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Bush political dynasty to be tested in Texas runoff — and other races to watch

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While Georgia has received much of the national attention among the states holding primaries on Tuesday, there are also critical Republican primaries in Alabama and tests for both progressives and the Bush political dynasty in Texas. 

In Arkansas, former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to win the Republican nomination for governor and will likely be a heavy favorite to win in November. 

Here are the key races to watch:

Senate in Alabama

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby's retirement is creating an open seat in Alabama. There appears to be a three-way race to fill that seat and the race could end up in a runoff.

Shelby is supporting his former chief of staff, Katie Britt, who is running against Rep. Mo Brooks and businessman Mike Durant. 

Trump endorsed Brooks in April 2021, but withdrew his support from the congressman in March. At the time, Brooks was struggling in polls. 

Trump said that Brooks had "made a horrible mistake recently when he went 'woke,'" referring to Brooks saying people should put the 2020 election "behind you" during a rally last August in Alabama. Brooks was booed at that rally when he urged the crowd to move on from 2020.

After Trump pulled his endorsement, Brooks said that Trump "asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency."

"As a lawyer, I've repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks," Brooks said. Brooks was among the Republicans who objected to election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. 

Despite losing that endorsement, Brooks has hung around in recent polling. A recent Emerson poll showed Britt (32%) slightly ahead of Durant (26%) and Brooks (25%). Another poll from the Alabama Daily News also showed the three candidates all with a chance of making the runoff. 

On the Democratic side, pastor Will Boyd, former Brighton, Alabama, Mayor Brandaun Dean, and veteran Lanny Jackson are vying for the nomination. 

To avoid a runoff, a candidate needs to win a majority of the votes. 

Alabama Governor

Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey is one of many incumbent governors facing a primary in 2022. So far, incumbents have protected their seats in Idaho, Ohio and Texas. 

A recent Emerson poll showed Ivey leading the field with 46%, putting her close to the mark that she needs to hit to avoid a runoff. Businessman Tim James (18%) and former Trump Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard (11%) were her closest competitors. 

Conservatives criticized some of Ivey's decisions around COVID, including her decision to extend her state's mask order in March 2021. Some activists also claimed her order directing state agencies not to cooperate with a federal vaccine mandate didn't go far enough.   

Ivey has boasted about her conservative credentials, including a 2019 law that amounted to a near-total abortion ban. She recently drew national attention after she signed a law that makes it a felony for doctors to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones to transgender people who are under 19 years old. 

She also drew criticism for an ad where she said "if Joe Biden keeps shipping illegal immigrants into our state, we're all going to have to learn Spanish. My message to Biden, no way Jose." Rep. Maxine Waters called the ad "racist," prompting Ivey to tweet, "There's nothing racist with telling the truth about the disaster Joe Biden is causing with illegals invading our country."

On the Democratic side, educator Yolanda Flowers, businessman Chad Chig Martin, and state Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier are among those in the race. 

Senate in Arkansas

Incumbent Republican Sen. John Boozman is running with Trump's endorsement, but he is another candidate who will need to clear the 50% mark to avoid a runoff in his primary.

There has been little public polling in the race, but a recent poll from Hendrix College had Boozman coming up just short of avoiding a runoff. Veteran and former New England Patriots player Jake Bequette and former journalist and conservative commentator Jan Morgan, are the candidates who have presented the most serious challenge to Boozman. 

If needed, a runoff would be held on June 21. The Democrats in the race include realtor Natalie James, small business owner Dan Whitfield and former Pine Bluff City alderman Jack Foster.

Arkansas Governor

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was the first candidate to get Trump's endorsement after he left office in January 2021. When she entered Arkansas' gubernatorial race, she jumped into a crowded field that included the state's lieutenant governor and attorney general.

But, by November 2021, Sanders essentially cleared the field when Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced that she would instead run for lieutenant governor. Sanders, whose father Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas from 1996 until 2007, has been a fundraising force, raising more than $15 million for the primary and general elections. 

Several candidates are running for the Democratic nomination including former state Rep. Jay Martin, former non-profit leader Chris Jones and educator Anthony Bland. 

