Primaries: Congressman Mark Sanford, a Trump critic, loses GOP nomination in S.C.

ep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting March 18, 2017 in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Constituents have been showing up in large numbers across the nation to congressional town hall meetings to voice their concerns. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford has lost the Republican nomination for his congressional seat to an opponent who attacked his criticism of President Donald Trump.

Voters on Tuesday decided state Rep. Katie Arrington would be the Republican candidate in the coastal 1st District.

Arrington spent her campaign calling Sanford a “Never Trumper.” And hours before polls closed, Trump posted on Twitter supporting her.

Sanford is a former governor who has never lost an election in eight races in South Carolina, even after he admitted to an affair with a woman in Argentina.

In defense of his stance on Trump, Sanford has said he criticizes anyone regardless of party if they deserve it.

Four other states voted Tuesday, including several races that will be key to determining which party controls the House.

As votes were still being counted in South Carolina, Sanford told supporters he was “going to lose this race” to  Arrington, who had criticized the former governor for disloyalty to Trump. A Sanford loss would be an abrupt end to a roller-coaster political career that included a resignation as South Carolina’s governor following his admission of an extramarital affair seven years ago.

After steering clear of the race for months, Trump, late on Tuesday but hours before polls closed, attacked Sanford by tweet, calling him “very unhelpful.”

“He’s MIA and nothing but trouble,” Trump continued. “He is better off in Argentina.”

The swipe was a reference to Sanford’s unexplained disappearance from the state in 2009, which he later said was part of an affair he was carrying on with a woman in Argentina.

Sanford would be the second incumbent House Republican to lose a primary this year. Though he has a generally conservative voting record, his public comments against Trump made him a target. Sanford had described Trump as untrustworthy and culturally intolerant, and had repeatedly criticized the president for not releasing his tax returns.

Despite her attempt to tie herself to Trump, Arrington supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio during the 2016 South Carolina primary campaign, and later praised 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney for a scathing rebuke of Trump, whom Romney called “a phony, a fraud.”

In other races:

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IN SOUTH CAROLINA, INCUMBENT GOVERNOR FACES RUN-OFF

Sanford was not the only establishment Republican to face challenges Tuesday. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a close ally of Trump, was forced into a runoff after failing to muster the required 50 percent vote to win outright.

McMaster , an early supporter of the president’s 2016 campaign, had Trump’s full endorsement, marked by a weekend tweet.

But while Trump remains very popular in the state, McMaster has been shadowed by a corruption probe involving a longtime political consultant. McMaster received the most votes of the four Republicans running, but will face Greenville businessman John Warren in a second contest June 26.

McMaster, the former lieutenant governor, assumed the governorship last year after Nikki Haley resigned to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

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A HOUSE BELLWETHER IN VIRGINIA

Democratic State Sen. Jennifer Wexton was the clear winner in a six-way primary in Virginia’s 10th District, and will challenge Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock.

Besides that district, considered key to the House battleground map this fall, Democrats in two other Virginia districts they hope to retake nominated women, including Abigail Spanberger in the 7th District and Elaine Luria in Virginia’s 2nd District.

In Comstock’s district, Wexton was the best-known in the field, and was viewed as the Democratic Party’s establishment choice. She had the endorsement of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

Comstock, a moderate Republican who easily beat back a challenge from conservative Shak Hill, is one of the Democrats’ top targets in November. The second-term House member’s district leans Republican, though Democrat Hillary Clinton received more votes there than Trump did in 2016.

Though Wexton favors a ban on the sale of assault weapons, she defies what has been the tendency in some swing districts to nominate Democrats with liberal profiles on other key issues. She has not called for a single-payer, government-run health insurance system, as some Democratic House primary winners in California, Nebraska and Pennsylvania have.

Democrats need to gain 23 seats to win the majority in the House.

In another big Virginia race, Republican Corey Stewart — once a state chairman to Trump’s presidential campaign who was fired for protesting the Republican National Committee — won the Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.

Stewart surprised many by nearly winning last year’s Republican nomination for governor.

He was the top aide to Trump’s presidential campaign in Virginia in 2016, but was fired for staging an unauthorized protest of the Republican National Committee. Stewart had accused the party of inadequately defending the candidate after the release of a tape where Trump bragged about groping women.

As a candidate for governor in 2017, Stewart spoke out against removing Confederate monuments, including the Robert E. Lee statue that prompted a deadly protest in Charlottesville last year. Stewart called efforts to remove the monuments “an attempt to destroy traditional America.”

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TURNING THE LePAGE

Maine voters are deciding how they’d prefer to veer in their search for the successor to term-limited, conservative Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

In a state represented by moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King, voters will choose from GOP candidates who echo LePage’s conservative policies but shy away from his controversial tone.

The field includes top Republicans in the state legislature, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason and House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette; LePage’s former state health agency chief, Mary Mayhew; and businessman Shawn Moody, who’s trying to claim the outsider mantle.

Democrats, with just 16 of the nation’s governorships, view the seat as one of their top pick-up opportunities.

First they must settle a seven-way primary field led by Attorney General Janet Mills and former state House Speaker Mark Eves.

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NEVADA, NORTH DAKOTA: SEE YOU IN NOVEMBER

Nevada and North Dakota are home to two of the most pivotal Senate races this year. What they don’t have is competitive Senate primaries.

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, the only Republican seeking re-election in a state that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, and Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen sailed through their primaries, and already have begun focusing their criticism on each other in what is expected to be among the most competitive Senate races this year.

One of the most interesting GOP primaries in Nevada involves legal brothel owner Dennis Hof challenging GOP state Rep. James Oscarson for his seat in the statehouse.

There’s also the return of Sharron Angle, the conservative who once ominously threatened to “take out” then-Sen. Harry Reid. Angle, who lost to Reid in her 2010 bid for Senate, is challenging Rep. Mark Amodei, who is favored in his campaign for renomination in Nevada’s 2nd District.

The most competitive choice for Democrats appears to be the battle between Clark County commissioners vying to be Nevada’s first Democratic governor in two decades.

Steve Sisolak is running as a centrist, and fellow board member Chris Giunchigliani is running as a progressive, knocking Sisolak for his positive rating from the National Rifle Association in light of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October. Four lesser-known candidates are also running. Republican Attorney Gen. Adam Laxalt easily cleared the GOP field.

In North Dakota , GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer will face moderate Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. She is seeking re-election in a state Trump carried by 36 percentage points in 2016.