Republican primary runoffs in Alabama and Georgia on Tuesday will provide more tests of whether Donald Trump’s preferred candidates can advance in strongly conservative areas.
In a Senate election in Alabama, the former president was an eleventh-hour backer of Katie Britt, a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R), after rescinding his initial endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks. The congressman is a staunch Trump ally who finished a distant second to Britt in the first-round primary last month.
Trump also endorsed candidates in two heavily Republican districts in Georgia, where he’s looking for a face-saving win after resoundingly unsuccessful efforts to oust Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Attorney General Chris Carr in Georgia’s first-round primary last month. Trump repeatedly attacked them for not overturning Joe Biden’s legitimate victory in Georgia in the 2020 presidential election.
In Virginia, Republican voters will pick nominees against Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger in highly competitive districts that will help determine which party wins a majority of House seats on Nov. 8. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter rates both districts as tossups. Luria and Spanberger helped Democrats win a majority in the 2018 election.
Here’s a look at key races to watch. The 2020 presidential election vote percentages for Biden and Trump are noted parenthetically.
Senate (Trump won Alabama 62%-37%): The Britt-Brooks runoff is, in effect, the general election for Shelby’s seat in strongly conservative Alabama.
Britt, previously president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, led Brooks 45%-29% in the first-round primary, with most of the rest of the vote going to Mike Durant, a former Army helicopter pilot involved in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia. Durant declined to make an endorsement in the Britt-Brooks runoff.
Britt has run a front-runner’s campaign, declining a runoff debate with Brooks. She’s also raised money like one. Her backers include the American Bankers Association, billionaire investor Paul Singer, and allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a frequent target of Brooks’ criticism in fundraising missives.
Trump formally endorsed Britt on June 10, almost three months after he withdrew his original endorsement of Brooks, a combative pro-Trump conservative who spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Trump cited Brooks’ remarks to Trump rallygoers last August to put the 2020 election “behind you” and to focus on 2022 and 2024. Yet Trump didn’t rescind his endorsement until seven months after Brooks made those comments. Brooks’ struggles in the polls threatened to embarrass Trump, who’s mindful of his win-loss endorsement record in Republican primaries.
5th District (Trump 62%-35%): In the GOP-friendly Huntsville-area district Brooks is giving up, Republican voters will decide between Dale Strong, chair of the Madison County Commission in Huntsville, and Casey Wardynski, a retired US Army colonel. Strong led Wardynski 45%-23% in the first-round primary.
The PACs of the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Realtors aided Strong, while the political arm of the House Freedom Caucus supported Wardynski.
2nd District (Biden 55%-44%): Jeremy Hunt (R) and Chris West (R) are vying to oppose Rep. Sanford Bishop (D), a 15-term House member and the House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee chair who’s one the most senior Black lawmakers in Congress.
Hunt, a West Point graduate who’s also Black, led West, a real estate developer and Air Force veteran, 37% to 30% in the first-round Republican primary on May 24. Hunt’s supporters include Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Army veteran who may run for president in 2024.
West said Hunt has thin ties to the 2nd District and relied too much on campaign money outside the district. At a candidate debate, West tried to get Hunt to identify the counties of three Georgia towns. Hunt “just moved here three months ago” and is “bought and paid for by Washington, D.C., special interests,” West said.
Hunt said he visited all 30 counties in the district and was the top vote-getter in 22 of them in the first primary. He touted backing from farmers and sheriffs and said he visited Black churches that had never before heard from a Republican candidate. “I can build the coalitions it will take to flip this seat,” Hunt said.
The 2nd District encompasses southwestern Georgia and is Black-plurality. Redistricting led by the Republican legislature made the district a little less Democratic-leaning.
6th District (Trump 57%-42%): A Republican runoff in the suburbs and exurbs north of Atlanta pits Rich McCormick, a surgeon and a veteran of the Navy and Marine Corps, against the Trump-endorsed Jake Evans, a lawyer who formerly led Georgia’s ethics commission. McCormick led Evans 43%-23% in the first primary.
McCormick’s outside allies include a super PAC called School Freedom Fund that’s allied with the conservative Club for Growth and is funded by billionaire Jeff Yass. Evans is a beneficiary of a super PAC financed primarily by his father Randy Evans, a well-connected Georgia lawyer who was Trump’s US ambassador to Luxembourg. Jake Evans gave $90,000 to his campaign on June 10.
