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U.S. House’s last pro-life Democrat, Texas’s Henry Cuellar, fighting to keep seat in Tuesday primary runoff

Challenger Jessica Cisneros wanted House Democratic leaders to rescind Cuellar endorsement; they refused

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TexasLAREDO, Texas (CFP) — Amid the newly charged struggle over legal abortion in the United States, the last pro-life Democrat left in the House, Texas U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, will be fighting for his political life Tuesday in a Democratic primary runoff.

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U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and Democratic primary challenger Jessica Cisneros

Cuellar is seeking his ninth term in the House against Jessica Cisneros, who is running against him from the left in South Texas’s 28th District with the support of such luminaries of the Democratic left as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But Cuellar has the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chamber’s senior Democratic leadership, who rebuffed Cisneros’s demands to rescind their endorsements after the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision indicating that the court is prepared to scuttle Roe vs. Wade, the 1972 decision that made abortion legal in the United States.

Cuellar has long opposed legal abortion and was the only Democrat to vote against a bill to codify Roe vs. Wade’s protections into federal law, which passed the House but failed in the Senate.

Cuellar has also been battling negative headlines after FBI agents searched his home and office in January as part of a probe related to Azerbaijan. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

In the first round of voting in March, Cuellar defeated Cisneros by 1,000 votes but failed to get the majority he needed to avoid a runoff due to a third candidate in the race.

The district stretches from the suburbs of San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley and includes Laredo, where Cuellar has been a political powerhouse for decades.

In the March primary, Cisneros won the northern part of the district near San Antonio, but Cuellar rolled up large enough margins in rural areas further south to overtake her.

Cisneros, 28, an immigration attorney, challenged Cuellar in 2020 and came within 1,800 votes of unseating him. This time around, she has raised $4.4 million for the race, buoyed by support from groups supporting legal abortion. Cuellar has raised just $3 million, according to the latest Federal Elections Commission reports.

Republicans in the Texas legislature made the district more Republican during redistricting and are expected to make a run at flipping the seat this fall.

The Republican runoff features Cassy Garcia, a former aide to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, facing off against Sandra Whitten, a church leader and wife of a Border Patrol agent who was the GOP nominee for the seat in 2020.

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Tuesday’s Southern primaries will test Donald Trump’s continuing grip on Republican Party

Trump’s effort to get rid of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp likely to go up in flames, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes step toward Arkansas governor’s mansion

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

Decision 2022(CFP) — Donald Trump’s continuing grip on the Republican Party will be front and center in Tuesday’s Southern primaries, as GOP voters in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas decide whether to punish some of Trump’s top nemeses and support candidates he anointed.

trump southern primariesTrump appears likely to fail in his quest to defeat Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who angered him by refusing entreaties to overturn his 2020 election loss in the Peach State.

And in Alabama, the U.S. Senate candidate he endorsed and then unendorsed, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, has risen from the dead and may snag a spot in the runoff, which could create a tricky predicament for the former president.

Meanwhile, Trump’s former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is expected to be nominated for Arkansas governor Tuesday, and Herschel Walker, whom Trump recruited, is expected to win the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Georgia.

Also, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led the legal charge to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss, is in a tight primary runoff with Bush family scion George P. Bush, son of Trump nemesis Jeb Bush. Trump endorsed Paxton, who is seeking a third term while facing criminal charges and an FBI investigation.

Here is a look at the key Trump-involved races on Tuesday’s ballots:

Georgia

Polls show Kemp will likely crush former U.S. Senator David Perdue, who was encouraged to challenge Kemp by Trump in his quest to take down the governor.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who likewise earned Trump’s wrath by refusing to intervene in the 2020 election, also faces a Trump-backed challenger, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, in his quest for a second term. With four candidates in the race, a runoff is likely, which would give Trump an additional venue to try to take down Raffensperger.

In the U.S. Senate race, Walker – whom Trump encouraged to run and endorsed – appears likely to win the GOP primary, despite questions about his thin political resume and past personal behavior.

