U.S., July 22, 2022. REUTERS/Rebecca Noble/File Photo 2/2

By David Morgan and Joseph Ax

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Republican women - one a critic of Donald Trump and another an outspoken devotee of the former president - awaited election results on Wednesday in Washington state and Arizona primaries that offer further evidence of his grip on the party.

A day after voters chose a raft of candidates supporting Trump's 2020 election falsehoods in multiple primaries, U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler was leading Trump-endorsed challenger Joe Kent 24.5% to 20.1% in a Washington state race that had not yet been called, with 52% of the expected vote in.

Herrera Beutler is among a group of House Republicans who have been targeted by a Trump revenge campaign after voting to impeach him for inciting the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

In Arizona, a key battleground state, Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who enthusiastically embraces his election falsehoods, led Karrin Taylor Robson 46.2% to 44.4% with 81% of the vote counted.

Lake, a former news anchor, echoes Trump's election falsehoods and has said that she would not have certified Biden's statewide victory in 2020. At a recent campaign stop, Lake claimed without evidence that fraud has already occurred during early voting, suggesting that she may not accept a defeat.

Taylor Robson has the backing of Trump's former vice president, Mike Pence, who Trump tried unsuccessfully to pressure into blocking certification of Democratic President Joe Biden's victory on Jan. 6.

Tuesday's election results included a major victory for abortion rights activists, when Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative that would have endangered abortion access in the first statewide electoral test since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The Kansas result suggested that anger over the Supreme Court's June decision could help Democrats galvanize voters at a time when many Americans are blaming Biden's administration for soaring gasoline and food prices.

But Tuesday, one of the biggest midterm primary nights of the year, also underscored Trump's continued dominance among Republicans and widespread support for his false claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

Blake Masters, a former tech executive who has backed Trump's false fraud claims, secured the Republican nomination in the Senate race in Arizona and will face Senator Mark Kelly, seen as one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents. Masters has Trump's endorsement and the backing of tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

"Blake Masters has dangerous beliefs that are wildly out of step with Arizona and harmful to Arizona families – like a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest and privatizing social security," Kelly campaign manager Emma Brown said in a Wednesday statement, marking an opening salvo in the November election campaign.

U.S. Representative Peter Meijer of Michigan, like Herrera Beutler one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the U.S. Capitol attack, lost to far-right challenger John Gibbs.

Gibbs, backed by Trump, was the beneficiary of Democratic advertising during the Republican primary, part of a risky and highly controversial strategy to try to elevate more vulnerable Republican candidates in swing districts even as party leaders warn that they pose a danger to democracy.

With Biden's unpopularity weighing on Democrats heading into November's election, party leaders were likely heartened by the Kansas result. Democratic candidates are increasingly coalescing around the abortion issue in some swing districts to fend off challenges by Republicans, who are favored to win control of the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate.

Control of either chamber would give Republicans the power to stymie Biden's legislative agenda while launching politically damaging hearings.

Two Republican women - a Trump critic and a devotee - await primary results

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