Voting ends in the first primaries for the 2022 midterm elections in a matter of days.
Texas will kick things off on March 1, and the primary process will wrap up more than six months later on September 13 in Delaware, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Those contests will tee up Election Day on November 8, when control of the House and Senate will be up for grabs as well as several high-profile gubernatorial races in key battleground states.
The outcome of November’s elections will serve as a referendum on President Joe Biden’s first two years in office and set the table for the 2024 presidential campaign. Biden and congressional Democrats have scored some legislative victories and are poised to confirm a history-making pick to the Supreme Court in Ketanji Brown Jackson. Yet economic anxiety punctuated by inflation concerns combined with exhaustion over the coronavirus pandemic has tilted the political environment in favor of Republicans, who also have electoral history on their side. There is also a unique dynamic to these midterms, with former President Donald Trump eyeing a potential return to the White House and looking to lay the groundwork by endorsing candidates in GOP primaries who have embraced his lies about the 2020 election results.
The majority in the Senate, currently split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker, is expected to come down to a handful of competitive races. There are four Democratic incumbents running in battleground states Biden won in 2020: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. Republicans have incumbents seeking reelection in Wisconsin and Florida, and they’re defending three open seats in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio. In total, 34 Senate seats will be decided in November.
In the House, Republicans need a net gain of five seats to win control of the chamber. More than 40 members, mostly Democrats, have announced they are leaving Congress. Some of those decisions were driven by redistricting, the once-a-decade process of redrawing congressional and state legislative boundaries. In states with partisan control of the process, both parties have tried to draw new maps to their advantage: to pick up more seats, shore up incumbents or reduce the number of competitive districts.
There are currently 27 Republican governors and 23 Democratic governors – with 36 seats up for grabs this November – including several in battleground states that could play a significant role in deciding the outcome of the 2024 election. Beyond elections for governor, state races for secretary of state and attorney general will receive unprecedented attention, as the battle over how elections are handled intensifies in the aftermath of the 2020 campaign.
Here are the key dates and contests to watch as the 2022 primary process plays out:
March 1: Texas primaries
The Lone Star State is home to a few intriguing GOP statewide primaries and a House Democratic primary that highlights the ideological divide within the party.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is seeking reelection to a third term, which could set the stage for a potential 2024 bid. First, he must get through a GOP primary that includes challenges from former (Florida) Rep. Allen West and businessman and ex-state Sen. Don Huffines.
There is also a contested Republican primary in the race for state attorney general, with incumbent Ken Paxton being challenged by state Land Commissioner George P. Bush, US Rep. Louie Gohmert and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman. Paxton’s rivals have taken aim at his legal problems, but Trump has thrown his support behind the incumbent, who led a failed effort to challenge the 2020 election results in four battleground states at the US Supreme Court.
In south Texas, there is a rematch of a 2020 Democratic primary in the 28th Congressional District between centrist Rep. Henry Cuellar and immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, who has received the endorsement of progressive leaders, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The FBI searched Cuellar’s home and campaign office in January, but the nine-term congressman released a video a week later vowing to seek reelection despite the “ongoing investigation.”
The Dallas-area 3rd Congressional District is the site of a battle over how the GOP should handle the 2020 election and the events of January 6, 2021. Rep. Van Taylor is a conservative Republican, but he voted to accept the 2020 presidential election results and supported an independent commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. (He opposed the select committee that was eventually created.) He’s now facing several primary challengers who question the results of the election, criticize Taylor’s vote on the commission and downplay the Capitol insurrection. The district also became much more Republican in redistricting, so while the seat shouldn’t be competitive in November, it could be easier for a more right-wing candidate to defeat Taylor in the primary.
April 5: Special election primary in California’s 22nd Congressional District
Former GOP Rep. Devin Nunes set off this special primary contest with his resignation from Congress in January to join Trump’s new social media venture. Assuming no candidate gets a majority of the vote in the all-party primary, the top two finishers will face off in June, when California holds its general election primaries, giving the eventual winner about six months to represent this Central Valley seat in Congress. The district will have new boundaries for the election held in November.
