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11 Primaries To Watch In Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota And Texas

Tuesday brings the next big batch of primaries, as voters head to the polls in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia — plus we get a little bonus electoral action thanks to several runoffs in Texas and a special election in Minnesota. And thanks to former President Donald Trump’s attempt to dislodge multiple incumbents who refused to overturn the 2020 election, Georgia is the election on everyone’s mind this week, but there are even more races of note in the other four states — 11, to be exact. Here’s the lowdown on each of them.

Alabama

Races to watch: U.S. Senate, 5th Congressional District, governor, secretary of state

Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern

When Republican Sen. Richard Shelby announced in February 2021 that he would retire, the odds seemed high that deeply conservative Alabama would replace the results-oriented incumbent with a culture warrior in the mold of Trump. But the state’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate hasn’t quite shaken out that way.

Trump initially endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks, a Trump loyalist who was the first member of Congress who said he would object to the 2020 election results, and Brooks did indeed lead in most polls during 2021. But then former Business Council of Alabama President Katie Britt, Shelby’s former chief of staff, jumped into the race with her old boss’s endorsement, and former Army helicopter pilot Mike Durant, whose 1993 capture in Somalia was dramatized by the movie “Black Hawk Down,” poured $9.5 million into his own campaign. Meanwhile, Brooks’s campaign struggled, and by mid-March, he was trailing both Britt and Durant in the polls.

Trump noticed, and on March 23, he withdrew his endorsement of Brooks. Officially, Trump argued that Brooks had gone “woke” because he had told a crowd at a rally to “put [the 2020 election] behind you.” But it’s hard to rule out the possibility that Trump just wanted to avoid a loss on his personal scorecard. (Consider, for instance, that Trump unendorsed Brooks almost seven months after his comments but only a few weeks after he stopped leading in the polls.)

But a funny thing happened after Trump pulled his endorsement: Brooks started rising in the polls again. The Club for Growth, the anti-government-spending organization that has jockeyed with Trump for influence within the party, is still backing him and has spent more than $4.4 million on his behalf. Perhaps as a result, Brooks gained 13 percentage points between late March and mid-May, according to Emerson College. And according to an average of the two most recent polls, Britt currently has 31 percent support, Brooks 27 percent and Durant 25 percent. If, as seems likely, no one receives a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff election on June 21.

With Brooks leaving the House to run for Senate, Republicans will also choose a nominee in his deep-red 5th Congressional District. Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong leads the money race with almost $1.1 million raised, but he has come under fire for relocating a local Confederate memorial (Strong says he did so to protect it). The second-biggest fundraiser (with $552,504 raised) is former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Casey Wardynski, who has the support of the tea-party group House Freedom Fund. None of the other four candidates has raised more than $170,000, but it’s possible this race could go to a runoff too.

There’s also an unexpectedly spirited Republican primary for governor, despite the fact that popular incumbent Kay Ivey is running for reelection. Last year, there were reports that Trump was unhappy with Ivey for a state commission’s decision that didn’t let Trump hold a rally aboard an historic battleship in Mobile. Trump’s former ambassador to Slovenia, Lindy Blanchard, even jumped into the governor’s race after talking with Trump about the possibility that he would endorse her. (The endorsement never materialized.)

The wealthy Blanchard has donated $7.8 million to her own campaign, and businessman Tim James (the son of former Gov. Fob James) has also raised $2.3 million for his anti-establishment campaign. But Ivey has raised $6.6 million and has used it to cement her Trumpy credentials, including airing commercials on her support for the Big Lie — the false idea that the 2020 election was fraudulent — and anti-immigration ads rooted in the baseless “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which claims that people of color are displacing white people in the U.S. in order to advance a liberal political agenda. The only question at this point seems to be whether Ivey can avoid a runoff: In an average of the two most recent polls, she took 47 percent of the vote, while James was back at 17 percent and Blanchard at 12 percent. However, when you consider that 13 percent of voters were still undecided, the numbers should be there to put her over 50 percent in the end.

Finally, with term limits forcing incumbent John Merrill to retire, the Republican primary for secretary of state will almost certainly decide who administers the 2024 election in this dark-red state. Former state Administrator of Elections Ed Packard, who worked in the secretary of state’s office for more than 24 years, is the only candidate who believes there is no evidence of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election. However, he clocked in at just 2 percent in the latest poll of the race. Instead, this race looks headed to a runoff between state Auditor Jim Zeigler (20 percent), who has the endorsement of businessman and Trump ally Mike Lindell, and state Rep. Wes Allen (14 percent), who supported Texas’s lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election. A fourth candidate, business owner Chris Horn, also believes the election was stolen but is polling at just 4 percent.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
Though he’s got Trump’s endorsement, Sen. John Boozman is being attacked by his primary challengers for not being loyal enough to the former president.

Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Arkansas

Races to watch: U.S. Senate, governor

Polls close: 8:30 p.m. Eastern

On paper, Republican Sen. John Boozman shouldn’t be in any danger for reelection; he has already been comfortably elected to the Senate twice, and Trump endorsed his latest campaign early last year. However, multiple primary challengers are accusing the mild-mannered incumbent of being insufficiently loyal to the former president because he did not support overturning the results of the 2020 election. Former NFL player Jake Bequette has been the loudest of Boozman’s opponents, having raised $1.3 million. He’s also procured another $1.5 million in spending from a super PAC funded by billionaire Richard Uihlein.

As such, Boozman hasn’t taken the race for granted, having spent $4.9 million from his flush campaign coffers and getting another $3 million in air cover from outside groups. A Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College poll from early May put Boozman at 45 percent, Bequette at 19 percent and former journalist Jan Morgan at 17 percent. However, Arkansas requires runoffs if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, and a runoff between Boozman and a single Trumpist challenger could get interesting.

Although it’s not competitive, the Republican primary for governor also deserves an honorable mention. With Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson term-limited, major Arkansas politicians like Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge initially threw their hats in the ring, but ultimately, former Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cleared the field with her old boss’s endorsement. She is now well on her way to becoming the 47th governor of this dark-red state — a job her father, 2016 presidential contender Mike Huckabee, once had.

Republican candidate for Texas attorney general George P. Bush
In his runoff race for attorney general against the Trump-endorsed incumbent, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush (son of Jeb and grandson of George H.W.) is struggling to distance himself from the Bush family name, which is becoming synonymous with the moderate wing of the GOP.

Texas

Races to watch: 15th, 28th and 30th congressional districts; attorney general

Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern in most of the state, 9 p.m. Eastern in the western tip

Texas already had its primary on March 1, but in the handful of races where none of the candidates reached the majority-vote threshold, runoffs will be held on Tuesday. We won’t be keeping up with every race on Texans’ ballots tomorrow, but there are some big ones to watch. First, Trump’s endorsement power will be put to the test in Texas’s Republican primary runoff for attorney general, where embattled incumbent Ken Paxton will face off against Land Commissioner George P. Bush. It’s the main test of Trump’s endorsement power on the ballot in Texas tomorrow, and so far, polling suggests that Paxton is well positioned to win. A May poll from Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler, for example, gave the Trump-backed incumbent a 6-point edge over Bush (41 percent to 35 percent). Notably, however, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has stayed on the sidelines for this race, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has publicly clashed with Bush in the past, endorsed Paxton.

Bush has repeatedly knocked Paxton’s integrity, as the incumbent is embroiled in a number of legal and personal battles, but it’s possible he won’t be able to overcome the Bush family dynasty — the “Bush” name has been increasingly likened to the more moderate wing of the GOP. Some surveys suggest that might be a tough hurdle for Bush to overcome: A University of Houston poll found that about one-third of likely primary voters would never consider voting for Bush — roughly triple the number who said the same about Paxton. 

No Democrat has won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, yet it’s worth keeping an eye on the competitive Democratic primary runoff for attorney general taking place on Tuesday between Rochelle Garza, a former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer from Brownsville, and Joe Jaworski, the former mayor of Galveston. Polling on the Democratic side has been sparse, but the aforementioned Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler survey had Garza leading Jaworski for the party’s nomination, 35 percent to 20 percent — although 40 percent of voters were still undecided. 

Beyond the marquee attorney general’s race, though, we’ll also be keeping an eye on a handful of congressional races. In and around Dallas, for example, state Rep. Jasmine Crockett is seeking to succeed the retiring U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat, in the predominantly Black 30th District after barely missing the majority-vote threshold needed to win outright in March. Crockett, who has Johnson’s backing, will face Jane Hamilton, a longtime congressional staffer and campaign adviser, on Tuesday. What makes this race particularly interesting is that both have racked up endorsements from prominent Black leaders in the Dallas area. Some reports suggest the race is still Crockett’s to lose given that she netted 48.5 percent of the vote in March, but Hamilton has attacked Crockett for things like misrepresenting herself as an attorney for Botham Jean, a Dallas man who was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer in 2018, that could hurt her with voters in the district. Overall, though, the solidly blue seat is one of the quieter primary congressional runoffs. Federal Election Commission reports show that, since early April 2021, Crockett and Hamilton have raised about $567,000 and $654,000, respectively.

The congressional race in Texas that’s arguably garnered the most national attention, however, is the rematch between Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros in Texas’s 28th District. The Democrats will go head-to-head, again, after Cuellar netted only 49 percent of the vote in March, compared with Cisneros’s 47 percent. Cuellar also only narrowly beat Cisneros in 2020. But the incumbent could be in real trouble this year. Just ahead of Texas’s primary, the FBI raided Cuellar’s home and campaign office, though his attorney has since said that Cuellar is not the target of the investigation. Even more damaging for Cuellar, though, is the revelation that the Supreme Court might be ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established the constitutional right to abortion. Cuellar has a reputation as an anti-abortion Democrat, and Cisneros and progressive allies have sought to highlight that. Cuellar, for his part, has tried to downplay his anti-abortion stances, releasing a statement in May that the leaked Supreme Court decision was not based on precedent and would “further divide the country during these already divisive times.” 

