Governor (+ Secretary of State)
On Tuesday, Georgia had a streak of pro-incumbent primary results. Incumbent Governor Brian Kemp was resoundingly re-nominated to a second round again Stacey Abrams. He won with 73.7% of the Republican primary vote against Trump-endorsed former Senator David Perdue. This figure exceeds the 69.5% he had won as Georgia’s Trump-endorsed Secretary of State. In his race against Stacey Abrams in November, Split Ticket maintains a rating of Tossup.
In a more shocking rebuke of the former President, Incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was renominated for his position despite widespread expectation that he would be either forced into a runoff, or even defeated outright in the first round in light of Trump’s stiff opposition to the officeholder. Raffensperger certified the results of the narrowly-decided 2020 Presidential Race in spite of Trump’s well-documented effort to have Biden’s victory overturned, even suggesting that Raffensperger tamper with the election results to show otherwise.
Raffensperger won by racking up votes in the Atlanta metro and meeting strong vote shares throughout the rest of the state. Another angle of analysis is that he won majorities in each compenent of the trifecta of voting: the by mail, the early in-person, and the famously-Trumpy election-day vote tranches. This breakdown allowed Split Ticket to make an early call for Raffensperger on Election Night.
Governor Kay Ivey avoided a runoff on Tuesday, winning a 54.4% share of the primary vote, and advancing to the general against whoever wins the Democratic runoff, among Yolanda Flowers and State Senator Malika Sanders-Fortier. This race should end in a Safe Republican result for incumbent Governor Ivey.
Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was easily nominated for governor in the Republican primary. In the fall, she’ll face off against nuclear engineer Chris Jones, who won his own primary decisively. Split Ticket rates the Arkansas gubernatorial race as Safe Republican.
In Arkansas, incumbent Senator John Boozman sailing to re-nomination in the GOP primary, setting the stage for what should be an easy general election victory in a Safe Republican race. Meanwhile, in Georgia, former football star Herschel Walker (R) and incumbent Raphael Warnock (D) both cruised to victory in their respective primaries. The general election promises to be among the most closely fought races in the entire nation, and Split Ticket rates this race as a Tossup. Polling has painted a mixed picture of late, and while Walker is widely regarded as a weak candidate, the environment may degrade enough to carry him to victory regardless, especially in a state that only voted for Biden by a quarter of a percentage point.
Alabama had perhaps the most interesting Senate primary, with Katie Britt and Mo Brooks advancing to a runoff election. While Britt did not clinch a majority, she did dominate statewide, picking up 44.7% of the vote to Brooks’ 29.2%, and won Brooks’ district by a point in the process. Because of this, we have the runoff rated as likely Britt, and in a safe Republican race, a runoff win would make her the odds-on favorite to succeed her former boss, Richard Shelby, as the next Senator from Alabama.
The general election matchups are now further sorted as a result of Tuesday’s primaries. On the Democratic side the most notable primary result was that from the new 7th district, where Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) handily defeated Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee). McBath ran as a strong supporter of Biden’s agenda, which contrasted well against Bourdeaux’s more moderate profile. In a district as nonwhite and as heavily Democratic as the 7th, McBath’s tack was clearly the smarter. The general election is safely Democratic.
On the Republican side, a number of interesting House races continue to play out in runoffs.
First, southwest Georgia’s 2nd district – a prime pickup target that the GOP has not held since the 1870s – is home to a heated contest for Team Red. Two candidates have advanced to a runoff: Air Force veteran Chris West and Army veteran Jeremy Hunt. The runoff will take place in June – it is believed that Hunt is favored to win that contest. Hunt, as a black Republican, also is a growing sign of GOP efforts to court minority voters. The general election is against Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop, a conservative pro-gun congressman with a small history of ethics issues. The black-majority demographic in the seat makes the 2nd a fairly Democratic-leaning seat but redistricting made it redder, likely aiding the Republicans. Split Ticket rates this seat as Likely Democratic.
Next, the 6th district – based in the northern suburbs of Atlanta since the 1970s, redistricting has taken the seat off the map for the near term. Flipped by Lucy McBath in 2018, Georgia Republicans redrew it to regain the seat, forcing McBath to successfully challenge Bourdeaux in the neighboring 7th. The 6th’s downballot Republican lean makes it Safe Republican in a year such as 2022. The two candidates in the runoff are 2020 GA-07 nominee Rich McCormick, as well as Trump-endorsed candidate Jake Evans. McCormick’s initial strength in the preliminary round (43% of the vote per the latest estimates) makes him the favorite in the eventual runoff – and therefore a prohibitive favorite in the general.
The last major House seat in Georgia is the 10th District – centered on rural eastern Georgia around Athens, home of the University of Georgia. Athens is a blue speck in an ocean of red – this seat voted for Trump by around 30 points and is also Safe Republican in a general. The Republican primary therefore is the real contest here – and two candidates have made it into a runoff. They are Mike Collins, son of former Rep. Mac Collins, and turncoat far-right gadfly Vernon Jones. Jones, who has been endorsed by Trump, represents the showboat MAGA wing of the Republican Party, while Collins is a more mainstream doctrinaire conservative. Jones has not been received seriously and is regarded somewhat as a joke – Collins should likely win the runoff here and become the next congressman from Georgia’s 10th district.
The only notable House race in Alabama is the race to replace Rep. Mo Brooks as he makes his bid for Senate, in the Huntsville-centered 5th District. Again, the Republican primary is the real contest here, fought between Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong, and Huntsville School District Superintendent Casey Wardynski. Wardynski is the more conservative candidate in the race, but has lost ground to Strong – who should likely win the runoff and become the 5th’s next congressman easily.
The Minnesota 1st district, vacated due to the death of Rep. Jim Hagedorn, had primary elections to nominate candidates to fill the remainder of the term until the fall. Democrats nominated Hormel Foods CEO Jeff Ettinger, while Republicans nominated former State Rep. Brad Finstad. Finstad beat out State Rep. Jeremy Munson, as well as Hagedorn’s widow Jennifer Carnahan – who had a history of controversial statements and postings on social media. The district, while marginal, is filled with rural non-college whites who have been turning more Republican – and combined with the red environment, makes for a rating of Safe Republican for the election, which shall be held on August 9.
Texas (Special, Runoff)
In Texas’ 28th district, Henry Cuellar and Jessica Cisneros squared off for the third time in a bitterly-fought runoff election, triggered after neither candidate netted a majority in the March elections. The result this time was even closer, and was a showcase of high base turnout on both sides — Cisneros won the San Antonio area by roughly 80 points, but Cuellar drove up turnout in Laredo and exceeded his March margins in the area. With Cuellar ahead by 175 votes at last count, it appears as if the incumbent Congressman has secured re-nomination, meaning he will face Republican Cassy Garcia in the fall. Between Cisneros and Cuellar, we view the latter as a stronger nominee and believe that even in a Biden +7 district with areas rapidly trending away from the Democrats, Cuellar has the necessary residual strength to make a fight of this race. Our rating for November is a Tossup.