Five things to watch in the Georgia, Texas and Alabama primaries

Trump tries to settle old scores and progressives try to take out moderates

Eric Garcia
Tuesday 24 May 2022 09:29
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Voters In Four States Heading To The Polls Tuesday

Tuesday marks one of the most consequential sets of primaries for both Democrats and Republicans, with contests in Georgia, Texas and Alabama.

On the Republican side, former president Donald Trump casts as long a shadow as he has in other primaries. But while the former president wants to be a kingmaker and show his influence, some of his candidates may bust, while he may come to regret un-endorsing another.

On the Democratic side, the party’s response to the potential end of Roe v Wade will play out in South Texas, while one mainstream Democrat will duke it out in the suburbs of Atlanta against a more centrist Democrat.

Here’s what to watch in Tuesday’s primaries.

Trump hopes to score a touchdown in Georgia

Herschel Walker

The former president has known former running back Herschel Walker since Mr Walker played for the New Jersey Generals, the United States Football League team that Mr Trump owned in the 1980s before he summarily killed the league that was an answer to the NFL. Mr Walker played for the University of Georgia, won the Heisman Trophy and led the Bulldogs to a national championship in 1980. He’s considered by many to be the greatest running back in college football history and Georgia fandom powered his candidacy so far.

Mr Trump aggressively recruited Mr Walker to challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has endorsed him, essentially clearing the field for him. But Mr Walker faces a litany of questions about his past. Many questions remain about multiple allegations of domestic violence against women. Mr Walker told Axios last year he’s “accountable” for his actions and he’s confronted his challenges with mental illness and has “healed”. At the same time, he’s faced questions about his business dealings and said last week that he wants a “total ban” on abortion and that there was “no exception in my mind”, as the US Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v Wade.

Trump’s feud with Kemp headed for a flop

Republican gubernatorial candidate David Perdue and Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene speak to each other during a Bikers for Trump campaign event held at the Crazy Acres Bar & Grill on May 20, 2022 in Plainville, Georgia. Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) is running to unseat Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Rep. Greene is running for a second congressional term in the state's primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Few Republicans have earned Mr Trump’s ire more than Governor Brian Kemp. Mr Trump’s endorsement partially propelled Mr Kemp to the GOP nomination for governor in 2018 but since then, their relationship has suffered, namely after Mr Kemp refused to overturn the 2020 presidential election results after president Joe Biden won. In turn, Mr Trump recruited former Senator David Perdue, who lost in the 2021 runoff to Senator Jon Ossoff, to pursue the governor’s mansion.

But Mr Perdue’s performance has been utterly lackluster. A InsiderAdvantage/FOX 5 Atlanta poll released this week showed Mr Kemp led in the primary with 52 per cent of likely Republican voters, compared to 38 per cent who supported Mr Perdue. The New York Times reported that while Mr Perdue mostly tried to ride the wave of Mr Trump’s support and did little else, Mr Kemp used most of the levers of government to secure his power. While Representative Jody Hice, Mr Trump’s pick to challenge Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, is running in a tighter race, the loss would show that once again, there are limits to how much a Trump endorsement helps.

Trump and Brooks’ feud culminates in Alabama

Former President Donald Trump welcomes candidate for US Senate Rep Mo Brooks to the stage during a "Save America" rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama.

Since Mr Trump’s decision to un-endorse Representative Mo Brooks in the GOP primary to replace retiring Senator Richard Shelby, he has not endorsed an alternative. Mr Brooks, who spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally before the 6 January insurrection, responded in kind by revealing that Mr Trump asked him to “rescind” the 2020 presidential election results and hold a new special election for the presidency.

Mr Trump blamed Mr Brooks saying at a rally in Cullman that voters should “look forward” from the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen for the congressman’s decline in the polls. But a new poll from Alabama Daily News and Gray Television shows that Mr Brooks is running neck-and-neck against Mike Durant and Katie Boyd Britt, who served as Mr Shelby’s chief of staff for years. A candidate must win a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff, so Mr Brooks coming in second would force a likely head-to-head between Ms Britt and Mr Brooks.

Democrats battle for the suburbs and Latinos to get revenge on Build Back Better

Progressive Democratic Congressional candidate Jessica Cisneros poses for photos with supporters at a nearby polling location after a campaign rally on May 20, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.

Progressive Democrats are still hot off their victories in Pennsylvania – where Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman won the Senate nomination and Summer Lee looks likely to win the nomination for the 12th District – and Oregon, where Jamie McLeod-Skinner looks likely to beat incumbent Representative Kurt Schrader. The latter was a particularly sweet victory since Mr Schrader was one of a coterie of moderate Democrats who argued that Democrats should pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill last year before passing Build Back Better.

Now that Build Back Better is gone, Democrats hope to exact some kind of revenge. In Texas, Squad-supported Jessica Cisenros hopes to knock off Representative Henry Cuellar, the last anti-abortion Democrat in the House, who represents a district on the US-Mexico border. The two faced off in March, which itself was a rematch from 2020, and both made it to the runoff. Mr Cuellar represents many of the districts in the Rio Grande Valley where Mr Trump and Republicans made inroads. The New York Times reported that the fight is also a proxy for Democrats’ rhetoric on immigration, given a win by Ms Cisneros would likely make the district more competitive for Republicans.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s Republican-controlled state legislature forced two Democratic Representatives – Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath – into a member-on-member primary. Ms Bourdeaux was the only Democrat who flipped a seat in 2020 when Democrats lost a significant amount of their majority, but is also part of the group of Democrats who wanted to pass infrastructure first. Ms McBath is one of the most outspoken voices on ending gun violence after her son Jordan Davis was killed by a white man for playing music too loud. While not as high-profile as the Cuellar-Cisneros race or even Mr Schrader’s loss, the results will show what kind of message resonates with voters in the suburbs of Atlanta.

There Goes the Last Great American Dynasty

George P Bush

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been under indictment almost since he assumed his office, while the FBI also investigates him. In response George P Bush – the grandson of former president George HW Bush, the son of Jeb Bush and the nephew of former Texas governor and president George W Bush – saw an opening to run against him in a primary. Mr Bush – who is half Hispanic and a US Navy veteran – even tried to show he was different from his family by hawking beer koozies with Mr Trump’s likeness on it and saying he was the “the Bush who got it right”.

But Mr Trum, who infamously labeled Mr Bush’s father “low-energy”, endorsed Mr Paxton, who was one of the biggest pushers of the Big Lie, even trying to get the Supreme Court to take up a lawsuit challenging results in swing states. Mr Bush and Mr Paxton both won enough votes to head to the runoff.

But Mr Trump has made his dislike of the youngest Mr Bush clear. A loss from Mr Bush would be the second Bush loss in a Texas primary in as many years, since his cousin, Piece Bush, lost the GOP primary for the 22nd District to Troy Nehls, who would win the general election that year and would show that the power of a name that dominated Texas politics for almost half a century has faded.

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