Resounding setback for Trump as Kemp wins Republican primary in Georgia

·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA</span>
Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Georgia governor Brian Kemp won the state’s Republican primary for governor on Tuesday, easily overcoming a challenge from former senator David Perdue in a resounding setback for Donald Trump.

The Associated Press projected Kemp the winner over Perdue, one of a trio of Georgia races on Tuesday night that revealed limits to Trump’s power over the party he has remade in his image. As part of a post-presidential crusade to punish the Republicans he blames for his 2020 defeat, Trump had sought to oust Kemp along with the state’s Republican attorney general and Republican secretary of state.

Related: US midterm primaries: five key races to look out for

Fueled by retribution after the officials refused to overturn the results of the presidential election in Georgia – a contest that multiple reviews determined was won by Joe Biden – Trump courted Perdue, who fully embraced the myth of a stolen election. But Trump’s imprimatur was not enough. Polling in the final weeks of the race showed him trailing far behind the incumbent governor, whose conservative agenda drew the support of many of the state’s big donors and political leaders.

Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, who memorably denied Trump’s request that he “find” votes in 2020, appeared poised to secure the party’s nomination for re-election against the Trump-backed congressman Jody Hice.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s Republican attorney general Chris Carr beat back a challenge from John Gordon, who made Trump’s stolen election myth a central plank of his campaign.

Kemp will now face Democrat Stacey Abrams, setting the stage for a rematch of their showdown in 2018, when she narrowly lost the governorship but emerged as a rising star on the left and a prominent advocate for voting rights. The race for governor of Georgia is expected to be one of the fiercely fought contests of the cycle.

Brad Raffensperger walks through a crowd of supporters.
Incumbent Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger appeared poised to secure the party’s nomination for re-election. Photograph: Ben Gray/AP

Bee Nguyen, a state representative and ally of Abrams, appears poised to clinch the Democratic nomination for secretary of state while Carr will face Democratic state senator Jen Jordan in the race for attorney general.

Once deeply Republican, Abrams is credited as a leading architect of the party’s expanding electoral power in Georgia, culminating in last year’s election of two Democratic senators.

Trump’s misses in Georgia come as Republicans still await the results of a nail-bitingly close Senate race in Pennsylvania, where Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon who Trump endorsed, is running neck-and-neck with David McCormick, a hedge fund executive.

Even in the races where Trump’s preferred candidates lost, the election results so far this primary season are a testament to how entrenched Trump’s big lie has become. In Pennsylvania last week, Republicans nominated Doug Mastriano, one of the most prominent spreaders of misinformation about the 2020 election, putting him in striking distance of the governor’s office.

In a sign that not every race was going against Trump in the state, former football star Herschel Walker won the Republican nomination for Senate in what is already shaping up to be a marquee race that could determine control of the evenly-divided chamber.

Riding Trump’s endorsement and his own celebrity in a state where football often seems to reign supreme, Walker managed to deflect questions about his academic and business achievements and a history of violence against his ex-wife. Walker, who is Black, will face incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock, a longtime civil rights champion and the state’s first Black senator who is running for a full term after winning the seat in a special election in 2021.

In the north-west corner of the state, far-right congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene cruised to victory in a primary that tested conservatives’ tolerance for her extremist brand of politics, a week after voters in North Carolina ousted her ideological ally, congressman Madison Cawthorn.

While much of the focus was on Republicans, two popular Democratic incumbents reflective of the coalition that powered Biden’s victory in the state squared off in the newly redrawn seventh district. In the end, congresswoman Lucy McBath prevailed in the race over fellow House Democrat, congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux to win the party’s nomination, the Associated Press projected.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is seen from above, standing in a crowd of supporters while talking into two microphones.
Marjorie Taylor Greene cruised to victory in her Georgia primary. Photograph: Daniel Varnado/AP

McBath was recruited to run for office after her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed. Since his death, McBath has been an outspoken advocate for stricter gun laws.

McBath’s victory came just hours after a shooting occurred at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that left at least 18 children dead.

Georgia is one of several states holding primary elections on Tuesday.

In Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a former White House press secretary under Trump, secured the Republican nomination in the race to become the state’s next governor. Sanders is heavily favored to win the general election in November to replace the current Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, who is term-limited.

If elected, Sanders will follow in the footsteps of her father, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who led the state from 1996 to 2007.

In Alabama, the retirement of long-serving Republican senator Richard Shelby, set off another expensive intra-party power struggle for the seat. According to the Associated Press, the primary race was headed for a runoff in June between Katie Britt, the former leader of the Business Council of Alabama, and Republican congressman Mo Brooks, who came in second. Trump initially endorsed Brooks, but rescinded his support when their relationship soured.

Meanwhile, in Texas, George P Bush, the former president’s nephew, failed to take down the embattled attorney general, Ken Paxton, in a runoff election that tested the strength of the Bush family’s political dynasty.

Paxton, who was endorsed by Trump after leading an unsuccessful lawsuit that asked the US supreme court to overturn the 2020 election, despite no evidence of widespread fraud, is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation related to allegations of corruptions and, separately, was indicted in 2015 for securities fraud. He has denied wrongdoing.

And in a competitive Democratic runoff for a House seat in south Texas, centrist congressman Henry Cuellar was in the fight for his political life against progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros. As of early Wednesday, the race was too close to call.

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