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Eleven alums have made their way onto November congressional ballots

As primaries approach an end across the nation, some Duke alumni have seen their congressional hopes dashed, while others are doubling down for the general election.

Of the 13 candidates tracked by The Chronicle, 11 will appear on the ballot this November, including two hopefuls in North Carolina. And, in a twist of fate, one of the defeated candidates—Kelli Ward, Trinity ’91—may still have a second shot at the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Bradley Byrne, Trinity ’77
Alabama’s 1st District, Republican

Byrne, a two-term incumbent and a former member of what is now Duke Student Government, ran unopposed in the primary. He did not face a challenger in the primary, but now is lined up against “mystery candidate” Robert Kennedy Jr.—unrelated to the Kennedy clan—in the general election, but Byrne is likely to keep his seat. The Alabama district has elected Republicans for the last 53 years.

Rep. Mo Brooks, Trinity ’75
Alabama’s 5th District, Republican

The former county commissioner and four-term incumbent won a primary challenge June 5. He will face the Democratic candidate Peter Joffrion, a former city attorney whom Brooks accused of being a “socialist.”

Mike Levin, Law School ’05
California’s 49th District, Democrat

Levin emerged second from a crowded field of 16 candidates, which pitted Democrats, Republicans and independents against each other under California’s “top-two primary” system. He faces Diane Harkey, the chair of the state’s tax administration agency, in a race that may determine control of the House in 2018.

Rep. Scott Peters, Trinity ’80
California’s 52nd District, Democrat

Peters, the three-term incumbent and a former Gilbert-Addoms resident advisor, came first in a top-two primary June 5, defeating his six Republican challengers. His opponent in November will be Omar Qudrat—a former Pentagon prosecutor, son of Afghan immigrants and, if elected, the first Muslim Republican in Congress.

Jesse Colvin, Trinity ’06
Maryland’s 1st District, Democrat

Colvin is a political newcomer and retired Army intelligence officer who served four tours in Afghanistan. He won the Democratic primary June 26 and will advance to the general election, where he will try to oust the Republican incumbent.

Seth Grossman, Trinity ’71
New Jersey’s 2nd District, Republican

Grossman, who was the co-founder and president of a student conservative group while at Duke, won the Republican primary and will face a state senator in the election. In July, Grossman drew fire for sharing an opinion piece that claimed black people are “a threat to all who cross their paths”; the same day, the National Republican Congressional Committee withdrew its support for Grossman, denouncing him as a “bigot.” Grossman has denied the characterization and said that he does not agree with the claims stated in that article.

The other Duke alumni still in the running are Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.-03), Dan McCready (N.C.-09), Paul Wright (N.C.-12), Ken Harbaugh (Ohio-07) and Todd Litton (Texas-02).

Shannon Hader, Residency ’00
Washington’s 8th District, Democrat

Hader lost in her state's top-two primary, finishing fourth. A former senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she had been endorsed by Bill Foege, the former CDC director who was involved in the eradication of smallpox, and former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Kelli Ward, Trinity ’91
State of Arizona, Republican

Ward lost the Republican primary this week, finishing well behind Rep. Martha McSally but ahead of the controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Though Ward will not be on the ballot, she may still have a chance for the Senate—the governor of Arizona will soon appoint a replacement for Sen. John McCain, who died Aug. 25, to fill the seat until 2020. Pundits say the governor will likely pick a safe Republican with broad conservative appeal, but both he and the McCain family—as well as the White House—have been silent on the matter, putting Ward technically in the running.

Polls will open for the general election Nov. 6.

Editor's note: This post was updated to include that Grossman has since distanced himself from that post.


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