Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp won his party’s primary on Tuesday over a challenger endorsed by Donald Trump, marking the former U.S. president’s biggest defeat so far in his effort to play kingmaker ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Kemp and Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams will face each other once again in a rematch of the 2018 race that is likely to be one of the nation’s most expensive and closely watched.
Kemp easily turned back a Republican primary challenge Tuesday from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who was backed by Trump as retribution for Kemp not going along with Trump’s effort to overturn his defeat in Georgia’s 2020 election.
Perdue embraced Trump’s election lies, opening two debates between the candidates with the claim that the 2020 balloting was “rigged and stolen.” Election officials found no evidence of fraud after multiple reviews.
In defeat, he struck a unifying tone that has become increasingly rare in a Republican Party dominated by Trump’s hardline tactics.
“I want you to know tonight that I am fully supporting Brian Kemp in his run to beat Stacey Abrams,” Perdue said. “It’s emotional for all of us, we’re disappointed, I get that. Let’s take a few hours, lick our wounds, and tomorrow morning, you’re going to hear me going to work for Brian Kemp to make damn sure that Stacey Abrams is never governor of Georgia.”
Republicans increasingly favoured
Georgia voters were still waiting to see whether Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also weathered Trump’s bid to oust him.
In all, five states were voting Tuesday, including Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and Minnesota. But none had been more consumed than Georgia by Trump and his lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
The political environment has grown increasingly favourable to Republicans in the run up to November’s midterms. According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed on Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s approval rating has fallen to 36 per cent, the lowest level of his presidency, reflecting voter worries over rising inflation.
Republicans are favoured to win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in November, though analysts say Democrats have a better chance of holding onto control of the Senate.
The loss of either chamber would bring Biden’s legislative agenda to a halt and give Republicans the power to launch distracting and potentially politically damaging investigations.
Raffensperger, who rejected a plea by Trump in 2020 to “find” enough votes to alter the outcome, faces U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who earned Trump’s endorsement and has echoed his fraud claims, in a race that polls suggest is tight.
Trump has made more than 190 endorsements since leaving office, mostly for incumbent Republicans who face no serious primary opposition.
He has amassed a mixed record in competitive contests. His nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, the television host Dr. Mehmet Oz, is in a race still too close to call a week after voting.
But his preferred Senate candidate in Georgia, Herschel Walker, easily won the Republican nomination despite warnings from Walker’s Republican competitors about his history of domestic violence and mental health struggles. He will face Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in the fall in a race that could determine control of the chamber.
Democrats were especially focused on a runoff election in south Texas, where longtime incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar was facing a fierce challenge from progressive Jessica Cisneros in a race where abortion was a prominent issue. Cuellar is the last anti-abortion Democrat serving in the House.
Republicans were deciding a series of primaries that featured some of their most controversial figures.
In Alabama, conservative firebrand Rep. Mo Brooks was running to represent the Republicans in the race to replace retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. Brooks, a leading figure at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Capitol attack, initially won Trump’s endorsement, although Trump rescinded it after watching Brooks struggle in the polls.
Leading Trump ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene won her primary election in the state’s 14th congressional district, despite a first term notable for her conspiracy theories and controversy.
And former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who was the face of an administration that contributed to the nation’s stark divide, won the Republican governor’s nomination in Arkansas.
On the Democratic side in Georgia, two congressional incumbents, Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux, were running against each other in suburban Atlanta, forced into a rare incumbent-on-incumbent primary after Republicans redrew the congressional map.