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'Overtime' Races Nearing Completion

The end is in sight for two laggard GOP primaries



After much delay, the curtains are closing on a pair of tight June primaries – one in the East; the other in the Mountain West.


OLD DOMINION DECIDES


The Virginia Board of Elections on Tuesday certified state Sen. John McGuire (R-Manakin Sabot) as the 5th Congressional District Republican primary winner, handing a defeat to two-term Rep. Bob Good (R-Lynchburg). Senator McGuire's final total gives him a 374-vote win – out of almost 63,000 ballots cast – or 50.3% of the vote. 


Despite Sen. McGuire's certification, under the state's electoral system, the declaration doesn't necessarily put an end to the process.


Virginia has no official recount law, but Rep. Good can now request and finance a full recount – and reportedly, he is raising money to do just that. He has a ten-day period in which to make the request. Even so, it is unlikely that a recount will change the final total to the degree that it alters the certified outcome; local election officials claim the affected number of votes is likely fewer than ten. 


Senator McGuire, therefore, becomes the prohibitive favorite to defeat Democrat Gloria Witt in the general election. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates VA-5 as R+14.  Former President Trump carried this district in 2020 with a 53-45% margin, but is expected to do better in the current election.


Once Sen. McGuire becomes the congressional incumbent, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Good returns in 2026 for a Republican rematch. Under Virginia's unique system, every district can hold its own style of primary. In his two victorious nomination elections – including one in which he defeated an incumbent freshman Representative (Denver Riggleman) – Rep. Good was nominated by a district convention dominated by his supporters. The current 2024 campaign was the first time he faced a primary electorate.  

The other option Virginia district committees have is to institute a "firehouse primary" – one in which all registered voters can vote, but only a very limited number of polling places are established throughout the district. Due to certain new electoral deadlines, this is the first election where all Virginia congressional districts held partisan primaries, and on the same day.


Most political observers believed that Good would lose to McGuire, so the closeness of the contest was a surprise to many. Several polls released during the campaign showed McGuire with a significant lead – one much larger than the final totals. 


Mr. Good, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, provoked the anger of many party leaders for helping to organize the movement that led to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R-CA) ouster. 


McCarthy went on to raise outside money to back McGuire's bid; this, along with former President Trump's endorsement of McGuire, created difficult obstacles for Good to overcome, despite the congressman's incumbency.


NAIL-BITER IN THE BEEHIVE STATE


Because Utah is an all-mail voting state, receiving and counting its ballots takes some time. Though it earlier appeared that US Rep. Celeste Maloy (R-Cedar City) had been renominated, the later votes have swung significantly toward her opponent, businessman Colby Jenkins (R). 


Reportedly, all untainted ballots are now tabulated, and Rep. Maloy's lead has dropped to 309 votes – out of a turnout of more than 106,000 ballots cast. The only ballots not included in this count are those that may be ineligible due to verification issues.  


Though the margin is beyond the automatic recount range – under Utah election law, an automatic recount occurs if the difference between the candidates is less than a quarter of a percentage point – Mr. Jenkins can request and finance a recount of all ballots. 


Considering the turnout, the margin would have to drop to 266 votes – i.e., 43 votes would have to swing in Jenkins' favor from the current total. As is the case with the Virginia District 5 race, however, it is unlikely that a new count will differ to the point of overturning the original outcome. The final canvass necessary to certify the vote won't occur until July 22.


Representative Maloy was first elected in a November 2023 special election to replace her former boss, then-Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), who resigned from Congress because of a family health matter. Emerging victorious from the Republican nominating convention, she then took the special primary by six percentage points, and went on to easily win the special general.


For the regular cycle, Ms. Maloy fell to second place in the nominating convention, losing to Mr. Jenkins, who had the support of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). 


Not circulating nominating petitions as a safety valve against a poor convention performance, Rep. Maloy managed to secure just 43% of total delegate support – just three percentage points above the minimum needed to qualify for the ballot. Therefore, with no petitions, she came dangerously close to not advancing into the general election. 


Representative Maloy's poor performance in the Republican primary suggests that she will again be vulnerable during the 2026 nomination process.


Jim Ellis is a 35-year veteran of politics at the state and national levels. He has served ss executive director for two national political action committees, as well as a consultant to the three national Republican Party organizations in DC, the National Federation of Independent Business, and various national conservative groups.


Born and raised in Sacramento, California, he earned a B. A. in Political Science from the University of California at Davis in 1979. Jim raised his daughter, Jacqueline, alone after his wife died following a tragic car accident. He helped establish the Joan Ellis Victims Assistance Network in Rochester, NH. Jim also is a member of the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association, which officiates high school games throughout the region.


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