On Tuesday, Republican voters of the states of Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia selected the nominees for the November midterm elections. In the first couple of states, voters went to the polls again to decide the final nominee after a slew of elections could not be decided in the first round of the vote and went to a runoff. The result of Tuesday’s GOP primaries is critical to understanding the fight for Congress in the incoming midterms.
In Alabama, the most important race was the runoff election between Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Katie Britt for the Senate, which opened after current Senator Richard Shelby announced his retirement earlier this year. In Georgia, Republicans chose the nominees for three safe red seats in the peach state, while in Virginia the Republicans were to decide who would run two highly competitive seats in November.
Trump’s losing streak in Georgia continues, but he did better in Alabama
All eyes were concentrated on how Trump-endorsed nominees would fare during the primaries, as the former President has offered a long list of endorsements in congressional primary races across the nation. The effectiveness of Trump’s endorsement picks has been seen by many as a barometer of the level of influence the former president has on the current GOP.
Before Tuesday, the President’s record was mostly positive (a majority of his candidates have won) but with some significant setbacks. He played a significant role in J.D Vance’s victory in the crowded and divisive Ohio Senate Primary, and Dr. Oz, his endorsement for the crucial Pennsylvania Senate race, managed to snatch an important narrow win in the primary. However, Trump’s yearlong campaign against the current governor of Georgia Brian Kemp, and his Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, failed catastrophically last month, after both candidates easily defeated their Trump-endorsed rivals.
On Tuesday, Republican voters in Georgia continued to deliver some blows to Trump’s political capital in the state. Two of the candidates who received Trump’s blessing in their primaries, Vernon Jones and Jake Evans, were defeated in their respective primaries. Jones, a former Democrat State Representative who changed parties after Trump’s first impeachment, lost against Mike Collins by almost 50 points, and Evans lost to Rich McCormick by a 66.5%-33.5% margin.
Trump fared better in Alabama, where his endorsed candidate Katie Britt, Senator Shelby’s former chief of staff, comprehensively defeated (63%-37%) Rep. Mo Brooks for the Republican Senate nomination. Since Alabama is a deep red state, it is practically certain that Britt will replace Richard Shelby next year. Trump’s endorsement of Britt, however, was not his first choice, as he had initially given his support to Brooks before withdrawing it. Britt was also endorsed by the GOP Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The former president remains a powerful voice and presence within the Republican Party, and he has shown that his endorsement might prove to be the definitive factor in close or packed races where there is no clear front-runner. However, the latest results of the Republican primaries in Georgia show that Trump’s hold on the party is not absolute and that his influence has its limits down the ballot.
Hispanic woman wins a crucial race in Tuesday’s GOP Primaries
In the Old Dominion, the Republican voters from the state’s 2nd and 7th Districts elected Jen Kiggins and Yesli Vega as their nominees, they will face Democratic incumbents Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanbergerthis fall, respectively. Both congressional districts are considered to be highly competitive and might very well be crucial in determining the balance of power in the House of Representatives.
Kiggins easily defeated her rival Jarome Bell, winning the primary with a comfortable 28-point-lead. Kiggins, a former Navy helicopter pilot, was endorsed by House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the Congressional Leadership Fund.
The most interesting race, nevertheless, was that of the 7th district. Yesli Vega, a daughter of Salvadorian immigrants who currently serves as a deputy sheriff in Prince William, managed to win a very competitive primary race against a former green beret and a state senator. Vega campaigned on a platform promising law and order and emphasized her own backstory as a daughter of immigrants.
Vega won the three-way race with 28.9% of the vote. Her closest competitor, Derrick Anderson (the former green beret) got 23.8%, and state representative Bryce Reeves came in third with 20.1% of the vote. With this victory, Yesly became the first Latina conservative to ever win a Republican Primary in Virginia and if she defeats Spanberger in November, she will become the first Hispanic member of Congress from Virginia.