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Wake Up To Politics - May 24, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Today’s primaries to watch
Wake Up To Politics - May 24, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 168 days away. Election Day 2024 is 896 days away.

Here at Wake Up To Politics, there’s nothing we love more than an Election Day. So I’m so glad you’re joining us for yet another fascinating set of primaries: voters head to the polls in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, and Minnesota today.

Below, I’ll highlight the primary on each side of the aisle I’ll be watching most closely today — and then round up a few more contests that you should know about.

Thanks so much for reading, and happy voting to those in today’s primary states...

Primary preview: Top races to watch tonight

Here are today’s top primaries to keep your eyes on, across the five states headed to the polls:

Today’s GOP primary to watch

The most interesting Republican primary going on today is in Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp faces a primary challenge from former Sen. David Perdue.

You might remember Perdue from last year’s Senate runoffs in Georgia, when he lost to Sen. John Ossoff in a race that tipped control of the Senate to the Democrats.

Now he’s back in the political arena, mounting a gubernatorial campaign that has been all about Trump: he was recruited to run by the former president, and his bid has centered around the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

Kemp was first elected to the governorship in 2018 with Trump’s support, but vaulted to the top of the ex-president’s enemy’s list after certifying Biden’s pivotal 2020 victory in Georgia.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp faces a Trump-backed primary challenge today. (Bryant Wine / U.S. National Guard)

The Kemp vs. Perdue primary fight has become something of a proxy battle for the future of the GOP, with “old guard” Republicans like former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lining up to bolster Kemp, despite Trump’s vendetta.

Pence, in particular, drew attention with a Kemp rally outside Atlanta last night, one of his most direct acts of defiance against his onetime running mate as they both consider 2024 presidential bids.

According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Kemp boasts a double-digit lead in the primary, 56%-34%. NBC News reported last week that Trump has largely given up on Perdue’s campaign, unwilling to sink any more “ his own political capital in a race that looks like a lost cause.” (Trump denied that characterization.)

If Kemp does win tonight by such a large margin, it will be regarded as the latest blow to Trump in a primary season that been a mixed bag for him — and as a sign that Republicans are not as invested in Trump’s election lies as he is. Or, at the very least, that those lies aren’t enough to win an election off of alone.

Today’s Democratic primary to watch

Moving over to the Democratic side of the aisle, the top race I’ll be keeping my eyes on is today’s primary runoff in Texas’ 28th congressional district.

The race has gained renewed attention after Politico’s leak earlier this month of the Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, since Rep. Henry Cuellar — the incumbent in the race — is the last remaining House Democrat who doesn’t support abortion rights.

Cuellar is facing off against progressive immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, who also ran against him in 2020. That year, he beat her in the primary 52%-48%. This time around, in the first stage of voting, the race was even closer: the March primary was 49%-47%, with Cuellar winning just 1,000 more votes than her.

Because neither one of them won a majority, Texas law mandates a runoff, which will be held today. The likelihood of the Supreme Court striking down Roe has fueled new energy into Cisneros’ primary challenge, which has been endorsed by progressive leaders like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar is the last anti-abortion rights Democrat in the House. (Lance Cheung / U.S. Agriculture Department)

Cuellar, on the other hand, has retained the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other top Democrats, who have refused to drop the incumbent over his stance on abortion. They view the moderate Cuellar, 66, as more electable than the left-wing Cisneros, 29, in a south Texas district that Biden won 52%-47%.

However, Cuellar has his own vulnerability that could hurt him in a general election: he is currently under investigation by the FBI over his ties to Azerbaijan. The congressman has denied any wrongdoing, although the FBI raided his home as part of a federal grand jury probe earlier this year.

But, especially in its final weeks, this runoff race has focused on abortion, and tonight’s result will provide an early test of Democratic organizing around the issue. Will pro-abortion rights energy and fundraising be enough to topple an eight-term incumbent? If so, that could provide a clue for whether or not it will be enough to help boost Democrats at large in November.

A few more key races

In Georgia, as part of his vendetta against officials who certified the 2020 election, Trump is also backing primary challengers against Secretary of State Brian Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr.

You may remember Raffensperger from the infamous 2020 phone call in which Trump pressured him to “find 11,780 votes” to overturn Biden’s victory in the state.

