3 key takeaways from Tuesday's primary elections

Historic turnout meant knockout races in Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama and Texas.

May 25, 2022, 1:36 AM

Historic early turnout meant knockout political races in Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama and Texas primary and runoff elections. With the backdrop of another massacre in which at least 19 schoolchildren and two adults were gunned down in a Texas elementary school, voters took to the polls to sign off on the candidates they believe best meet this political moment.

Here are some key takeaways from Tuesday's pivotal races:

Some "big lie" candidates run out of steam

There's never been a bigger test of voters' metabolism for "big lie" candidates than Georgia's GOP primaries.

Gov. Brian Kemp made a vicious split from the former president after he refused to help him overturn 2020 election results in the state that favored President Joe Biden. David Perdue, former senator and Trump endorsee, took up Trump's feud, pillaring the sitting governor for his "lack of action" on so-called election fraud. The attacks were endless but clearly did not resonate with voters, who pushed Kemp to primary victory.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Mike Pence joins Governor Brian Kemp for a campaign rally on the eve of Georgia's primary at the Cobb County International Airport, May 23, 2022, in Kennesaw, Ga.
Former Vice President Mike Pence joins Governor Brian Kemp for a campaign rally on the eve of Georgia's primary at the Cobb County International Airport, May 23, 2022, in Kennesaw, Ga.
Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

In at least three key counties in Georgia where Trump won in both 2016 and 2022 -- Baker, Dooly, and Quitman -- Kemp won by landslide margins, a testament to how little Trump's endorsement can mean when the rubber meets the road.

He'll square up once again with Democrat Stacey Abrams, one of the most vocal voting rights proponents, who will no doubt be quick to link Kemp and Trump's record, regardless of the inter-GOP love lost. It's important to note, though, that even though Kemp does not carry the "big lie" in Perdue-ian ways, he still signed a restrictive voting law and referenced the 2020 election as a reason for doing during a debate.

Still, the Georgia Democratic Party quickly painted Kemp as the "most vulnerable incumbent governor in history" after his race was called.

"As Donald Trump's favorite punching bag, Kemp is stuck with a deeply divided party, and Georgians won't forget his dangerous record of making it easier for criminals to carry guns, passing extreme abortion restrictions, and refusing to expand health care for working families," Executive Director Noam Lee said in a statement.

Looking down the ballot, voters had less appetite for "big lie" firebrand Rep. Jody Hice, serving incumbent Brad Raffensperger a win. Raffensperger was a key character in Trump's attempt to overturn the election, and his patent refusal to "find" approximately 11,780 extra votes in Georgia launched him to national acclaim. Hice not only pushed Trump's disproven election conspiracy, he's also gone so far as to suggest he'd "decertify" the 2020 election -- something patently impossible to do.

Another winning Trump candidate raising questions about election integrity is football star Herschel Walker, who faces a challenge from Democrat Rep. Raphael Warnock in November. Without saying the election was outright stolen, Walker has hedged, telling reporters that "everyone knows that something happened in the election."

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the most conservative members in the House and one of the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the general election results, also won her district's primary elections.

Now, it's up to voters in Georgia's general election to see just how large the "big lie" will loom come November.

Political dynasties live and die

As one political dynasty dies, another emerges. The Bush family's political reach may have seen its end Tuesday, with the loss of George P. Bush, the fourth-generation Bush family elected official and eldest son of former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, in his runoff bid for attorney general. Bush, the current Texas land commissioner, tried and failed to snag Trump's endorsement, which went to the winner, incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton. Regardless of his family's deep ties to Texas politics, Bush was unable to prevail.

PHOTO: Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders speaks at a campaign stop at a Dairy Queen in Little Rock, Ark., May 2, 2022.
Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders speaks at a campaign stop at a Dairy Queen in Little Rock, Ark., May 2, 2022.
Andrew Demillo/AP, FILE

But another dynasty lives on in Arkansas, with former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders decidedly winning her primary bid for governor. Her victory underscores a dual legacy. Not only is her father Mike Huckabee, the former governor of the state, he's also had a prominent political career and ran for president in both 2008 and 2016. Her association with Trump means another win on his midterm scorecard (for those keeping track).

Gun violence candidate advances amid horror

Atlanta area Rep. Lucy McBath, who was forced to abandon her home district and run in the neighboring congressional district, decidedly won her race against Carolyn Bordeaux. McBath's race was only one of five incumbent-on-incumbent battles this midterm cycle, making it a must-see for those following the impacts of gerrymandering.

McBath has long championed gun reform, garnering serious monetary support from outside groups on that issue. Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety threw $1 million at her campaign by way of a TV advertisement in the closing weeks of the primary.

Her win came just hours after a gruesome and deadly shooting in Texas killed at least 19 children and two adults who were gunned down at an elementary school and amid a month filled with gunfire. Just last week, a white man killed 10 Black people in a racially motivated slaughter in a Buffalo supermarket.

Addressing supporters Tuesday night, McBath decried the shooting in Texas and spoke plainly on the gut-wrenching impact on families. McBath lost her teenage son to gun violence in 2012.

"We paid for unfettered gun access with phone calls to mothers and fathers who gasped for air when their desperation would not let them breathe. Who have sunk to their knees when their agony would not let them stand."

McBath then spoke about her son Jordan, adding, "And across the country, from Uvalde to Sandy Hook, to Charleston to Buffalo, the violence that took my son is being replayed with casual callousness and despicable frequency."

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