MAY 25, 2022
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a Get Out the Vote Rally on the eve of gubernatorial and other primaries in the state, on Monday, May 23, 2022, in Kennesaw, Ga. – Brynn Anderson, AP
Voters set the table for some of the country’s most important 2022 midterm elections on Tuesday in multiple states.
Chief among them were contests for the Senate and governorship in Georgia, which has become a battleground state since the last presidential contest and has remained in the spotlight thanks largely to Donald Trump.
The former president has been openly hostile to fellow Republicans, namely Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who resisted his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.
But beyond Trump’s revenge tour there are other important battles that played out in Alabama, Arkansas and Texas.
Here are 7 important takeaways from Tuesday.
Kemp demolishes Perdue
The headline of the night goes to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who was likely Trump’s biggest target of the primary season thus far.
Kemp fended off a challenge by former Sen. David Perdue, crushing the Trump-backed candidate by a roughly 3-1 margin.
The win is likely to be cast as a major rebuke of the former president, who had made Kemp one of his top campaign targets because the governor refused to help him reverse the 2020 election results.
Kemp supporters expressed an eagerness to unite behind the incumbent in the fall against Democrat Stacey Abrams.
“Great news,” Blake Gober, a Republican consultant, said in a tweet Tuesday. “Let’s beat Stacey Abrams (again)!”
— Blake Gober (@blakebgober) May 25, 2022
What’s unclear, however, is if Trump will play nice and endorse Kemp.
During a campaign stop in Georgia late last year, for instance, Trump signaled he would prefer her over the GOP incumbent.
“Of course having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know what I think,” he said. “Might very well be better.”
A ‘Big Lie’ referendum
One of the most anticipated races Tuesday was the down-ballot contest to determine who will oversee the Peach State’s future elections.
In the GOP primary, incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger faced a significant challenge from Rep. Jody Hice in a campaign that was all about the ongoing lies about the 2020 presidential election.
Raffensperger gained national notoriety for refusing Trump’s demands to find more votes to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss in the state. In return, Trump recruited Hice, who has repeated many of the false claims of voter fraud, the so-called “big lie,” about the last election.
Raffensperger beat Hice on Tuesday, avoiding a further runoff.
Political observers say the Georgia secretary of state race holds significance given Georgia’s battleground status for the 2024 presidential election.
Walker, Abrams and Warnock waltz
Former football star Herschel Walker won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, as did Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock, which sets up a historic general election between two Black candidates.
Walker benefited greatly from having the two-pronged backing of Trump and establishment GOP lawmakers, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he ascended to the top of a crowded field.
Trump calls into the Herschel Walker victory party pic.twitter.com/8oWclHCkUc
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 25, 2022
Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, is looking to capture his first full term in office. The two men couldn’t be more different in their viewpoints as Georgia could be the deciding election for who controls the Senate in 2023.
Stacey Abrams, who is looking to become Georgia’s first Black woman governor, also sailed through the Democratic primary contest unopposed.
This sets up a rematch between her and Kemp, who won the governor’s mansion by less than 2 percentage points in 2018.
My name is Stacey Abrams and I intend to be the next governor of the great state of Georgia.
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) May 24, 2022
Ben Gray, AP
Close race in Texas between Cuellar and Cisneros
Incumbent Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar was running neck-and-neck with his primary challenger Jessica Cisneros in a closely watched House race.
Cuellar is a moderate Democrat who has urged President Joe Biden to toughen his border policies. Cuellar, who opposes abortion rights, was the lone House Democrat who voted against a measure this month codifying into law a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.
Cisneros is a progressive who was backed heavily by left-leaning groups and other officeholders, such as Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Cueller, who took office in 2005, was supported by Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Whip James Clyburn.
‘Fire McConnell’ candidate wins
If any Republican primary were a seesaw in 2022, it was in Alabama, where Rep. Mo Brooks received and then lost Trump’s support in the GOP Senate race.
Brooks was one of the speakers at the Jan. 6, 2021 “Stop The Steal” rally, and went out of his way to curry favor with the former president. In one ad, the congressman pledged he would vote against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, another GOP official on Trump’s bad side.
But Trump withdrew his endorsement in March after Brooks told supporters it was time to move the past the events of 2020.
Brooks also trailed badly in the polls at the time Trump turned on him.
But he surged back into contention against opponents Katie Britt, the former leader of the Business Council of Alabama and Shelby’s former chief of staff; and Mike Durant, an aerospace company owner and former Army pilot who was involved in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia.
On Tuesday, Brooks survived the Trump snub to make the runoff election along with Britt.
Sarah Sanders wins in Arkansas
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders won her Republican primary for Arkansas governor and has already signaled that her race will take a national tone.
Sanders was one of Trump’s fiercest defenders during her tenure as press secretary and during her campaign often took aim at the “radical left” while discussing how her state fits into the broader context of politics.
In her first TV ad, she featured her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former President Bill Clinton, who also served as the state’s governor, marking the 40th anniversary of Little Rock Central High School’s desegregation.
Sanders said in the spot how the “radical left wants to teach our kids America is a racist and evil country.”
She is likely to face Democrat Chris Jones this fall as prognosticators have ranked the state as a safe GOP seat.
End of the Bush dynasty?
For decades the Bush name dominated American politics, but the end appears to have fallen on the family after the Texas primary or attorney general.
Incumbent Ken Paxton thumped George P. Bush in the GOP primary runoff even amid major Paxton scandals around fraud and FBI investigations.
Bush, a scion of the Bush political dynasty, is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush.
Many longtime GOP operatives had thought of the younger Bush as a natural successor to his family’s legacy, with some even calling him “47” in a belief he would one day ascend to the White House.
But the loss is likely to be taken as an end of an era in U.S. politics and the conservative movement that stems back decades.