Primaries To Watch: 11 Primaries In Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, Georgia And Texas

Tuesday brings the next big batch of primaries, as voters head to the polls in Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, Texas and Georgia — plus we get a little bonus electoral action thanks to several runoffs in Texas and a special election in Minnesota. And thanks to former President Donald Trump’s attempt to dislodge multiple incumbents who refused to overturn the 2020 election, Georgia is the election on everyone’s mind this week, but there are even more races of note in the other four states — 11, to be exact. Here’s the lowdown on each of them.

Alabama

Races to watch: U.S. Senate, 5th Congressional District, governor, secretary of state

Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern

When Republican Sen. Richard Shelby announced in February 2021 that he would retire, the odds seemed high that deeply conservative Alabama would replace the results-oriented incumbent with a culture warrior in the mold of Trump. But the state’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate hasn’t quite shaken out that way.

Trump withdrew his support of  Rep. Mo Brooks, a Trump loyalist who was the first member of Congress who said he would object to the 2020 election  results, and Brooks did indeed lead in most polls during 202a.  But then former Business Council of Alabama President Katie Britt, Shelby’s former chief of staff, jumped into the race with her old boss’s endorsement, and former Army helicopter pilot Mike Durant, whose 1993 capture in Somalia was dramatized by the movie “Black Hawk Down,” poured $9.5 million into his own campaign. Meanwhile, Brooks’ campaign struggled, and by mid-March, he was trailing both Britt and Durant in the polls.

With Brooks leaving the House to run for Senate, Republicans will also choose a nominee in his deep-red 5th Congressional District. Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong leads the money race with almost $1.1 million raised, but he has crime under fire for relocating a local Confederate memorial (Strong says he did so to protect it). The second-biggest fundraiser (with $552,504 raised) is former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Casey Wardynski, who has the support of the tea-party group House Freedom Fund. None of the other four candidates has raised more than $170,000, but it’s possible this race could go to a runoff too.

There’s also an unexpectedly spirited Republican primary for governor, despite the fact that popular incumbent Kay Ivey is running for reelection. Last year, there were reports that Trump was unhappy with Ivey for a state commission’s decision that didn’t let Trump hold a rally aboard an historic battleship in Mobile. Trump’s former ambassador to Slovenia, Lindy Blanchard, even jumped into the governor’s race after talking with Trump about the possibility that he would endorse her. (The endorsement never materialized.)

The wealthy Blanchard has donated $7.8 million to her own campaign, and businessman Tim James (the son of former Gov. Fob James) has also raised $2.3 million for his anti-establishment campaign. But Ivey has raised $6.6 million and has used it to cement her Trump credentials, including airing commercials on her support for the Big Lie — the false idea that the 2020 election was fraudulent — and anti-immigration ads rooted in the baseless “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which claims that people of color are displacing white people in the U.S. in order to advance a liberal political agenda. The only question at this point seems to be whether Ivey can avoid a runoff: In an average of the two most recent polls, she took 47 percent of the vote, while James was back at 17 percent and Blanchard at 12 percent. However, when you consider that 13 percent of voters were still undecided, the numbers should be there to put her over 50 percent in the end.

Arkansas

 

On paper, Republican Sen. John Boozman shouldn’t be in any danger for reelection; he has already been comfortably elected to the Senate twice, and Trump endorsed his latest campaign early last year. However, multiple primary challengers are accusing the mild-mannered incumbent of being insufficiently loyal to the former president because he did not support overturning the results of the 2020 election. Former NFL player Jake Bequette has been the loudest of Boozman’s opponents, having raised $1.3 million. He’s also procured another $1.5 million in spending from a super PAC funded by billionaire Richard Uihlein

As such, Boozman hasn’t taken the race for granted, having spent $4.9 million from his flush campaign coffers and getting another $3 million in air cover from outside groups. A Talk Business and Politics/Hendrix College poll from early May put Boozman at 45 percent, Bequette at 19 percent and former journalist Jan Morgan at 17 percent. However, Arkansas requires runoffs if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, and a runoff between Boozman and a single Trumpist challenger could get interesting.

Although it’s not competitive, the Republican primary for governor also deserves an honorable mention. With Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson term-limited, major Arkansas politicians like Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge initially threw their hats in the ring, but ultimately, former Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cleared the field with her former bosses endorsement. She is now well on her way to becoming the 47th governor of this dark-red state — a job her father, 2016 presidential contender Mike Huckabee, once had.

