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Primary Roundup: June 18, 2024

June 18 Primaries: Key Takeaways from Virginia and Oklahoma's Congressional Contests and the Push for Inclusive Elections

Unite America
June 21, 2024


On Tuesday, June 18th, Virginia and Oklahoma held their congressional primaries. These states have a combined total of 16 congressional districts. To this point, 28 states — with a total of 270 U.S. House seats — have held primaries for Congress and state offices. 

Oklahoma has a closed primary, which prohibits voters not registered with a major party from participating. This means 457,951 registered voters were locked out of Tuesday’s primaries.  Eleven closed primary states have held congressional primaries to date, excluding nearly 9,200,000 registered voters from participating in the elections that often decide the outcome.

National Update:

So far, 5% of the voting-age population has effectively elected 55% of the U.S. House of Representatives. That means 240 out of the 435 seats have been decided in primaries. By mid-August, nearly 75%  of the House will have been determined. By the end of the primary season in mid-September, more than 80% of U.S. representatives will already be chosen.

June 18 Primary Analysis

All five of Oklahoma’s congressional districts are rated “safe” by the Cook Political Report. Because they’re all uncompetitive in the general election, all of Oklahoma’s U.S. House representatives were decided on Tuesday. Just three of the five safe seats saw more than one candidate run in the primary of the district’s dominant party —  meaning there was competition.  In those competitive primaries, 148,084 voters participated — which is just 5% of the state’s voting-age population.

This means that, overall, 5% of OK’s voting age population effectively elected 100% of the state’s U.S. House delegation in dominant party primaries.

Notable race

In the fourth district, incumbent Rep. Tom Cole (R) faced the toughest challenge of Oklahoma’s House incumbents. While Cole ultimately won handily, he was held to 65% of the primary vote — a far lower share than most incumbents receive. Cole’s opponent, a right-wing challenger named Paul Bondar, tried to use Cole’s long tenure on the Appropriations Committee against him, claiming he voted with Democrats to support too much spending and argued that he was insufficiently conservative. While Cole ultimately prevailed, this race serves as a strong example of how well-funded, ideological primary challengers can serve as a threat to incumbents.


Virginia has 11 congressional districts, nine of which are considered “safe.”  This means that 82% of the state’s congressional seats were decided in the primaries. Just three of the nine safe seats saw more than one candidate run in the primary of the district’s dominant party. In those competitive primaries, 147,624 voters participated — which is just 2% of the state’s voting-age population.

This means that, overall, 2% of VA’s voting-age population effectively elected 82% of the state’s U.S. House delegation in dominant party primaries.

Notable races

The open seat in the safe Democratic tenth district saw 12 candidates enter the decisive Democratic primary. With so many candidates in the race, it should not come as a surprise that the winning candidate, Suhas Subramanyam, won with just 30% of the vote — far short of a majority.

In the safe Republican fifth district, Rep. Bob Good (R), the election-denying chair of the far-right Freedom Caucus, was challenged by John McGuire, an election-denying state senator who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, 2021. As things stand, the race is coming down to the wire, and McGuire leads Good by a little more than 300 votes. There are very few differences between the candidates on policy, but former President Trump endorsed McGuire — who made that the main argument for his campaign, calling himself the true Trump loyalist. While we don’t know the final result yet, this is another test of the former president’s power in determining primary winners. 

Opportunity for Change

Advocates in Oklahoma, led by the organization Oklahoma United, are pushing to open the state’s primaries so that every eligible voter has the freedom to vote for any candidate in every taxpayer-funded election. That can’t come soon enough for the more than 435,000 registered independents in Oklahoma who lack a meaningful voice in their elections.

Virginia is a national leader when it comes to election reform, with experience employing instant runoffs and independent redistricting, but the state still has work to do. In 2022, the Virginia GOP  conducted an instant runoff to nominate Glenn Youngkin, who went on to win the general election and become governor. On Tuesday, Arlington County used ranked-choice voting for the second time in their nominating contests for their County Board. In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly voted to create a redistricting commission responsible for drawing congressional and state legislative districts. In the 2020 redistricting process, the state produced fair maps, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. The organization UpVote Virginia is continuing to advocate for election reform to put Virginia voters first.