Trump’s candidates sizzled, 'Squad' candidates sputtered: Top takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries

Former President Trump’s clout in contested GOP primaries and contests pitting one Republican against another remains unrivaled.

The candidates the presumptive GOP presidential nominee was backing in two closely watched congressional showdowns from coast to coast on Tuesday came out on top.

Meanwhile, progressives took a drubbing from more moderate or establishment-backed candidates in high-profile Democratic congressional primaries in reliably blue Oregon.


Here are two key primary takeaways.

Trump’s endorsement within the GOP reigns supreme

California State Assembly member Vince Fong cruised to a victory in a special congressional election to fill the seat left vacant after former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy left Congress late last year.

Fong, who enjoyed Trump’s backing, was also endorsed by McCarthy, whom he once served as district director. He defeated local County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux to fill the final six months of McCarthy’s term in the reliably red Central Valley district in an overwhelmingly blue state.

Trump called Fong a “true Republican” when he endorsed him in February. Among Boudreaux’s backers was Richard Grenell, who served as an acting director of national intelligence in the Trump administration and is a top surrogate for the former president as he runs to win back the White House.

Fong and Boudreaux will face off again in November for a full two-year term.

Congressional candidate Brian Jack, right, served as the White House political director for President Trump. (Brian Jack for Congress)

Trump also took sides in the GOP primary race for the open seat in Georgia’s 3rd District, in central-western Georgia. The former president backed former adviser Brian Jack, who faced off against five rivals in the far-right field in the solid red district.

Jack finished first, far ahead of his rivals. However, because he came up just shy of topping 50%, he will face off in a June runoff against Mike Dugan, who came in second, 21 points behind Jack.

The victories by the two Trump-backed candidates are the latest examples this cycle of the former president’s prowess in influencing intra-party contested elections.

“An endorsement from Donald J. Trump is the most powerful endorsement in modern political history,” GOP Ohio Senate nominee Bernie Moreno told Fox News minutes after winning his state’s Republican primary in March, thanks in large part to the former president’s backing. “There’s never been anything like it before – probably won’t be anything like it afterwards.”

Former President Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, boards his plane after speaking at a campaign rally in Freeland, Michigan, on May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Longtime Republican strategist and 2016 Trump campaign veteran Mike Biundo, pointing to Trump’s endorsement successes, told Fox News earlier this spring that “Trump moves numbers and helps to hand victories to those he endorses. It’s just a fact.”

Progressives blue after primary setbacks

The sister of progressive leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington will not be joining her sibling in Congress next year.

Susheela Jayapal, a former Multnomah County commissioner, was defeated by state Rep. Mazine Dexter in the Democratic primary in the race to succeed longtime Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer in the heavily-blue Portland anchored 3rd Congressional District.

Shusheela Jayapal was defeated in her bid for the Democratic nomination for Congress in Oregon’s 3rd District. (Multnomah County)

Jayapal was backed not only by her sister, but also by progressive champion and two-time Democratic presidential nominee runner-up Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the original members of the “Squad.”

The primary showdown saw millions spent on attack ads by outside groups.

In the 5th District, a crucial swing seat stretching south from suburban Portland that will likely help determine if the GOP can hold on to its majority, establishment Democrats came out in their battle with the left in the race to take on GOP Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who narrowly won two years ago.


Two years ago, progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner defeated Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader in the primary, as she ran to the incumbent congressman’s left. However, she was narrowly defeated in the general election by Chavedz-DeRemer, as the Republicans flipped the seat in a district President Biden won by roughly 10 points in 2020.

Aiming to avoid a repeat of their 2022 setback, national Democrats worked to block McLeod-Skinner from winning the nomination a second straight time. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee backed state Rep. Janelle Bynum and spent around $1 million on her behalf.

Rep. Janelle Bynum, left, and Jamie McLeod-Skinner. (Janelle Bynum for Congress | Jamie McLeod-Skinner for Congress)

“Primaries are often driven by voters invested in their local communities, who understand local budgets, issues, and dynamics. Voters who view themselves as gatekeepers to these local issues are not looking to Sanders or AOC to determine whether a candidate is viable,” longtime Democratic strategist Michael Ceraso told Fox News.

Ceraso, a veteran of numerous presidential campaigns who currently runs the communications firm Winning Margins, argued that “progressive candidates often run on big ideas that are more national and less local. I think there isn’t an appetite for it right now.”

Additionally, he suggested that while “progressives are very good at running for office, sometimes, they are not very good at building the relationships and institutional memory locally to earn the trust of voters.”

In another potential setback for progressives in Oregon, centrist candidate Nathan Vasquez, who pledged to be tough on crime, was leading Mike Schmidt, the top prosecutor in the Portland-anchored Multnomah County.

Members of the far-right group Proud Boys and anti-fascist protesters spray bear mace at each other during clashes between the politically opposed groups on Aug. 22, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. (AP Photo/Alex Milan Tracy)

Schmidt, a progressive, took office in 2020, as Portland was one of the epicenters amid major nationwide social justice protests.

The race was viewed as a referendum on voter concerns over Portland’s homelessness and drug use in public, as well as crime and the larger national argument over criminal justice reform.

If Schmidt ends up losing his bid for re-election, he would join a growing list of progressive district attorneys in blue bastions who’ve gone down to ballot box defeats the past couple of years.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire. 

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