Georgia

Governor

Current Republican Governor Brian Kemp is seeking a second term in the office and former U.S. Senator David Perdue is looking to unseat him as a primary challenger. Other Republicans appearing on the ballot include Catherine Davis, south Georgia educator Dr. Kandiss Taylor and retired civil serviceman Tom Williams.

Stacey Abrams, who ran against Kemp and lost during 2018′s gubernatorial election, is the presumptive Democratic nominee. Her name is the only one that will appear on Democrats’ ballots, but will not officially be the nominee until after the primary.

U.S. Senator

Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock has only been in the Senate for just over a year after winning a special election in November 2020 against former Senator Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler was appointed to the U.S. Senate after late Senator Johnny Isakson retired in 2019. He passed away in 2021.

Sen. Warnock is the presumptive nominee for the Democrats, but DeKalb County businesswoman Tamara Johnson-Shealey is also on the ballot.

Six Republicans are vying for the opportunity to represent the GOP come November. Former NFL player Herschel Walker and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black are among the most popular candidates. Also appearing on the ballot are former state representative Josh Clark, U.S. Air Force veteran Kelvin King, former U.S. Army Special Forces brigadier general Jonathan McColumn and former Navy Seal Latham Saddler.

 Lieutenant Governor

Four Republicans are seeking their party’s nomination for lieutenant governor after the office’s current occupant, GOP Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, passed on seeking another term.

The Republican primary includes two current state lawmakers: Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller and Sen. Burt Jones. Businesswoman Jeanne Seaver and manufacturing plant supervisor Mack McGregor are also on the Republican ballot. Jones, who was endorsed by Trump, wants a statewide investigation into the 2020 election. Trump claimed, without proof, that victory had been stolen from him through widespread voter fraud. Election officials found no evidence of fraud after multiple reviews.

The crowded Democratic field includes state Reps. Erick Allen, Derrick Jackson and Renitta Shannon. Also running are 2018 Democratic attorney general nominee Charlie Bailey, former Atlanta City Council member Kwanza Hall, physician Jason Hayes, Air Force veteran Tony Brown, businessman Rashid Malik and Tyrone Brooks Jr., son of a longtime state lawmaker.

Attorney General

Georgia’s Republican primary for attorney general features yet another Trump-backed candidate challenging a Republican incumbent over the 2020 election.

Attorney General Chris Carr faces fellow Republican John Gordon, who says he wants to investigate Trump’s claims of election fraud and that Carr isn’t doing enough to look into them. Carr notes that Republicans lost and there’s no stolen election to investigate.

In the Democratic primary, state Sen. Jen Jordan ran on protecting consumers and abortion rights. She faces Christian Wise Smith, a former Fulton County prosecutor who founded a nonprofit that works to end police brutality. Smith wants to divert more low-level nonviolent offenders into treatment and rehabilitation and focus on prosecuting more serious crimes.

Insurance Commissioner

Insurance Commissioner John King faces his first election challenge since the governor appointed him to the post in 2019. The former Doraville police chief and Army National Guard officer took the job following the indictment of his predecessor, Jim Beck, who was convicted last year of fraud.

Two fellow Republicans are opposing King. Ben Cowart is a real estate developer and Patrick Witt is a legal consultant endorsed by Trump. Witt says he wants to stop “woke insurance mandates” such as requiring coverage for gender reassignment surgery.

The Democratic primary features three contenders. Janice Laws Robinson ran unsuccessfully for insurance commissioner as the 2018 Democratic nominee. She faces insurance salesman Raphael Baker and attorney Matthew Wilson.

School Superintendent

Georgia’s Republican state school superintendent is in an election fight with his predecessor, who wants the job back.

Incumbent Superintendent Richard Woods is being opposed in the GOP primary by John Barge, who held the office before him. Their race has been marked by back-and-forth allegations over who did the job worse.

Four Democrats are seeking to wrest the superintendent’s office from Republican control. All say they want to steer the focus away from culture-war clashes. Jaha Howard serves on the Cobb County school board. Currey Hitchens is an attorney and former teacher. Alisha Thomas Searcy ran unsuccessfully for state superintendent in 2014. And James Morrow is a Clayton County teacher.

Agriculture Commissioner

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black isn’t seeking reelection, opting instead to run for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary that includes former football great Herschel Walker.

