WASHINGTON — In his biggest electoral defeat since he lost the presidency in 2020, Donald Trump went down in flames Tuesday in his crusade to punish Georgia Republicans who defied his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, as NBC News projects the former president’s candidates were crushed in GOP primaries.
Gov. Brian Kemp is on track to rout Trump-backed challenger David Perdue by a stunning 50 percentage points, while Attorney General Chris Carr ran ahead of his Trump-endorsed opponent by a similar margin.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — who earned a special place on Trump's list of targets for secretly recording a phone call in which Trump asked him to “find” him more votes — beat expectations by winning his primary outright without being forced into a runoff, according to NBC News.
Trump has devoted much of his post-presidency to seeking revenge on Republicans who did not support his lies about the election, none more so than Kemp. The former president recruited a top-tier challenger in Perdue, a former U.S. senator, appeared in TV ads for him and helped fund his campaign.
But Perdue’s campaign struggled to get off the ground and differentiate him from Kemp on anything other than the 2020 election, which proved to be an issue not nearly as important to Georgia Republican primary voters as it is to Trump.
Perdue, who ran a lackluster campaign that ended with a racist remark, quickly conceded the race in a phone call to Kemp — a step Trump never took after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.
Kemp will face Democrat Stacey Abrams. It's a rematch of their hard-fought 2018 battle, which Kemp narrowly won, and it is expected to be one of the highest-profile governor’s races in the country.
Primaries or runoffs are also being held in Alabama, Arkansas and Texas, where news of a school shooting has overshadowed the political contest.
Candidates in both parties offered prayers and commiseration for those killed in Uvalde, about 80 miles west of San Antonio.
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In a GOP runoff in Texas, a scion of the Bush dynasty went down as NBC News projected that Attorney General Ken Paxton easily defeated Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the nephew of former President George W. Bush.
The outcome shows how much luster has come off the Bush brand in today's GOP, especially since Paxton was weighed down by a slew of ethics issues, including an indictment alleging securities fraud.
For Democrats, an ideologically charged congressional runoff in South Texas between moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros is too close to call, according to NBC News.
Meanwhile, Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia handily defeated Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in a member-on-member Democratic primary after redistricting forced them into the same district.
In Arkansas, former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders easily secured the GOP nomination for governor to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson, NBC News projects.
In Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks — who has the distinction of having been endorsed and then unendorsed by Trump — made it into a runoff for the GOP Senate nomination, even though many wrote his campaign off for dead not long ago.
And Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey dispatched several rivals to win renomination, NBC News projects.
Elsewhere in Georgia, unlike in North Carolina, where fellow far-right Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn lost his primary last week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene secured renomination, NBC News projects.
Kemp celebrated his primary win at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, where country music played throughout the evening as supporters sipped on beer and wine.
Shortly after the race was called, conservative commentator Erick Erickson, a Kemp ally, led the audience in prayer for victims of the Texas school shooting.
Later, Kemp's victory speech included no mention of Trump nor any obvious allusions to the former president’s efforts to unseat him.
“I want to take just a minute, and I want to thank my opponents for the spirited debate that we had throughout this campaign,” Kemp said. “And I want to also thank David Perdue for the nice phone call that he gave me just a little while ago, pledging his full support to make sure that Stacey Abrams is never our governor.”
Kemp kept his focus mainly on Abrams, who he said would use the governor’s office as a springboard to a presidential run. He warned that it would be a tough general election. “We’re going to make sure Stacey’s road to Pennsylvania Avenue stops right here in the Peach State,” he said.
Trump did notch one major win in Georgia win when football star Herschel Walker cruised to the Republican nomination for the Senate, NBC News projects, setting up a mammoth November battle with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
The race, which is expected to be one of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history, is the first in which two Black candidates have gone head to head in a highly competitive Senate election.
Trump hand-picked Walker and smoothed his path to the nomination. But Walker enters the general election with plenty of baggage. Some Republicans worry that he is not up to the challenge.
“With Herschel Walker, everybody’s fear is that he’ll lose to Warnock,” said former Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., who voted for another candidate in the primary. "These outside groups are going to kill him. I love Herschel, but when you start debating a man that’s been in the pulpit for 40 years, that’s tough on anybody.”
Warnock, who for years was the senior pastor at Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won his seat last year in a special election to fill a vacancy and is now seeking a full six-year term.