High-stakes House primaries in Virginia show fissures across both parties


(WASHINGTON) — High-stakes primaries in two Virginia congressional districts Tuesday night will test the enduring influence of former President Donald Trump on voters of both parties.

In Virginia’s 5th district, Rep. Bob Good, leader of the anti-Republican-establishment House Freedom Caucus, is running up against a challenger bolstered by the endorsements of Trump and former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. On Tuesday, voters will signal which brand of conservatism they prefer.

And with Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger vacating her 7th district seat to run for governor, former Army colonel Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman, who rose to prominence during Trump’s first impeachment trial, has moved to the top of a crowded field of local electeds by highlighting his role in protecting democracy from the former president.

The Republican primary in Virginia’s 5th district
Good’s willingness to push against his party’s establishment has garnered him political power in Congress, but it also brought him a tough primary challenge, and has shown a schism within the more conservative wing of the party.

Good, who was first elected to the House in 2020, is facing state Sen. John McGuire, a primary opponent endorsed by former President Donald Trump and financially backed by Defending Main Street, the pro-incumbent PAC that claims responsibility for ousting former Republican Rep. Steve King.

Good has not been afraid to make enemies in his party, voting to oust former Speaker McCarthy and initially endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ bid for president, though he flipped to Trump after DeSantis dropped out.

Good has also attempted to get back in Trump’s good graces, traveling up to New York to attend the former president’s hush-money trial — the same day McGuire also made the same trip.

“Bob Good is BAD FOR VIRGINIA, AND BAD FOR THE USA. He turned his back on our incredible movement, and was constantly attacking and fighting me until recently, when he gave a warm and ‘loving’ Endorsement – But really, it was too late,” Trump posted on Truth Social in May.

He added, “John McGuire has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” He posted the attack on Good again on Wednesday.

Good had also received a cease-and-desist from Trump’s campaign after using his name and image in campaign material.

“Trump’s endorsement represents a huge advantage for McGuire, and that’s why Good has tried to suggest that he is actually the favorite of the former president,” Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington, told ABC News by email. “While prominent Republicans have split in their preferences in this contest, none of them has anything like the influence with Republican primary voters that the former president has.”

The ire Good has drawn has landed him in a vulnerable position. McGuire has outraised Good and holds more cash on hand, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) records by OpenSecrets. The state senator has also benefited from slightly more outside spending, OpenSecrets found.

Good still has the support of groups such as the conservative organization, Club for Growth and Trump-aligned members such as Republican Rep. Byron Donalds.

He has also portrayed himself as a known quantity to his constituents.

“They can trust me; they know that I’m a consistent conservative. They know that I’m the same thing publicly as I am privately, and I think they like that I’ve been fighting for them,” Good told Roanoke, Virginia, TV station WDBJ earlier in June.

McGuire, meanwhile, has slammed Good for portraying himself as a Trump-aligned conservative.

“We found out that Bob is not who he says he is … All over the district, people are saying, ‘thank you for giving us a choice.’ And the people of the district are the ones that asked me to do this. And they basically said, ‘John, you’re the only one who can beat them,"” McGuire told Lynchburg, Virginia, ABC affiliate WSET.

The fight between Good and McGuire has split Republicans both at the national and at the hyperlocal level.

For instance, there are signs of a fissure in the House Freedom Caucus itself. Republican Rep. Warren Davidson, a self-identified member of the House Freedom Caucus, endorsed McGuire on Sunday, writing in a statement shared by McGuire’s campaign, “I’ve served in Congress since 2016, and we need reinforcements to help Make America Great Again … [McGuire] will work well with others to deliver conservative results.”

And at the local level, some Republican leaders from the district have pushed back against Trump’s endorsement. The Charlottesville Daily Progress and other local outlets reported that 5th District Republican Congressional Committee Chair Rich Buchanan and other local Republican leaders wrote an open letter to Trump asking him to reconsider his endorsement of McGuire.

“Congressman Bob Good has championed America First policies … Congressman Good’s opponent is relying on millions of dollars from outside Virginia to support his candidacy,” they wrote.

ABC News has reached out to Buchanan for comment.

The district includes a wide swath of the southern part of the state, including the cities of Charlottesville and Lynchburg, and Cook Political Report rates the seat as likely to safely stay in Republican hands.

The Democratic primary in Virginia’s 7th district
In 2018, Eugene Vindman helped his twin brother Alexander — both staffers for the National Security Council under Trump — blow the whistle on a phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings there. The Vindmans’ efforts launched the first of Trump’s two impeachment trials and catapulted Alexander and, to a lesser extent, Eugene into the national spotlight.

Now, propelled by name recognition, a campaign war chest much larger than his competitors’, and military bona fides — many members of the armed forces call the district home — Eugene Vindman appears poised to secure the Democratic party’s nomination in the tightly-contested swing district. Per FEC filings, Vindman has raised more than $5 million — and amount that’s more than all of his challengers combined.

“I sacrificed my military career to expose Trump’s corruption,” Vindman said in a campaign ad. “Now I’m running for Congress to get things done.”

As Vindman’s four leading opponents have been quick to point out, though, they each have something he does not: experience governing. Two — Andrea Bailey and Margaret Franklin — currently serve as Prince William County supervisors, and, until recently, two others — Elizabeth Guzman and Briana Sewell — served as members of Virginia’s House of Delegates. Guzman narrowly lost a primary after redistricting; Sewell remains in office.

That’s not all that differentiates Vindman and the field. Vindman, who is white, is running alongside three Black women and a Hispanic woman in a diversifying suburban district where roughly 35% of the population is not white, according to 2020 Census data.

“He does not understand the community. He’s not very infused in the community. He’s not been participating in the community as an advocate,” Bailey told the Associated Press.

“Vindman has three advantages going into this primary: he is very well-liked among Democratic activists and donors, he has a military background … and he is running as part of a large field where the people who do not support him will splinter in a variety of directions,” Farnsworth told ABC News.

If he secures the nomination, Vindman will likely draw a stark contrast with the Republican nominee.

The Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th district, which will also take place Tuesday, features nearly as many candidates and two frontrunners: Derrick Anderson, a former Army Green Beret who has received support from GOP leadership and finished second in the 2022 primary; and Cameron Hamilton, a former Navy SEAL with the backing of the House Freedom Caucus.

ABC News’ Isabella Murray contributed to this report.

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