The race in Texas’s 28th District is notable for another reason, too: It’s another example of younger progressives taking on moderate Democrats, who are often backed by very established political players. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any polls fielded here since the March primary, so it’s hard to know who has the advantage, but fundraising suggests that this will be another tight race. Both candidates have high-dollar groups contributing on their behalf — like EMILY’s List for Cisneros and Mainstream Democrats PAC for Cuellar. Meanwhile, pre-runoff FEC reports for both candidates show that each has a little over $1 million cash on hand.

While the 28th District leans Democratic, there’s also a Republican matchup taking place tomorrow between Cassy Garcia, a former staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz, who endorsed her, and Sandra Whitten, the 2020 GOP nominee for the seat. In March, Garcia earned 24 percent of the vote to Whitten’s 18 percent. According to some reports, though, Garcia, who has the backing of the GOP congressional establishment, is considered the favorite heading into Tuesday.  

Further east, in the state’s 15th District, voters are poised to see another timeworn matchup between a progressive and a moderate Democrat. But what makes this seat — currently held by Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who is now running in a neighboring district — arguably carry even higher stakes than the 28th District is that Republicans view it as among the most flippable this fall. Though Biden carried the district in 2020, the once-in-a-decade reapportionment process made the seat more GOP-friendly and, in turn, provides Republicans with a ripe pickup opportunity come November. The Democratic candidates going toe-to-toe on Tuesday are lawyer and Army veteran Ruben Ramirez and activist and small business owner Michelle Vallejo. In the March primary, Ramirez led with 28 percent of the vote, compared with Vallejo’s 20 percent. 

More recent FEC reports, however, show that Vallejo has more cash on hand. And while we also don’t have much polling on this race, an April survey conducted by GBAO on behalf of 314 Action, an advocacy group that works to elect STEM professionals to public office and is supporting Ramirez, has Ramirez trailing Vallejo by 12 percentage points (49 percent to 37 percent). Whoever wins tomorrow’s race, though, will face a formidable challenge this fall: Republican Monica De La Cruz, who handily won her primary race in March and already has the support of Congress’s GOP establishment and Trump.

Minnesota Republican Party chair Jennifer Carnahan
Jennifer Carnahan, the former chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, may be the biggest name in the GOP primary for the state’s 1st Congressional District.

Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

Minnesota

Races to watch: 1st Congressional District

Polls close: 9 p.m. Eastern

Minnesota’s primaries are actually on Aug. 9, but we’re getting an appetizer of sorts due to the special election in the state’s 1st Congressional District. After the death of former Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn in February, both parties will choose their nominees to replace him on Tuesday.

The biggest name in the 10-person Republican field is former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan, who is also Hagedorn’s widow. But both of those connections come with baggage. Carnahan was forced to resign as state party chair last year after a top donor with whom she was close was indicted for child sex trafficking. Though she denied knowledge of the crimes, multiple former party employees also took the opportunity to accuse Carnahan of covering up workplace sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work environment. She was also recorded in December 2020 saying of her husband, “I don’t care. Jim, he’s going to die of cancer in two years. So be it.” Since Hagedorn’s death, his family has also sued her over what they claim is a failure to repay medical expenses.

Carnahan has raised more money ($403,765) than any of her opponents, but she’s closely followed by state Rep. Jeremy Munson ($363,120) and former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad ($244,069). A super PAC affiliated with Sen. Rand Paul has also spent $1.3 million promoting Munson, who is known for his obstructionism in the state legislature. (Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that he’s endorsed by anti-establishment Republicans like Paul and Rep. Jim Jordan, as well as tea-party group FreedomWorks.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, Finstad has benefited from $915,787 from Defending Main Street, a group that works to elect “candidates who are ready to work across the aisle to get things done.” The only polling we’ve seen here is an internal poll from Carnahan’s campaign that gave her the lead, but the poll is more than a month old and didn’t exactly come from an unbiased source in the first place.

On the Democratic side, former Hormel Foods CEO Jeffrey Ettinger looks likely to emerge as the nominee, having outraised his closest rival $423,338 to $36,305. But he’ll face an uphill climb in the Aug. 9 general election: While this southern Minnesota district elected a Democrat as recently as 2016, it rocketed rightward during the 2010s and now has a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean1 of R+14.


And that’s just what’s at stake on Tuesday before we get to Georgia! Our colleague Geoffrey Skelley will be out with a primary preview of the Peach State tomorrow morning. Then our primary coverage will continue on Tuesday night with a live blog of the results as they roll in. We hope you’ll join us!


David Perdue one of many ‘big lie’ supporters running in Georgia | FiveThirtyEight

Footnotes

  1. Partisan lean is the average margin difference between how a state or district votes and how the country votes overall. This version of partisan lean, meant to be used for congressional and gubernatorial elections, is calculated as 50 percent the state or district’s lean relative to the nation in the most recent presidential election, 25 percent its relative lean in the second-most-recent presidential election and 25 percent a custom state-legislative lean.

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

Alex Samuels is a politics reporter at FiveThirtyEight.

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