To the frustration of his Republican primary opponents, Walker has run a stealth campaign, skipping primary debates, avoiding the media, and making a few carefully crafted public appearances. While that lack of exposure seems to have served him well in the primary, the question will be whether it will work in the fall against Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, who possesses significant political skills.

Alabama

Trump initially endorsed Brooks, one of his strongest supporters in the House who led the charge in disputing the 2020 election results. But after Brooks’s poll numbers sank and he urged Republicans to move on from 2020, Trump pulled the endorsement, which was seen at the time as the death knell for Brooks.

However, recent polling indicates a surge of support for Brooks, mostly at the expense of political newcomer Mike Durant, which could propel him into the June 21 runoff against Katie Britt, a former top aide to retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.

Both Britt and Durant have been angling for Trump’s endorsement, to no avail. A Britt-vs-Brooks runoff would put him in the awkward position of either re-endorsing Brooks or supporting Britt, who is backed by Republican establishment figures of whom Trump has been critical. Or he could stay out of the race.

Republican Governor Kay Ivey is facing a gaggle of primary challengers, including Lindy Blanchard, a former Trump ambassador whom he reportedly encouraged to leave the Senate race challenge Ivey. Trump was reportedly miffed at the governor over cancellation of one of his rallies at a state park in Mobile, even though she did not make the decision.

However, Trump has not directly endorsed Blanchard, and Ivey – who consistently polls as one of the nation’s most popular governors – is expected to easily see off her primary foes.

Arkansas

Sanders is expected to win the governor’s primary after bigfooting both Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge out of the race. Neither could get any political oxygen after Trump went all in for Sanders and are now running instead for each other’s current offices.

Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman is facing three primary challengers, including Jake Bequette, a former Arkansas Razorbacks star and NFL player who has criticized Boozman as insufficiently supportive of the MAGA agenda. However, Trump endorsed Boozman, who has been highlighting the endorsement in his advertising.

Texas

In Texas, the Republican primary for attorney general has become a contentious battle between Paxton and Bush, pitting Trump’s endorsed champion against the state’s most famous and successful political family.

Unlike other members of his family, George P. Bush has embraced Trump and has been hitting Paxton on his sea of legal troubles – he’s facing criminal charges for insider trading and is being investigated for bribery by the FBI, a probe started by allegations from his own subordinates.

Still, it is worth remembering that Paxton won re-election in 2018 while facing those same criminal charges – and the Bush name may not have the magic it once did among conservatives in the Lone Star State.

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Scandal-plagued North Carolina U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn goes down to primary defeat

Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd will face Democrat Cheri Beasley in key fall U.S. Senate race

North CarolinaRALEIGH (CFP) – Republican voters in Western North Carolina brought the political career of scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn crashing down in Tuesday’s primary, while voters statewide set up a fall U.S. Senate contest between Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley.

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North Carolina U.S. Senate nominees Ted Budd and Cheri Beasley

Budd, endorsed by Donald Trump, took 59% to win the GOP primary, ahead of former governor Pat McCrory at 24% and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker at 9%.

In November, he’ll face Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court who easily won her party’s nomination.

North Carolina is considered one of the Democrats’ prime pick-up opportunities in the fall, which will make the likely race between Budd and Beasley a high-decibel, high-spending affair that gets outsized national attention.

In the state’s 11th U.S. House district, which takes in 15 counties in the western end of the state, Cawthorn – elected to office in 2020 at just 25 – was defeated by State Senator Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville, who had the backing of state GOP leaders.

Edwards took 34% to 32% for Cawthorn, who conceded the race trailing by about 1,500 votes.

Cawthorn — once seen as a rising star in the MAGA wing of the GOP — has been enmeshed in a bevy of controversy and questionable behavior: He was caught twice trying to take a gun through airport security, cited twice for driving with a revoked license, and infuriated colleagues by musing in a podcast that he had been invited to orgies and witnessed cocaine use.

