Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 24 (May 26, 2022)

Welcome to The Heart of the Primaries, Republican Edition

May 26, 2022

In this issue: Takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries and the Wisconsin GOP’s lack of endorsement for governor

Primary results roundup

Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia held their primaries on Tuesday. Texas also held primary runoffs for races in which no candidate received a majority of the vote on March 1. 

The big stories of the night: Kemp and Raffensperger win in Georgia, Britt and Brooks advance in Alabama

Georgia Governor: Incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp defeated former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and three others. Kemp received 74% of the vote to Perdue’s 22%. There will be no runoff since Kemp received more than 50% of the vote.

Former Vice President Mike Pence (R), Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) were among Kemp’s endorsers. Perdue’s endorsers included former President Donald Trump (R) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).

The 2020 presidential election results were a subject of debate in the primary, as we’ve discussed in several issues of The Heart of the Primaries. Perdue said Kemp had not done enough as governor to investigate the results, while Kemp said he took all appropriate actions within his constitutional authority. 

Kemp was first elected governor in 2018, defeating Stacey Abrams (D) 50% to 48%. Kemp served as Georgia’s secretary of state from 2010 to 2018. Perdue served in the Senate from 2015 to 2021, when Jon Ossoff (D) defeated him in a runoff 50% to 49%.

Kemp will face Abrams again in the Nov. 8 general election. Forecasters rate the general election either as a Toss-up or Tilt Republican.

Georgia Secretary of State: Incumbent Brad Raffensperger defeated three other candidates. Raffensperger received 52% of the vote, and Jody Hice received 33%. Since Raffensperger won more than 50%, there won’t be a runoff.

Reuters‘ Joseph Ax wrote that Raffensperger “has been one of Trump’s most frequent targets ever since he refused, emphatically and publicly, to capitulate to the demands of the former president, his fellow Republican, to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn the results in Georgia’s 2020 presidential vote.” Trump endorsed Hice. 

In January, Raffensperger said, “Congressman Hice, he’s been in Congress for several years. He’s never done a single piece of election reform legislation. Then he certified his own race with those same machines, the same ballots, and yet for President Trump, he said you couldn’t trust that.” 

At a debate earlier this month, Hice said, “The ‘big lie’ in all of this is that there were no problems with this past election. This past election was an absolute disaster under the leadership of Brad Raffensperger.” Hice objected to the counting of Georgia’s electoral votes during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Raffensperger was elected secretary of state in 2018. Hice was elected to the U.S. House in 2014. 

Alabama U.S. Senate: Katie Britt and Mo Brooks advanced from a field of six candidates with 45% and 29% of the vote, respectively. As no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, Britt and Brooks will compete in a June 21 runoff. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R), first elected in 1986, did not seek re-election.

Britt was Shelby’s chief of staff and the president and CEO of the Alabama Business Council. Britt’s campaign website said she was an “advocate for smaller government, modern job growth, constitutional liberties and greater opportunity.” Sen. Shelby, Maggie’s List, and the Value In Electing Women PAC endorsed Britt.

Brooks has represented Alabama’s 5th Congressional District since 2011. Brooks’ campaign ads have highlighted his speech at Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, 2021, which preceded the U.S. Capitol breach. Brooks’ endorsers included Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.).

Trump endorsed Brooks in April 2021 and withdrew that endorsement two months ago. Trump said, “Mo Brooks of Alabama made a horrible mistake recently when he went ‘woke’ and stated, referring to the 2020 Presidential Election Scam, ‘Put that behind you, put that behind you.’” 

In response, Brooks said, “I am the only proven America First candidate in this Senate race . . . I am the only candidate who fought voter fraud and election theft when it counted, between November 3 and January 6.”

Other marquee primary results

U.S. Senate

  • Arkansas U.S. Senate: Incumbent John Boozman defeated three other candidates with 58% of the vote. Jake Bequette finished second with 21%. Boozman was first elected to the Senate in 2010. Three forecasters rate the general election Safe or Solid Republican.
  • Georgia U.S. Senate: Herschel Walker defeated five other candidates with 68% of the vote. Gary Black finished second with 13%. Incumbent Raphael Warnock (D) is running for re-election. Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Walker. Three forecasters rate the general election a Toss-up.

U.S. House

  • Alabama’s 5th: Dale Strong and Casey Wardynski advanced from a field of six candidates. Strong received 45% of the vote and Wardynski received 23%. The runoff is on June 21. Incumbent Mo Brooks ran for U.S. Senate rather than for re-election. Three forecasters rate the general election Safe or Solid Republican.