State Rep. Winfred Dukes left the legislature after 25 years to seek the Democratic nomination for the race to succeed Black. Also running are Fred Swann, the Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Black in 2018, and Nakita Hemingway, a cut-flower grower and real estate agent.

Republican state Sen. Tyler Harper is unopposed for the GOP nomination.

Labor Commissioner

Three Republicans and five Democrats are on primary ballots for the race to succeed GOP Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, who isn’t seeking reelection. Butler’s last term was marked by a scramble to process record unemployment claims resulting from coronavirus shutdowns.

Butler’s former deputy labor commissioner, Mike Coan, is seeking to succeed Butler and has received his boss’s endorsement. State Sen. Bruce Thompson and businessman Kartik Bhatt round out the GOP primary field.

The Democratic contest consists of state Sen. Lester Jackson, state Rep. William Boddie, attorney and businesswoman Nadia Surrency, entrepreneur Nicole Horn and courier Thomas Dean.

Texas

 Texas already had its primary on March 1, but in the handful of races where none of the candidates reached the majority-vote threshold, runoffs will be held on Tuesday. We won’t be keeping up with every race on Texans’ ballots tomorrow, but there are some big ones to watch. First, Trump’s endorsement power will be put to the test in Texas’s Republican primary runoff for attorney general, where embattled incumbent Ken Paxton will face off against Land Commissioner George P. Bush. It’s the main test of Trump’s endorsement power on the ballot in Texas tomorrow, and so far, polling suggests that Paxton is well positioned to win.

A May poll from Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler, for example, gave the Trump-backed incumbent a 6-point edge over Bush (41 percent to 35 percent). Notably, however, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has stayed on the sidelines for this race, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has publicly clashed with Bush in the past, endorsed Paxton.

Bush has repeatedly knocked Paxton’s integrity, as the incumbent is embroiled in a number of legal and personal battles, but it’s possible he won’t be able to overcome the Bush family dynasty — the “Bush” name has been increasingly likened to the more moderate wing of the GOP. Some surveys suggest that might be a tough hurdle for Bush to overcome: A University of Houston poll found that about one-third of likely primary voters would never consider voting for Bush — roughly triple the number who said the same about Paxton.

While the 28th District leans Democratic, there’s also a Republican matchup taking place tomorrow between Cassy Garcia, a former staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz, who endorsed her, and Sandra Whitten, the 2020 GOP nominee for the seat. In March, Garcia earned 24 percent of the vote to Whitten’s 18 percent. According to some reports, though, Garcia, who has the backing of the GOP congressional establishment, is considered the favorite heading into Tuesday. 

Further east, in the state’s 15th District, voters are poised to see another timeworn matchup between a progressive and a moderate Democrat. But what makes this seat — currently held by Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who is now running in a neighboring district — arguably carry even higher stakes than the 28th District is that Republicans view it as among the most flippable this fall. Though Biden carried the district in 2020, the once-in-a-decade reapportionment process made the seat more GOP-friendly and, in turn, provides Republicans with a ripe pickup opportunity come November. The Democratic candidates going toe-to-toe on Tuesday are lawyer and Army veteran Ruben Ramirez and activist and small business owner Michelle Vallejo. In the March primary, Ramirez led with 28 percent of the vote, compared with Vallejo’s 20 percent.

More recent FEC reports, however, show that Vallejo has more cash on hand. And while we also don’t have much polling on this race, an April survey conducted by GBAO on behalf of 314 Action, an advocacy group that works to elect STEM professionals to public office and is supporting Ramirez, has Ramirez trailing Vallejo by 12 percentage points (49 percent to 37 percent). Whoever wins tomorrow’s race, though, will face a formidable challenge this fall: Republican Monica De La Cruz, who handily won her primary race in March and already has the support of Congress’s GOP establishment and Trump.

No Democrat has won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, yet it’s worth keeping an eye on the competitive Democratic primary runoff for attorney general taking place on Tuesday between Rochelle Garza, a former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer from Brownsville, and Joe Jaworski, the former mayor of Galveston. Polling on the Democratic side has been sparse, but the aforementioned Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler survey had Garza leading Jaworski for the party’s nomination, 35 percent to 20 percent — although 40 percent of voters were still undecided.

