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5 takeaways from Tuesday’s elections in Colorado, Illinois and more

<i>Charles Rex Arbogast/AP</i><br/>Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Darren Bailey
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Darren Bailey

By Eric Bradner, CNN

Republican primary voters in Colorado resoundingly rejected Donald Trump’s brand of politics Tuesday, choosing more moderate nominees for key offices over a group of candidates that had embraced the former President’s lies about election fraud.

In Illinois, however, GOP voters sided with Trump, choosing the conservative state senator he had endorsed as their nominee to take on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and picking Trump’s preferred candidate in a down-state congressional contest.

Colorado, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma and Utah held primary elections Tuesday. Mississippi and South Carolina held runoff elections, while Nebraska held a special election to replace former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, which was won by Republican Mike Flood.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s elections:

Colorado’s election deniers are denied by GOP voters

Many Republicans in Colorado were aghast at the prospect of Tina Peters, the indicted Mesa County clerk who has parroted Trump’s falsehoods about voter fraud, taking over the state’s elections machinery. On Tuesday, those GOP voters rejected Peters’ bid to take on Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold. Instead, they nominated Pam Anderson, a former county clerk who has defended the integrity of Colorado’s vote-by-mail system.

It was one of several races in which Colorado Republicans opted for more moderate candidates over those who have embraced Trump’s election lies and staked out conservative positions on social issues.

In the primary to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, businessman Joe O’Dea, who supports abortion rights aside from late-term abortions, defeated state Rep. Ron Hanks, who opposes abortion in all cases. Hanks was at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, but told CNN he didn’t go inside, and has parroted false conspiracy theories about voting machines and widespread election fraud.

And in the primary for governor, to square off against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis in November, Heidi Ganahl, a member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, defeated Greg Lopez, the former Parker mayor who falsely claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

But Illinois embraced Trump’s candidates

It was a much different story in Illinois, another Democratic-leaning state where Republicans hope that economic and historical factors tilting in their favor this year will lead to surprises in November.

Darren Bailey, a conservative state senator who was endorsed by Trump and backed by billionaire Republican donor Dick Uihlein, won the gubernatorial primary.

“Darren is just the man to take on and defeat one of the worst governors in America,” the former President said at a rally over the weekend.

Bailey, in a debate, called Chicago a “crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hellhole,” though he is seeking to become governor of the state for which Chicago is the economic center. In the state legislature in 2019, he sponsored a resolution that would separate Chicago from the rest of Illinois; as a candidate for governor, he has backed away from that position.

Meanwhile, in the 15th Congressional District, where incumbent Reps. Mary Miller and Rodney Davis were drawn into the same district last year, Miller prevailed.

Miller, a controversial first-term lawmaker, voted to object to the 2020 Electoral College results in Pennsylvania and Arizona and received Trump’s endorsement despite pushback from House GOP leadership.

Miller, in a speech alongside the former President over the weekend, declared the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade a “victory for White life.” (A spokesperson claimed she had misspoken and meant to say “right to life.”)

Casten defeats Newman in incumbent vs. incumbent Illinois primary

Elsewhere in Illinois, Democratic Rep. Sean Casten will win his party’s nomination for the 6th Congressional District, defeating another Democratic House member, Rep. Marie Newman, in another incumbent vs. incumbent contest resulting from last year’s redistricting process.

Newman was in her first term but is facing a House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that she may have promised federal employment to a primary challenger in exchange for their political support. Newman has denied the allegations and has said the complaints were politically motivated.

A pro-Israel group had advertised against Newman, criticizing her for voting against $1 billion to fund Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense shield last year.

Mississippi Republican House member embroiled in ethics probe loses primary runoff

Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo lost his seat in a primary runoff in Mississippi on Tuesday, falling to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell.

Palazzo, like Newman, entered the campaign facing a slew of ethics issues. Those including alleged misuse of campaign and congressional funds and criticism over his use of proxy-voting. Still, he finished atop a seven-candidate field earlier this month, but with only about 31% of the vote. The opposition consolidated in the runoff, likely sending Ezell to Congress from the heavily Republican Gulf Coast district.

Palazzo, a military veteran, was first elected during the tea party wave of 2010. But a report last year from the Office of Congressional Ethics last year found “substantial” evidence he used campaign and congressional funds for personal use, sent staff on personal errands and sought to wield his official power to help his brother reenlist in the Navy.

The report was taken up for review by the House Ethics Committee. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The congressman has also been criticized for his use of proxy-voting despite formerly denouncing the practice, leading critics to dub him as “No-Show Palazzo.”

Palazzo didn’t help his standing in the district when he canceled an appearance at a candidate forum in May, citing “meetings dealing with national security.” Later that night, he posted pictures online of him and his son eating at a local restaurant during the event.

Illinois Rep. Danny Davis defeats tougher challenge

Two years ago, long-time Illinois Democratic Rep. Danny Davis easily defeated a progressive challenger, community organizer Kina Collins. The 31-year-old Collins tried to oust the 80-year-old incumbent again this year — but Davis triumphed once again, though the race was much closer than it was in 2020.

This time, Collins was supported by progressive infrastructure, including Justice Democrats. But the race in the Chicago-area 7th District also underscored some voters’ frustrations with aging Democratic leadership, in a party where the top three-ranking House members are all 80 or older and President Joe Biden is 79.

Edward Solan, a 75-year-old retiree in Oak Park, said he voted for Collins because Davis “has been around too long, and it’s time for a change.”

“Danny Davis is older than I am. I knew when it was time to retire, and I think it’s time he does,” Solan said. “Not that I have any great disagreement with his record, but it’s time to move on.”

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CNN’s Gregory Krieg contributed to this story.

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