Midterm Roundup: SEC Primary Preview

Primary season heads south on Tuesday with races in four states home to powerhouse SEC teams: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and runoff elections in Texas.

State of Play – May 21


SEC Primary Preview

Senate Races Chock-Full with SEC Football Ties

College football has bled into politics with this year’s Senate campaigns from Herschel Walker and Jake Bequette, not to mention former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville’s Alabama Senate victory in 2020.

Alabama (GOP) – The race to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R) has had no shortage of drama. Former president Donald Trump endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks early, but revoked his endorsement after Brooks struggled to raise money and lagged in the polls – although Trump claimed it was because Brooks went “woke.”

Former chief of the Alabama Business Council Katie Britt has a lead in the polling average, with Brooks and Black Hawk Down veteran Mike Durant battling for a spot in the likely runoff. Britt is married to Wesley Britt, a former Alabama Crimson all-SEC offensive tackle.

Arkansas (GOP) – Two-term incumbent Sen. John Boozman (R), backed by Trump, faces off with well-funded ex-New England Patriot Jake Bequette, a past all-SEC defensive end for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Georgia – Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, the star Georgia Bulldogs running back, is poised to win the GOP nomination in a landslide over state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. The victor will face Sen. Raphael Warnock (D).

Statehouse Matchups

Alabama (GOP) – Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is the heavy favorite to finish first in her bid for a second full term. She leads her challengers in every poll but needs to win a majority to avoid a runoff. If she is forced into a runoff, Ivey would still be favored over her leading opponents: businessman and 2010 candidate Tim James and Lyndy Blanchard, Trump’s ambassador to Slovenia.

Georgia (GOP) – Although former president Donald Trump recruited, endorsed, and funded ex-Sen. David Perdue’s campaign to the tune of $2.5 million, Gov. Brian Kemp is poised to crush Perdue in a landslide in Tuesday’s primary. Kemp boasts a wide lead in recent polling and seems likely to win a sizable majority, preventing a runoff election.

The former president recruited a slate of candidates to challenge the Georgia Republicans he endorsed as recently as 2018 up and down the ballot. Besides Perdue, Trump is backing wealthy state Sen. Burt Jones in the open-seat race for Lt. Governor, Rep. Jody Hice’s challenge to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and several other down-ticket candidates.

Texas (GOP Attorney General) – In what may be the last gasp of the Bush dynasty, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush looks likely to lose a runoff for Texas Attorney General to incumbent A.G. Ken Paxton, even though Paxton is under indictment.

SEC Contests Feature Sprawling Republican House Primaries

Alabama’s 5th: Six Republicans are competing to succeed Rep. Mo Brooks in this safe Republican Huntsville-area seat. Former state senator Paul Sanford, Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong and veteran Casey Wardynski look like the candidates to beat.

Georgia’s 2nd: New district lines made this southwest Georgia district truly competitive for the first time in decades. The GOP primary features several candidates jostling to take on 15-term incumbent Rep. Sanford Bishop (D). Veteran Jeremy Hunt, real estate businessman Chris West, and Trump Department of Education official Wayne Johnson led the field in fundraising.

Georgia’s 6th: Redistricting moved incumbent Rep. Lucy McBath (D) into the 7th District and remade this former swing seat into a safe GOP district. Trump endorsed ex-state ethics commission chair Jake Evans, the son of wealthy GOP donor and Trump-era ambassador Randy Evans. 2020 GA-07 candidate Rich McCormick and ex-state Rep. Meaghan Hanson are also running.

Georgia’s 10th: Rep. Jody Hice retired to run for Secretary of State, and eight Republicans are battling to succeed him in this heavily Republican seat that includes Athens, home of the University of Georgia. Candidates include businessman and 2014 candidate Mike Collins, state Rep. Tim Barr and ex-US Rep. Paul Broun, while Trump backed former Democrat Vernon Jones.

Georgia’s 14th: Conservative businesswoman Jennifer Strahan is challenging attention-hungry Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for the right to represent northwest Georgia in Congress. Greene’s inflammatory internet-comment-section-style rhetoric helped turn her into a fundraising powerhouse and Greene remains the favorite in this race.

Moderate v. Progressive Feuding Defines Democratic Primares

Georgia’s 7th: Redistricting put Democratic Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux in the same Gwinnett County district in the Atlanta area. The progressive McBath has outraised Bourdeaux, a relative moderate.

Texas’s 15th: Establishment-aligned veteran Ruben Ramirez and progressive activist Michelle Vallejo are competing to face top GOP recruit Monica de la Cruz in the open district along the Mexican border.

Texas’s 28th: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) is trying to hold off a second primary challenge from progressive Jessica Cisneros. Republicans will choose between former Ted Cruz staffer Cassy Garcia and 2020 candidate Sandra Whitten.



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© Dominic Moore, 2022