The 2018 midterm elections are officially under way today, as Republican primary voters in Texas are now eligible to cast an early ballot for the March 6 election.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took to Twitter to urge his supporters to vote early.
If we want to #KeepTexasRed this November, Republicans MUST turn out to vote – and that starts today with the @TexasGOP Primary election. #CruzCrew, vote early TODAY —> https://t.co/CE9m8IgX3d pic.twitter.com/x1RfQYUcp2
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 20, 2018
Now that voting season has begun, conservative voters ought to be paying attention. Control of the U.S Senate hangs in the balance as Democrats seek to erase the razor-thin Republican majority and install Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as majority leader. Democrats will make a vigorous effort in 2018 to win back the House of Representatives and make Nancy Pelosi the speaker of the House again. Meanwhile, establishment RINOs are gearing up to campaign as conservatives, knowing full well they will betray their promises once they win office, as has happened so many times before.
Who are the best conservative candidates? Which races are winnable?
Conservative voters cannot waste time and energy following every race in the country. It is important to prioritize races where conservatives can make a difference. Activist organizations like the Senate Conservatives Fund, the House Freedom Fund, the Club for Growth, and others work to identify conservative candidates who can win and inform voters of their viability.
Here are the races they are watching, with states listed in order of their primary dates:
Texas – March 6 primary; May 22 runoff
Incumbent Senator Ted Cruz is running in his first re-election campaign for Senate. In the Republican primary, Cruz faces a handful of challengers, notably a moderate named Stefano de Stefano, who has criticized Cruz for what he calls “extremist posturing.” Cruz, a conservative champion, has the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund for re-election. He is also supported by the senior senator from Texas, John Cornyn. The leading Democratic candidate to challenge Cruz in November is Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas.
U.S. House of Representatives District 03
Incumbent Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, announced his retirement on January 6, 2018. Running to replace him is state Senator Van Taylor, R-Plano, an Iraq War veteran who has served in both houses of the Texas legislature. Taylor is the heavy favorite to win the primary and has been endorsed by the Club for Growth.
U.S. House of Representatives District 21
Incumbent Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, announced his retirement on November 2, 2017. A total of 18 candidates have filed to run in the Republican primary. Chip Roy leads the field in endorsements, with the support of Sen. Ted Cruz, former Gov. Rick Perry, and conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund. Though Conservative Review does not endorse candidates, Conservative Review senior editor Daniel Horowitz has personally endorsed Roy for Congress.
Pennsylvania – May 15 primary
In the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., President Donald Trump has endorsed Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Penn. A moderate, Barletta has emerged as the consensus candidate among the Pennsylvania Republican Party, also earning the endorsements of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., and eleven members of the Pennsylvania delegation in the House of Representatives.
NOTE: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a new congressional map for the state, redrawing several districts and changing the House races there. State Republicans are expected to challenge the new map in court. This article will be updated with Pennsylvania House races when the controversy is resolved.
Montana – June 5 primary
Incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester faces a tough re-election in Montana, a state Republican Donald Trump won by 20 points in 2016. Republican candidate Matt Rosendale has won the trifecta of conservative Senate endorsements from Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul. Rosendale is also backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund and by the Club for Growth. Other candidates include former Billings Judge Russ Fagg, Big Sky businessman Troy Downing, state senator and doctor Albert Olszewski, James Dean of Havre and Ron Murray of Belgrade, according to the Independent Record.
Utah – June 25 primary
The 2012 Republican nominee for president and former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, is running for the seat vacated by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Romney is a beloved figure in Utah and is heavily favored to be the next senator, though he has been criticized for making Utah his home only recently. Attorney Larry Meyers is also running for the Republican nomination.
Tennessee – August 2 primary
Last September, incumbent Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has emerged as the leading Republican candidate to replace Corker in the Senate. Blackburn has been endorsed by the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth. Tennessee uses an open primary system, where voters do not have to be a member of a party to vote in that party’s primary. There are rumors circulating that Sen. Corker may be reconsidering his decision not to seek re-election. A poll commissioned by a PAC supporting Blackburn found that should Corker reverse himself and run for re-election, Blackburn would hold a 2-to-1 advantage over him.
Former Governor Phil Bredesen is running in the Democratic primary.
U.S. House of Representatives District 06
Incumbent Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., has vacated her House seat to run for governor of Tennessee. State Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, is running in the Republican primary and has been endorsed for Congress by the House Freedom Fund. Matheny, a veteran and former law enforcement officer, has established a conservative record in the Tennessee legislature, strongly supporting the Second Amendment and leading the fight against sanctuary cities in Tennessee.
U.S. House of Representatives District 07
State Senator Mark Green is running in the Republican primary for the seat vacated by Rep. Blackburn. So far, Green is the only Republican candidate running for the seat. He has been endorsed by the Club for Growth and the House Freedom Fund. A veteran, Green served as an Army special operations flight surgeon and was a part of the mission that captured Saddam Hussein.
Michigan – August 7 primary
Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow has amassed a massive $7 million war chest to fend off a Republican challenger. Seeking to unseat her is veteran, successful businessman, and political outsider John James. James has been endorsed by the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund. Republican businessman Sandy Pensler, who has invested $5 million of his own money into the race, is also running for the Republican nomination.
Missouri – August 7 primary
Conservatives and establishment Republicans in Missouri have united behind state Attorney General Josh Hawley to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. Hawley has been endorsed by the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund and is also supported by President Donald Trump, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Recently, Hawley has come under fire for comments he made linking the modern epidemic of sex trafficking to the 1960s sexual revolution. Austin Petersen, a 2016 presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party nomination, is challenging Hawley for the Senate nomination. Petersen has attracted controversy after holding a raffle for an AR-15 rifle, which resulted in Facebook banning him for 30 days because of a post made about the raffle.
Wisconsin – August 14 primary
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin is a top target of conservative groups, which have already spent $3.1 million to defeat her as of January. The state has been drifting to the right in recent years, with Republican Governor Scott Walker running for a third term after winning three statewide elections in four years. The Club for Growth has endorsed businessman Kevin Nicholson in the Republican Senate primary, as has Sen. Ted Cruz. Nicholson, a decorated combat veteran who graduated from Harvard and Dartmouth, was once a Democrat, though he claims to have fully embraced conservatism. His primary opponent, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, is running as a “lifelong Republican” but has been criticized by the Club for Growth as a RINO.
This article will be updated as more races to watch develop.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
Send tips and hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.