Texas Attorney General

Tuesday also marks the completion of Texas' March primary, when voters will participate in runoff elections. 

Attorney General Ken Paxton is backed by Trump and hopes to win another term in office. He's facing Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who is the son of former Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The election will present a major test for the strength of the Bush political dynasty in Texas. George P. Bush shares a name with two former presidents: His uncle, George W. Bush, and his grandfather George H.W. Bush. 

Ken Paxton and George P. Bush Getty Images, AP

Paxton has faced multiple scandals and investigations while in office. He pleaded not guilty in a state securities fraud case and was accused of bribery and other crimes by his former top aides. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

In a recent ad, Bush said he's proud of his family's work, but "this race isn't about my last name. It's about Ken Paxton's crimes." 

According to an April poll by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation, 40% of Republican primary voters said they would never vote for Bush. Two-thirds of those voters said that's because he is a member of the Bush family. Forty-one percent said they wouldn't vote for Bush because he's not conservative enough.

Paxton released a video last week with Trump saying that Paxton is "the most effective attorney general."

Paxton received 42.7% of the vote during the March primary, while Bush got 22.8%. 

A recent Dallas Morning News poll showed Paxton leading Bush 41% to 35%. In the Democratic runoff, the poll showed ACLU lawyer Rochelle Garza leading former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski 35% to 20%. 

U.S. House

The progressive wing of the Democratic party has one of their biggest tests this election cycle in Texas' 28th district, where immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros is facing off against longtime incumbent Henry Cuellar.

Cisneros first challenged Cuellar in 2020 and lost by under 3,000 votes. In the March 2022 primary, neither Cuellar nor Cisneros received over 50% of the vote, resulting in a runoff on Tuesday.

Cuellar has looked to bounce back from an FBI investigation that led to a raid of his Laredo home in January, although Cuellar's attorney said that he was not the target of the investigation. 

He has been trying to appeal to the south Texas constituents through his stances on immigration policy and his role on the House Appropriations Committee. He's been backed by House leadership, who have stood by him after the FBI investigation and after his pro-life position on abortion as highlighted after the leaked draft opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade.

"I do not agree with Henry Cuellar on everything," said House Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, referring to Cuellar's stance on abortion. "We need to sit down with people who we do not agree with and try to find common ground, to do what is necessary to move this country forward."

Cuellar and allies have also argued that a further left nominee like Cisneros would put the seat at risk of Republican control this November.

Cisneros has the backing of the progressive wing of the party and has argued the district needs a change in representation. Her biggest contrast with Cuellar is on abortion, and her campaign has honed in on that in their closing message.

"We need a pro-choice majority in Congress, and Henry Cuellar does not have a part in that. I think his record has been very clear in the past two decades," Cisneros said on a press call with Emily's List last Friday.

"And next term, when the Women's Health Protection Act comes up again, he could very much be the Joe Manchin of the House," she added, referencing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's vote against the bill. "He cannot be the determining vote on the future of our reproductive freedoms in this country."

Immigration has been the calling card for Cuellar in his closing message, especially regarding the Title 42 border policy that is being litigated in the courts. Cuellar has warned there would be a large spike of migrants at the border if the policy is lifted, and that it could be politically perilous for Democrats if it is lifted.

"The messaging can be terrible for Democrats if they don't play this or message this right. They'll fit into the narrative that Republicans say — that Democrats are for open borders," Cuellar told CBS News in April.  

Either Cisneros or Cuellar will face the winner of the Republican runoff in this district between Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and preschool director Sandra Whitten. Democrats will also be watching another nearby Democratic runoff in Texas' 15th district, where small business owner Michelle Vallejo will face Ruben Ramirez, who was a former candidate in the district. This seat is a top target for national Republicans, after they've made gains with the Latino population in the region.


A special primary election is being held Tuesday to  fill the seat of the late Republican Congressman Jim Hagedorn. His widow, Jennifer Carnahan, is one of 20 candidates running in Minnesota's 1st District. Ten Republicans are running as well as eight members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party — the official name of the Minnesota Democratic Party — and two legal marijuana candidates.  

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