Also in Georgia, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is expected to win renomination over a primary challenger, while Democratic Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath fight it out in a member-on-member primary that has divided the party.

In the state’s battleground Senate race, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican former football star Herschel Walker are poised to coast to win their nominations.

Georgia secretary of state Brian Raffensperger is another target of Trump’s 2020 grievance vendetta. (Raffensperger’s office)

In Alabama, Republican Rep. Mo Brooks has found a “second wind” in the state’s Senate primary after Trump rescinded his endorsement of him earlier this year.

Trump never re-endorsed in the race, which also includes former Senate aide Katie Britt and veteran Mike Durant. (Trump accused Brooks of “going woke” in his un-endorsement, although he remains an ardent backer of the former president’s.)

In Texas, state Attorney General Ken Paxton faces a primary challenge from state Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who is the son of Jeb Bush and grandson of George H.W. Bush.

Today is the runoff primary in the race, which is seen as a “land stand” for the Bush dynasty. Trump has endorsed Paxton, who is under indictment for securities fraud charges.

Finally, in Arkansas, former Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is set to follow in her father’s footsteps and win the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders has gone from being a governor’s daughter to the White House podium to a gubernatorial nominee herself. (Gage Skidmore)

Polls close in Georgia at 7 pm ET, Alabama at 8 pm ET, Arkansas at 8:30 pm ET, and Texas and Minnesota at 9 pm ET.

More news you should know

In Ukraine’s first war crimes trial since the Russian invasion began, a 21-year-old captured Russian soldier was sentenced to life in prison. The soldier had pleaded guilty to killing a 62-year-old Ukrainian civilian.

A Russian diplomat resigned from their United Nations posting in protest of the war. “Never have I been so ashamed of my country,” he wrote.

President Biden’s unclear comments on Taiwan has caused complications for allies and required aides to clarify his policy on the situation for a third time.

The House Ethics Committee announced investigations into three Republican congressmen: Madison Cawthorn (NC), Ronny Jackson (TX), and Alex Mooney (WV). The allegations against them range from misusing campaign funds to engaging in an improper relationship with a staffer.

The Supreme Court issued a ruling that will make it harder for inmates to prove in federal court that their lawyers were ineffective at the state level. The justices were split 6-3, along ideological lines.

In Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary, Trump-backed television star Mehmet Oz now leads former hedge fund executive David McCormick by just 992 votes. McCormick is suing for undated mail-in ballots to be counted. With about 5,000 ballots outstanding, a recount is expected in the race.

21-year-old Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin, who was sentenced to life in prison Monday for committing war crimes. (Iryna Venediktova / Twitter)

What’s going on in Washington today

President Biden is currently on his way home from Japan. He’ll stop to refuel in Alaska this afternoon and then arrive back at the White House late tonight.

  • Catch up: On his final day in Japan (which was overnight in the U.S.), Biden held meetings with the prime ministers of Japan, India, and Australia (the other “Quad” nations). He also met with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who has been one of the key holdouts in condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Vice President Harris will ceremonially swear in Alina Romanowski as U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Deborah Lipstadt as U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism. Later, she’ll deliver remarks at a gala hosted by the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

The Senate will vote on confirming Stephanie Dawkins Davis to be a U.S. circuit judge and on advancing the nomination of Dara Lindenbaum to be a member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The House will briefly convene for a pro forma session, a quick meeting in which no business is conducted and few members attend. The chamber is not set to return for a full session until June 7.

The Supreme Court has nothing on the agenda for the day.

Links to watch for yourself (with start times, all ET): Senate session (10 am) • House pro forma (10 am) • Harris gala speech (7:20 pm)

Before I go...

Every once in a while, I like to share a snapshot of what I’m doing and seeing here in D.C.

This one was by accident: yesterday, I was walking in Rosslyn, Virginia — right across the Potomac from the capital — and I happened upon this plaque I didn’t know existed.

And that’s how I found what might be the nation’s only parking garage that has altered presidential history. (But if you know of any others, please don’t hesitate to fill me in!)

If you haven’t yet guessed what it is, see the plaque (and a glimpse inside the parking garage itself) below. I just had to share this.

Have you been to any other quirky or little-known historic sites? Tell me in an email and I might include it in the newsletter. (Pictures encouraged!)

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe