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Cliffhanger congressional contest between Bob Good and John McGuire tests power of Trump endorsement

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — One of America’s most conservative congressmen was locked in a tight renomination battle against an opponent endorsed by former President Donald Trump in Virginia’s primary election Tuesday. Rep.
Virginia state Sen. John McGuire, a candidate in the Republican primary for the state's 5th Congressional District, speaks to supporters in Lynchburg, Va., Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Skip Rowland)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — One of America’s most conservative congressmen was locked in a tight renomination battle against an opponent endorsed by former President Donald Trump in Virginia’s primary election Tuesday.

Rep. Bob Good, who chairs the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, is seeking a third term representing Virginia's 5th Congressional District, but state Sen. John McGuire has mounted a strong challenge that highlights frictions in the party.

Ballots remained to be counted, and the close margin made the race too early to call. Virginia observes the Juneteenth holiday and isn’t expected to count votes Wednesday as a result. McGuire led Good by 327 votes, or 0.52 percentage points, out of 62,495 ballots counted as of 12 a.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Democrats in northern and central Virginia chose nominees to replace popular incumbents who aren't seeking reelection. In House District 7, Eugene Vindman won a crowded Democratic primary to try to hold the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who is running for governor in 2025, while Republicans chose Derrick Anderson.

And in House District 10, voters chose Suhas Subramanyam from a field of 12 Democrats to try to hold the seat held by U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, who is not seeking reelection to her northern Virginia seat after being diagnosed with a rare, incurable neurological illness. Republican voters nominated Mike Clancy for that seat.

Statewide, voters selected Hung Cao as the Republican nominee to the U.S. Senate to take on Democrat Tim Kaine.

Here's a look at the major battles on the ballot:

House District 5

Conventional politics might suggest a congressman with the conservative credentials of Good would be safe in a primary. But he earned the wrath of Trump when he endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president. He switched back to Trump after DeSantis dropped out, but Trump is endorsing McGuire and portraying Good as a backstabber.

Trump continued to bash Good as he campaigned for McGuire in a telephone rally Monday night.

“Unlike Bob Good, John McGuire will not let you down,” Trump said, adding that McGuire is “strong on the border” and “will always defend your under-siege Second Amendment.”

Good says he considers Trump the best president in his lifetime and only endorsed DeSantis because Trump is constitutionally limited to only one more term.

McGuire, for his part, claimed victory late Tuesday and thanked Trump for “believing in me.” No winner has been called by The Associated Press.

“There are still a few votes left to count, but it’s clear that all paths end with a victory,” McGuire said in a written statement.

Good, meanwhile, posted a statement on social media saying his campaign “implemented the best early voting operation that the 5th District has ever seen."

“We are still waiting for the results of mail-in ballots and provisional ballots,” he said. “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 also alienated Republican insiders by voting to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, throwing the party into a measure of chaos.

Seeking to capitalize is McGuire, a state legislator and former Navy SEAL who has echoed Trump's attacks on Good, calling him a “never Trumper.”

Good has bashed McGuire as a serial campaigner who announced his congressional bid just one week after winning election to a four-year term in the state Senate.

If Good loses, he would be the first House incumbent to go down to a primary challenge this year, with the exception of one race in which two incumbents faced off due to redistricting.

The winner will face Democrat Gloria Tinsley Witt, who defeated Gary Terry and Paul Riley.

The 5th Congressional District stretches from Charlottesville in the north, past the far western suburbs of Richmond, through Lynchburg and down to Danville and the North Carolina border.

House District 7

Vindman, a political newcomer who was nonetheless familiar to voters for his role in Trump’s first impeachment, has won the Democratic nomination in the 7th Congressional District for what will be a closely watched congressional seat in November.

Vindman, who crushed his opponents in fundraising, won in a crowded seven-person field that included four women of color who were all current or former officeholders in Prince William County, a suburban area outside the nation’s capital that constitutes the largest portion of the district.

The former Army officer gained a measure of fame when he and his twin brother, Alex, reported their concerns about Trump’s 2019 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in which Trump sought an investigation of Biden and his son, Hunter.

Vindman highlighted his opposition to Trump in his campaign and in a victory statement issued Tuesday evening said, “our grass-roots movement is coming for the extreme MAGA agenda. Virginia voters are first and foremost values driven, and want to elect leaders with integrity who preserve fundamental rights and freedoms and not extremists.”

He faced criticism from some local officials who said he was unconnected to the region’s political dynamics.

In a battle between a former Army Green Beret and a former Navy SEAL, Republican voters chose the Army man, Anderson, over Navy veteran Cameron Hamilton.

Anderson and Hamilton were the top two fundraisers in a six-person field. Anderson drew support from House GOP leadership in Washington, while Hamilton had support from members of the House Freedom Caucus.

The district, which stretches from Prince William County south to Fredericksburg and west past Culpeper, tilts just slightly toward Democrats.

House District 10

Subramanyam defeated fellow Democratic candidates former Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, state Sens. Dan Helmer and Jennifer Boysko, and former Virginia Education Secretary Atif Qarni. Wexton endorsed Subramanyam.

Republican voters chose Clancy from a field of four candidates.

House District 2

In Virginia’s coastal 2nd Congressional District, Missy Cotter Smasal, a Navy veteran who runs a nonprofit that honors fallen servicewomen, defeated Jeremiah “Jake” Denton IV, a constitutional law and civil rights attorney, in the Democratic primary.

She’ll face Republican U.S. Rep. Jen Kiggans in November.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Smasal took aim at Kiggans and “the MAGA extremism she supports in Congress.”

“I will protect abortion rights and access for all and fight for resources for veterans and military families,” Smasal said. “I will always defend democracy and reject party extremism.”

U.S. Senate

In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, Navy veteran Cao prevailed over his four opponents for a chance to try to unseat Kaine, a Democrat who is seeking his third term as the state’s junior U.S. senator.

Cao had the most money and previous campaign experience running for higher officer among the Republican primary contenders. He also had Trump’s endorsement.

In a victory post on Facebook, Cao immediately criticized President Joe Biden’s decision on Tuesday to allow certain U.S. citizens’ spouses without legal status to apply eventually for citizenship.

“Tomorrow, we begin our campaign to save the country that saved my life,” Cao stated. “I spent twenty-five years in the Navy, while Tim Kaine spent thirty years in elected office.”

Cao defeated Scott Parkinson, a former congressional staffer for DeSantis, as well as Jonathan Emord, an author and lawyer who often cites his court battles against the Food and Drug Administration. The other Republican candidates were Eddie Garcia, a U.S. Army veteran who owns a mobile app that serves veterans, and Chuck Smith, a former Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps commander and an attorney.


Finley contributed to this report from Norfolk.

Matthew Barakat And Ben Finley, The Associated Press