He also raised eyebrows by dismissing of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a “thug” and has been featured in a photo wearing women’s lingerie and in a video naked in bed with a male friend.

He also made a political blunder by abandoning the 11th District to run in a neighboring district, then reversing course after a state court drew a new map that obliterated his new district.

Trump endorsed Cawthorn and urged voters on the eve of the primary to give him another chance, though the former president conceded Cawthorn had made “some foolish mistakes.”

In other primary contests, American Idol finalist Clay Aiken lost in his second run for the U.S. House, while former Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers’s comeback bid was thwarted by Bo Hines, a 26-year-old political newcomer and former college football star who appears on his way to riding a Trump endorsement to Washington.

Here is a look at other races of note on Tuesday’s ballot:

1st District: Democratic State Senator Don Davis won his party’s nomination for this open seat over former State Senator Erica Smith, who got out of the U.S. Senate race to run here instead. He will face Republican Sandy Smith, a farmer and businesswoman from Nash County, who had a narrow win in the GOP primary.

4th District: Democratic State Senator Valerie Foushee from Chapel Hill cruised to an easy primary win over Nida Allam, the first Muslim woman to win political office in North Carolina, and Aiken. She will favored in the fall in this heavily Democratic district.

6th District: Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning is trying to hang on to this seat, which became more Republican under the final court-drawn map. She will face Republican Christian Castelli, a businessman and former U.S. Army Special Forces officer from Randolph County.

13th District: Armed with Trump’s endorsement, Hines, a 26-year-old political newcomer and former college football star who did not live in the district before running here, avoided a runoff in this newly configured, Republican-leaning district, centered in suburban Raleigh. Among the candidates he defeated was Ellmers, who was trying to make a comeback after losing a Republican primary for her seat in 2016.

14th District: The contest in this newly configured swing district in metro will be between Democratic State Senator Jeff Jackson, who exited the U.S. Senate race to run here and Pat Harrington, a Green Beret and firearms dealer.

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Republican U.S Senator Rand Paul will face Democrat Charles Booker in Kentucky this fall

State Senator Morgan McGarvey wins Democratic primary for open Louisville U.S. House seat

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

KentuckyLOUISVILLE (CFP) – The fall contest for U.S. Senate in Kentucky will be a showdown between Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Democratic challenger Charles Booker, who both easily won their primaries Tuesday.

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Paul and Booker in fall faceoff for U.S. Senate race

In the 3rd U.S. House District in metro Louisville, where Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth is retiring, State Senator Morgan McGarvey defeated State Rep. Attica Scott for the Democratic nomination in the state’s only Democratic-leaning district.

He will face either Republican Rhonda Palazzo, a Louisville real estate agent and MAGA activist, or Stuart Ray, a Louisville steel company executive, who were neck-and-neck in the GOP primary.

None of Kentucky’s other five House Republicans faced a significant primary challenge Tuesday and will be favored to keep their seats in the fall.

In the Senate race, Paul, from Bowling Green, easily defeated five little-known Republican challengers in his bid for a third term, while Booker dominated a four-candidate Democratic field.

Booker, a former state representative from Louisville, broke onto the political scene in 2020 when he when he nearly upset Amy McGrath, the anointed candidate of the Democratic establishment, in the state’s U.S. Senate primary. She was later crushed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Booker launched his uphill run against Paul in July 2021 and opted to stay in the race rather than switching to the metro Louisville U.S. House seat when Yarmuth retired.

Given Kentucky’s Republican lean, Paul is a heavy favorite in the fall. But Booker has been highlighting some of Paul’s idiosyncratic stands in Congress – most recently, his decision to single-handedly block aid to Ukraine — to argue that he’s out of touch.

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U.S. Senate race, Madison Cawthorn’s fate on ballot Tuesday in North Carolina primary

Donald Trump-backed U.S. Rep. Ted Budd favorite for GOP nod in Senate primary

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

North CarolinaRALEIGH (CFP) — Voters across North Carolina will pick their nominees Tuesday for a pivotal U.S. Senate race that could determine party control, and voters in the western panhandle will decide if Republican U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s political career gets derailed after a string of controversies and bad headlines.

