The Jolt: Mixed results primary night make Georgia Trump’s biggest test yet

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It was primary night in five states across the country Tuesday, as the big question on the table in Georgia played out elsewhere-- is a Trump endorsement enough to win in a GOP primary, even if the candidate is a new resident, bad apple, or election denier? The answer last night was maybe, no and yes.

In North Carolina, embattled U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a Trump-endorsed far-right congressman, conceded to GOP state Sen. Chuck Edwards after months of scandals took their toll on the freshman Cawthorn.

In Pennsylvania, GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano won the Republican nomination for governor with 44% of the vote. He won Trump’s favor in the final days of the race but in November of 2020, led a state Senate hearing to push false claims of election fraud, much like the state Senate hearings orchestrated in Georgia at the same time.

The other prominent Trump candidate in Pennsylvania, newly transplanted Dr. Mehmet Oz, remained deadlocked in the GOP Senate primary against hedge fund millionaire David McCormick, with the results too close to call and likely headed to a recount, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Just like Trump’s support for David Perdue in Georgia, the former president went all-in for Oz, headlining a rally, a robocall, and a tele rally before Election Day.

Other high-profile Trump candidates around the country went down in defeat, including Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in her bid to knock out the state’s incumbent Republican governor, while Trump-endorsed North Carolina’s U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, pulled ahead for a win in the state’s GOP primary for Senate, thanks in part to Trump’s boost.

The muddled results for Trump’s team Tuesday night sets up Georgia’s primaries next week as the biggest test yet for the former president, not to mention the candidates he’s endorsed and the ones, like Gov. Brian Kemp, he’s sworn to bring down in defeat.


Gov. Brian Kemp’s show-of-force continued Tuesday as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined him in a three-stop swing that attracted hundreds of supporters.

At a stop in Canton, Kemp explained his approach to Donald Trump’s ongoing vitriol -- and the near-certainty that Trump will continue to oppose the governor even if he trounces David Perdue in next week’s primary.

“I appreciate what President Trump did for our state and I appreciate what Mike Pence did for our state. I’ve never said a bad word about their administration. I don’t plan on doing that,” he said.

“I know Republicans get into tough fights. I’ve been in those before. But it will be time to unite after that to beat Stacey Abrams and that’s exactly what I think everyone will do.”

After word of Christie’s visit emerged, Trump predictably labeled his former 2016 rival a phony Republican. That led Christie to mock Trump for losing the 2020 election. Pressed to elaborate on Tuesday, Christie was more muted.

“What you learn in politics is you can’t control what comes out of other peoples’ mouths. You can only control what comes out of yours,” he said, praising Kemp for refusing to swipe back at Trump.

“It’d be real easy to take that bait and he has not done it.”


Meanwhile, David Perdue made his public campaign stop Tuesday night at the Morgan County GOP’s monthly meeting.

He’ll be back on the trail for public events Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.


Catch up on the latest from the campaign trail, including Brian Kemp and David Perdue’s strategies and a look at voters switching from a Democratic to a Republican ballot this year in the midweek edition of our Politically Georgia podcast.

Listen and subscribe for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


Be sure to check out our AJC voters’ guides breaking down the candidates and issues in each race, including the guide to the Democrats and Republicans running for lieutenant governor.

Along with the high-profile battle for the GOP nomination, nine Democrats are running for the nomination to be the state’s #2 official.

The AJC’s Maya Prabhu has the details on the issues and people to watch on the Democratic side of the race.


The state law that temporarily suspended the state sales tax on gasoline is set to expire later this month – just after the May 24 primary. Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said he’s in negotiations with lawmakers to extend the break further.


Over in the 13th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. David Scott has shaken off challenges before, including in 2020 when he won the primary outright despite having three opponents.

Observers say Scott seems to be in a solid position again going into Tuesday’s primary as he seeks a 10th term. But that hasn’t stopped his main competitor, former state Sen. Vincent Fort, from going on the attack.

Fort released a campaign video last week that accuses Scott of being corrupt and misusing campaign funds. (Scott has never been accused of wrongdoing by elections or ethics offices at the state or national level.) Fort told us his campaign put some money into running the ads, but he wouldn’t tell us how much.

This morning, he is holding a news conference where we expect to hear similar messaging about Scott.

Scott has followed the playbook of front-runners like Herschel Walker and Lucy McBath by mostly ignoring his opponents and declining joint appearances.

He has concentrated campaign spending on yard signs and canvassing, and his campaign message focuses heavily on his seniority in Washington and the resources he has brought home to the south metro Atlanta district.

Scott is the first Black chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, which oversees the food supply and federal nutrition programs.

Meanwhile, Fort has struggled to raise money. He had $20,718.90 in cash on hand as of May 4, compared to Scott’s $790,352.42.

The other Democrats in the primary are former South Fulton Councilman Mark Baker and educator Shastity Driscoll, but we haven’t heard much from either of them in recent weeks.


With a week to go, the Georgia airwaves are getting more saturated.

Senate GOP leader Butch Miller’s backers at the Georgia Conservative Fund said they are putting at least $100,000 behind a new attack on Burt Jones, his rival for lieutenant governor. Jones is aiming for an outright win, though polls show the race remains very volatile.

And Nabilah Islam, a former congressional candidate, unleashed a new TV ad promoting her campaign for a Gwinnett-based state Senate seat. The liberal activist is challenging incumbent Democratic state Rep. Beth Moore.


In endorsement news:

  • The Georgia Chamber endorsed Public Service Commission incumbents Tim Echols and Fitz Johnson.


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich rode out most of the pandemic in an Italian villa-- and is no longer a Georgia resident when he’s stateside.

But the AJC’s Shannon McCaffrey writes that he’s been back in his old political stomping grounds this election cycle helping elect Trump-endorsed Republicans:

Now 78, Gingrich’s mop of white hair is receding and his puckish face has grown thinner. But he has lost none of the scorched-earth style that made him such a polarizing figure in American politics.


The U.S. House has a busy schedule Wednesday, including action on legislation to combat domestic terrorism that was pushed forward after this weekend’s mass shooting in Buffalo.

The bill, H.R. 350, creates domestic terrorism units within the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and the FBI and requires them to jointly report on hate crimes and investigations, including incidents connected to white-supremacists.

A similar proposal passed in the House in 2020 but stalled in the Senate.

The House is also poised to take votes on two measures to address the shortage of infant formula. H.R. 7790 would provide emergency funding to help boost supply. H.R. 7791 would give families in the federal WIC program flexibility to purchase different formula brands.


Also today in Washington:

  • The U.S. House will try again to pass what previously was a bipartisan and noncontroversial bill to rename a federal courthouse in Florida after the state’s first Black Supreme Court justice. The previous vote was derailed by Georgia’s Andrew Clyde, who circulated an article about a ruling Justice Joseph Hatchett made in 1999 regarding prayer in schools.
  • Lucy McBath plans to share a personal story during today’s Judiciary Committee hearing on abortion access. In her memoir, she talks about experiencing miscarriages and other pregnancy complications before the birth of her only child, Jordan.
  • The Senate is focused on confirmations today.


Cobb County voters deciding whether to support establishing three new cities will be interested in this article by the AJC’s Brian Eason that outlines why the “city lite” charters established by the General Assembly might be in legal trouble.

The Georgia Constitution requires municipalities to offer at least three services to qualify as a city, but previous “city lite” models like Peachtree Corners ran into trouble when their establishing charters limited the services it could offer in the future.


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