State executives

  • Alabama Governor: Incumbent Kay Ivey defeated eight other candidates with 55% of the vote. Lynda Blanchard finished second with 19%. Ivey took office in 2017 following Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) resignation. Three forecasters rate the general election Safe or Solid Republican.
  • Alabama Secretary of State: Jim Zeigler and Wes Allen advanced to a June 21 runoff with 42% and 40% of the vote, respectively. Incumbent John Merrill (R) did not seek re-election.
  • Arkansas Secretary of State: Incumbent John Thurston defeated Eddie Joe Williams 72%-28%. Thurston was first elected to the position in 2018.
  • Texas Attorney General runoff: Incumbent Ken Paxton defeated George P. Bush 68%-32%. Paxton was first elected to the position in 2014.
  • Texas Railroad Commissioner runoff: Incumbent Wayne Christian defeated Sarah Stogner with 65% of the vote. Stogner received 35%. Christian was first elected in 2016.

State legislative incumbents defeated

The figures below were current as of Wednesday afternoon. Click here for more information on defeated incumbents.

At least four state legislators—all Republicans—lost in primaries on May 24. Including those defeats, 61 state legislative incumbents have lost primaries this year. This number will likely increase: 64 primaries featuring incumbents remain uncalled.

Across the 12 states that have held state legislative primaries, 4.5% of incumbents running for re-election have lost. 

Sixty-one primary defeats and a 4.5% loss rate are the largest number and highest incumbent loss rate in these 12 states since 2014.

Of the 12 states that have held primaries so far, one had a Democratic trifecta, eight had Republican trifectas, and three had divided governments with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. Across these 12 states, there are 1,655 seats up for election, 11% of the nationwide total.

Media analysis

As of Thursday morning, the results of Tuesday’s primaries brought Trump’s 2022 primary endorsement record to 94-7 (93%). Media commentary and analysis following the primaries focused on Trump’s involvement.

RealClearPolitics‘ Susan Crabtree wrote that Trump’s endorsement record differs for gubernatorial and other types of endorsements: 

Millions of words were written and much airtime expended handicapping whether Georgia would show that Trump had molded the Republican Party in his own likeness. It didn’t happen Tuesday night, at least not in Georgia. Kemp maintained his early lead in the polls while earning the endorsement of former Vice President Mike Pence along the way and cruising to an easy victory – as did Raffensperger. Pence, largely written off by the media, looked more prescient, if not instantly relevant. In an appearance with Kemp on the eve of the election, Pence called a vote for Kemp a “deafening message” that the Republican Party is “the party of the future,” stirring new headlines that he is positioning himself for a presidential run in 2024.

But Georgia is only one state. Trump has racked up a mixed record in contested primaries so far this year while wading into various contests to settle old scores or establish himself as a kingmaker. J.D. Vance, the Yale law school graduate and venture capitalist turned author, undoubtedly has Trump to thank for his win in Ohio’s GOP Senate primary. Likewise, Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor backed by Trump in Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate race, leads by just under 1,000 votes in a race against hedge fund executive David McCormick, which appears headed for a recount.

Trump has exercised less influence in gubernatorial races – with recent losses from candidates he endorsed in Nebraska and Idaho. He secured one solid win Tuesday night with his strong backing of Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia football star and pro football running back who easily won his Republican Senate primary in the same state. …

Other Tuesday primaries also produced mixed results for Trump. Two-term Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who spearheaded a lawsuit that sought to overturn the 2020 election, got a boost from a Trump endorsement. On Tuesday, Paxton easily defeated Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush, in a GOP primary runoff.

The lopsided win signaled the triumph of Trumpism over the Bush dynasty. It was particularly notable considering that Paxton, who addressed the pro-Trump crowd in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, is under indictment for alleged securities fraud.

In Alabama, a candidate with Trump’s support before he rescinded it advanced in a Republican runoff to replace retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. Trump supported Rep. Mo Brooks, a staunch conservative congressman, but rescinded his support after Brooks suggested Republicans should look forward to 2022 and 2024 rather than focusing on Trump’s continued 2020 complaints that the election was stolen. Other prominent Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have continued to back him.

The Hill‘s Max Greenwood framed Tuesday’s results as a win for what he called the GOP establishment: 

Tuesday was a good night for the non-Trump, establishment wing of the GOP.

