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Kemp vs. Perdue and Trump highlights slate of key primaries

Donald Trump wants Georgia Republicans to ditch their governor on Tuesday.

If the polls are even remotely in the right ballpark, they’re about to tell Trump to take a hike.

The Republican base is poised to take a turn delivering Trump a stinging rebuke in a state where, during his presidency, the GOP lost two Senate seats, two House seats and the state’s Electoral College votes for the first time since the mid-1990s.

Since that 2020 defeat, Trump has trained his sights on GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, blaming Kemp for certifying instead of subverting the results of that election after multiple recounts. Trump recruited former Sen. David Perdue, whose 2021 runoff election loss was declared by news organizations amid news coverage of the ongoing Jan. 6 Capitol riot, to challenge Kemp. But the incumbent has led throughout the race, including final polls showing him easily clearing the 50-percent mark needed to win without a runoff.

Trump could suffer another defeat, of sorts, in Alabama — where his one-time ally, Rep. Mo Brooks, is making a late charge to get into a Senate primary runoff with frontrunner Katie Britt, even after Trump left Brooks for dead earlier this spring.

And Democrats have important and fractious primaries of their own on Tuesday: one in South Texas, where the last anti-abortion-rights Democrat in Congress was dragged into a runoff by a liberal primary challenger, and another between the two women who flipped Georgia’s House seats in the past two elections.

Those are among the things to watch when voters in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota and Texas go to the polls for primary elections on Tuesday:

Patching up the Georgia schism

Kemp and Perdue haven’t agreed on much during their primary, but they’ve seen eye-to-eye on this: The most important thing for Republican voters is to stop Stacey Abrams from winning the governorship.

Each has framed his campaign around it: Perdue has said that Kemp can’t win a rematch with Abrams without the Trump base. Kemp’s allies, meanwhile, ridicule Perdue for his loss to Jon Ossoff last year and say the GOP’s best bet is the man who already beat Abrams four years ago.

It’s a striking realization of Georgia’s continued move toward Democrats — a drift Republicans hope will stop amid a favorable national environment for the GOP. It’s one reason Trump’s orbit and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s political operation have united behind former football star Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate race: the likelihood of a close election in November against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Walker is the heavy favorite in his primary on Tuesday, despite his opponents litigating some of his past scandals: accusations of domestic violence and a business record that doesn’t match some of Walker’s heady claims. But watch his percentage on Tuesday night: Even though he is virtually certain to win the nomination, a middling percentage could suggest the hits on Walker moved the needle.

By contrast, a dominant vote for Walker could mean Republican primary voters were willing to look past some of the attacks — and, by litigating them in a primary, it may have inoculated Walker before Warnock and Democrats try to tackle him in the general election.

POLITICO’s Election Forecast has rated both major statewide contests as “Toss Ups.”

Down the Georgia ballot

Even more than Kemp, the public face of resistance to Trump’s lies about the Georgia election was Brad Raffensperger.

The secretary of state has repeatedly defended the administration of the 2020 election and subsequent recounts, despite Trump’s protestations. And while many thought he’d retire rather than face Republican primary voters again, Raffensperger is running headlong into a fight with Trump’s pick to replace him.

The limited polling suggests a close race between Raffensperger and Rep. Jody Hice, a member of the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus who has Trump’s endorsement and has parroted the former president’s falsehoods about what happened in Georgia and elsewhere in 2020. With two other Republicans on the ballot, the two men could be headed for a June runoff if neither wins a majority on Tuesday night.

Trump has also targeted state Attorney General Chris Carr, backing attorney and businessman John Gordon, who has blamed Carr for Trump’s 2020 defeat. Carr is ahead in the polls, though by a smaller margin than Kemp, and Carr and Gordon are the only two candidates on the ballot.

Dem versus Dem in suburban Atlanta

Georgia’s move to the left has been driven by the racially diverse Atlanta suburbs — a story of both booming growth across the Sun Belt and changing attitudes in and around American cities. That’s how Democrats Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux flipped longtime Republican House seats in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

But before this election came redistricting. And with Republicans still in charge of every lever of state government, the GOP sought to claw back the ground it lost, packing Democratic voters into a Gwinnett County-centered district in order to draw another more GOP-friendly seat.

That pushed McBath out of her seat north of Atlanta, forcing her into a race against Bourdeaux. The clash pits McBath, a Black woman and advocate for stricter gun laws whose son was murdered, against Bourdeaux, a white freshman.

