Five things to watch in the Georgia, Alabama primaries

Republicans are gearing up for a handful of hotly contested primaries on Tuesday in Georgia, where GOP voters appear poised to buck former President Trump and his endorsed candidate in the state’s primary for governor.

But Tuesday’s primaries — which will additionally take place in Alabama and Arkansas, along with a key runoff in Texas — also carries stakes for progressives and Republicans who broke with Trump over his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. 

Here are five things to watch in the May 24 primaries.

Can Trump evade a tough night in Georgia?

Trump appears on track for a loss in Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial primary between Gov. Brian Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.). The former president is backing Perdue in the race, but polling shows Kemp leading in the contest by wide, double-digit margins.

With that, the question is whether other candidates Trump has endorsed can give him something to brag about. 

Trump is backing Rep. Jody Hice’s (R-Ga.) primary challenge to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as part of his bid to install loyalists in election administration rolls. While Raffensperger isn’t backing down, polling shows a much tighter race. 

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey released last month showed Raffensperger and Hice statistically tied at 28 percent and 26 percent support, respectively.

Trump has also endorsed several other candidates in Georgia. He’s backing Patrick Witt for insurance commissioner; John Gordon for attorney general; and Vernon Jones in the GOP primary in the state’s 10th Congressional District.

Of course, there’s one win that Trump can count on Tuesday: former NFL star Herschel Walker, who’s seen as the heavy favorite to clinch the GOP nod to take on Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) this fall. 

Do voters stick with Trump on election fraud claims?

Trump’s effort to reshape election offices nationwide will see its first major test on Tuesday in the GOP primary for Georgia secretary of state. 

Raffensperger made an enemy of the former president in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election when he rebuffed Trump’s pleas to help overturn President Biden’s victory in Georgia. He’s since endorsed Hice, who has repeatedly echoed Trump’s baseless claim that widespread voter fraud robbed him of reelection two years ago.

While the state’s primary between Kemp and Perdue has largely been predicated on the same issue — Trump’s false claims of election fraud — a win in the secretary of state’s race would put the former president on track to install a loyalist at the top rung of Georgia’s elections system.

Exactly how the race will shake out remains murky. Nevertheless, it stands as a test of just how willing Republican voters are to give Trump influence over how Georgia’s elections are run. 

Do Democrats turn out in force?

After Kemp signed a far-reaching bill last year imposing new limits on early voting, Democrats and civil rights activists lashed out by accusing Republicans of seeking to suppress the vote, especially among core Democratic constituencies — particularly people of color.

So far, those fears haven’t materialized at the polls. Early voting is at a record high in Georgia this year. As of Friday, more than 857,000 Georgians had cast their ballots early, including about 483,000 Republicans and nearly 369,000 Democrats.

Of course, there are other reasons to believe that Democratic turnout on primary day itself might not reach the same height as GOP turnout. 

For one, Democrats have fewer competitive primaries at the top of the ticket this year; Democrat Stacey Abrams isn’t facing a challenger in the state’s gubernatorial primary, while Warnock is up against only nominal opposition in his nominating contest.

But early polling shows Republicans with an enthusiasm advantage in this year’s midterms as the party looks to recapture control of the House and Senate. If Democrats turn out in force in Georgia on Tuesday, however, it could be an early sign that the party’s voters are willing to buck that trend.

Can the left keep its winning streak going?

The Democratic Party’s left flank is coming off of big wins after last week’s primaries. 

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman easily won his state’s Democratic Senate primary, while state Rep. Summer Lee dispatched a moderate challenger in the primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. Meanwhile, in Oregon, progressive candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner appears on track to oust moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) in the state’s 5th District.

Progressives will face their latest test on Tuesday when Jessica Cisneros goes up against Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) in a closely watched runoff election in Texas’s 28th District. 

Cuellar, one of the few remaining anti-abortion Democrats, has been among progressives’ top targets, and the left’s opposition to him has only intensified since the leak of a draft ruling indicating that the Supreme Court may be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Cisneros came just over 1,000 votes short of defeating Cuellar outright in a March primary. Since then, progressives have rushed to boost her ahead of the runoff, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stumping for her in Texas on Friday. 

If Cisneros pulls off a win on Tuesday, it would give progressives another high-profile victory as they look to bounce back from disappointing defeats earlier this year.

The Democratic Party’s left wing will also see a smaller test of its influence on Tuesday in Georgia, where Reps. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) and Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) are facing off in an incumbent vs. incumbent primary.

While McBath isn’t seen as a conventional left-wing candidate, she has the backing of top progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). 

Does Mo Brooks outperform expectations?

Rep. Mo Brooks (Ala.) became the early favorite to win the GOP Senate nomination in Alabama after Trump endorsed him last year. But he failed for months to gain traction among voters and suffered a further blow when Trump announced in March that he was rescinding his support for Brooks.

Recent polling, however, suggests that Brooks may be making a comeback, with surveys showing him statistically deadlocked for first place in a hotly contested three-way primary that also includes former Army pilot Mike Durant and former Senate aide Katie Britt. 

Of course, even if Brooks finishes in first place in Tuesday’s primary for the GOP nod to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), it appears unlikely that he’ll win the nomination outright. 

A candidate must win more than 50 percent of the vote to clinch the nomination. If no candidate manages to hit that margin on Tuesday, the race will head to a runoff in June. 

Still, advancing to a runoff would be a big win for Brooks after losing Trump’s endorsement earlier this year. 

Tags Brad Raffensperger Brian Kemp David Perdue Donald Trump Henry Cuellar Herschel Walker Jody Hice Raphael Warnock

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