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Rep. Bob Good

Inside House conservatives’ push to purge moderates from GOP

House conservatives are waging war against GOP moderates, targeting competitive primaries in an attempt to rid Congress of establishment Republicans.

This primary season has highlighted just how far the right flank is planning to go, with House Freedom Caucus members and their allies going after sitting incumbents like Reps. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), Mike Bost (R-Ill.), William Timmons (R-S.C.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.).

Several members have privately said that it’s worth driving Republicans into the minority if it means boosting the number of far-right members in Congress. That means supporting candidates who are willing to shut down the federal government, push red-meat culture riders and reject the type of bipartisanship promoted by more pragmatic members in purple districts.

“With the shape this country is in, we have to go with the most conservative members,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told us. “If you make the right choice, you have to first change what’s going on up here with the spending and with the Washington inside clique that just wants to do the same thing over and over again.”

Their strategy has already seen setbacks.

Bost and Gonzales beat their far-right challengers, although both primaries were competitive.

Yet despite these losses, hard right lawmakers say it’s important to make a point by challenging moderates.

“Republicans around the country want somebody who is going to vote with Republicans,” House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good (R-Va.) told us. “They want somebody who actually wants to secure the border, somebody who’s a genuine conservative fighter, and not somebody that’s part of the uniparty establishment that’s been passing these major spending bills with Democrats.”

Good, of course, faces his own June 18 primary against John McGuire, who has been endorsed by both former President Donald Trump and multiple House Republicans.

Norman put it more simply, referring to his support for South Carolina State Rep. Adam Morgan, who is running against Timmons.

“Adam Morgan is a conservative and is more conservative than William,” Norman said.

Morgan is backed by several Freedom Caucus members and chairs the South Carolina Freedom Caucus. The South Carolina primary is June 11.

A handful of lawmakers, including Good and Norman, are also supporting Jerrod Sessler running against Newhouse. Newhouse is one of just two House Republicans left in Congress who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in 2021 over his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Washington will hold its jungle primary on Aug. 6.

The opposition: Not every Republican is on board with meddling in primaries.

Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.), a freshman HFC member, said he disagrees that members should try to oust their colleagues.

“I’m not one of the people in the Freedom Caucus getting involved with primary challengers,” Burlison told us. “If I’m serving with that person, I’m going to give them the respect of not getting involved in that race.”

Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) said he thinks too much of primary meddling has become about personal vendettas, rather than having a cohesive strategy of trying to elect more conservatives to Congress.

“We certainly risk losing the majority if we don’t really focus on how we achieve this goal and not just make an effort to oust them,” Mills told us.

We also previously reported that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, is opposed to members getting involved in incumbents’ primaries.

“I don’t engage in that,” Jordan told us.

— Mica Soellner

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