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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp wins GOP backing as 5 states hold primaries

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp won his state's primary Tuesday, downing former U.S. Sen. David Purdue, who had secured the backing of former President Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp/<a href="https://twitter.com/BrianKempGA/status/1529315849538048000?s=20&amp;t=GgRBo05YA5G7ILok-kyxGg">Twitter</a>
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp won his state's primary Tuesday, downing former U.S. Sen. David Purdue, who had secured the backing of former President Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp/Twitter

May 25 (UPI) -- Incumbent Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp handily won the Republican nomination during the state's primary Tuesday night, fending off a challenge from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue who had secured the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

Kemp won the support of his party to take on the Democrats' Stacey Abrams in November by besting Perdue by more than 500,000 votes, according to state data.

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With nearly 95% of of precincts reporting early Wednesday, the businessman-cum politician had secured nearly 74% of the vote to Perdue's nearly 22%.

"Looking at the results tonight, it looks like team Kemp has chopped a lot of wood over the last few months," Kemp said during a speech before supporters early Wednesday.

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The race was among the most watched Tuesday night as the five states of Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota and Texas held primary and runoff contests.

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Trump had backed Perdue in the race, which amounted to political punishment for Kemp who did not support the former president's false claims of voter fraud in the state during the 2020 general elections.

In his endorsement of Perdue, Trump lambasted Kemp as a "very weak governor" who has allowed liberals and RINOS, which is an acronym meaning "Republicans In Name Only," to "run all over him."

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Kemp did not mention Trump directly in his victory speech but referred to Tuesday's contest as a "tough primary" in which Georgia conservatives "didn't listen to the noise."

"They didn't get distracted," he said. "They knew our record of fighting and winning for hard working Georgians. And tonight, because of your support, Georgian Republicans went to the ballot box and overwhelmingly endorsed four more years of our vision for this great state."

The loss was one of four in Georgia's state offices for Trump, who had also backed John Gordon for attorney general, Jody Hice for secretary of state and Patrick Witt for insurance commissioner -- all of whom failed to win the state's GOP backing.

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The former president also scored some victories, however, including that of former NFL star Hershel Walker, whom Trump had endorsed for the U.S. Senate.

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Walker overwhelmingly beat the field of six candidates, earning more than 68% of the vote with nearly 95% of precincts reporting as of early Wednesday, and will now take on incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock of the Democratic Party in November.

"The Georgia Republican Party is grateful to each of our candidates," Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer said in a statement. "We congratulate Gov. Brian Kemp, Herschel Walker and all Republican nominees up and down the ballot. We are united against Stacey Abrams, Raphael Warnock and the Democrat Party's America-last agenda."

In Texas, where there were two primary runoffs, controversial incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton was projected by Decision Desk HQ to secure the GOP nomination over George P. Bush, The Texas Tribune reported.

With nearly 99% of votes counted, Paxton received nearly 68% of the vote to Bush's 32%. Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and grandson to former President George H.W. Bush.

Paxton has been indicted for security fraud and is under an FBI investigation for abuse of power and bribery but received the backing of Trump, who said the two-term attorney general has been on "the front line" in the fight against "the vicious and very dangerous radical left Democrats."

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Paxton will go up against former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Rochelle Garza, who won the Democratic runoff against Galveston lawyer Joe Jaworski.

In Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House press secretary under the Trump administration, convincingly won the GOP's backing for governor, securing more than 83% of the vote to Francis "Doc" Washburn's nearly 17% with 96% of areas reporting, according to state data.

Sanders, the daughter of Mike Huckabee, who was governor of the state for 11 years and a former presidential candidate, is set to take on physicist and minister Chris Jones of the Democratic Party in November for the state's highest office.

Jones also handily won his party's support Tuesday, garnering more than 70% of the vote in a field of five candidates.

In Minnesota, Jeff Ettinger had secured 64% of the vote in the Democratic primary to fill the seat of late Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died earlier this year from cancer.

Meanwhile, the Republican race was too close to call early Wednesday with farmer Brad Finstad with nearly 38% of the vote to businessman Jeremy Munson's nearly 37%, according to state data.

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In Alabama, Republican voters seemed poised for a run-off election on June 21 with no candidate securing the minimum 50% vote threshold.

According to state data, Katie Britt, former aid to Sen. Richard Shelby, earned 45% of the vote.

"What an incredible night!" she tweeted. "But I'm ready to take on the fight. We're going to win on June 21! I'll hit the ground running on day one as Alabama's next U.S. Senator."

Mo Brooks will be her challenger after finishing in second place with nearly 29% of the vote.

On the Democratic side, Will Boyd won the Democrat Party's backing with nearly 64% of the vote.

Clyde Hughes contributed to this report.

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