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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

Decision 2022(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

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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Texas U.S. House Primaries: Incumbents Henry Cuellar, Van Taylor forced into runoffs

Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw crushes opponents angry over his criticism of Donald Trump

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TexasAUSTIN (CFP) – Two incumbent Texas U.S. House members, Democrat Henry Cuellar and Republican Van Taylor, have been forced into primary election runoffs after narrowly failing to gain outright majorities in Tuesday’s primary.

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U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Van Taylor forced into primary runoffs

In District 28 in South Texas, Cuellar has an 800-vote lead over Laredo immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, in a rematch of their 2020 contest. They will face each other again May 24, after neither cleared 50%.

In District 3 in suburban Dallas, Taylor –- under fire from Donald Trump supporters for voting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and supporting a congressional investigation into the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol – came in 48.7% in a race against four challengers.

However, a day after the primary, Taylor withdrew from the race after admitting to an extramarital affair, which will give the nomination to the second place finisher, former Collin County Judge Keith Self.

In other U.S. House races Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep Dan Crenshaw survived a challenge from primary opponents upset over his criticism of Trump. Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL seen as one of the party’s rising stars since his election in 2018, took 75% to crush three opponents in District 2 in suburban Houston.

In District 8 in suburban Houston, Morgan Luttrell, a Navy veteran and former adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy who had the backing of Republican leaders in Washington, won 53% in the GOP primary to avoid a runoff.

The contest had been seen as a proxy fight over the future direction of the party between Luttrell and  Christian Collins, a political consultant and podcaster who was backed by far-right voices in the House Freedom Caucus. In the end, Luttrell beat Collins by more than 30 points.

In District 28, which stretches from the suburbs of San Antonio to the U.S.-Mexico border, Cuellar took 48.5% of the vote to 45.6% for Cisneros.

Cisneros is running with strong backing of luminaries on the Democratic left in her bid to unseat the more conservative Cuellar, who opposes gun control and is the last pro-life Democrat left in the House.

While Cisneros swept the more urban parts of the district, Cuellar rolled in rural areas and in Laredo, where he has been a political fixture for decades. He went ahead when results from Starr County were finally reported early Wednesday, where he took 70% of the vote.

Cuellar is also running under the shadow of a January FBI raid on his home and office, related to an investigation of donations connected to Azerbaijan. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Republicans, buoyed by Trump’s strong showing among Hispanic voters in South Texas in 2020, have targeted the district as a pick-up opportunity.

The Republican race is headed to a runoff between Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, and Sandra Whitten, who was the party’s nominee for the seat in 2020.

In Dallas, the Democratic race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in District 30 is headed to a runoff between State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who took 48%, and Jane Hope Hamilton, a former congressional aide who served as state director for the Biden campaign in 2020, who took 17%.

The winner is likely headed to Congress from the heavily Democratic district. Johnson has endorsed Crockett as her successor.

In Austin, in the Democratic primary for the open District 35 seat, Austin City Councilman Greg Casar won the race without a runoff, making him the favorite to win in November in the heavily Democratic district.

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Texas kicks off 2022 midterms with primaries featuring battles for attorney general, U.S. House

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar trying to hang on amid FBI investigations

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TexasAUSTIN (CFP) — Voters in Texas kick off the 2022 midterm elections with the nation’s first party primary Tuesday, featuring a pitched battle among Republicans for attorney general, the last pro-life Democratic in the U.S. House trying to hang on to his South Texas seat, and two House Republicans facing primary challenges for not being sufficiently pro-Trump.

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Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar facing primary challenges

Voters will pick party nominees for statewide offices, including governor and lieutenant governor, as well as races for 38 U.S. House seats and the state legislature, which are being fought under newly drawn maps.

No U.S. Senate seat is up this year in the Lone Star State.

Polls for in-person voting open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., in both the Central and Mountain time zones.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott is expected to easily dispatch seven primary challengers, on his way to a November match-up with Democratic former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary.

Seven Republicans holding statewide executive offices are running for re-election, with two facing fierce primary challenges to keep their posts.

Attorney General Ken Paxton – who is being investigated by the FBI and sued by former staffers in his office while facing a criminal trial for securities fraud – is facing three primary challengers, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the third generation of his famous family involved in Texas politics; U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, who gave up his House seat to take a last-minute plunge into the race; and Eva Guzman, who left the state Supreme Court to run against Paxton.

Pre-election polls indicated that Paxton, who has been endorsed by Donald Trump, will likely face a runoff against Bush, setting up a MAGA-vs.-Establishment free-for-all in the May 24 contest.

Five Democrats are waiting in the wings for the Republican primary winner, with hopes of winning the party’s first statewide race in 28 years, particularly if Paxton prevails.

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is also facing a tight battle with two Republican challengers, amid ongoing battles with state legislators and the indictment of a campaign consultant on bribery charges related to hemp licenses overseen by his office.

State Rep. James White from Hillister, the only black Republican in the Texas House, has scooped up endorsements from 20 fellow lawmakers in his bid to unseat Miller. Also in the race is Carey Counsil, a rancher and real estate developer from Brenham.