In a district this Republican, McCormick or Evans probably will be the 6th’s House member next year. Redistricting converted the 6th from a swing district to a Republican bastion and led Rep. Lucy McBath (D) to seek re-election in the strongly Democratic 7th District. McBath easily defeated Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in the primary.
McCormick narrowly lost to Bourdeaux in 2020 in a more competitive orientation of the 7th District, leading Evans to brand McCormick as a “failed politician.” McCormick attacked Evans for writing an essay in a 2015 law review that noted racial disparities in the criminal justice system and called for “reallocating public funding from the criminal justice system to the public education system.”
10th District (Trump 61%-38%): This staunchly Republican district that runs from east of Atlanta to the South Carolina border. The all-important Republican runoff pits Mike Collins, a trucking company executive, against Vernon Jones, a Black former Democrat who previously served in the state legislature. Collins led Jones 26%-22% in the first primary.
Both men are running on strongly conservative platforms that include opposition to abortion without exception.
The runoff also is a proxy fight between Trump, who endorsed Jones, and Kemp, who backed Collins, a son of former Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.).
“I’ve been Trump-endorsed, Trump-vetted, and Trump-trusted,” Jones said at a candidate debate during which he repeatedly attacked Collins for how he campaigned in a 2014 Republican runoff against Jody Hice, who won the election. Hice left open the 10th District to pursue an ultimately unsuccessful bid to unseat Raffensperger.
Collins said he was an “unapologetically pro-Trump, America First agenda candidate” and referred to Jones as a “con man” and a “corrupt, 30-year career politician.” Collins said Congress would benefit from his background in the transportation industry.
2nd District (Biden 50%-48%): Luria is likely to face state Sen. Jen Kiggans (R) in a swing district that includes Virginia Beach. Both women are Navy veterans, like many who live in this area of southeastern Virginia.
Kiggans, a geriatric nurse practitioner who was a helicopter pilot in the Navy, is the preferred candidate of House Republican leaders including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (Minn.)
Her three opponents in the primary include Jarome Bell, a retired Navy officer and self-described “America First” Trump-aligned conservative who said the government should “execute all involved” with fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Bell’s supporters include Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Luria was re-elected 52%-46% in 2020 over ex-Rep. Scott Taylor (R), whom she unseated in 2018, and can expect a tougher race after redistricting made the 2nd District a little more friendly to Republicans in part by shedding its share of strongly Democratic Norfolk.
Luria sits on the Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans’ Affairs committees and leads the Veterans’ Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee. She’s also a member of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters.
7th District (Biden 52%-46%): Six Republicans are vying to oppose Spanberger in a district that includes territory between Richmond and Washington.
The best-funded is state Sen. Bryce Reeves, an Army veteran. His donors include former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the political arm of the National Rifle Association, and state Rep. Nick Freitas, who almost unseated Spanberger in 2020.
Reeves’ rivals for the nomination include Yesli Vega, a member of the Board of County Supervisors in Prince William County and a former police officer. An ad from Truth and Courage PAC, a super PAC supporting Vega that says it formed to train and rally conservative activists, called her a “conservative that can win” and the “Trump conservative we need.”
Derrick Anderson, a former Army “Green Beret” who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, received donations from Reps. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), August Pfluger (R-Texas), and Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who also are military veterans. Crystal Vanuch, the chair of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, loaned her campaign $400,000.
Spanberger is seeking re-election in a district that’s more Democratic-friendly but substantially different geographically than her current district, where most people live in Chesterfield and Henrico counties near Richmond. In the new 7th, most people live in Prince William, Stafford, and Spotsylvania counties., and more than 75% of the people are new to Spanberger.
Spanberger had $4.3 million in cash on hand on June 1. A member of the Agriculture Committee, Spanberger was an author of a bill (H.R. 7606) the House passed on June 16 that was meant to address food and fuel costs in part by providing emergency funding and helping the government respond to agriculture and food supply chain disruptions.
10th District (Biden 58%-40%): Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) is unopposed in the primary and will face Hung Cao (R), a retired Navy officer and Vietnamese immigrant. Cao was nominated last month in a party-run “firehouse primary” using ranked-choice voting. Virginia law allows each party in each congressional district to choose how to select its general-election nominee.
Wexton is more politically secure than Luria and Spanberger, though the DCCC placed her on its Frontline list in January, less than three months after Glenn Youngkin (R) was elected governor of Virginia. Youngkin lost the 10th 51%-49%.
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at email@example.com