Trump endorsements jolt GOP races

Source: Politico | September 17, 2021 | Marc Caputo and Meridith McGraw

While the party is focused on the November 2022 general election, Trump’s gaze is fixed on the primary election season that begins next spring.

Staten Island borough president. Michigan state Senate. Arizona secretary of state.

Donald Trump is endorsing candidates in party primary elections all the way down the ballot, a level of involvement that’s virtually unheard of among recent former presidents.

What’s remarkable about Trump’s picks isn’t just their breadth — he’s endorsed close to 40 candidates so far in 23 states — it’s their seemingly random quality. What’s even more unusual is that the political goals of the GOP’s de facto leader aren’t necessarily in sync with his own party — in some cases, they are starkly at odds.

If there’s a thread running through nearly all of Trump’s endorsements, it is his habit of rewarding allies and punishing enemies. So far, at the national level, he’s backed primary challengers to four House GOP incumbents and one sitting senator — all of whom voted for impeachment.

When it comes to state and local races, Trump’s seal of approval is often linked in one way or another to his failed efforts to have the 2020 election results overturned. In the three secretary of state contests where he has endorsed — Arizona, Georgia and Michigan — the common denominator is that his claims of election fraud were dismissed in those places by the current secretaries of state due to a lack of evidence.

In Arizona, where Trump endorsed state Rep. Mark Finchem’s bid for secretary of state this week, Finchem fits the Trump model. He’s not the only Trump supporter in the GOP field, but he’s arguably the most committed. He contends the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, participated in the “Stop the Steal” movement, attended the Jan. 6 rally at the U.S. Capitol and has pushed conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon.

In Georgia, where three of the state’s top Republicans have incurred Trump’s wrath for resisting his efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s win there, Trump has been especially active.

He is backing Rep. Jody Hice in a primary challenge against GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — who resisted Trump’s entreaties to “find” more votes for him than were counted in Georgia — as well as Burt Jones in the open GOP primary for lieutenant governor. Jones is one of a group of state senators who called on Gov. Brian Kemp to call an emergency special session as part of an effort to overturn Georgia’s presidential election results after Biden’s victory.

Trump hasn’t yet endorsed in the governor’s race. But after publicly excoriating Kemp for months, there is little doubt where the former president stands.

To some Republicans, Trump’s efforts to take down GOP incumbents in federal and state races are at odds with the party’s interests in a midterm election where Republicans are within striking distance of recapturing control of Congress. While the party is focused on the November 2022 general election, Trump’s gaze is fixed on the primary election season that begins next spring.


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