Critical primary elections for the 2022 midterms are kicking off in March.
Primaries will hold greater importance in 2022 with fewer competitive districts in Congress.
The 2022 primaries will also test Trump's influence over the GOP and shape both parties' futures.
The 2022 midterm elections are just 10 months away, and primaries for key congressional and statewide races will be more crucial and decisive than ever for both political parties.
The 2022 primaries will test the power of former President Donald Trump's endorsement - and his status as the leader of the Republican Party. This year's primaries could substantially reshape the composition of Congress and each party's bases. And the unprecedented effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election will loom large in 2022's elections, which will determine who runs and oversees future elections.
In Congress, Republicans have their sights set on winning back the US Senate, currently evenly split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, by flipping Democratic-held seats in Arizona and Georgia and holding control of competitive open seats in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Republicans are well-positioned to win back the House of Representatives, where Democrats hold just a slim three-vote majority, due to President Joe Biden's poor approval ratings and the historical norm of the president's party losing seats in midterm elections.
But not all majorities are created equal. On the GOP side, more Trump-style conservatives could replace moderate and establishment Republicans, especially in the US Senate, where five such Republicans are retiring. And Democrats could see more young candidates and candidates of color, who are underrepresented in both chambers of Congress, replace retiring members.
As of January 5, 36 House members and counting are retiring, setting off a nationwide reshuffling that will play out during the primary season. Over two-thirds of already-announced retirements are from the Democratic side of the aisle, a possible indication of how Democrats view their prospects of holding the House majority.
Complicating matters further, the national House primary calendar is still in flux due to the ongoing process of states drawing new congressional lines following the 2020 Census, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long-term trends of negative polarization, partisan self-sorting, and a decline in voters who split their tickets between parties are being exacerbated by states shoring up incumbents at the expense of competitiveness in redistricting. This means the 2022 elections are likely to see a historically low number of competitive House districts in general elections, making primaries even more important.
Many states have yet to complete their congressional redistricting, and some key states that have finalized maps, like Ohio and North Carolina, are facing lawsuits over congressional and state legislative lines that could delay their filings periods and primary dates.
North Carolina has already pushed back its primaries, and Pennsylvania could be next, delays that also affect marquee Senate and gubernatorial contests.
Here are the most important and most competitive primaries happening over the next nine months as currently scheduled:
The 2022 primary cycle is set to kick off in Texas on March 1.
Embattled Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing multiple high-profile primary challenges from Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and former State Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.
Gov. Greg Abbott will also face primary challengers including former state Sen. Don Huffines, who has been endorsed by several Trumpworld figures, and Allen West, the former state party chairman. Democrat Beto O'Rourke is likely to secure the Democratic nomination for the governorship in Texas, which hasn't elected a Democrat to statewide office in three decades.
Texas also gained two House seats in post-2020 Census reapportionment and has three members of its delegation retiring, setting up competitive primaries in some House districts. Texas will hold runoff elections in May for any contests where no candidate earns a majority of the vote outright.
On May 3, Ohio is holding a hotly-contested Republican primary for US Senate to replace longtime retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. The candidates include former state party chair Jane Timken, former State Treasurer Josh Mandel, state Sen. Mike Dolan, venture capitalist and author JD Vance, and businessmen Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno.
Rep. Tim Ryan and former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau adviser Morgan Harper are the two main contenders for the Democratic nomination.
Gov. Mike DeWine is facing primary challenges from former Rep. Jim Renacci and Joe Blystone, who are appealing to Trump's supporters.
May 10 will see the first confirmed House primary between two incumbents with Trump-endorsed Rep. Alex Mooney facing off against Rep. David McKinley for West Virginia's 1st Congressional District. The two Republicans were drawn into the same district as a result of the state losing a congressional seat after the 2020 Census.
May 17 is set to see primaries for high-stakes statewide races in the swing states of Pennsylvania and North Carolina (if either state's primaries don't get delayed).
In Pennsylvania, competitive Republican and Democratic primaries will determine the nominees for the open US Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Physician and television personality Mehmet Oz, hedgefund executive David McCormick, former US Ambassador Carla Sands, and real estate developer Dave Bartos are competing for the GOP nomination.
Rep. Conor Lamb, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Montgomery County Commissioner and physician Val Arkoosh are the lead contenders vying for the Democratic nomination for Senate to flip the seat.
North Carolina is holding primaries for an open US Senate seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr. The Republican field includes Trump-endorsed Rep. Ted Budd, Rep. Mark Walker, and former Gov. Pat McCrory while Cheri Beasley, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, appears poised to secure the Democratic nomination.
North Carolina, home to some of the most contentious partisan and legal battles over redistricting in recent history, is back in court defending its congressional maps after GOP lawmakers drew an aggressive Republican gerrymander, a case with significant implications for the state's House primaries.
On May 19, Idaho's Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin is waging a Trump-backed primary challenge against incumbent GOP Gov. Brad Little.
On May 24, Trump-backed congressman Mo Brooks and former Senate chief of staff Katie Britt are the leading candidates in the GOP primary for the Alabama US Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Richard Shelby.
While Brooks has Trump's support (for now, at least), Britt has received the backing of Shelby, her former boss, and quietly gotten financial support from several members of the Senate Republican caucus.
Lynda Blanchard, former US Ambassador to Slovenia under the Trump administration, was also initially in the running for Senate but dropped out of that race and is now mounting a primary challenge to incumbent GOP Gov. Kay Ivey.
