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Primary Wrap: Kemp, Raffensperger survive Trump’s ire; Brooks makes Alabama U.S. Senate runoff
Texas Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar survives challenge from the left; George P. Bush gets blown out by Attorney General Ken Paxton
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have both survived Donald Trump’s crusade to drive them into political oblivion, winning renomination in Tuesday’s primary election.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks – whom Trump initially endorsed but then unendorsed – made a runoff for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, where he will face off against Katie Britt, a former top aide to retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.
Trump had better luck in Arkansas, where his former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders won the Republican nomination for governor, and in the Georgia U.S. Senate race, where NFL football great Herschel Walker, who ran at Trump’s encouragement, easily won the Republican nomination to face Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock in the fall.
In Texas, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the last pro-life Democrat left in the U.S. House, appears to have narrowly won his primary runoff over Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney who ran against him with support of major figures in the Democratic left.
With all of the precincts reporting, Cuellar had a 175-vote lead. He has declared victory, but Cisnersos is refusinng to concede.
The Bush family’s political dynasty also came to at least a temporary end Tuesday, as George P. Bush was badly beaten in a Republican primary runoff by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who won despite facing criminal charges and an active FBI investigation.
And in a Democratic primary between two U.S. House incumbents in Georgia. Lucy McBath easily dispatched colleague Carolyn Bourdeaux, who will leave Congress after a single term.
Republican legislators triggered the primary fight when they dismembered McBath’s former district in Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, prompting her to run against Bourdeaux in a district centered in Gwinnett County.
Both Kemp and Raffensperger ran afoul of Trump by refusing to go along with his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the Peach State in 2020.
Trump persuaded former U.S. Senator David Perdue to make the race against Kemp and pumped more than $2 million from his own campaign operation into the race. During the campaign, Perdue echoed Trump’s debunked claims about election fraud, and Trump campaigned on his behalf.
But Perdue’s campaign never caught fire, and, in the end, Kemp crushed him by 52 points.
Raffensperger, who as secretary of state oversaw the 2020 election, had a more difficult time, coming in at 53%. But that was enough to avoid a runoff against Trump’s endorsed candidate, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, came in second at 33%.
The results in Alabama will present a predicament for Trump, who must now decide whether to sit out the race, wade into the race on behalf of Britt — who had strong ties to the Republican establishment he frequently castigates — or re-endorse Brooks.
Brooks was one of Trump’s strongest supporters in the House and led the charge against accepting the 2020 election results. But Trump withdrew his endorsement after Brooks urged Republicans to move on from 2020.
Given up for dead at that point, he surged in the last weeks of the race as the third-place candidate, Mike Durant, faded. But he’ll have to make up a 100,000-vote gap to defeat Britt in the June 21 runoff.
Cuellar narrowly kept his seat by defeating Cisneros, who made his opposition to legal abortion a centerpiece of her campaign, particularly after leak of a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade.
The House Democratic leadership stood behind Cuellar, despite intense pressure in the days before the primary from advocates of legal abortion.
His next battle will be to keep his seat in the fall against Republican Cassy Garcia, a former aide to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. The Texas legislature made the district more Republican during redistricting, putting the seat on the list of GOP targets.
Bush, the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, had served two terms as land commissioner before launching his run against Paxton, who is facing criminal charges for insider trading and is being investigated for bribery by the FBI, a probe started by allegations from his own subordinates.
Trump endorsed Paxton, although Bush, unlike some other members of his family, has embraced the former president. But in the end, he was crushed 2-to-1 by Paxton.
Perhaps the surprise of the night came in Alabama, where Republican Governor Kay Ivey — who consistently polls as one of the nation’s most popular governors — was kept to just 54% in a race where she was expected to roll to victory.
Lindy Blanchard, a former Trump ambassador who reportedly left the Senate race at his urging to run for governor, came in second at 19%.
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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
LAREDO, 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.
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.