What to watch in Tuesday’s primary, runoff elections

Elections 2022

(NewsNation) — Voters head to the polls Tuesday in Virginia and Washington, D.C., for primary elections. Also, runoff elections in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia are heating up and hitting headlines due to former President Donald Trump’s endorsement drama.

Alabama is holding contests Tuesday at the midpoint of a primary season that has been influenced by Trump’s effort to shape the GOP.

And in Georgia, Democrats will settle several close races, including deciding which Dem will challenge Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state who overcame a Trump-backed challenger last month.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser is seeking reelection amid concerns over homelessness and rising crime.

Alabama

The Alabama Senate runoff has drawn particular attention, both because of the drama surrounding Trump’s endorsement and the fact that the winner will likely prevail in November in a state Trump won twice by more than 25 percentage points.

Trump initially endorsed Mo Brooks in the spring of 2021, rewarding an ardent champion of his baseless claims of a stolen election. Brooks had voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s victory and delivered a fiery speech at the rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol insurrection, telling the crowd, “Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”

But nearly a year later, Trump rescinded his support after the pair’s relationship soured and as the conservative firebrand languished in the polls. Trump attributed his decision to comments Brooks had made months earlier, at an August rally, when he said it was time for the party to move on from the 2020 presidential race — comments Trump claimed showed Brooks, one of the most conservative members of Congress, had gone “woke.”

But the move was widely seen as an effort by Trump to save face amid other losses, and Brooks alleged that it came after he informed Trump that there was no way to “rescind” the 2020 election, remove Biden from power or hold a new special election for the presidency.

Trump’s un-endorsement was widely expected to end Brooks’ campaign. Instead, Brooks managed to finish second in the state’s May 24 primary, earning 29% of the vote to Katie Britt’s 45% and forcing a runoff.

Brooks tried once again to get Trump to endorse him, but Trump, who has had a mixed record in backing winning candidates, instead chose Britt, Sen. Richard Shelby’s former chief of staff, calling her a “fearless ‘America First’ Warrior.”

While Brooks and Britt have similar views, their race represents a clash between two wings of the party and different generations. Shelby for decades epitomized the old-guard political style, using his clout and relationships to quietly steer federal projects and funding to his home state.

Britt, 40, has the endorsement of Shelby and other establishment Republicans, as well as deep ties to the state’s business community, reflected in her 2-1 fundraising advantage over Brooks.

Brooks, 68, is known for his bombastic oratory style. The six-term congressman was a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and has made his opposition to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a pillar of his campaign, embarking on a “Fire McConnell Tour” of town halls. A super PAC affiliated with McConnell contributed $2 million to a PAC opposing Brooks.

He also has the backing of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who say he would be a needed hard-line addition to the Senate.

“This is a race about conservatives versus the establishment,” Paul said Friday in northern Alabama. “We need a fighter. We’re not going to get it if you send us any old Republican. We need a fighter like Mo Brooks.”

Britt, meanwhile, stresses her own social conservative beliefs and has tried to paint Brooks as a career politician, saying Alabamians want “new blood.”

“President Trump knows that Alabamians are sick and tired of failed, do-nothing career politicians. It’s time for the next generation of conservatives to step up and shake things up in Washington,” she said after Trump’s endorsement.

Brooks has disparaged Britt as a RINO — the GOP pejorative meaning “Republican in name only” — and maintained he is the only one with a proven conservative record.

Turnout in the race is expected to be low, with fewer than 15% of registered voters likely to cast ballots, according to Secretary of State John Merrill.

Arkansas

Arkansas is also holding runoff elections for several races where voters will determine several Republican candidates and Arkansas Supreme Court justices across multiple counties, according to KNWA/KFTA.

Georgia

In Georgia, Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen is trying to defeat former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler in the secretary of state’s race. The winner will face Republican Raffensperger, who rebuffed Trump’s efforts to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state’s 2020 presidential election and beat back a Trump-endorsed challenger in his May 24 primary.

In congressional runoffs, Republican Vernon Jones, a Trump-backed candidate and former Democrat, is competing against trucking company owner Mike Collins for the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District seat east of Atlanta.

Republicans also have high hopes of knocking off 30-year Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop in southwest Georgia’s 2nd District. The GOP is choosing between former Army officer Jeremy Hunt and real estate developer Chris West.

Virginia

In Virginia, voters are set to pick Republican nominees for what is expected to be a pair of the year’s most competitive U.S. House races.

In the coastal 2nd District, state Sen. Jen Kiggans is widely seen as the GOP front-runner in the Republican race to take on Democrat Elaine Luria, a retired Navy commander and member of the House Jan. 6 committee, in the general election. In central Virginia’s 7th District, six candidates are in a competitive race to face Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer.

Washington, D.C.

In the nation’s capital, where Democratic primaries effectively decide winners, Bowser is trying to fend off challenges from a pair of City Council members as the city contends with a rash of crime, including a shooting Sunday in one of Washington’s busiest nightlife destinations that left a 15-year-old dead and a police officer and at least two others wounded.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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