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On Tuesday's primary ballot: election deniers, a disgraced politician — and more

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks to supporters during a campaign event in Tucson, Ariz. on Sunday.Brandon Bell / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... It’s Primary Day in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington state. ... U.S. drone strike kills Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan. ... NBC’s Julia Ainsley reports Homeland Security watchdog agency withdrew request for Secret Service text messages related to Jan. 6. ... One Jan. 6 rioter gets seven-year jail sentence. ... NBC’s Benjy Sarlin breaks down the tax debate over the Manchin-Schumer deal. ... And Trump’s Missouri endorsement turns into a joke. 

But first: How far is the GOP willing to go? And what is a bridge too far? 

That’s one of the big themes for today’s Aug. 2 primaries, where Trump-backed election deniers (Kari Lake and Blake Masters in Arizona), a disgraced former governor accused of domestic abuse (Eric Greitens) and even someone arrested for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol (Ryan Kelley in Michigan) are all on the ballot.

So, too, are three GOP House members who voted for Donald Trump’s impeachment (Peter Meijer, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse), as well as that constitutional amendment on abortion we covered on Monday

Here are the big primary races we’re closely following tonight.

GOP primary for Arizona governor

This might be the purest contest between the GOP’s establishment wing and Trump wing duking it out for an open seat in a battleground state. 

In this race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, it’s Trump-backed former news anchor Kari Lake versus former Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who’s endorsed by Ducey and former VP Mike Pence. 

Lake has said she wouldn’t have certified Biden’s victory and wants to decertify it; she’s also suggested Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner, be sent to jail for her perceived role as the “mastermind of the 2020 election”; and she’s continued to raise the specter, without evidence, of fraud in her primary race.

The winner faces either Hobbs or former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez in the general election. 

GOP primary for Arizona Senate

In this race for the right to take on Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., in the fall, it’s Trump-backed Blake Masters versus businessman Jim Lamon, versus state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, versus a couple of other candidates. 

Both Masters and Lamon have echoed Trump’s false claims the election was stolen. Masters declared in a campaign video that Trump won in 2020, while Lamon helped fund a partisan election audit and signed on as an “alternate elector” for Trump.

GOP primary for Michigan governor

In the contest to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the top Republican candidates are conservative commentator Tudor Dixon (who picked up Trump’s endorsement on Friday), businessman Kevin Rinke, small business owner Garrett Soldano and Ryan Kelley (who was arrested for misdemeanor charges for his role in the Jan. 6 attack).  

GOP primary for Missouri Senate

This primary features a crowded field of Republicans competing to replace retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt. Recent polling has shown the top three contenders are state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler, and former GOP Gov. Eric Greitens

On Monday, Trump endorsed “Eric,” hedging his bet between either Schmitt and Greitens (and confirming how much a farce the “Trump endorsement” storyline has often become).  

The GOP winner will face either Dem Trudy Busch Valentine (an heiress to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune) or Lucas Kunce (a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan).

Michigan-03 GOP contest

GOP Rep. Peter Meijer’s vote to impeach Trump after Jan. 6 drew a Trump-backed primary challenger, former software engineer John Gibbs, who served in Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Meijer outraised and outspent Gibbs in the primary, launching ads highlighting his background in the Army Reserves. But Democrats made a last-minute push to elevate Gibbs, who could be easier to beat in the competitive district.

Michigan-11 Democratic contest

Democratic Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens are facing each other in a member-vs.-member showdown. Redistricting made Levin’s current seat more competitive and he decided to run in this more Democratic-leaning district instead

Stevens leads in fundraising and ad spending. Outside groups have also jumped in on ad spending. United Democracy Project, a group affiliated with AIPAC, has spent over $3.2 million boosting Stevens over Levin, who is Jewish. A more progressive pro-Israel group, J Street Action Fund, has spent over $480,000 backing Levin. 

Data Download: The number of the day is … 3

That’s how many House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are facing primaries Tuesday. All three — Meijer and Washington’s Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse — are competing against Trump-backed challengers. 

Four of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump decided not to run for re-election. The two who have faced primaries so far had mixed success. South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice lost his primary to Trump-backed state Rep. Russell Fry. California GOP Rep. David Valadao advanced to the November election in California’s Top 2 primary, although Trump did not endorse his GOP opponent. 

Like Valadao, Herrera Beutler and Newhouse are also competing in a Top 2 primary. That means candidates from all parties compete on the same primary ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. 

These Republicans have still received support from some of their GOP colleagues. More than 90 House Republicans, including members of GOP leadership, have made campaign donations to the five pro-impeachment Republicans who have yet to face primaries. Read more about that on the Meet the Press Blog.

Other numbers to know:

400: The number of children reunited with their parents as part of a Biden administration task force after being separated during the Trump administration.

37: At least how many people have died from catastrophic flooding in Kentucky

2: The number of states that declared monkeypox emergencies on Monday

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup: More members facing primaries

The pro-impeachment Republicans and the two Democrats facing off in Michigan aren’t the only House members facing primary challenges tonight. 

Two progressive House Democrats — Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Missouri’s Cori Bush — are facing challengers who say the high-profile congresswomen are more concerned with garnering national attention than serving their constituents. Tlaib and Bush are also facing pushback for their votes against the bipartisan infrastructure package (two other House progressives who voted against the bill are also facing primary challengers later this month). 

GOP Rep. David Schweikert is facing a tough primary challenge from businessman Elijah Norton in a race that’s turned ugly. Norton has slammed Schweikert’s ethics violations (Schweikert was fined and sanctioned on the House floor for multiple violations, including misusing taxpayer dollars and violating campaign finance rules), and a Phoenix man is suing Schweikert claiming an attack ad he’s unwittingly featured in is homophobic.

So far eight incumbents — five Republicans and three Democrats — have lost primaries this cycle, half in races against other House members due to redistricting.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

North Carolina Senate: The state elections board has certified the Green Party as an official party in North Carolina, leaving it up to a federal judge whether the party’s candidate can be on the ballot in the state’s pivotal Senate race. 

Missouri Senate: Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Lucas Kunce’s Democratic Senate bid Monday. 

Wisconsin Senate: Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the likely nominee for Senate, says his campaign raised $1.1 million over the last week, which has seen Barnes’ top Democratic primary challengers bow out and endorse him. 

Oregon Governor: Democrat Tina Kotek is going up with an almost $400,000 TV buy that makes her the final big-name candidate in the race to jump on the general election airwaves. 

Pennsylvania Governor: Eight of the nine members of the Pennsylvania GOP congressional delegation (all but Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick) endorsed GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano

Wisconsin Governor: Businessman Tim Michels, who has been endorsed by former President Trump, told voters ahead of next week’s primary that he hasn’t made any “commitment” to support Trump or any other 2024 presidential candidate at this point. 

Ad watch: Dems target Budd on abortion

Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, is launching a new TV ad in North Carolina’s Senate race Tuesday, targeting GOP Rep. Ted Budd on abortion.

“Budd wants abortion outlawed, with no exceptions for rape or incest,” a narrator says in the new ad, shared first with NBC News. The ad then directs viewers to a website detailing Budd’s views on the issue. 

Senate Majority PAC is spending more than $700,000 on the TV ad, which will air in the Charlotte media market. Read more about the new spot on the Meet the Press Blog

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

There’s a new bipartisan bill in Congress to codify abortion access, although it remains short of the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate. 

The Senate confirmed the Marine Corps’ first Black, four-star general, Michael Langley, who will now lead United States Africa Command

And NBC’s Benjy Sarlin looks at the tax debate over Senate Democrats’ new climate/health care package.