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9 primary races to watch Tuesday in Georgia, Texas, Alabama and Arkansas

Four states hold primary contests Tuesday, including runoff elections in Texas.

Georgia holds the political spotlight, as the endorsement power of former President Donald Trump faces its biggest test yet — and likely its largest failure — as Democrats also seek a path to flip the state's control from a divided GOP.

Trump has endorsed a slew of Georgia candidates — including lesser-known, down-ballot races like insurance commissioner — in the state where he faces a criminal probe after a January 2021 call in which he asked Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" some 12,000 votes to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

Here are Tuesday's key races to watch:

1. Georgia Governor

Ahead by a wide margin in polling and fundraising, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp is poised to fend off Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue, who ran at Trump's behest and centered his campaign around false claims about the 2020 election.

In the aftermath of 2020, no Republican governor has faced more attacks from Trump than Kemp, who certified the state's presidential results and refused to overturn them.

But Perdue's bid has failed to gain traction, as Kemp leaned into a conservative record that includes pay raises for state employees and teachers, easing of restrictions on firearms, stricter election rules and one of the toughest abortion laws in the country.

In the closing days of the election, Kemp was joined on the campaign trail by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Vice President Mike Pence, who called Kemp "one of the most successful conservative governors in America."

If Kemp wins the primary, he will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in a rematch from 2018, where Kemp narrowly won by about 55,000 votes.

2. Georgia Senate

Herschel Walker is likely to emerge from the Republican primary for Georgia U.S. Senate.
Megan Varner / Getty Images
Getty Images
Herschel Walker is likely to emerge from the Republican primary for Georgia U.S. Senate.

Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock helped Democrats gain control of the U.S. Senate after winning runoffs in January 2021, and Warnock's seat is on the ballot again, with control of the chamber on the line again.

On the Republican side, former football star Herschel Walker, who has Trump's endorsement, is expected to dominate the primary in spite of concerns about past violent behavior toward women, overstated business dealings and a campaign that has largely avoided answering questions or holding public events.

Walker's other opponents, including Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and military veteran Latham Saddler, warn that Walker would not be able to beat Warnock in November and are hoping to drag Walker into a June runoff election, through polls show Walker comfortably ahead of the 50% threshold.

3. Georgia Secretary of State

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger faces a GOP challenge from Rep. Jody Hice.
Ron Harris / AP
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger faces a GOP challenge from Rep. Jody Hice.

Raffensperger faces one of the strongest primary challenges in Georgia over his certification of the 2020 election and pushback against false election claims. Trump-endorsed Rep. Jody Hice, who objected to the 2020 election results during the counting of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021, has pushed debunked narratives of widespread voter fraud and attacked Raffensperger

It's one of several secretary of state races across the country that feature election deniers seeking to control state election offices, and a stream of misinformation about Georgia's voting laws has turned many voters against Raffensperger.

But the incumbent has been buoyed in recent weeks by reports of record early voting turnout in Georgia with a smooth election process, and potentially by nearly 40,000 voters who cast Democratic primary ballots in 2020 but Republican ones in 2022, many who have said they plan to vote against Georgia's Trump slate.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Bee Nguyen leads a crowded field of candidates for the party's nomination.

4. Alabama Senate

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby is retiring, and the race to replace him is looking very likely to lead to a runoff on June 21. So far, three candidates are polling closely but none is expected to win the required more than 50% of the vote.

Katie Britt, who used to work for Shelby and is a former head of the Business Council of Alabama, has a slight lead in surveys over Army veteran Mike Durant and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks. Trump had endorsed Brooks but rescinded it, after the congressman said it was time to get past the 2020 election and look toward the future.

5. Texas' 28th Congressional District

Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar faces a primary challenge from progressive candidate Jessica Cisneros.
/ Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images; Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images; Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar faces a primary challenge from progressive candidate Jessica Cisneros.

There are one-on-one runoffs Tuesday for both Democrats and Republicans in Texas' 28th Congressional District.

A highly contested race between longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros has drawn endorsements from national figures and sets up a stark divide in the party. Cisneros is backed by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Cuellar, meanwhile, is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, especially when it comes to issues of immigrationand abortion.

Cisneros first challenged Cuellar in 2020 and well outraised the incumbent in that contest. And after an FBI raid on Cuellar's home earlier this year, Cisneros saw another boost in funds in this year's race.

For Republicans, Cassy Garcia, a former staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz whom he endorsed, is up against Sandra Whitten, who has previously run against Cuellar in the general election. Many voters in the Hispanic-majority district remain socially conservative — giving Republicans an opportunity to flip the seat red in the South Texas region that's been trending more their way.

6. Georgia's 7th Congressional District

In Georgia, Republican-drawn maps for Congress took away one seat in Atlanta's fast-growing suburbs and set up a fierce member-on-member Democratic primary between Rep. Lucy McBath and Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux.

McBath was first elected in the 6th District as a strong gun violence prevention advocate after her son Jordan Davis was shot and killed in 2012, but new district lines made reelection all but impossible. So now McBath is running in the 7th District, currently held by moderate Blue Dog Democrat Bourdeaux.

Bourdeaux, the only Democrat to flip a House seat in 2020, is not seen as the frontrunner after her new district lines were reconfigured to include a more progressive electorate centered in fast-growing and diverse Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta.

7. Alabama Governor

Incumbent Republican Gov. Kay Ivey faces primary challengers in a race that may also lead to a runoff. Tim James, a businessman and son of one of the state's former governors, and Lindy Blanchard, a former ambassador in the Trump administration, are not polling nearly as well as Ivey but could still prevent her from reaching the 50% threshold on Tuesday.

8. Arkansas Governor

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appears on Fox News in this 2019 file photo.
Richard Drew / AP
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appears on Fox News in this 2019 file photo.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running for governor in Arkansas and is heavily favored to be the nominee to replace incumbent Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is term-limited. Her lone primary opponent is Doc Washburn, who has trailed well behind the former White House press secretary.

Trump endorsed Sanders early on, in January 2021 right after he left the White House. The next month, Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who was also running for governor, dropped out to run for attorney general instead.

9. Texas Attorney General

Texas voters have a runoffon both sides in the race for state attorney general.

On the GOP ballot, incumbent Ken Paxton faces George P. Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush and the state's land commissioner. Paxton won a plurality of the vote in the primary but is facing a number of accusations, including for corruption, drawing criticism from other Republicans in the state.

Trump has backed Paxton in what could be another blow to the Bush political dynasty.

For Democrats, former ACLU lawyer Rochelle Garza, who won the larger share of the vote in the March primary, faces Joe Jaworski, a former Galveston mayor.

Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler reported from Georgia.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Fowler is the Producer/Back-Up Host for All Things Considered and a creative storyteller hailing from McDonough, Georgia. He graduated from Emory University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. The program combined the best parts of journalism, marketing, digital media and music into a thesis on the rise of the internet rapper via the intersectionality of social media and hip-hop. He served as the first-ever Executive Digital Editor of The Emory Wheel, where he helped lead the paper into a modern digital era.
Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.

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