Major primary races took place in five states yesterday, May 24. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, and Texas went to the polls to prime the pump for the November elections. While many of the final contests are done deals in terms of which party will prevail, there are still some competitive races where the outcome is far from clear.
A Trump Referendum in Georgia?
Multiple media outlets were quick to paint the Georgia results as a rejection of Trump’s Election 2020 fraud claims and his hold over the GOP, but is this surface-level analysis up to scratch? Certainly, two high-profile incumbent candidates won convincing victories against Trump endorsees, but when the results for the night are viewed in full, perhaps another story emerges.
Governor Brian Kemp took a huge 73% of the vote against former Senator David Perdue (21%), who was backed by Trump despite a series of scandals and accusations of insider trading. The former president and the governor have a long history of animosity, which suggests that Trump was perhaps looking to make a political point rather than a victory lap in this race. Coupled with a polling average that placed Kemp as the winner in every single survey this year, it seems this particular endorsement was a personal message, not a political tactic.
Kemp will go head-to-head with Democrat Stacey Abrams this November.
Incumbent Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also fended off a challenger endorsed by 45, US Rep. Jody Hice, who took just 33% compared to 54%. This is a convincing win and means that no run-off will take place.
It wasn’t all bad news for those backed by Trump in the Peach State, which perhaps takes the edge off the narrative that Georgia rejected the former president. Ex-football star, Herschel Walker, seized 68% of the vote share against second-place Gary Black on just 13%. Most notable, however, was the turnout for the race. In total, almost 1.2 million Georgians cast ballots in the GOP open primary; when Raphael Warnock won this Senate seat in the 2021 special election, he did so with 1.6 million votes, suggesting the incumbent Democrat has a tough race ahead come November.
Also, Georgia’s 14th district GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene fended off five challengers to not only avoid a run-off election but to actually increase her 2020 vote share. Branded as one of the most divisive figures in the Republican Party, Greene nevertheless scored a massive 69.5%.
End of a Texas Dynasty?
The race for Texas attorney general was between Trump-backed incumbent Ken Paxton and Land Commissioner George P. Bush. Bush is the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, nephew of George W. Bush, and grandson of George H. W. Bush. With such a lineage, he had a considerable name-recognition factor going for him. However, with 67.9% of voters opting for Paxton, it may be that the sway of the Bush family legacy is at an end.
Paxton has been plagued by accusations of securities fraud since he first took office in 2015 but has campaigned on an arguably successful job performance that appears to resonate with voters. Bush, on the other hand, based much of his campaign on the scandals surrounding the incumbent. Worth noting is that Bush actively sought the Trump endorsement and portrayed himself as an America First candidate. In 2013, Trump tweeted, “We need another Bush in office about as much as we need Obama to have a 3rd term… No more Bushes!”
Paxton will run against Democrat candidate Rochelle Garza, a former ACLU lawyer, in November. Texas has not elected a Democrat as attorney general since 1994, making Garza the major underdog. With 95% of the vote counted in both primary races, Paxton has received more than twice the number of votes as Garza.
Pro-Life Democrat on the Brink
Also in Texas, Rep. Henry Cuellar is facing a tough run-off race against progressive candidate, Jessica Cisneros. As well as being the self-described lone anti-abortion Democrat in the House, Cuellar is perhaps best known for his tough stance on border control, which separates him from most Democrats. With 98% of the vote counted, Cuellar has 22,692 votes (50.2%) versus Cisneros’ 22,517 (49.8%), a lead of just 175 ballots. This tight margin has not stopped him from declaring victory, however. He said:
“When I won the first time [in 2002], I did win by 57 votes, so yes, this is a landslide. First of all, to my opponent, I wish her the best. She ran a good race, and again I think it is clear that a lot of people told us that we could not win this race, and we won this race. That’s because of the good people of the 28th that stood up and said that they wanted me to go back as their member of Congress.”
This is the third time Cuellar has battled against Cisneros; first in 2020, and then during the primary which led to this run-off election. Cisneros has gained steam in recent months since being endorsed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). With each contest between Cuellar and Cisneros, the progressive has come closer to a win.
This race more than any other perhaps exemplifies the division between the traditional Democratic Party and the ever-growing progressive wing.
Huckabee Sanders Heading Home?
Trump ally and former White House press secretary to the 45th president, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, looks set to make history by following her father – Mike Huckabee – on the path to the governor’s mansion, where she grew up.
While Arkansas has certainly elected Democrat governors in the past – former President Bill Clinton served almost 12 non-consecutive years in the role – the state is heavily red and likely to remain so for the near future. In 2020, Trump almost doubled Biden’s share of the vote in the Natural State, while both US senators and all four US representatives are members of the Republican Party. This suggests that Huckabee Sanders, after taking 81%, will have plain sailing to the win in November.
As for the Democratic primary, that was won by Chris Jones who beat out four challengers with a healthy 70%. However, the combined total for all five of the hopefuls was just 93,000 votes – less than a third of those cast for Huckabee Sanders alone.
Also in Arkansas, incumbent Senator John Boozman won his primary race with 58% of the vote. The other contenders, Jake Bequette (20.7%), Jan Morgan (18.9%), and Heath Loftis (2.3%), have all aligned themselves with the 45th president, although it was only Boozman who received the much-coveted endorsement.
Katie Britt will face Representative Mo Brooks in a run-off election for an Alabama Senate seat after neither candidate broke the 50% mark. Britt currently leads 44.7% against Brooks’ 29.1%, with 91% of the vote counted. This final race will take place on June 21, where the winner will almost certainly go on to win the Senate seat in November in this deep red state.
Donald Trump initially backed Brooks for the spot until recently when he accused the Alabama representative of turning “woke.” Since withdrawing his support, candidates Britt and third-place finisher Mike Durant have both vied for the all-important endorsement and promoted the America First agenda.
An America First Revival
Much of the Fourth Estate coverage of the primary season so far has been devoted to Donald Trump and his endorsements, attempting to discern whether the 45th president still holds ideological sway over the GOP. While a number of Republican candidates have sought to distance themselves from Trump the man, very few have been bold enough to go against Trump the movement, and specifically the America First outlook that he embodies.