The new seat has more of Bourdeaux’s constituents — but McBath is seen as the favorite, thanks to spending from some national groups, including Independence USA PAC, the Mike Bloomberg-funded super PAC that boosted McBath and other Democrats in 2018 and has been dormant since. Protect Our Future, the super PAC mostly funded by cryptocurrency tycoon Sam Bankman-Fried, has also spent $1.8 million on ads backing McBath, as has Everytown for Gun Safety’s political arm.

Cueller versus Cisneros, Round 3

It didn’t look like the third time would be the charm for Jessica Cisneros, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar’s progressive challenger in South Texas. Cuellar narrowly beat her in 2020 — then, though she held him below 50 percent, Cisneros finished behind the incumbent again in the March 1 primary this year.

But then came POLITICO’s report that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn its Roe v. Wade precedent, thrusting Democrats’ lone anti-abortion-rights member of Congress into an uncomfortable spotlight.

Cisneros has sought to reframe the race. She’s still calling Cuellar “the Joe Manchin of the House,” but the abortion issue has brought national allies into the fight, including EMILY’s List’s super PAC arm. The Cuellar machine is still powerful in that part of Texas, giving the incumbent a chance to hold on.

This slice of South Texas, which stretches from San Antonio to the border town of Laredo, moved away from Democrats in the last election. Now-President Joe Biden carried the redrawn seat by 7 percentage points, and POLITICO’s Election Forecast calls the race a “Toss-Up.”

Mo Brooks: Back from the dead

When Trump dumped Brooks in the Alabama Senate primary, he had sunk in the polls to third place, way behind Britt and self-funding veteran Mike Durant, who had used an early ad blitz to grab the lead. That would’ve left Brooks on the outside looking into a likely June 21 primary runoff between the top two GOP finishers.

So while Trump blamed Brooks for going “woke” (for wavering on his commitment to overturning the election long after Biden took office), it mostly amounted to a convenient excuse to cut bait on what looked like a losing bet.

But what a difference two months have made. Britt and her allies have spent the spring savaging Durant, who is backsliding in polls — most of which now show Brooks edging past him for second place and a spot in the runoff against Britt. Brooks, meanwhile, has mostly avoided the same kind of fire since losing Trump’s endorsement.

That could change in a Britt-Brooks runoff, if it comes to that. But Alabama GOP primary voters have ignored Trump’s picks before: Despite Trump’s endorsement of then-appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the 2017 special election, Republicans instead nominated Roy Moore — who went on to lose to Democrat Doug Jones.

Meanwhile, Republicans Lynda Blanchard and Tim James are trying to force a GOP runoff with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who is seeking a second full term. Trump hasn’t weighed in on this race, which pits Ivey against one candidate who started in the Senate race but dropped out (Blanchard) and another who’s the son of a two-time former governor (James, son of former Gov. Fob James).

Change, or a Trump-endorsed incumbent?

Former NFL defensive end Jake Bequette and his allies tried to catch Sen. John Boozman napping in Tuesday’s Arkansas GOP Senate primary.

Boozman — a low-profile, two-term incumbent — has been forced into a tough fight for renomination against Bequette, mostly thanks to Bequette’s top benefactor, conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein.

The Uihlein-funded Arkansas Patriots Fund — a play on the Massachusetts-based NFL team for which Bequette played — has spent $2.1 million in advertising to convince GOP primary voters to dump Boozman.

But Boozman, who entered the cycle sitting on less than $1 million in his war chest, responded. He’s spent $2.5 million himself, and there’s another super PAC spending on his behalf after collecting cash from in-state billionaires like Warren Stephens, Alice Walton and John Tyson.

Perhaps most importantly, Boozman has Trump’s endorsement, with the politically hyperactive former president choosing to give the 71-year-old incumbent his backing over a youthful challenger less than half his age. Either way, the race is rated “Solid Republican.”

A Southern Minnesota special

Voters in a Southern Minnesota swing district will choose nominees for an August special election to replace late Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.), who died in February.

The fields are muddled: Eight Democrats and 10 Republicans are on the ballot on Tuesday. But most of the action is on the Republican side, since Trump carried Hagedorn’s district by 10 points in 2020.

Hagedorn’s widow, Jennifer Carnahan, is running for the seat. But groups on the right — the Rand Paul-connected Protect Freedom PAC and the political arm of the House Freedom Caucus — have coalesced around state Rep. Jeremy Munson.

Whoever wins Tuesday’s primary will have a leg up in August, when both the special general election and the 2022 regular primary are on the ballot. (The contours of the seat changed only very slightly in redistricting.)

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