May 3: Indiana and Ohio primaries
The Buckeye State has a pair of Republican primary battles that could offer early clues about the GOP electorate heading into the heart of the nominating calendar.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is seeking a second term. His management of the coronavirus pandemic has become the target of fierce criticism from opponent Jim Renacci, a former GOP congressman who has accused DeWine of governing Ohio “like a blue-state liberal.” On the Democratic side, it’s a battle between two former mayors, with Dayton’s Nan Whaley and Cincinnati’s John Cranley squaring off for the nomination.
In the GOP Senate primary, the crowded contest has at times veered toward political theater as several top contenders – most notably former state Treasurer Josh Mandel and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance – have sought to burnish their conservative pro-Trump credentials with incendiary rhetoric and inflammatory displays of opposition to public health precautions. Former state GOP chair Jane Timken and businessman Mike Gibbons are also making plays for the Trump base, while state Sen. Matt Dolan is testing the theory that there is still room in the party for a candidate who doesn’t fully embrace the former President.
After a history of teasing potential statewide bids only to pass, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan decided to take the plunge (with a helpful shove from redistricting) and launched a bid for US Senate. He faces a primary challenge from consumer protection attorney Morgan Harper. While Ohio has been trending red in recent years, Ryan is hoping to follow a similar blue-collar blueprint that has helped Sen. Sherrod Brown win statewide three times, most recently against Renacci in 2018.
May 10: Nebraska and West Virginia primaries
West Virginia is poised to hold the country’s first incumbent vs. incumbent primary of the 2022 cycle, featuring GOP Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney. The Republicans were drawn into the new 2nd Congressional District after the state lost a House seat following the 2020 census. The matchup will be an early test of Trump’s sway in GOP primaries, with the former President backing Mooney over McKinley, who did not object to counting the Electoral College vote and supported the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Mooney objected to the Pennsylvania electoral count, but not Arizona, and voted against the infrastructure package.
In Nebraska, outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts urged Trump to stay out of the GOP primary to replace him, but the former President spurned the request and threw his support behind businessman Charles Herbster last October. Ricketts later endorsed Nebraska University Regent Jim Pillen, setting up a proxy battle between the two GOP leaders who both carried the Cornhusker State by wide margins.
Meanwhile, in Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District, embattled GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry is facing a primary challenge from state Sen. Mike Flood, who has been endorsed by Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman. Fortenberry was indicted last fall for allegedly concealing information and lying to federal authorities investigating illegal campaign contributions. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
May 17: Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania primaries
The fight for the GOP Senate nomination in Pennsylvania could be one of the nastiest and most expensive primary contests of the entire 2022 cycle, with hedge fund executive David McCormick and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz trading pointed attacks over their personal ties to foreign countries. Both contenders are pumping massive amounts of their personal wealth into TV ads. The crowded field also includes former US ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands, who, like the top contenders, is relying on her personal wealth, and Jeff Bartos, the party’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor. The race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey was upended last November when Trump-backed candidate Sean Parnell ended his campaign amid scrutiny of his turbulent personal life. So far, the former President has held off on throwing his support behind another candidate, a move that could shake up the trajectory of the primary.
Democrats see the Keystone State as perhaps the party’s best opportunity to flip a Republican-held Senate seat. The competition on the Democratic side features candidates with distinct backgrounds who represent divergent ideological factions within the party. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, an outspoken progressive and strong fundraiser, and Rep. Conor Lamb, a Marine Corps veteran and former federal prosecutor, are seen as the top contenders. Rounding out the field is state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who has won the backing of some progressive groups.