 

Beyond the marquee attorney general’s race, though, we’ll also be keeping an eye on a handful of congressional races. In and around Dallas, for example, state Rep. Jasmine Crockett is seeking to succeed the retiring U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat, in the predominantly Black 30th District after barely missing the majority-vote threshold needed to win outright in March. Crockett, who has Johnson’s backing, will face Jane Hamilton, a longtime congressional staffer and campaign adviser, on Tuesday. What makes this race particularly interesting is that both have racked up endorsements from prominent Black leaders in the Dallas area. Some reports suggest the race is still Crockett’s to lose given that she netted 48.5 percent of the vote in March, but Hamilton has attacked Crockett for things like misrepresenting herself as an attorney for Botham Jean, a Dallas man who was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer in 2018, that could hurt her with voters in the district. Overall, though, the solidly blue seat is one of the quieter primary congressional runoffs. Federal Election Commission reports show that, since early April 2021, Crockett and Hamilton have raised about $567,000 and $654,000, respectively.

 

The congressional race in Texas that’s arguably garnered the most national attention, however, is the rematch between Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros in Texas’s 28th District. The Democrats will go head-to-head, again, after Cuellar netted only 49 percent of the vote in March, compared with Cisneros’s 47 percent. Cuellar also only narrowly beat Cisneros in 2020. But the incumbent could be in real trouble this year. Just ahead of Texas’s primary, the FBI raided Cuellar’s home and campaign office, though his attorney has since said that Cuellar is not the target of the investigation. Even more damaging for Cuellar, though, is the revelation that the Supreme Court might be ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established the constitutional right to abortion. Cuellar has a reputation as an anti-abortion Democrat, and Cisneros and progressive allies have sought to highlight that. Cuellar, for his part, has tried to downplay his anti-abortion stances, releasing a statement in May that the leaked Supreme Court decision was not based on precedent and would “further divide the country during these already divisive times.”

The race in Texas’s 28th District is notable for another reason, too: It’s another example of younger progressives taking on moderate Democrats, who are often backed by very established political players. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any polls fielded here since the March primary, so it’s hard to know who has the advantage, but fundraising suggests that this will be another tight race. Both candidates have high-dollar groups contributing on their behalf — like EMILY’s List for Cisneros and Mainstream Democrats PAC for Cuellar. Meanwhile, pre-runoff FEC reports for both candidates show that each has a little over $1 million cash on hand.

 

 Minnesota

 Minnesota’s primaries are actually on Aug. 9, but we’re getting an appetizer of sorts due to the special election in the state’s 1st Congressional District. After the death of former Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn in February, both parties will choose their nominees to replace him on Tuesday.

The biggest name in the 10-person Republican field is former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan, who is also Hagedorn’s widow. But both of those connections come with baggage. Carnahan was forced to resign as state party chair last year after a top donor with whom she was close was indicted for child sex trafficking. Though she denied knowledge of the crimes, multiple former party employees also took the opportunity to accuse Carnahan of covering up workplace sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work environment. She was also recorded in December 2020 saying of her husband, “I don’t care. Jim, he’s going to die of cancer in two years. So be it.” Since Hagedorn’s death, his family has also sued her over what they claim is a failure to repay medical expenses.

Carnahan has raised more money ($403,765) than any of her opponents, but she’s closely followed by state Rep. Jeremy Munson ($363,120) and former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad ($244,069). A super PAC affiliated with Sen. Rand Paul has also spent $1.3 million promoting Munson, who is known for his obstructionism in the state legislature. (Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that he’s endorsed by anti-establishment Republicans like Paul and Rep. Jim Jordan, as well as tea-party group FreedomWorks.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, Finstad has benefited from $915,787 from Defending Main Street, a group that works to elect “candidates who are ready to work across the aisle to get things done.” The only polling we’ve seen here is an internal poll from Carnahan’s campaign that gave her the lead, but the poll is more than a month old and didn’t exactly come from an unbiased source in the first place.

On the Democratic side, former Hormel Foods CEO Jeffrey Ettinger looks likely to emerge as the nominee, having outraised his closest rival $423,338 to $36,305. But he’ll face an uphill climb in the Aug. 9 general election: While this southern Minnesota district elected a Democrat as recently as 2016, it rocketed rightward during the 2010s and now has a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean1 of R+14.

And that’s just what’s at stake on Tuesday before we get to Georgia! Our colleague Geoffrey Skelley will be out with a primary preview of the Peach State tomorrow morning. Then our primary coverage will continue on Tuesday night with a live blog of the results as they roll in. We hope you’ll join us!

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Source: AP News , WSB-TV,  and FiveThirtyEight contributed. 

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