RICHMOND — A conservative provocateur and supporter of President Trump won Virginia’s Republican primary Tuesday in the US Senate race, and he has promised to run a ‘‘vicious’’ campaign against incumbent Tim Kaine.
Republican Corey Stewart beat state lawmaker Nick Freitas and Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson. Stewart had long been on the fringe of the state’s GOP; now the win makes him the standard-bearer of a deeply divided party that hasn’t won a statewide race in nearly a decade.
Virginia joined Maine, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Nevada in holding elections. The bellwether state also held primaries in several congressional districts that could be key to Democratic hopes to take control of the House in the fall general elections.
In the Senate primary, Stewart, a onetime state chairman of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has courted controversy throughout his political career. He was fired from the Trump campaign after staging an unsanctioned protest at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, which Stewart said wasn’t sufficiently loyal to Trump during the presidential campaign.
Stewart campaigned heavily last year on preserving Virginia’s Confederate monuments and is an immigrant hard-liner who boasts of the number of immigrants in the country illegally who have been deported from his county.
Kaine is the early favorite to win, and the Republican primary was noteworthy for how sleepy it was. Several higher-profile Republicans floated the possibility of running against Kaine, but they did not follow through after Democrats scored huge victories in November in state-level elections. That left establishment Republicans to rally behind Freitas, a libertarian-leaning former Green Beret and two-term state House delegate.
Freitas largely ignored Stewart until the campaign’s final days, when he criticized him for associating in the past with racists.
In the key congressional races, Democrats elected state Senator Jennifer Wexton as their nominee in a Northern Virginia district, which stretches from the wealthy suburbs of McLean inside the Capital Beltway west to Winchester. It is considered the most likely seat in Virginia to flip from Republican to Democratic — Hillary Clinton carried the district by 10 points in 2016, though Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock won reelection with 53 percent of the vote.
In South Carolina, Trump urged voters to dump frequent critic Representative Mark Sanford. The president said Sanford ‘‘has been very unhelpful to me’’ and poked fun at his infamous disappearance in 2009, when he was found to have been carrying on an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina.
Sanford was elected during a 2013 special election to the House seat he had held previously despite the controversy which led to his divorce from his wife, Jenny.
He has called Trump untrustworthy and culturally intolerant, prompting Republican state Representative Katie Arrington to challenge Sanford.
Maine voters had plenty of choices Tuesday to replace firebrand Republican Governor Paul LePage, who has served the maximum two terms allowed.
A field of 11 Democrats and Republicans are seeking party nominations for the opportunity to succeed LePage.
Voters on Tuesday didn’t just select their favorite candidates. They ranked the candidates from first to last, using the ranked-choice voting system for the first time in statewide primaries.
By midday, LePage, a longtime opponent of ranked voting, called the election overhaul the ‘‘most horrific thing in the world.’’ He threatened not to certify Tuesday’s election results, but Maine’s top election official quickly said that the governor can’t stop primary election results from moving forward.
In North Dakota, Representative Kevin Cramer, who holds North Dakota’s only House seat, defeated Thomas O’Neill, an anti-immigration Air Force veteran, in the race to challenge Senator Heidi Heitkamp. A Democrat in one of the nation’s most conservative states, Heitkamp is expected to face a tough challenge from O’Neill.
Farther west, the Democratic race for governor of Nevada has been bitterly fought, and a recent poll showed the top two candidates — Christina Giunchigliani and Steve Sisolak, both Clark County commissioners — separated by only three points. Their contest has been vicious at times.
Each hopes to be Nevada’s first Democratic governor since 1999.Material from The New York Times was used in this report.