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House Freedom Caucus Chair’s Virginia Primary Race Too Close to Call
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House Freedom Caucus Chair’s Virginia Primary Race Too Close to Call

Plus: Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lays out the case for his uphill Senate bid.

Happy Wednesday! A documentary about South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem will debut on X on Thursday. We’re curious to see whether one particular moment in her life is included …

Up to Speed

  • Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is under active investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct, using illegal drugs, accepting improper gifts, giving favors to people personally connected to him, and obstructing investigations into his actions, the committee said in a letter released Tuesday. Gaetz, who has denied all allegations, said on X the committee was “opening new frivolous investigations” in order to “avoid the obvious fact that every investigation into me ends the same way: my exoneration.” In 2023, the Department of Justice closed an investigation into alleged sex trafficking by the congressman, bringing no charges, but the ethics committee did not close its probe, which began in 2021. Gaetz in his post blamed former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy for the new action by the committee, over a month after McCarthy endorsed his opponent in Florida’s August 20 primary, following Gaetz’s successful motion to vacate McCarthy’s office.
  • Former first lady Melania Trump will headline a fundraiser next month in New York’s Trump Tower for the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT group, Politico reported Tuesday. The event—proceeds from which will benefit a Log Cabin Republicans program to turn out voters for former President Donald Trump and other Republican candidates—represents Melania Trump’s second fundraiser with the group this election cycle after she hosted one in April at Mar-a-Lago. The news comes at a time when Trump is under pressure to strike language from the Republican Party platform opposing same-sex marriage, as Dispatch Politics previously reported.
  • On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced a plan to give lawful permanent residence to certain unauthorized immigrants who are spouses or children of American citizens. For spouses to be eligible, they must be married to a citizen and have lived in America for at least 10 years. “These actions will promote family unity and strengthen our economy, providing a significant benefit to the country and helping U.S. citizens and their noncitizen family members stay together,” reads a fact sheet from the White House. The announcement comes as Biden attempts to navigate an issue that has proven an electoral liability for him, signing an executive order earlier this month to curb illegal border crossings.
  • Mitch McConnell will step down from his position as Senate Republican leader this November, but he is actively planning his party’s legislative agenda for a potential GOP sweep in the November elections, The Hill reported Tuesday. He is said to be putting together a budget reconciliation package that would extend tax cuts Republicans passed in 2017 under Trump and boost defense spending. McConnell could also end up holding the top spot on the chamber’s Appropriations Committee or Defense Appropriations Subcommittee at the start of next year. Reports of McConnell’s plans for 2025 come after he had a positive meeting with Trump and other Senate Republicans last week.
  • West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin will appear at a fundraiser later this month for Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, the state’s Democratic nominee for governor, per a local reporter. Manchin’s appearance at the fundraiser suggests it is unlikely that he will make an independent gubernatorial run—after another West Virginia outlet reported that Republicans in West Virginia dissatisfied with Attorney General Patrick Morrisey being the GOP nominee encouraged Manchin to consider a bid for the office.
  • New Jersey prosecutors on Monday charged George Norcross, a businessman considered a kingmaker in the state’s Democratic Party, with racketeering. Norcross, who maintains his innocence, arrived uninvited to New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin’s press conference, sitting in the front row with his attorneys behind him as Platkin unveiled the charges. Despite having never held elected office, Norcross has the status of an influential power broker among New Jersey Democrats whose support and fundraising ability substantially helps his preferred candidates. Norcross’ indictment comes as Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, another prominent New Jersey politician, is on trial on unrelated federal bribery charges. 

John McGuire Holds Narrow Lead Over Bob Good in Virginia’s 5th District

John McGuire, a Republican candidate in Virginia's 5th Congressional District, speaks with supporters at the Annual Father's Day Car Show in Bumpass, Virginia, on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
John McGuire, a Republican candidate in Virginia's 5th Congressional District, speaks with supporters at the Annual Father's Day Car Show in Bumpass, Virginia, on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Voters in Virginia and Oklahoma participated in multiple closely watched and consequential Republican primaries Tuesday night—with the most intriguing race still too close to call as of Wednesday morning.