There is also a wide-open race for governor in Pennsylvania, with Democrat Tom Wolf term-limited. The lone Democratic candidate is state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who was one of the leading officials rebutting false claims about the commonwealth’s 2020 election results. The GOP field includes state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, former US Rep. Lou Barletta, former US Attorney Bill McSwain, state Sen. Doug Mastriano and businessman Dave White. Trump, and his lies about the election, are expected to be a driving factor in the primary.
In North Carolina, Trump’s early surprise endorsement of US Rep. Ted Budd failed to clear the GOP Senate primary field, with former Gov. Pat McCrory, former US Rep. Mark Walker and Army veteran Marjorie K. Eastman also in the running to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr. Walker announced in January he would stay in the Senate race, defying Trump’s effort to get the former congressman to drop his bid and run for a House seat. On the Democratic side, the party has largely cleared the field for former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.
Idaho is another state home to a GOP civil war, with Gov. Brad Little getting a primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. The two have engaged in a political tug-of-war, with McGeachin on multiple occasions using her powers as acting governor to issue executive orders while Little was out of state, only to have the governor rescind them upon his return. Trump endorsed McGeachin last November, calling her a “a true supporter of MAGA from the very beginning.”
May 24: Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia primaries; Texas runoffs (if necessary)
There is perhaps no state on the 2022 map where Trump is seeking to exert his influence on the Republican Party more than Georgia, where he rolled out a “Trump ticket” of candidates, including two who are challenging GOP incumbents the former President attacked after they rejected his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The top target for Trump is Gov. Brian Kemp, whose decision to certify Biden’s narrow win in Georgia unleashed fierce and frequent attacks by the former President. The attacks culminated with Trump’s endorsement of former US Sen. David Perdue after he launched a primary challenge against Kemp. Perdue lost his Senate runoff to Democrat Jon Ossoff in January 2021, which some Republicans blamed, in part, on Trump’s efforts to undermine the state’s election results. Now Perdue is making Trump’s lies about the 2020 election a cornerstone of his bid to defeat Kemp. The winner of the GOP primary will likely face Democrat Stacey Abrams, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race to Kemp by less than 2 percentage points.
While the GOP primary for governor is unsettled, Republican Herschel Walker has plenty of running room in the Senate race. The former football star has Trump’s support as he seeks to defeat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who scored a 2-point victory in a Senate special election runoff against Republican Kelly Loeffler last year. Warnock has been a prolific fundraiser, beginning 2022 with nearly $23 million in the bank.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stood up to Trump’s demands that he “find” the votes to overturn the 2020 election results in the state. Now the question is whether the state’s top election official can withstand a primary challenge from Trump-backed US Rep. Jody Hice, who embraced the former President’s false claims about the election. Among the Democratic contenders are state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who succeeded Abrams in the state legislature, and former Fulton County Commission chair John Eaves.
The Atlanta area will host the year’s first Democratic member vs. member primary, with Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux running in the newly redrawn 7th Congressional District after the GOP-controlled state legislature turned McBath’s current seat safely red. Both Democrats flipped suburban districts previously held by Republicans – McBath in 2018 and Bourdeaux in 2020.
Georgia won’t be the only state testing the power of Trump’s endorsement on this primary day. In Alabama, US Rep. Mo Brooks is hoping the former President’s support will help deliver him the GOP Senate nomination. But the conservative firebrand is running against two well-funded opponents: Katie Britt, a former top aide to retiring Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, and Mike Durant, an aerospace executive and former Blackhawk helicopter pilot. Brooks has struggled to take command of the field, prompting frustration from the former President.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is running for a second full term but is being challenged by several candidates in the GOP primary, including Lindy Blanchard, who served as ambassador to Slovenia in the Trump administration. Blanchard initially launched a bid for the open Senate seat but switched gears to run for governor last December.
In Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders – a former White House press secretary under Trump and daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee – has a clear path to the Republican nomination as she seeks to succeed GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson. With Trump having carried the Natural State by more than 20 points in 2020, Sanders is poised to follow in her father’s footsteps and become Ar