Also on May 24, a series of blockbuster primaries in Georgia will set the battle lines for November's elections in the key battleground state which after years as a reliable GOP stronghold, voted for Biden in 2020 and handed control of the Senate to Democrats in 2021.
Former NFL star Herschel Walker, endorsed by Trump, is the frontrunner in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who was elected in a 2021 special runoff election, for a full term.
Two top Republicans who endured Trump's wrath for defending the integrity of the 2020 election in Georgia are now contending against Trump-backed primary challengers.
Gov. Brian Kemp will face primary challengers from former US Senator David Perdue, who has been endorsed by Trump, and state Rep. Vernon Jones. Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is facing a Trump-endorsed primary challenge from GOP Rep. Jody Hice, one of the congressmen who led the charge to object to counting electoral votes on January 6.
Stacey Abrams is the strong frontrunner in the Democratic primary for a potential rematch against Kemp. In the House, two Democratic incumbents, Rep. Lucy McBath and Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, will also face off in the primary for the new 7th District.
North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama all hold runoff elections later in the summer for races in which no one candidate earns a plurality or a majority of the vote outright.
The battleground state of Nevada will hold primaries for races including its competitive Senate contest, on June 14, where former Attorney General Adam Laxalt is the frontrunner to run against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto.
South Carolina is holding House primaries on June 14 in which GOP Reps. Nancy Mace and Tom Rice, who vocally criticized Trump over the January 6 insurrection, could both face Trump-backed primary challengers.
California, Illinois, and New York, key Democratic strongholds which all lost one House seat each in post-2020 reapportionment, are also holding their House primaries in June.
California's independent redistricting commission drew a Democratic-friendly map that, along with four House retirements, avoided pitting incumbents against each other but sets the stage for some competitive primaries on June 14.
On June 28, Illinois, where state lawmakers drew an aggressive Democratic gerrymander, will see two member-on-member primaries: one between Democratic Reps. Sean Casten and Marie Newmanin the Chicago suburbs and downstate between two Republicans, Trump-endorsed Rep. Mary Miller, and Rep. Rodney Davis.
New York's congressional lines aren't close to being finalized yet. But further up the ballot, Gov. Kathy Hochul, who ascended to the office in August 2021, is seeking the nomination for a full term against challengers including Rep. Tom Suozzi, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and likely New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
August will be a significant test of Trump's ability to punish high-profile members of Congress who voted to impeach and convict him for inciting the January 6 insurrection, and to shape competitive Republican primaries. And two more Trump-backed candidates are running for key election administration positions in the presidential swing states of Arizona and Michigan.
The month starts on August 2 with competitive primaries in Arizona, Missouri, Michigan, and Washington.
In Arizona, Trump-endorsed candidate and former TV anchor Kari Lake is seeking the GOP nomination to replace Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term-limited, against State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, state Regent Karrin Taylor Robson, former Rep. Matt Salmon, and businessman Steve Gaynor.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who gained a national profile for defending the 2020 election results and rebuffing the partisan review of the 2020 election results in Arizona, is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor along with former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman.
A crowded field of candidates, including Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Thiel Foundation president Blake Masters, and businessman Jim Lamon, are competing for the GOP nomination for US Senate to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.
Trump-endorsed state Rep. Mark Finchem, who has echoed Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen, is competing for the Republican nomination for secretary of state against fellow state Rep. Shawnna Bolick and State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita. Former Maricopa Recorder Adrian Fontes and Arizona's House Minority Leader Reginald Bolling are running in the Democratic primary for the top election job.
In Missouri, a crowded field of Republicans, including former Gov. Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, and personal injury lawyer Mark McCloskey, are competing for the nomination for US Senate to replace retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt in the now solidly-Republican state.
Trump has not yet endorsed candidates in either the Arizona or Missouri Senate primaries.
In the key swing state of Michigan, Republicans will select nominees to run against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Trump-endorsed Kristina Karamo is seeking to challenge Benson for the state's top election post.
Due to redistricting, Democratic Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin will face off in the primary for Michigan's new 11th Congressional District. Rep. Peter Meijer, one of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over January 6, is also set to face a Trump-backed primary challenger.
Two Washington State House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, Rep. Dan Newhouse and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who has a Trump-endorsed primary challenger, are also seeking reelection on August 2.
On August 9, voters in battleground Wisconsin will select a Democratic nominee for Senate to run for the seat currently held by GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, who hasn't yet confirmed whether he's running for election, and a Republican nominee to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
On August 16, two of Trump's most high-profile Republican foes in Congress will face primary challenges.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski will face off against Trump-endorsed primary challenger Kelly Tshibaka under Alaska's first-ever top-four primary election system. And Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair of the House Select Committee probing the January 6 insurrection, will face Trump-backed Harriet Hageman in Wyoming's at-large House seat.
Florida rounds out the month with its August 23 primaries. Democrats will decide on a nominee to take on GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis between Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Rep. Charlie Crist, and State Sen. Annette Taddeo.
Voters will also pick a Democratic nominee to take on Sen. Marco Rubio out of a field currently led by Rep. Val Demings.
New England will finish out the primary cycle.
Republicans, who have struggled to recruit a candidate to run against vulnerable Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, will select a nominee on September 13.
And in the House, a crowded field of GOP candidates including Gail Huff Brown, former TV anchor and wife of former Sen. Scott Brown, former State Department spokesman Matt Mowers, and former Trump White House spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt are competing to take on Rep. Chris Pappas.
Massachusetts will select nominees to replace outgoing GOP Gov. Charlie Baker, whose decision not to run for a third term creates a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats.