Trump’s bid to reshape the GOP faces its biggest hurdles in Georgia

Donald Trump is hoping to avoid a crushing defeat in the Georgia gubernatorial race on Tuesday as Republican primary voters decide the fate of the former president’s hand-picked nominee to spearhead one of the most competitive political battlegrounds in the United States

A total of five states vote, including Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and Minnesota. But none has been more consumed by Trump and his lie that the 2020 election was stolen than Georgia.

After incumbent GOP Gov. Brian Kemp refused to accept Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud in Georgia, he sought revenge by personally recruiting former Republican Sen. David Perdue to provide a key challenge. But that could prove to be a bad bet as Kemp has emerged as a powerful fundraiser who has reaped the benefits of tenure. In the final days of the campaign, he unveiled a $5.5 billion Hyundai Motor plant near Savannah that will employ 8,100 people.

On the eve of the election, Perdue’s allies braced themselves for a one-sided defeat, the only question being whether Kemp would win the 50 percent majority he needs to avoid a runoff next month.

“We’re not going to have a runoff,” said Matha Zoller, a longtime Republican activist and talk show host in northeast Georgia with ties to Trump and Perdue. “It’s going to be embarrassing.”

The results could raise questions about where the power lies within the GOP. While Trump remains hugely popular with the party’s most loyal voters, the opening stretch of mid-term election season has shown that they don’t always side with him. Meanwhile, other prominent Republicans are growing more assertive.

In a clear example of the divide among top Republicans, Trump’s own Vice President Mike Pence rallied with Kemp in the Atlanta suburbs Monday night.

“Elections are about the future,” he told the crowd, adding, “If you vote for Brian Kemp tomorrow, you will be saying yes to a future of freedom here in Georgia.” They will say yes to our most cherished values ​​at the heart of everything we hold dear.”

For his part, Perdue ended the day by saying that Stacey Abrams, who is black and is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for governor, “had demeaned her own race.”

Republicans have ramped up their criticism of Abrams since she said at a Democrat dinner on Saturday, “I’m tired of hearing that we’re the best state in the country to do business when we’re the worst state in the country.” to life.” Abrams said her comments were intended to address Georgia’s dismal rankings for mental health access and maternal mortality.

But in an interview Monday with conservative radio host John Fredericks and former Trump adviser Peter Navarro, Perdue went further. He compared the comment to statements by Abrams in 2018, in which he argued, “People shouldn’t have to go into farming or hospitality to make a living in Georgia.” He claimed it was referring to black farmers .

“When she told black farmers you don’t have to be on the farm, and when she said black workers in hospitality and all that … she demeans her own race when it comes to that,” Perdue said.

Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats elsewhere are grappling with ideological and strategic divisions that will determine what type of candidates to nominate and what issues to prioritize for November’s general election.

Democrats have been particularly focused on a runoff in South Texas, where longtime incumbent Congressman Henry Cuellar faces a fierce challenge from progressive Jessica Cisneros in a race in which abortion is a prominent issue. Cuellar is the last anti-abortion Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Republicans will also decide a number of lesser-known primaries.

In Arkansas, former Trump aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to claim the Republican gubernatorial nomination. And in Alabama, conservative arsonist Rep. Mo Brooks is running to represent the GOP in the race to succeed retired Senator Richard Shelby. Brooks, a leading figure at the Jan. 6 “stop the steal” rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, initially won Trump’s endorsement, though Trump rescinded it after seeing Brooks struggle in the polls.

No state has a more consequential election this week than Georgia, a longtime Republican stronghold that turned Democrat in the last election. Biden defeated Trump in Georgia in 2020 by a total of less than 12,000 votes, and Democrats narrowly won both Senate seats two months later.

This year has seen Trump’s obsession with his 2020 defeat over the Republican primary for governor, senate and secretary of state.

Trump-backed former NFL star Herschel Walker is poised to win the Georgia GOP Senate nomination after fending off conservative opponents who have raised questions about his history of domestic violence. Walker would face Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock this fall.

Leading Trump ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is also expected to win her primary in the state’s 14th congressional district, despite a first term marred by conspiracy theories and controversy.

On the Democratic side in Georgia, two incumbent congressmen, Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux, squared off in suburban Atlanta and were forced into a rare primary from incumbent to incumbent after Republicans redrawn the congressional map.

Meanwhile, the Republican primary in Georgia for governor — and the competition for the GOP’s secretary of state — will have a direct impact on Georgia’s electoral system for the 2024 presidential race.

In a show of defiance against Trump, the Republican governors of Arizona, Nebraska and Maryland have rallied behind Kemp, who refused to back Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election in Georgia and other swing states was stolen.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan suggested that a Kemp win would send a clear message to Trump.

“If Brian Kemp prevails on Tuesday, he will prove that voters want their leaders to focus on the day-to-day issues in their lives, like high gas prices and rising crime, and not give in to another politician’s petty complaints,” Hogan told The Associated Press.

In the GOP primary for Secretary of State, Trump has railed against incumbent GOP President Brad Raffensperger for refusing to back the former president’s direct calls to overturn the 2020 election. Raffensperger faces three main challengers, including Trump-backed Rep. Jody Hice. The winner will serve as Georgia’s chief election officer in the 2024 presidential election.

Tuesday is the first election to be held under new election legislation passed by the Republican-backed state legislature in response to Trump’s baseless complaints. The law complicated mail-in voting, which was popular with Democrats in 2020 amid the pandemic; introduced new voter identification requirements that critics warned could disenfranchise black voters; and expanded early voting in rural areas that typically vote Republicans.

The new law also prohibits the practice of distributing food or water within 150 feet of a polling station, a practice common in urban areas where there are typically long lines to vote.

Early vote numbers in Georgia indicate enormous voter enthusiasm – particularly on the Republican side.

By the end of Friday, 857,401 voters had cast their ballot early, including 795,567 who voted early in person, according to the Secretary of State. That includes 483,149 Republican votes and 368,949 Democrat votes.

These numbers shook the early turnout in the 2020 presidential election, when a total of 254,883 Georgians voted early.

Democrats downplayed the voting differences, noting that the state’s most high-profile contests were played on the Republican side.

“While Democrats unite behind our nominees, Republicans are in chaos as they pursue an extreme agenda and seek to outdo one another as the most MAGA candidate,” said Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee.


Folks reported from Washington. Trump’s bid to reshape the GOP faces its biggest hurdles in Georgia

Bobby Allyn

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