8 Primaries and Runoffs To Watch In Alabama, Georgia And Virginia
Wait, haven’t we seen this episode? On Tuesday, voters in Alabama and Georgia head back to the polls for reruns of several races that weren’t decided on May 24. (In those states, if no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters go to a runoff.) In addition, Virginia is holding its regularly scheduled primary. In total, this makes for eight competitive primaries we’re watching.
As has been the case for most primary days so far this year, this week’s drama is focused on the Republican side of the aisle. The GOP has the chance to nominate several candidates of color as part of a larger effort this year to appeal to a more diverse electorate. Former President Donald Trump has also endorsed candidates in three competitive primaries, and he’s surely watching to see whether that’s enough to push them over the finish line. However, the war may already have been won: Regardless of whether they have Trump’s personal support, almost all of the Republicans on the ballot this week share his populist, illiberal vision for the GOP.
Races to watch: 2nd, 6th and 10th congressional districts
Polls close: 7 p.m. Eastern
The Republican primary in Georgia’s 10th District left off on a cliffhanger: Trucking company owner Mike Collins received 26 percent of the vote, while former state Rep. Vernon Jones was close behind, with 22 percent. The runoff has gotten especially nasty, too. Collins’s campaign, for instance, has handed out rape whistles with Jones’s name on them to remind voters that Jones has been accused of rape. They’ve also sent out mailers claiming that Jones, who is Black and whose election would likely result in the highest number of Black Republicans in the House since Reconstruction, is a “radically anti-white racist.”
The Collins campaign has also attacked Jones for being “a corrupt career politician who is actually a Democrat from DeKalb County” (a.k.a. Atlanta). It’s true that Jones did indeed represent DeKalb County, which is miles away from the 10th District, as a Democrat for 20 years in various capacities, but Jones was also a staunch Trump supporter in the 2020 election and has since switched parties. (The reason Jones is running in the 10th is that Trump agreed to endorse him for this open seat in exchange for Jones’s dropping his long-shot campaign for governor, where he was siphoning votes away from Trump’s endorsed candidate, former Sen. David Perdue.)
Finally, this runoff has also become a proxy war between Trump and arguably his greatest Peach State nemesis, Gov. Brian Kemp, who endorsed Collins last week. (As you might remember, Trump endorsed Perdue’s failed campaign to oust Kemp because Kemp would not acquiesce to Trump’s wishes to overturn the 2020 election.) However, Collins is far from an anti-Trumper: Like Jones, he believes that voter fraud is the only reason Trump lost the 2020 election. So no matter who wins the runoff, the district’s dark-red hue all but guarantees the former president a new ally in Congress.
While the 10th District runoff is unpredictable as we don’t have any polling of the race, Trump’s pick in the Republican runoff for Georgia’s 6th District looks like the underdog. In early May, Trump endorsed attorney Jake Evans, who also happens to be the son of Trump’s former ambassador to Luxembourg. However, physician Rich McCormick outpaced Evans in the May 24 primary, 43 percent to 23 percent.
‘Big lie’ believers sure to win runoffs in Georgia and Alabama | FiveThirtyEight
This may be a case of voters seeing through Trump’s endorsement and preferring the candidate who is Trumpier on the merits. While Evans has said that “[w]e will never know whether [there] were sufficient legal votes to overturn” the 2020 election, McCormick still has not conceded his 2020 campaign for Congress, believing himself to be the victim of voter fraud.
Or it could just be a testament to the power of money in politics: McCormick has raised almost twice as much money as Evans, and School Freedom Fund, a super PAC allied with the Club for Growth, has spent $1.3 million to help McCormick win. Trump’s endorsed candidate beat the Club for Growth’s endorsed candidate the two previous times the two GOP juggernauts went head to head this cycle, but it looks like the third time might be the charm for the Club. Regardless, the winner here on Tuesday will almost certainly flip this seat red in November, as it was redrawn in redistricting to have a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean1 of R+24.
Redistricting also gave southwest Georgia’s 2nd District a more competitive (D+4) partisan lean, giving Republicans hope that the right GOP nominee can beat Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop. Jeremy Hunt seems perfectly cast for the role: A Black Army veteran who would not only make the House GOP caucus more racially diverse but also potentially appeal to the district’s sizable Black population. However, Hunt mustered only 37 percent in the primary, setting up a runoff with attorney Chris West, who received 30 percent.
West has attacked Hunt for being a recent transplant to the district, but in this era of nationalized politics, what might matter more is Hunt’s national profile: He has appeared on Fox programs 15 times since January, and major party figures like former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have campaigned for him. There haven’t been any public polls of the race, but Hunt has also raised way more money than West, $770,493 to $286,691.
