By Alexandra Ulmer ATLANTA (Reuters) -Herschel Walker, a former American football star endorsed by Donald Trump, on Tuesday won the Republican nomination to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate in primaries that are a major test of Trump’s campaign to play midterm election kingmaker. Georgia voters were also waiting to see whether Governor Brian Kemp […]
Herschel Walker wins Georgia Republican U.S. Senate primary in test of Trump’s sway
By Alexandra Ulmer
ATLANTA (Reuters) -Herschel Walker, a former American football star endorsed by Donald Trump, on Tuesday won the Republican nomination to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate in primaries that are a major test of Trump’s campaign to play midterm election kingmaker.
Georgia voters were also waiting to see whether Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have weathered Trump’s bid to oust them.
Walker has secured a majority of the vote, clinching the Republican nomination, Edison Research projected. He will face Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock on Nov. 8.
In the primary for governor, Trump has backed former U.S. Senator David Perdue. Kemp, who angered the former president by refusing to try to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election, was leading Perdue 74%-22% with 13% of the expected vote counted, according to Edison Research.
Whoever wins, the environment appears increasingly favorable to Republicans in the run up to November’s midterms. According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed on Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s approval rating has fallen to 36%, the lowest level of his presidency, reflecting voter worries over rising inflation.
Raffensperger, who rejected a plea by Trump in 2020 to “find” enough votes to alter the outcome, faces U.S. Representative Jody Hice, who earned Trump’s endorsement and has echoed his fraud claims, in a race that polls suggest is tight.
Raffensperger led Hice 52% to 32%, with about a fifth of the expected vote counted, according to Edison Research.
Trump has made more than 190 endorsements since leaving office, mostly for incumbent Republicans who face no serious primary opposition.
He has amassed a mixed record in competitive contests; most recently, his nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, the television host Dr. Mehmet Oz, is in a race still too close to call a week after voting.
Republicans are favored to win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in November, though analysts say Democrats have a better chance of holding onto control of the Senate.
The loss of either chamber would bring Biden’s legislative agenda to a halt and give Republicans the power to launch distracting and potentially politically damaging investigations.
PERDUE BLASTS DEMOCRAT
In a radio interview on Monday, Perdue criticized Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is expected to face off against Kemp in a rematch of the 2018 election, after she decried Georgia’s high incarceration and maternal mortality rates.
“She ain’t from here. Let her go back where she came from if she doesn’t like it here,” he said. Abrams, who is Black, was born in Wisconsin and moved to Georgia with her family as a child.
Abrams declined to address Perdue’s comments at a news conference on Tuesday.
“I have listened to Republicans for the last six months attack me, but they’ve done nothing to attack challenges facing Georgia,” she said.
Kemp’s surging campaign has drawn support from some high-profile Republicans who have themselves been targets for Trump’s ire, including Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence.
Echoing other Kemp supporters, retired tech sales executive Brian Seifried, 52, said in an interview in Atlanta that he liked Kemp’s pro-business policies, his hard line on immigration and his move to enact a sweeping set of voting restrictions after the 2020 election.
“President Trump’s endorsement did not have any sway over what I think is best for Georgia,” Seifried said.
Some Republican leaders have expressed concern that Walker’s past, including allegations of domestic violence, could hurt his chances in the general election.
Four other states – Alabama, Texas, Arkansas and Minnesota – are also holding primary elections on Tuesday.
In Alabama, U.S. Representative Mo Brooks, who lost Trump’s endorsement after saying it was time to move on from the 2020 election, is among those battling for a Senate seat. Trump-era White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders is favored to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Arkansas.
In Texas, a Democrat-on-Democrat congressional runoff election pits Henry Cuellar, the only House Democrat who opposes abortion rights, against progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros.
The state’s embattled attorney general, Ken Paxton, who has Trump’s endorsement despite a string of scandals, is facing a challenge from Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the grandson of former President George H. W. Bush.
Elsewhere in Georgia, two Democratic congresswomen, Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux, are in a rare incumbent-versus-incumbent primary after Republican lawmakers redrew the state’s congressional map.
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(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien, Katharine Jackson and Nathan Layne; Writing by Joseph Ax and Nathan Layne; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Alistair Bell)