The establishment saw its major victory in Kemp’s gubernatorial primary win. Figures like former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) all campaigned for the Georgia governor, pitting themselves up against Trump’s endorsement of Perdue.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Sen. John Boozman (R) fended off a number of right-wing challengers including former NFL player Jake Bequette. Boozman’s opponents hit him over his vote to affirm the 2020 election results and remarks that Trump had  “some responsibility” for the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. However, Boozman had the support of Trump and former Trump officials like Huckabee Sanders. 

Washington Examiner‘s Sarah Westwood said on Fox Business that the candidates who won in Georgia on Tuesday campaigned on Trump’s populist stances and that voters did not reject the former president’s ideas. Washington Examiner reported on Westwood’s interview:

While incumbents Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-GA) did not have former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, Westwood told Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo Wednesday that their Republican primary victories are not rejections of “Trumpism.”

“I don’t think that’s exactly what we’re seeing because the candidates that did [win], including Gov. Brian Kemp, still ran on the kinds of populist ideas that fueled Trump’s popularity, but what he didn’t do is focus on the 2020 election, and neither did Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who also avoided a runoff,” Westwood said.

Westwood noted that Republican voters appear ready to move forward.

“They want to talk about plans for the economy, plans for keeping schools safe, and keeping leftist ideology out of the classrooms,” she said. “Those are the sorts of things that, I think, are compelling Republican candidates to the forefront, and we saw that voters were not interested in talking about the past.”

Recount on in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate primary

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman ordered a recount in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate GOP primary. Mehmet Oz led David McCormick by fewer than 1,000 votes according to unofficial returns before the recount. State law requires a recount if the margin between the top two candidates is within 0.5% of all votes cast for a statewide office. That’s roughly 6,700 votes in this primary, based on totals available Thursday morning.

The recount must be completed by June 7.

Wisconsin Republican Party does not endorse in gubernatorial primary

For the first time since the Wisconsin Republican Party began issuing endorsements in 2009, the party did not endorse a gubernatorial candidate at its annual convention on May 21. 

According to the Associated Press’s Scott Bauer, “The party’s endorsement in the governor’s race is important because it unlocks funding from the state party, which can then spend as much as it wants on the winner. Being united is all the more important when facing an incumbent like [Tony Evers (D)] in a race that’s a top priority for Democrats nationally.” 

At Saturday’s convention, delegates voted to allow a “no endorsement” option for statewide races. To receive the party’s endorsement, a candidate needed at least 60% of delegates’ vote. Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch received 55% of the vote, and “no endorsement” received 43%. According to Wisconsin Public Radio’s Shawn Johnson, “State Rep. Tim Ramthun received roughly 2.6 percent of the vote. Republicans Kevin Nicholson and Tim Michels came in third and fourth in an earlier round of voting, eliminating them from the final ballot.”

Bauer wrote, “[W]ith many Republicans running as outsiders, there [was] more pressure on the party — mostly from [gubernatorial candidate Kevin Nicholson] — to back away from its typical endorsement process. … Nicholson, who is running as an outsider candidate, argued that endorsing a candidate ahead of the primary would create divisions unnecessarily.”

Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Paul Farrow said the vote “signaled the grassroots’ desire to allow all voices to be heard ahead of the August primary, and we look forward to hearing from the candidates as they continue to make their case in the coming months.”

After the vote, Kleefisch said, “Did you see the numbers? There’s a clear frontrunner.” 

Nicholson said, “I very clearly told everybody to vote for ‘no endorsement.’ … ‘No endorsement’ carried the day. We won.”

The primary is Aug. 9. Six candidates are currently running. The filing deadline is June 1. 

The state party also did not endorse candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general, or secretary of state. It did endorse U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) for re-election and Orlando Owens (R) for state treasurer. 

Competitiveness data: Iowa and New Jersey

Iowa and News Jersey hold primaries on June 7. We’ve crunched some numbers to see how competitive the primaries will be compared to recent election cycles.

Notes on how these figures were calculated:

  • Candidates per district: divides the total number of candidates by the number of districts holding elections.
  • Open districts: divides the number of districts without an incumbent running by the number of districts holding elections.
  • Contested primaries: divides the number of major party primaries by the number of possible primaries.
  • Incumbents in contested primaries: divides the number of incumbents in primaries by the number seeking re-election in the given election cycle.