The Republican and Democratic primaries and five-state runoffs resulted in several significant defeats for former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, though the candidates who overcame his opposition are themselves diehard reactionaries committed to anti-working class policies to have.
Four of the five states – Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas – are located in the Deep South and are dominated by the Republican Party, which controls all branches of state government – executive, legislative and judicial. Republicans also control six of the eight seats in the US Senate and 41 of the 61 seats in the US House of Representatives from these states.
The fifth state, Minnesota, held a primary in a single congressional district to select candidates to fill the vacancy left by the death of Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn.
The results of the primaries showed the further shift to the right in both major business parties and reconfirmed that the working class cannot find any genuine expression of its social and political interests in the corporate-controlled two-party system and must build an alternative.
The Republican Party will be transformed into a fascist organization whether Trump controls it or not. The ex-president has sought to purge any Republican who resists his “stop the steal” campaign to make the alleged “rigged” nature of the 2020 election the main issue in November’s midterm elections.
The most public rebuff to these efforts came from Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rebuffed Trump-backed challengers. Kemp defeated former United States Senator David Perdue in a landslide victory, winning 74 percent of the Republican primary vote, compared to 22 percent for Perdue. Raffensperger narrowly beat US Representative Jody Hice 52 percent to 33 percent, but won the majority of the votes cast, avoiding a runoff.
Perdue ran a caustic campaign against Kemp, claiming the incumbent was responsible for the existence of the Biden administration because he failed to overturn the 2020 vote that went by a narrow margin, 11,779 votes, to Georgia’s 16 electoral votes to the Democrat . Despite Trump’s repeated allegations of cheating, Biden’s margin survived multiple recounts, including a nationwide hand count of every vote, without evidence.
The contest became a proxy battle between the Republican Party establishment and Trump. The Republican Governors Association pumped $5 million into the Kemp campaign, while Trump pledged $2.64 million from his own Political Action Committee (PAC) to Perdue, his only significant donation to a Republican primary candidate. Former Vice President Mike Pence, former President George W. Bush, and many other Republican leaders endorsed Kemp.
In conventional bourgeois political terms, Kemp was even more right-wing than Perdue, a former CEO who was considered a Chamber of Commerce Republican in the Senate rather than an advocate of more provocative and anti-democratic policies on abortion, school prayer, immigration and other issues advocated by Trump and fueled by his Christian fundamentalist and fascist supporters.
Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (left), Governor Brian Kemp (right). [AP Photo/John Bazemore]
Kemp was actually Trump’s choice in a contested Republican primary in 2018, when he was secretary of state and the state’s top election official, challenging establishment favorite Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, who was expected to succeed the limited-term Republican governor Nathan Deal would compete. Kemp had lagged in the polls until Trump intervened and made him the more aggressive right-wing candidate.
Candidate Kemp became known nationwide for his provocative right-wing commercials. In one ad, he said, “I have a big truck just in case I need to round up illegal criminals and bring them home myself.” In another, he revealed that there were only two requirements to be with his daughter dating in his teens while pointing a shotgun at a teenage boy. The young man replied, “Respect and a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment.”
In the 2018 general election, Kemp refused to exercise his powers as secretary of state to administer the election, where he led the Republican ticket. He narrowly won against Democrat Stacey Abrams, defeating her by less than 55,000 votes out of nearly 4 million votes cast.
Trump apparently expected friendly treatment from Raffensperger, Kemp’s successor as Secretary of State, in 2020. He famously pressured Raffensperger during an hour-long phone call to “find” the 11,780 votes needed to overthrow Biden’s leadership in Georgia and give Trump the state’s electoral college vote.
As governor, Kemp has a record of tireless response. He was among the first governors to reopen schools and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. He passed the largest state income tax cut ever and a law allowing residents to carry a concealed firearm without a license. He also funneled new money to the police and imposed restrictions on classroom discussions about the history of racism in America and sexual orientation and gender issues.
The state also passed a law banning abortions after a woman is six weeks pregnant, effectively banning the medical procedure entirely. This law will go into effect once the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade picks up.
