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A test of Trump's influence in a range of races and GOP hopes to flip a Senate seat: primary takeaways

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Georgia primary: Kemp beats Perdue, will face Stacy Abrams in the fall

The results of Georgia’s primary election showed Brian Kemp beating Trump-backed David Perdue.

Cody Godwin, USA TODAY

  • Republicans are eager to flip a Nevada Senate seat.
  • A pair of Trump foes faced challengers in South Carolina’s GOP primary.
  • A ‘big lie’ candidate advances in a secretary of state battleground.

Races stretching from Maine and South Carolina to Nevada and North Dakota Tuesday proved a test for former President Donald Trump’s influence not just on the Republican Party but also on the way Americans think about voting and elections.

And races elsewhere in the country hinted at what could happen in the November general elections — chief among them the Nevada Republican primary for U.S. Senate, which decided who will take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

She is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats this fall in a race that could determine who controls the upper chamber and, with it, the fate of the remaining half of President Joe Biden’s term.

There is also an interesting special election in South Texas that could be a warning to Democrats and their thin congressional majority, plus jousts featuring Trump-backed to Trump-opposed contenders, which further spotlight how much of the primary season is about the GOP’s future and the former president’s role.

Here are some of the most important outcomes.

GOP eyes Nevada to flip Senate

Nevada’s Senate race was perhaps highest-profile contest on Tuesday given the implications it could have on the U.S. Senate.

Former state attorney general Adam Laxalt winning the Republican primary sets up one of the most critical contests of 2022. Democrats, who hold a 50-50 margin in the Senate, cannot afford to lose a single seat this fall.

Laxalt is an attractive contender across the GOP. He is supported by Trump and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (who have been at odds since 2020), for instance.

The Silver State is one of four Senate contests being rated as a toss-up by political forecasters this year, and three of those seats are held by Democrats.

Cortez Masto was going to face an uphill battle no matter who won the GOP nomination due to spiraling inflation and President Joe Biden’s unpopularity. 

A Suffolk University poll in April, for instance, found 72% of Nevada voters said the state’s economy was fair or poor. 

When asked about the president’s performance, 59% said they disapprove with nearly half of voters – 47% – saying their vote this fall will be about changing the direction Biden is leading the country.

Supreme Court: In Nevada, ruling on abortion rights could upend a Senate battle

The ‘Big Lie’ won’t die

Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen continue to haunt the country, especially in down ballot races.

In Nevada, the Republican secretary of state race saw Jim Marchant win the primary over six other rivals, according to race calls by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Marchant is among a slate of candidates seeking the chief election officer spot in battleground states across the country who say — wrongly — that fraud played a role in Biden’s win.

Current Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, has repeatedly defended President Joe Biden’s victory in the state, saying there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Yet Marchant has continued to espouse conspiracy theories about the outcome, telling an audience during a February forum how their vote “hasn’t counted for decades.”

2022 midterms: A new ‘Big Lie’ battleground will be secretary of state elections

Trump 1-for-1 in South Carolina

South Carolina’s GOP primary presented voters with another test of Trump’s influence, this time against two House incumbents who defied the former president.

Republican Reps. Nancy Mace and Tom Rice both earned primary challengers after criticizing Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

Mace also drew the former president’s ire by voting to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. She tried to seek forgiveness, however, by filming a campaign ad outside Trump Tower this year saying she was one of his “earliest supporters” in 2016.

The early results showed Mace defeating former state Rep. Katie Arrington with more than the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.

Rice was among the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump after Jan. 6. But Rice took a different approach and was unapologetic about his vote against Trump even as he knew it might cost him re-election.

That vote attracted a swarm of six GOP challengers who took on Rice in South Carolina’s 7th congressional district, which Trump won by roughly 18% in both of his presidential campaigns.

But Rice was pummeled by state Rep. Russell Fry across the eastern South Carolina district. He received less than 25% compared to Fry, who won with a little more than 51% when the race was called Tuesday evening.

South Carolina primary: GOP Rep. Mace tries to woo Trump voters

Texas gives a warning to Democrats

When Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas abruptly resigned in March to join a lobbying firm, it ignited a frenzy among political insiders for the special election.

National Republicans poured money into the heavily Hispanic district— which won’t exist next year due to redistricting — seeing it as a chance to increase their support in South Texas among minority voters and boost their chances in the midterms.

The bet paid off, as results showed GOP contender Mayra Flores defeated Democrat Dan Sanchez.

Flores is already the Republican nominee in the newly drawn district, where she will face Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez this fall.