President Donald Trump will be able to claim victory after a pair of down-ballot contests Tuesday evening where two high-profile Republican candidates he supported prevailed in primary races.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions came up short in a fight for his political life. Democrats picked their candidate to take on Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins in the fall, and Trump’s former physician Ronny Jackson won a GOP primary runoff for a Texas congressional seat.
Those were a few of the top takeaways from a slate of primary elections and runoffs Tuesday in Maine, Alabama and Texas.
Jeff Sessions loses to Trump-backed GOP opponent in Alabama
Sessions lost a US Senate GOP primary runoff to former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, CNN projects, a major blow to the former attorney general, who had faced fierce opposition to his candidacy from the President.
Tuberville, who was endorsed by the President, will now advance to the general election as the Republican candidate set to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November. The race is likely to be the Republican Party’s best pickup opportunity of the cycle.
Jones, who pulled off an upset in the deep red state in a 2017 special election, is widely viewed as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat facing reelection in 2020.
The outcome of Tuesday’s GOP runoff race marks a significant political defeat for Sessions, who had been fighting to reclaim a Senate seat that he had previously held.
Sessions was the first US senator to endorse Trump in the 2016 presidential race and was once a prominent figure in the Trump administration as the top official leading the Justice Department.
But he fell out of favor with the President and became a target of Trump’s attacks after he recused himself while serving as attorney general from the FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
Sessions became an underdog in the fight for his old job after losing the support of the President.
Trump was quick to celebrate the victory by his candidate of choice on Tuesday night, tweeting, “Tommy Tuberville WON big against Jeff Sessions. Will be a GREAT Senator for the incredible people of Alabama. @DougJones is a terrible Senator who is just a Super Liberal puppet for Schumer & Pelosi. Represents Alabama poorly. On to November 3rd.”
Democrats pick their candidate to take on Susan Collins in Maine
Another highly anticipated November Senate race will take place in Maine. Republican Sen. Susan Collins is defending her seat in the state in what is expected to be a hard-fought battle.
Democrats picked their candidate to take on Collins on Tuesday, with CNN projecting that state House Speaker Sara Gideon will win the primary.
Maine’s Democratic Senate primary featured three candidates and voters had the chance to rank all of them by preference in the state’s ranked-choice voting system, which was used at the federal level in Maine for the first time in 2018.
Gideon had the most money and highest profile, while activist Betsy Sweet, who had finished third in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary, and lawyer Bre Kidman were trying to run to her left.
National Democrats have made Collins a top target in their effort to try to take back the Senate majority in 2020. The senator is facing the toughest reelection of her career a race that the newsletter Inside Elections rates a “Toss-up.”
Trump’s former physician wins GOP primary runoff for Texas congressional seat
Dr. Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s former chief physician and one-time nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, will win the Republican runoff for the US House seat in Texas’ 13th Congressional District, CNN projects.
Trump had backed Jackson, who is a Texas native, while his opponent Josh Winegarner had the support of outgoing 13th District Rep. Mac Thornberry, who announced last year that he would not run for reelection.
The district is heavily conservative and was carried by Trump by more than 60 points. As a result, the Republican nominee is well positioned to keep the seat in GOP hands in the November general election.
The President championed Jackson’s candidacy, tweeting in February, “Ronny is strong on Crime and Borders, GREAT for our Military and Vets, and will protect your #2A.”
Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral, withdrew from consideration as Trump’s nominee for secretary of Veterans Affairs in 2018 over allegations that he was “abusive” toward colleagues, loosely handled prescription pain medications and was periodically intoxicated. Jackson denied all of the allegations leveled against him, calling them “completely false and fabricated.”
During his run, Jackson, who served as White House physician during the Obama administration as well, embraced the right-wing conspiracy, promoted by President Trump without offering proof, that then-President Barack Obama spied on Trump’s campaign, a move that angered some of the Obama aides who had served alongside him in the White House.
In March, he finished second in the 15-person GOP field, far behind Winegarner.
MJ Hegar to face John Cornyn in Texas
Air Force veteran MJ Hegar has won a Senate Democratic primary runoff in Texas, CNN projects, setting up a match up against Republican Sen. John Cornyn in the fall.
Hegar, who narrowly lost a House race in 2018, and her allies had been massively outspending her primary opponent state Sen. Royce West, who has attacked her for voting in the 2016 GOP presidential primary for Carly Fiorina, which Hegar has called a protest vote against Trump.
Hegar will face an uphill battle heading into November, however. Inside Elections rates the Senate race “Leans Republican.”
Hegar’s win, along with Gideon’s victory in Maine, also means that national Democrats’ Senate picks continue their winning streak.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee backed Hegar in Texas and Gideon in Maine. EMILY’s List is also supporting both women.
At least one Sessions is happy about Tuesday
Former GOP Rep. Pete Sessions notched a win in his own comeback effort on Tuesday after his GOP primary opponent businesswoman Renee Swann conceded.
Sessions lost in 2018 when Democrat Colin Allred unseated him in Texas’ 32nd District. On Tuesday, he ran as a GOP candidate in a primary runoff for a different congressional district in the state: the 17th. He prevailed in that race with his opponent conceding Tuesday evening.
Sessions had originally considered running against Allred but when GOP Rep. Bill Flores announced he wasn’t running for reelection, the solidly red 17th District came open, and Sessions jumped in.
In Tuesday’s runoff, he faced Swann, who announced earlier this month around the start of early voting that she and her husband had tested positive for coronavirus and would be quarantining.
Swann tweeted her support for Sessions on Tuesday evening, saying, “I offer my congratulations to Pete Sessions and ask everyone who cares about preserving what is great and amazing in our country to support him in the general election.”
The 11-term former congressman, who was allegedly caught up in efforts to oust the former US ambassador to Ukraine, will be in a strong position headed into November. The general election is a “Solid Republican” race.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Simone Pathe and Alex Rogers contributed to this report.