Freedom Caucus chairman locked in tight primary versus Trump-backed challenger

GOP Rep. Bob Good, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, was locked in a close primary fight Tuesday night against a challenger backed by powerful Republicans including former President Donald Trump and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Just a few hundred votes separated state Sen. John McGuire in the lead and Good close behind him in Virginia’s deep-red 5th District as of late Tuesday night. If the margin stays within 1 percentage point, the losing candidate can request a recount within 10 days after the election results are certified, according to Virginia state law.

Good is at risk of becoming the first sitting lawmaker to lose to a primary challenger this year.

Late Tuesday night, Good urged his supporters to “keep the faith” in a lengthy post on X.

“The entire DC Swamp was aligned against us with over $10 million in attack ads, but with your help we were able to make this race too close to call,” he wrote, touting his campaign’s early vote operation and noting that there are outstanding mail-in and provisional ballots.

“We are doing what we can to ensure we have teams of observers and legal counsel to ensure all the votes are properly counted in the coming days,” Good added.

Good drew McCarthy’s ire as is one of eight Republicans who voted to oust him last year. McGuire vastly outspent Good on the airwaves and outside groups aligned with McCarthy also outspent the Virginia congressman’s allies, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact.

“This is the Kevin McCarthy revenge tour,” Good told NBC News on Friday at an event in Goochland, Va.

“He has devoted his life apparently to trying to exact some revenge on those he holds responsible for him not being Speaker, except himself,” Good later added. “But the people of the 5th District are not going to be bought.”

McGuire also had the most coveted endorsement in GOP primaries: Trump.

McGuire thanked Trump Tuesday night as he declared victory, despite the race remaining very close.

“This is a time where we need to come together because we still have a lot of work to do. I’m your Republican nominee but I’m not going to take it lightly,” Good said at his election night party, according to a livestream of his election night speech from ABC13.

McGuire said Trump is “a huge part of our win and I will not forget that.”

The challenger couched things a little more in a statement from his campaign: “There are still a few votes left to count, but it’s clear that all paths end with a victory.”

The former president endorsed McGuire three weeks before Tuesday’s primary, making a veiled reference to Good backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the presidential primary. Good’s subsequent endorsement of Trump wasn’t enough to put him in the former president’s good graces.

After backing McGuire, Trump appeared in a TV ad and held a tele-rally for McGuire on Monday night, telling supporters, “John is running against Bob Good, who is not good. Despite his name, he’s very bad for Virginia.”

McGuire, a former Navy SEAL whose campaign slogan was, “We can do better than Good,” told NBC News at a community concert in Powhatan on Friday that Trump’s endorsement was helpful in the race.

“I’ve had many people say ‘I don’t know anything about you, never met you before, but if Trump’s endorsing you, I’ve got you,’” McGuire said. “I believe with all that Trump has been through he has earned the right to call the shots and pick his team.”

But Good is no stranger to running against a Trump-backed candidate. In 2020, Good defeated then-Rep. Denver Riggleman at a party convention, conducted via a drive-through amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole was also on defense Tuesday but saw off his chief primary opponent, businessman Paul Bondar, who spent millions of dollars of his own money on the race. Cole, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, got a boost from Trump in the race and recently told NBC News that Trump’s endorsement was “enormously helpful” as he faced the most competitive and expensive primary since he was first elected in 2002.

Bondar loaned his campaign $5.1 million of his own money, launching ads that accused Cole of losing touch with the 4th District and spending too much time in the nation’s capital. Bondar also said Cole was not sufficiently conservative, pointing to Cole’s support for government spending and aid to Ukraine.

Cole and his allies blanketed the airwaves with ads accusing Bondar of actually being a Texan. Bondar does own property in Oklahoma, outside of the 4th District, but he did vote in Texas’ primaries in March.

Elsewhere in Virginia on Tuesday, Republican voters chose Navy veteran Hung Cao to take on Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in November, NBC News projects. Cao, who had Trump’s endorsement in the race, led the Republican field in fundraising and defeated two other GOP contenders.

Cao ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2022, losing to Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton by nearly 7 points. He is in for a tough race against Kaine, who is running for a third term in a state that has sent Democrats to the Senate in recent years. Biden won the state by 10 points in 2020 and Kaine won a second term in 2018 by 17 points.

In the House, Democrats are also picking a candidate to take on Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans in the 2nd District, and both parties are picking their nominees in the open 7th and 10th Districts.

Retired Army Col. Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman is projected to win the Democratic nomination in the 7th District, giving Democrats a high-profile candidate with military experience and strong fundraising chops, He hopes to hold the seat for Democrats in the fall despite the decision by Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, another strong fundraiser with a national security background, to run for governor.

Vindman gained national notoriety during Trump’s first impeachment trial, when he and his brother raised concerns, from their perch on the National Security Council, about Trump’s phone conversation with the Ukrainian president in 2019. Despite being a first-time candidate, he was far-and-away the best fundraiser in the race, and got a boost from outside groups on the airwaves as he ran against more experienced local politicians.

He’ll face off against Derrick Anderson, a former Green Beret, who bested former Navy SEAL Cameron Hamilton in a clash between the establishment and insurgent wings of the party. Anderson was backed by a super PAC tied to McCarthy and Republican megadonors, as well as House Speaker Mike Johnson.

In the 10th District, state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam is projected to win the crowded and expensive Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th District, where Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton is not seeking re-election after being diagnosed with a rare and serious condition called progressive supranuclear palsy.

Subramanyam won Wexton’s endorsement, which helped him separate himself from a crowded field of well-funded Democrats that included state Del. Dan Helmer, former state Assembly Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and former Defense Department official Krystle Kaul. He’ll be in the driver’s seat to hold the district for Democrats in the fall, as Democrats have performed well recently in this suburban-Washington D.C. district, and will face off against Republican businessman and lawyer Mike Clancy.

Kiggans will face Democrat Missy Cotter Smasal, a military veteran who had been backed by Virginia’s every Democratic House member from Virginia. This is a swing district that’s likely to be competitive in the fall, but Kiggans has a significant fundraising edge and defeated a Democratic incumbent there to win the seat in 2022.

Georgia also held its primary runoffs in races where no candidate won a majority of the primary vote back in March.

In the Democratic-leaning 2nd District, activist Chuck Hand, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense in connection with the attack on Jan. 6, 2021, lost a runoff for the Republican nomination.

And Trump’s former White House political director, Brian Jack, is projected to win his GOP primary runoff against state Sen. Mike Dugan. The Republican will be the heavy favorite to win in November to replace retiring GOP Rep. Drew Ferguson.

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