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What The Primaries In Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky And Texas Mean For Democrats


It's that time of year when if it's Tuesday, it's another round of primaries. Tonight they are in three states - Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky plus a runoff in Texas. Now, to tell us what to watch for, we're joined by no better election night guide than Domenico Montanaro, NPR's lead political editor. Hey there, Domenico.


CORNISH: So what's the big story to watch tonight?

MONTANARO: Well, the big thing to watch tonight really is the Democrats. You know, this is all about whether or not progressives wind up taking the sort of more pragmatic, establishment wing really to the mats. We saw it last week play out. We'll see tonight if it happens in a couple races, watching particularly one race in Texas and the governor's race in Georgia.

CORNISH: Let's talk about Georgia a bit more because that race is getting a lot of national attention. There's the potential for the first black female governor in the nation's history, right?

MONTANARO: Absolutely. This is Stacey Abrams we're talking about, a Democrat and African-American, former minority leader of the Georgia General Assembly. Everyone expects her to win tonight - operatives on both sides. And she has unabashedly run a campaign that says, in Georgia, you don't need to win over Republicans if you're a Democrat because of the changing demographics. And that's really rocked the conventional wisdom and traditional knowledge in the state.

Remember; Democrats haven't elected a governor in Georgia since 1998. It's been 20 years. And the demographics have shifted quite a bit. Two-thirds of the electorate in 1998 were white. Now that's - just over half of the state are white. So really you've seen blacks, Latinos, Asians really make up a much bigger share of the population. And Abrams is making a bet that hasn't been tested yet to see if she can get enough non-white voters out in a general election. Of course she has to beat off the other Stacey in this race, Stacey Evans, a state representative, first, who is white, before she can take on whoever the Republican is on the other side.

CORNISH: Who are the Republican contenders?

MONTANARO: Well, the Republican race is another interesting one because you've got the lieutenant governor in the race and the secretary of state, and those two candidates have run very different types of campaigns than the Democrats because the Republicans in that race - running much more hard-line on immigration in particular, culturally talking about guns. I mean, one of the candidates wound up running ads with a shotgun pointed at a teenage boy who supposedly liked his daughter, and he had a pickup truck saying he was rounding up immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally and, yes, he said that.

CORNISH: In the meantime, can we talk about Texas for a bit? What's going on with the election there?

MONTANARO: Sure. So there's this Democratic runoff in a primary in the 7th Congressional District where you have Laura Moser, who's an attorney and a progressive candidate that the Democratic Campaign Committee in Washington did not want as the candidate. They thought she was too progressive, and they had the other candidate in mind that they thought would be much better off for this race.

But they both wound up in a runoff, and we're going to see tonight. If Moser's able to make it over the top, then that really does look at that sort of Democratic internal civil war that's been going on. And it could, by the way - Democrats worry in Washington that that could take another one of these races off the board that they need to win in the House to take control of the House.

CORNISH: We've heard a lot about this being the year of the woman. Is that turning out to be the case in other states?

MONTANARO: Well, in Kentucky in particular, we saw tonight that Amy McGrath won this race. She's a former fighter pilot, and some of her advertising had gone viral. She had gotten a lot of liberal support from outside the state, and she defeated a pretty popular mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray. He's openly gay, and he actually ran against Rand Paul for the Senate in the last cycle and wound up winning this district. So a lot of people thought that he would be the favorite, but McGrath in recent days wound up with a lot of momentum and really could be someone who looks like the new face of a Democratic party and progressives going forward.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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