WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress was in a primary runoff in Texas to hold on to his seat Tuesday, while a staunch gun safety advocate ousted her House colleague in a fierce member-on-member congressional primary in suburban Atlanta.
Meanwhile, in northwest Georgia, far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conspiracy-peddling provocateur, sailed to victory despite facing a handful of GOP primary challengers in her Republican-leaning district.
For both Republicans and Democrats, Tuesday’s primary elections in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota and Texas pitted members of the party’s activist base against more moderate candidates. The races offer a glimpse of what the next Congress could look like.
Here are a handful of races to follow:
MEMBER ON MEMBER PRIMARY
After the 2020 census, Georgia’s Republican-dominated Legislature redrew the boundaries of Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath’s suburban Atlanta district, transforming it into a GOP stronghold. They also redrew another Atlanta-area swing seat, making Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeux’s district solidly Democratic.
So McBath, a nationally renowned gun-safety advocate, went district shopping — and decided to challenge Bourdeaux, a college professor in her first term. And on Tuesday, McBath ousted her colleague-turned-rival, boosted by $4 millions in ad spending by the gun safety lobby, as well as a cryptocurrency billionaire.
McBath ran on a compelling personal story. She’s a Black woman whose son was killed by a white man during a dispute over stereo volume in 2012.
But her decision to pursue her colleague’s seat also fostered bitter feelings, with Bourdeaux hinting that McBath was a carpetbagger.
MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE
Marjorie Taylor Greene has been a lightning rod for controversy since her 2020 election to Congress. Barely a month into her term, she was stripped of her committee assignments after social media posts were unearthed showing she had endorsed calls to assassinate prominent Democrats.
But her provocations haven’t ebbed since then. And that’s apparently what voters in her conservative northwest Georgia district like about her.
On Tuesday, they overwhelmingly voted to send her back for a second term, dispatching a field of five GOP challengers, including a health care consultant who marketed herself as a “no-nonsense conservative” alternative.
Even before Greene was first elected, her antics enraged Democrats — and made her a rising Republican star.
In the short term, Democrats’ decision to strip Greene of her committee assignments reduced her influence in a chamber where the hard work of legislating is what builds power and influence.
But if Republicans win back the House majority in November, as history suggests they may, she could still come out ahead. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who is in line to become House speaker, has said she won’t just get her committee assignments back; she’ll likely receive a promotion.
THE LAST ANTI-ABORTION HOUSE DEMOCRAT
Moderate Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar is a perennial target for progressives. But so far the anti-abortion congressman has prevailed in a series of close races in the largely Hispanic district that stretches from the Rio Grande to San Antonio.
For the second cycle in a row, 28-year-old immigration attorney and abortion rights supporter Jessica Cisneros is looking to end Cuellar’s almost 20-year stint in office. In the March primary, she forced Cuellar into a runoff after coming within 1,000 votes.
Heading into the Tuesday competition, she may have a new edge after a recently leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion draft showed the justices poised to overturn the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that grants a constitutional right to abortion.
“The last thing we want is to hold on to a slim Democratic majority, and then have someone like Henry Cuellar who’s going keep siding with Republicans,” Cisneros said earlier this month.
The FBI earlier this year raided Cuellar’s home in the border city of Laredo as part of an investigation related to the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. Cuellar’s attorney says he has been exonerated and is not the target of the investigation. But the issue is enough of a liability that Cuellar’s allies have sent out direct mail ads with a mock newspaper headline proclaiming him “cleared.”
MINNESOTA ‘DUMPSTER FIRE’
When Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn died of kidney cancer in February, his widow, former Minnesota GOP chair Jennifer Carnahan, said her husband’s wish was for her to succeed him and represent southern Minnesota in Congress.
The race hasn’t shaped up that way.
Even before announcing her bid, Carnahan’s friendship with a GOP donor who was federally indicted for sex-trafficking minors sparked a firestorm. Then a recording surfaced last year in which she said, “Jim’s gonna be dead in two years. So be it.” Last week, she was sued by her deceased husband’s family as they attempted to recoup money they loaned him for cancer treatment, which they say she was supposed to pay back to them.
The drama, which local GOP officials have likened to a “dumpster fire,” has allowed two other candidates to surge ahead.
Brad Finstad, a former state lawmaker and USDA official, has secured much of the party establishment’s support. Americans for Prosperity — an organization established by billionaire industrialists, the Koch Brothers — and the Republican group American Dream Federal Action have collectively spent $1.4 million on ads supporting him.
State Rep. Jeremy Munson, meanwhile, is running as an outsider who is “100% Pro-Life. 100% Pro-Gun. 100% Conservative.” Munson, who proposed legislation to let Minnesota counties secede and join border states, has the backing of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.
‘BRING IT ON, LIARS’
For the vast majority of Vernon Jones’ nearly three-decade-long Georgia political career, he was a Democrat.
But after being at odds with his party following a series of scandals from his tenure as the DeKalb County CEO, he became one of the most high-profile Black politicians to endorse Donald Trump’s reelection bid. He later switched parties.
Now a Republican, Jones is seeking an open congressional seat stretching from the Atlanta suburbs to Athens. But it was not his first choice. He initially entered the Georgia governor’s race, building a campaign around Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. He dropped out at Trump’s urging to pursue the House seat with Trump’s endorsement.
As DeKalb’s executive, Jones faced investigations over his expensive security detail, and a woman accused Jones of raping her in late 2004. She dropped the charges but never recanted. Jones said they had a consensual sexual encounter. A grand jury later alleged that as CEO he was part of an endemic culture of “incompetence, patronage, fraud and cronyism.”
Jones was undaunted.
“Hell, they even call me the Black Donald Trump!” Jones tweeted after entering the House race while challenging his rivals to “Bring it on, liars!”
He faces a sprawling field of contenders, including trucking company owner Mike Collins.