That marquee matchup was in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, where Republican Rep. Bob Good, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, attempted to fend off a challenge from state Sen. John McGuire, whom former President Donald Trump has endorsed. Early Wednesday morning, the Associated Press had McGuire up by fewer than 400 votes with 98 percent counted, noting that Virginia observes the Juneteenth federal holiday, meaning the state’s poll workers are not likely to count votes. The Virginia Public Access Project, which also shows election results in the state, said that the result of the race probably will not be official until Friday, given that officials have yet to count provisional ballots and eligible mail-in votes that will arrive between Wednesday and Friday.

Nevertheless, McGuire declared victory at his campaign’s watch party late Tuesday night, saying it is “an honor to be your Republican nominee.” Meanwhile, Good’s campaign said around the same time that it was still awaiting the final count. “We implemented the best early voting operation that the 5th District has ever seen, and we are still waiting for the results of mail-in ballots and provisional ballots,” the campaign posted on X, also telling supporters: “No matter the outcome, you’ve shown the DC Swamp that you won’t back down from standing for what’s right.” In a later post, the campaign said it believed it can “still prevail.”

The campaign in the district—which encompasses a vast area stretching from Charlottesville to Lynchburg to Danville—perhaps best illustrates the strange alliances in the GOP’s Trump era.

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s primary, Trump endorsed McGuire, in large part because Good backed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis instead of Trump for the presidential nomination. And House leadership’s support for the incumbent has been tepid. Good, who voted to eject former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy from his office last fall, has battled with Speaker Mike Johnson over such issues as aid to Ukraine.

“Mike Johnson has done nothing to help me in my race,” Good told Politico in an interview last week. Good has, however, received support from Freedom Caucus members—including Reps. Chip Roy, Byron Donalds, and Matt Gaetz.

But McGuire, a retired Navy SEAL, has found allies across party factions. Although he earned support from some mainstream Republicans such as House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers, he also welcomed firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to his district to campaign for him earlier this month. Freedom Caucus member Rep. Warren Davidson also supported him. While there’s no dedicated issues page on his campaign website, McGuire summarizes his political philosophy there as “Pro-Life. Pro-Gun. Pro-Trump,” and the site features prominently the Truth Social post in which Trump endorsed him.

Elsewhere in Virginia, the Republican primary in the state’s 7th Congressional District saw the Johnson-endorsed Derrick Anderson defeat Cameron Hamilton—who touted the support of Good, as well as other Freedom Caucus members, including Reps. Chip Roy and Byron Donalds—by almost 9 points.

As Dispatch Politics previously reported, Anderson and Hamilton, both veterans, fought for the GOP nomination to replace Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who will retire at the end of her third term to run for governor. The swing district is one of the top targets for Republicans this cycle, and the GOP has become more bullish about its chances without Spanberger on the ballot.

In Oklahoma, Rep. Tom Cole, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, handily defeated deep-pocketed right-wing challenger Paul Bondar and three other challengers in the state’s 5th Congressional District. The Trump-endorsed Cole told Dispatch Politics last week that he felt comfortable about his prospects leading up to the primary election given that Bondar had few ties to the Oklahoma district. Still, he took the challenge seriously due to the large amount of money Bondar was able to spend.

Cole was one of several incumbent House Republicans to face a primary challenge from the right this cycle. Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas eked out a runoff win in late May by about 400 votes against a primary challenger who attacked him over his vote for a gun control package that President Joe Biden supported. In Iowa’s primaries a week later, Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Randy Feenstra defeated their challengers by 12 points and about 20 points, respectively. Cole had little difficulty defeating his top challenger, winning by nearly 40 points.

