Sanford had been running an ad buy in recent days that hit back at Arrington’s criticism that he hasn’t been sufficiently loyal to the president, who won the congressional district by double digits in 2016.
He has called the president’s steel and aluminum tariffs “an experiment with stupidity,” and he has suggested that Trump’s rhetoric has been divisive and bad for the country.
Only four Republican members of Congress have voted for Trump-backed legislation less often than Sanford, according to an analysis of voting data by FiveThirtyEight. And during the 2016 race, Sanford, who supported Trump, nevertheless called on the GOP nominee to release his tax returns.
In one of his TV commercials, Sanford tells viewers, “Overwhelmingly, I’ve voted with the president, and a long list of independent scorekeepers will tell you so.” In another, he voiced support for Trump’s signature immigration proposal, saying, “I’ve supported efforts to secure the border and build a wall.”
South Carolina residents also voted in gubernatorial primaries for both parties. On the GOP side, they sent incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster to a June 26 runoff along with businessman John Warren, after no candidate passed the 50-percent threshold. On the Democratic side, voters picked state Rep. James Smith to advance to the November general election.
Voters in Maine, North Dakota, Nevada and Virginia also headed in the polls Tuesday for primaries in congressional, Senate and gubernatorial races.
In Virginia, Corey Stewart, a Trump-supporting, immigration hardliner who campaigned on keeping up Confederate monuments, narrowly won the GOP U.S. Senate primary, according to an NBC News projection, and will go up against incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine this fall.
With 98 percent of Virginia precincts in, Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, had 44.9 percent of the vote, compared with state Delegate Nick Freitas, a former Green Beret who’d received backing from a key conservative group, with 43.1 percent.
Stewart’s victory could be a gift for Kaine in blue-leaning Virginia, where a Republican hasn’t won a statewide race since 2009. Stewart campaigned as an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment and on the preservation of Confederate monuments. He even revived false “birther” allegations that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
But voters in Virginia, who in 2016 picked Hillary Clinton — with whom Kaine ran as the Democratic vice presidential nominee — over Trump, and who in 2017, chose Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie in the state’s gubernatorial election, have consistently rejected conservative Republicans in statewide races in recent years.
Stewart, the state chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign in Virginia before being fired for having led an unauthorized protest against the Republican National Committee in 2016, also received the endorsements of Trump-backers Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, and Fox News personality Laura Ingraham.
In Virginia, voters also picked their Democratic challengers in several congressional districts, including in the state’s 10th Congressional District, where state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, the Democratic Party favorite, advanced to take on incumbent GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock, one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress, according to the Associated Press.
The results in Virginia marked another good night for female candidates.
In addition to Wexton’s win in the 10th Congressional District Tuesday night, Elaine Luria won in the 2nd Congressional District, Abigail Spanberger won in the 7th Congressional District, while Leslie Cockburn won the 5th Congressional District Democratic nomination at a nominating convention last month.
Meanwhile, In Maine and Nevada, voters will choose candidates from both major parties in primary races for the state’s gubernatorial race.
Maine is using ranked-choice balloting to determine who wins. Under the system, in primaries with more than two candidates, voters will rank candidates in order of preference on their ballots. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest number of first-choice votes is eliminated. Ballots cast for the eliminated candidate are then recast for the voter’s second-choice pick. The elimination and retabulation process continues until there are two candidates left in the race; the one with the most votes is declared the winner.