Races to watch: 2nd and 7th congressional districts
Polls close: 7 p.m. Eastern
Virginia is the sole state holding its regular primary this week — but only for some offices. The commonwealth allows parties to nominate candidates at conventions or via party-run (as opposed to state-run) primaries if they want, and the GOP took this option in both noncompetitive seats, like the 5th, 8th and 11th districts, as well as in competitive seats, like the 10th District, where they nominated Navy veteran Hung Cao last month.
However, Republicans are still holding primaries for two seats they have high hopes of flipping in November. One of those is the 2nd District, a R+6 seat currently represented by Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria. Luria was a strong Democratic recruit when she first won the seat in 2018 — a Navy veteran in a seat anchored by the Navy towns of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
Now, national Republicans are trying the same strategy, as they’ve consolidated around state Sen. Jen Kiggans, a former Navy helicopter pilot: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Congressional Leadership Fund have both endorsed her. However, fellow Navy veteran Jarome Bell has gotten a smattering of support from the Trumpier wing of the party, including Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Bell believes not only that the 2020 election was stolen but also that the people responsible should be executed for treason. His nomination would likely make it harder for Republicans to flip this light-red seat, but luckily for them, Kiggans looks like the favorite: She has outraised Bell $1.3 million to $492,051, and a poll from a pro-Kiggans group gave her a 35-percentage-point lead over Bell last month.
Republicans are also targeting Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s 7th District, which has a partisan lean of D+2. Unlike in the 2nd District, the GOP nomination here is wide open: Four candidates have raised at least $500,000, and we don’t have any public polling to suggest who might be leading.
State Sen. Bryce Reeves is the top fundraiser with $680,511, and he has the support of prominent figures in what was once the tea party movement, such as Sen. Mike Lee and FreedomWorks. However, the right is apparently divided on this race, as Sen. Ted Cruz, former state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife and conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas are backing Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega. If elected, Vega would be the first Hispanic member of Congress from Virginia.
Sen. Tom Cotton, a potential 2024 presidential candidate who has spent the cycle trying to elect more military veterans, has also endorsed former Green Beret Derrick Anderson. The fourth serious contender is Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chair Crystal Vanuch, although she had spent significantly less money ($99,856) than the other three as of June 1.
Races to watch: U.S. Senate, 5th Congressional District, secretary of state
Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern
Previously on “the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Alabama,” Trump had endorsed loyalist Rep. Mo Brooks, then unendorsed him after he lost an early polling lead to former Business Council of Alabama President Katie Britt. However, Brooks’s campaign recovered enough to make a runoff with Britt: He received 29 percent of the vote on May 24 to Britt’s 45 percent, beating out Army veteran Mike Durant (23 percent) for second place.
That result puts Britt well within striking range of a majority, and she has one advantage in the runoff that she didn’t in the first round: Trump’s endorsement. This has given her a solid lead in polls of the runoff. For example, an Emerson College poll from June 12-15 gave Britt 50 percent and Brooks 34 percent; when undecided voters were pushed to pick a candidate, Britt’s lead widened, with her getting 59 percent to Brooks’s 41 percent.
Additionally, whoever wins on Tuesday should waltz into office in November in this deep-red state, replacing retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. Based on their reputations entering the race, you’d expect Britt to be a more pragmatic senator like Shelby (in whose office she used to work), while Brooks would be more of a pro-Trump bombthrower, but the way the primary has evolved has inverted these images somewhat. Britt has fully sided with Trump on not wanting to certify the 2020 election (Shelby voted to certify), while Brooks responded to Trump’s snub of him by claiming that he stood up to the former president’s illegal demands that Brooks help him rescind the election result (though, to be clear, Brooks still believes the election was stolen).
There is also a Republican runoff on Tuesday for Brooks’s old 5th District, a safely Republican seat in northern Alabama. Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong had been criticized for relocating a local Confederate memorial, but it apparently didn’t hurt him too badly in the May 24 primary, when he took a strong first place, with 45 percent of the vote. Former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Casey Wardynski, who is aligned with the die-hard conservative House Freedom Caucus, came in second, with 23 percent. A post-primary poll of the runoff gave them similar numbers (Strong with 46 percent, Wardynski with 31 percent), so Strong’s path to victory on Tuesday looks a lot shorter.
Finally, the winner of the GOP runoff for secretary of state will almost certainly become Alabama’s new top election official. And though the specific winner is still up in the air, we already know it will be someone who gives credence to baseless claims of voter fraud. State Rep. Wes Allen has pledged to withdraw Alabama from the Electronic Registration Information Center, a tool that shares voter-registration data among states and has become the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories, while state Auditor Jim Zeigler has said that “extremely concerning questions remain” about the 2020 results in key swing states.
The May primary was very close — Zeigler received 43 percent of the vote and Allen received 40 percent — and the runoff looks like a toss-up too. A June 6-9 poll of the runoff from McLaughlin & Associates put Zeigler at 34 percent and Allen at 28 percent, with a plurality of voters undecided.
As always, we’ll be live-blogging the results of these primaries on Tuesday night as the votes are tallied. We hope you’ll tune in!