What’s Driving Larry Hogan’s Senate Run?

Why is Larry Hogan, the purest example today of a moderate Republican, running for Senate when so many like him—practical problem solvers who prefer more civil discourse—are fleeing the Trumpified GOP conferences in Congress? Our colleague John McCormack spent some time recently with the Republican nominee in Maryland, who is trying to become the first of his party to win a Senate seat from that deep-blue state since 1980. Here’s an excerpt from his article on the website:

An executive at heart, Hogan had rebuffed pleas from Republicans to run for Senate for years because he said he viewed the job as “arguing all day and getting nothing done.” But days before Maryland’s February 9 Senate filing deadline, he was in a meeting in New York City with officials from No Labels, the centrist political group that had hoped to field a presidential ticket this year. They were “asking me to be their candidate for president, and were showing me polls and modeling and whatnot that showed we could run a pretty good race,” Hogan said of the meeting. “I think I started at 23 percent with Biden and Trump in the high 20s.”

The pitch was tempting, but while he was still in New York, he received an influential call from former President George W. Bush. “I just don’t think you can win,” Bush said of a potential No Labels presidential bid, according to Hogan. “I think you can’t get to 270 [electoral votes].”

But the former Republican president urged Hogan to consider a bid for the Senate. “You can make a bigger difference than you think,” Hogan remembers Bush saying. “I never really wanted to be a senator. I know you don’t want to be one either, but I think the party needs you and the country needs you. You’ve got an important voice. I think it’ll give you a platform for that voice.”

Hogan said he doubted he could accomplish much, but Bush disagreed: “I think you’re going to be the guy in the middle of every deal. You’re going to be like a Joe Manchin or a John McCain.”

But Democrats are working hard to paint Hogan as a stooge for Trump, despite the two-term former governor being one of the more prominent Republican critics of the former president. Hogan’s opposition to Trump is one big hurdle for him winning his race against the Democratic nominee, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, since he’ll need nearly every Marylander voting for Trump to also vote for him. But Hogan will also need to win over some of the Democrats and independents that helped him win two races for governor, which means highlighting some of the moderate positions he has that puts him at odds with the GOP base:

On social issues, Hogan is running as a liberal and trying hard to differentiate himself from almost all congressional Republicans by endorsing a federal bill to codify Roe v. Wade. Yet even there he has also drawn a contrast with Alsobrooks. Shortly after the primary concluded on May 14, Hogan told the New York Times he backs federal abortion legislation to codify Roe sponsored by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine but does not support the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation backed by Alsobrooks and every Senate Democrat except Joe Manchin of West Virginia, because it would prohibit even modest state limits on abortion allowed under Roe.

Asked if he had any tests for Supreme Court nominees, Hogan told The Dispatch: “I don’t believe in litmus tests, but I have more experience appointing judges than anybody in the Senate.” Hogan said that as governor, he appointed nearly 200 judges, “including six out of the seven members of our Supreme Court. Three of them I appointed were women, two of them African American women.”

“I took every one of [the judicial nominations] completely seriously,” he added. “I never asked someone to prejudge—tell me how you might decide on this future case that might come before you.”

Be sure to read the whole piece.

Notable and Quotable

“Willie Mays wasn’t just a singular athlete, blessed with an unmatched combination of grace, skill and power. He was also a wonderfully warm and generous person—and an inspiration to an entire generation. I’m lucky to have spent time with him over the years, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family.”

—Former President Barack Obama in an X post following news of the death of baseball legend Willie Mays at age 93, June 18, 2024.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.

Grant Lefelar is an intern at The Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company for the 2024 summer, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote for a student magazine, Carolina Review, and covered North Carolina state politics and news for Carolina Journal. When Grant is not reporting or helping with newsletters, he is probably rooting for his beloved Tar Heels, watching whatever’s on Turner Classic Movies, or wildly dancing alone to any song by Prefab Sprout.