Live Updates: Kemp Routs Perdue as Georgians Reject Trump’s Meddling

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia won the Republican nomination for a second term on Tuesday, resoundingly turning back a primary challenge that had been engineered by Donald J. Trump and delivering the former president his biggest electoral setback of the 2022 primaries.

Seeking retribution for Mr. Kemp’s decision to certify the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, Mr. Trump had personally recruited former Senator David Perdue to run for governor, worked to clear the field for him, recorded television ads, held a rally and even transferred $2.64 million from his political accounts to help him.

It didn’t matter.

Mr. Kemp won by a wide enough margin — he was leading by nearly 50 percentage points when The Associated Press called the race — to avoid a runoff. Mr. Perdue had anchored his candidacy on promoting falsehoods about the last election, blaming Mr. Kemp both for Mr. Trump’s defeat and his own loss in a 2021 runoff that gave Democrats control of the Senate. The outcome on Tuesday exposed the limits of Mr. Trump’s hold on his party’s base.

Mr. Kemp’s victory sets up a rematch of his 2018 battle with Stacey Abrams, who won the Democratic nomination unopposed on Tuesday, in what will be one of the most closely watched governor’s races in the nation this fall. His most urgent imperative is reuniting a Republican Party fractured by the divisive primary.

The mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas that left 18 children dead cast a shadow over the evening, as Mr. Kemp delayed his victory speech until after President Biden addressed the tragedy.

In Georgia’s U.S. Senate race, Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia football star who was also recruited by Mr. Trump, won the Republican nomination and will face Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, in November. The matchup in the fall, the outcome of which could tip control of the Senate, is a rare general election contest in the South pitting two Black candidates against one another.

While Mr. Walker glided through the primary, his tumultuous past — including accusations of domestic abuse and his exaggerated and false claims about his business success — is expected to receive a more thorough airing in the general election.

Both parties expect Mr. Walker to be the subject of coming commercials questioning his competence and credentials. His Democratic opponent, Mr. Warnock, one of the best fund-raisers in the nation, has been on the television airwaves for months already, focusing largely on positive messages.

Credit…Megan Varner/Getty Images

With nearly 200 endorsements so far, Mr. Trump has set up the 2022 primary season as a rolling referendum on his influence in the party. He has scored notable big successes, such as J.D. Vance in Ohio, and suffered defeats in Nebraska and Idaho. But no state so far has been as much a focus for Mr. Trump as Georgia, where he not only set out to oust the governor but also Mr. Kemp’s allies across other statewide offices.

In the secretary of state race, Brad Raffensperger, the Republican incumbent whom Mr. Trump pressured to “find” the sufficient votes to overturn the election in early 2021, was ahead of a Trump-backed challenger, Representative Jody Hice. It was not clear, however, if he would clear the 50 percent threshold needed to avert a runoff.

The secretary of state serves as Georgia’s top elections official, and the winner in the fall will have great sway over how the 2024 presidential campaign will be conducted in a key battleground state.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the right-wing firebrand, handily cast aside a more moderate challenger, carrying more than two-thirds of the vote.

While Georgia received top billing on Tuesday, several other states held primaries.

Credit…Shelby Tauber for The New York Times

In Texas, the last scion of the Bush political dynasty, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, was defeated in the state attorney general’s race, losing to the scandal-plagued incumbent, Ken Paxton. And in a Democratic contest along the border, Representative Henry Cuellar, one of the most moderate Democrats in the House, faces a progressive challenge from Jessica Cisneros that has drawn national attention.

In Alabama, three Republican candidates were vying to make the runoff to succeed retiring Senator Richard Shelby: Representative Mo Brooks; Mike Durant, the helicopter pilot portrayed in “Black Hawk Down”; and Katie Britt, a former chief of staff to Mr. Shelby. Mr. Trump had initially endorsed Mr. Brooks early in 2021. But as Mr. Brooks sagged in the polls, he rescinded that endorsement.

Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama was seeking to avoid a runoff against two right-wing challengers.

And in Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary and the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, has mostly coasted through a Republican primary for governor. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas is pushing to clear 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff against Jake Bequette, a former football star, in a race that has seen more than $7 million in television ads.

In Georgia, Mr. Kemp had methodically locked up the support of the state’s biggest political players and donors in anticipation of a Trump-fueled primary challenge. He signed into law numerous conservative priorities, including a restrictive new voting law in 2021 and a gas-tax holiday that extends just past the primary. He also expanded gun rights, raised teacher pay and dispatched tax rebate checks that went out in recent weeks.

All those maneuvers and more left Mr. Perdue isolated, with little to lean on beyond the support of Mr. Trump, who has seethed for 18 months about Mr. Kemp’s refusal to attempt to overturn the 2020 election results in his state.

“His endorsement is still important, but it comes with an asterisk,” said Stephen Lawson, a Georgia-based Republican strategist, adding that the Perdue campaign’s failure was “proof positive your message has to be more than that.”

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Even before the election was over, Mr. Perdue’s own allies began openly criticizing the Perdue effort as lackluster. And many national Republicans rallied behind Mr. Kemp, as the Republican Governors Association took the unusual step of intervening to spend more than $5 million on ads in the primary. Ambitious potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates campaigned for him, including former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and, on the eve of the election, former Vice President Mike Pence.

Despite Mr. Trump’s ire and public attacks, Mr. Kemp never fired back at the former president. “I’ve never said anything bad about him,” Mr. Kemp said on Monday. “I don’t plan on doing that. I’m not mad at him. I think he’s just mad at me.”

Now Mr. Kemp must hope that discipline pays off and that Mr. Trump — who mused at a rally in Georgia last fall that Ms. Abrams “might be better than having your existing governor” — does not actively work to torpedo him in November.

Mr. Walker tried to stay neutral in the governor’s primary, declining to endorse or even say who he was voting for. The 60-year-old political newcomer avoided any debates during the primary and mostly ignored his rivals in a field that included Georgia’s agriculture secretary, Gary Black.

Mr. Black had warned repeatedly that the untested Mr. Walker would prove unelectable — “he’ll never win,” Mr. Black said in a recent interview — and that Republicans would come to regret his anointment.

One of the ways Mr. Trump attempted to ease the path for Mr. Perdue was to push another ally, Vernon Jones, out of the governor’s race and into an open congressional contest.

Georgia Republicans redrew district lines ahead of 2022, cramming two House Democrats into the same suburban Atlanta district and diluting the Democratic strength of another seat in the state’s southwestern corner held by Representative Sanford Bishop. Mr. Bishop, a Democrat, faces his first serious challenge in years this fall.

As a result, Republicans could grow their share of the congressional delegation from 8 to 6 to 10 to 4.

In the primary that placed two Democratic incumbents against each other, Representative Lucy McBath was facing Representative Carolyn Bourdeaux on Tuesday.

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