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U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn faces stiff primary challenge Tuesday

Nominees will also be selected for U.S. House seats being contested under new maps. Three open seats have drawn crowded fields, which include American Idol finalist Clay Aiken – making his second run for Congress — and former Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Elmers, who is trying to make a comeback after losing her seat in 2016.

Local and legislative seats are also up Tuesday; statewide offices are not on the ballot this year.

Polls for in-person voting open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

The Senate race features a heated 14-candidate Republican contest expected to come down to a race between U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker and former governor Pat McCrory. The incumbent, Republican U.S. Senator Richard Burr, is retiring.

Budd has been vocally backed by Donald Trump, who came to the Tar Heel State to campaign for him. Under state law, he only needs 30% of the vote to avoid a runoff, and recent polling indicates he’s likely to clear that threshold.

Eleven Democrats are running for their party’s nomination. Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley – who has raised nearly $10 million for the race – is the prohibitive favorite.

North Carolina is considered as one of the Democrats’ prime pick-up opportunities in the fall, which will make the likely race between Budd and Beasley a high-decibel, high-spending affair that gets outsized national attention.

In the state’s 11th U.S. House district, which takes in 15 counties in the western end of the state, Cawthorn – elected to office in 2020 at just 25 — is battling for his political life against seven Republican challengers and the active opposition of state GOP leaders, including U.S. Senator Thom Tillis.

Cawthorn has been enmeshed in a bevy of controversy and questionable behavior: He was caught twice trying to take a gun through airport security, cited twice for driving with a revoked license, and infurated colleagues by musing in a podcast that he had been invited to orgies and witnessed cocaine use.

He also raised eyebrows by dismissing of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a “thug” and has been featured in a photo wearing women’s lingerie and in a video naked in bed with a male friend.

He also made a political blunder by abandoning the 11th District to run in a neighboring district, then reversing course after a state court drew a new map that obliterated his new district.

However, Cawthorn has strong name recognition, a fervent following in the MAGA base and, perhaps most importantly, the backing of Trump – which could be enough to clear the 30% threshold and avoid a runoff.

His chief Republican competitors are State Senator Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville and Michelle Woodhouse, the Republican party chair in the district.

Here is a look at some other U.S. House races on the ballot Tuesday.

1st District: Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield gave up this seat in eastern North Carolina after Republican state legislators made the seat more Republican, setting off a scramble in both parties. Although the state Supreme Court later reserved some of those changes, there are still four Democrats and eight Republicans in the race.

Among the Democrats are State Senator Don Davis and former State Senator Erica Smith, who got out of the U.S. Senate race to run here instead. On the Republican side, Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson and Sandy Smith, a farmer and businesswoman from Nash County, have both raised more than $1 million for the race.

4th District: Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. David Price is retiring in this district, which includes Durham and Chapel Hill, drawing a field of eight Democrats to succeed him, including Aiken, who contested a Raleigh-area district in 2014. Leading the field are State Senator Valerie Foushee from Chapel Hill and Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, the first Muslim woman to win political office in North Carolina.

6th District: Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning is trying to hang on to this seat, which became more Republican under the final court-drawn map. Seven Republicans are vying to take her on; the GOP fundraising leader is Christian Castelli, a businessman and former U.S. Army Special Forces officer from Randolph County.

13th District: This newly configured, Republican-leaning district, centered in suburban Raleigh, has drawn eight Republicans, including Ellmers, and five Democrats. Trump waded into this district to endorse Bo Hines, a 26-year-old political newcomer and former college football star who did not live in the district before running here, a move that angered local Republicans.

14th District: This newly configured swing district in metro Charlotte drew two challengers from each party. Democratic State Senator Jeff Jackson exited the U.S. Senate race to run here and is likely to face Republican Pat Harrington, a Green Beret and firearms dealer.

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