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Former NFL player Colin Allred is running for Congress as a Democrat in Texas' 32nd district. Photo: Allison V. Smith for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The biggest takeaway from last night's primaries and runoffs in Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Arkansas: Republican voters played it safe, while Democrats advanced fresh faces and diverse candidates.

Why it matters: Democrats have a new playbook to consider moving forward in the 2018 midterm elections. These races were all in the Deep South, but left-leaning voters in these reliably red states showed they're ready for change.

What you need to know

Progressives can win in the South. Georgia has its first black woman gubernatorial nominee, Stacey Abrams. Colin Allred in Texas presented himself as a candidate of a new generation for the party. Kentucky's Amy McGrath is the "new anti-establishment."

  • These victories dispel the "Conor Lamb mold" that suggests successful red-state/district Democrats have to cater to moderate, white working-class voters.

Big wins for the Club For Growth. The GOP group that supports limited government and the free market invested in five congressional candidates in Texas. Four of them are advancing to the general.

  • They're familiar faces and typical choices. Chip Roy is Ted Cruz's former chief of staff and Michael Cloud had support from former GOP Rep. Ron Paul.
  • They'll almost certainly become the newest members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus if elected to Congress, per Huffington Post's Kevin Robillard, meaning the group could shift's Texas' representation in Washington farther to the right.

Texas might not be turning blue, but it's certainly got more color. A few of the Democrats heading to the general: An Air Force vet whom Angelina Jolie might play in an upcoming movie (MJ Hegar); a former NFL player (Colin Allred); and the first lesbian, Iraq War vet & Filipina-American to hold a House seat in Texas, if elected (Gina Ortiz Jones).

There was a voter enthusiasm gap for both parties in different areas. Republican incumbent Andy Barr had a challenger in Kentucky's sixth district, and yet only 48,372 votes were cast by Republicans to Democrats' 100,418 votes.

  • This enthusiasm gap was notably flipped in the Club For Growth races, where Republicans turned out at nearly twice the rate of Democrats.
  • And in Arkansas' gubernatorial race, where a Trump tweet may have inspired the 202,621 Republican voters who came out compared to 105,775 Democrats.

Teachers strike back. Kentucky's House Republican Leader Jonathan Shell lost his re-election bid to Travis Brenda, a local math teacher. Kentucky teachers went on strike April 2. Watch for the potential power of teachers as crucial voters in some of these elections across the country where they've had major strikes and walk-outs.

One candidate to watch: Lucy McBath, heading to a runoff in Georgia's 6th district. Not only is she running in the district lost by Jon Ossoff, but she's a black woman with a platform that highlights ending gun violence at a time when it's finally become a national issue, but she's been affected by gun violence since at least 2012.

Go deeper

Updated 53 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate will now work through votes on a series of amendments that are expected to last overnight into early Saturday morning.

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.

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