In U.S. House District 28 in South Texas, moderate Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar from Laredo – the last pro-life Democrat left in the House – is facing Jessica Cisneros, a Laredo immigration lawyer who has the backing of key figures in the Democratic left, including Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and New York U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Cisneros came within 3,000 votes of unseating Cuellar in 2020. The district has since been redrawn, and Cuellar is also running under the shadow of a January FBI raid on his home and office, related to an investigation of donations connected to Azerbaijan. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Republicans in the Texas legislature made the majority-Hispanic district more Republican, and it will be a top GOP target in the fall. Joe Biden would have carried it by just four points.

In U.S. House District 3 in suburban Dallas, U.S. Rep. Van Taylor is facing four Republican challengers who are hitting him for voting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and supporting a congressional investigation into the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol.

In U.S. House District 2 in suburban Houston, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who has been seen as a rising Republican star since his election in 2018, is also facing three primary challengers after criticizing Trump for his actions on January 6th and opposing efforts to thwart Biden’s victory.

Two other open U.S. House seats have triggered primary battles, one in each party, for seats where the primary will likely decide the November winner.

In heavily Republican District 8 in suburban Houston, where U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady is retiring, the primary race has turned into a proxy battle between the Republican establishment and hard-right MAGA luminaries in the House Freedom Caucus.

Morgan Luttrell, a Navy veteran and former adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy, is running with the backing of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, former governor Rick Perry, and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of Trump’s most vocal critics.

Luttrell served with Kinzinger in the military and has said he considers him a friend and “not a traitor to his country.” But pressed by his opponents over their relationship, Luttrell said he returned a campaign donation from Kinzinger and doesn’t “agree with anything Adam says politically anymore.”

On the other side, conservative political consultant and podcaster Christian Collins is backed by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.

In District 30 in Dallas, where veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is retiring, nine Democrats are competing for the nomination to represent the majority-minority district. Johnson endorsed State Rep. Jasmine Crockett as her successor.

In District 15, a seat that Democratic U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez gave up to seek re-election in a neighboring district, six Democrats and eight Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination.

The newly configured district, which stretches from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley, is expected to be a battleground between the two parties in the fall. Biden would have carried it by less than two points in 2020.

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Texas U.S. House Primaries: Challenged incumbents survive, as does Donald Trump’s former doctor

But the latest Bush to try politics, Pierce Bush, falls short in suburban Houston

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — Two veteran members of the Texas U.S. House delegation, Republican Kay Granger and Democrat Henry Cuellar, have turned back challenges from within their own party, as a wide-open primary night in the Lone Star State shaped the field for May runoffs and the November contests that will follow.

President Donald Trump’s controversial former White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, has advanced to a runoff in his House primary in the Panhandle, while Pete Sessions, a veteran Republican congressman who lost his metro Dallas seat in 2018, found more luck in Waco, where he too made a runoff.

However, the latest Bush family member to try to launch a political career, Pierce Bush, came up short in suburban Houston.

The primary competition in Texas House races was particularly intense Tuesday, as large fields of candidates entered open races triggered by the departures of five sitting Republicans, along with contests for seats that both parties are targeting in the fall.

Runoffs will be held in at least 13 of the state’s 36 congressional districts, including some of the seats expected to be most competitive between the two parties in November, which means the full state of the fall race won’t be known until after the runoffs on May 26.

However, Republicans did settle on opponents for the two Democrats who flipped seats in 2018. In the 7th District in Houston, Iraq War veteran Wesley Hunt will face Democratic incumbent Lizzie Fletcher, while in the 32d District, in Dallas, business executive Genevieve Collins was selected to challenge Democrat Collin Allred.

One candidate who also won without a runoff was former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention in a bid for governor in 2014. She moved from Fort Worth to Austin to run the 21st District and easily won the Democratic nomination to face freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Roy.

Kay Granger and Henry Cuellar survive primaries

In the 12th District, which includes Fort Worth, Kay Granger — the House’s senor woman Republican and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee — easily beat back a challenge from Chris Putnam, a former Colleyville city councilman who called Granger “a creature of the swamp” and criticized her for calling on Trump to get out of the 2016 race after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced.

Granger, however, countered Putnam’s criticism with the most powerful tool in modern Republican politics — an endorsement from Trump himself.

In the 28th District in South Texas, Democrat Henry Cuellar had a closer call, getting a 4-point win over Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney from Laredo who had gotten endorsements from a who’s who of the party’s left flank, including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York.

The win is a blow for the Justice Democrats, a group affiliated with Ocasio-Cortez that targeted Cuellar and six other incumbent House Democrats they viewed as too conservative.

In the 13th District in the Panhandle, Jackson — who drew national notoriety after Trump nominated him to run the Veterans Administration and then withdrew the nomination in the face of Senate opposition and questions about his conduct — finished in second place and will face Josh Winegarner, a former congressional aide, in the runoff.

In the 22nd District in suburban Houston, Pierce Bush missed the runoff, placing third. He is the son of Neil Bush, the grandson of President George H.W. Bush, and the nephew of President George W. Bush.

Sessions, who lost his metro Dallas seat in 2018, is trying to make a comeback in the Waco-centered 17th District, where he grew up but hasn’t lived in decades. He came in first place and in the runoff and will face Renee Swann, a medical office manager who got the endorsement of U.S. Rep Bill Flores, the man who now holds the seat and served with Sessions in the Texas delegation.

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