Kemp and Raffensperger supported what is known as the Election Integrity Act, which restricts absentee voting and the use of drop boxes to collect absentee ballots, criminalizes the delivery of food or water to voters ahead of the election, and bans accepting grants from foundations for election spending (a nod to the fascist hysteria over a grant from Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg to support state election spending during the COVID-19 pandemic).
Raffensperger’s victory was an equally clear repudiation of the “stolen election” campaign, as the Georgia official was best known for rejecting Trump’s demands to change the outcome of the presidential election. Trump endorsed Jody Hice, an incumbent congressman from Northeast Georgia who gave up his secure seat in the House of Representatives to run for what was previously considered a less prestigious position as the state’s chief election administrator.
Hice was also badly defeated, winning only 34 percent of the vote and carrying only his own congressional district. Raffensperger won not only in greater Atlanta and its suburbs, but largely in rural central and southern Georgia, where Trump’s support was thought to be strongest.
Other Republican primaries in Alabama and Arkansas showed mixed results for Trump’s efforts to dictate the outcome. In Alabama, Trump had withdrawn his support from Rep. Mo Brooks, one of the leading supporters of the Stop the Steal campaign, after Brooks suggested that the Republican Party should walk away from the 2020 campaign issue. (Brooks appeared to be badly behind in a three-way as well).
But after Trump’s statement, Brooks did win support among Republican primary voters and he finished second in Tuesday’s primary and won a spot in a runoff against Katie Britt, former chief of staff to outgoing Senator Richard Shelby, a former Democrat-turned-Republican.
In Arkansas, Trump’s former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, easily won the Republican primary for governor. Sanders is the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee and is now expected to succeed Governor Asa Hutchinson, whose term in office is limited.
There were two notable contests for the Democrats. In Texas’ 28th congressional district, Roe v. Wade, Rep. Henry Cuellar, a slim 175 votes ahead of challenger Jessica Cisneros, a liberal attorney who opposed Cuellar on both abortion and immigration issues.
The impoverished neighborhood, mostly Hispanic, stretches from Mexico’s Rio Grande border to the suburbs of San Antonio.
Cisneros had the support of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But even after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion on Roe v. Wade supported the Democratic congressional leadership of Cuellar. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed him, while Majority Whip James Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, actually campaigned with Cuellar in his district.
In the first campaign in Minnesota’s first congressional district, which includes the southernmost part of the state along the Iowa border, Jeff Ettinger won the Democratic nomination and will face Republican Brad Finstad in a special election in August to fill the post left by his death occupied by incumbent Jim Hagedorn, a Republican. The two are also on the ballot in November.
Ettinger’s nomination is a particularly damaging example of the Democratic Party’s rightward shift and its embrace by and by American corporations. The nominee is the retired CEO of Hormel Corp. based in Austin, Minnesota, a giant food processing company. Hormel became notorious in 1985 for breaking a strike by meatpackers through the use of scabs protected by National Guard troops sent by Democratic Gov. Rudy Perpich.
Ettinger was not on Hormel’s payroll at the time. He joined the company in 1989 after graduating from law school, rising first to General Counsel and becoming CEO in 2005. He retired from that position in 2016 but is still president of the Hormel Foundation, founded by the Hormel family, which still dominates the Fortune 500 company behind the scenes.
The Hormel strike was one of the most explosive conflicts of the 1980s. It emphasized the role of AFL-CIO unions and their transformation into managerial branches. The UFCW international intervened in the strike to suspend Local P-9, which was waging a militant fight against the company. All strikers were fired and replaced by scabs, and the UFCW eventually hired a new locale made up of these scabs.
According to local press reports, Rena Wong, organizational director of UFCW Local 663, the union now recognized at the plant, described Ettinger as a “decent guy” who is responsive to the workers and the union.
Join the Socialist Equality Party!
The Socialist Equality Party organizes the working class in the struggle for socialism: the reorganization of all economic life to serve social needs, not private profit.