Chicken Fried Politics

LATEST COVERAGE

FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC U.S. REP. ALCEE HASTINGS DIES AFTER 2-YEAR CANCER BATTLE

hastings

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings

Hastings who launched a barrier-breaking, three-decade career in Congress after being impeached and removed from his post as a federal judge in 1989, died April 6 at 84. In a statement announcing his death, Hastings’s family said he “lived a full life with an indelible fighting spirit dedicated to equal justice.” With Hastings’s death, Democrats have just a two-seat majority in the House. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis will now call a special election to fill the seat, which could leave it vacant for several months and set off a scramble among local Democrats for a rare open seat. (Posted April 6)

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AMTRAK PLANS TO USE BIDEN INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING TO EXPAND SOUTHERN RAIL SERVICE

New Amtrak routes shown in light blue

As the Biden administration tries to cobble together political support for its massive $2.5 trillion infrastructure program, Amtrak has announced that it plans to use its share of the money to expand its national rail network, including significant additions across the South. In a plan unveiled April 1, Amtrak said it would add service to 12 Southern cities, as well as enhancing existing service in Texas, Florida and the corridor between Birmingham, Atlanta and Charlotte. Kentucky — the only state east of the Mississippi River currently without any Amtrak service — will finally be connected to the national network with a rail link between Louisville and Indianapolis. (Posted April 2)

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WATERGAETZ? FLORIDA U.S. REP. MATT GAETZ SUBJECT OF SEX TRAFFICKING INVESTIGATION

Matt Gaetz

In what is quickly becoming one of the year’s most bizarre political stories, Gaetz, a Florida Republican and stanch supporter of former President Donald Trump, is denying allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl but acknowledges he is under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking charges, as first reported by The New York Times. As headlines began to trumpet news of the investigation, Gaetz struck back by accusing a Florida attorney of trying to use the allegations to extort $25 million from his family, a charge that the attorney denies. (Posted March 31)

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REPUBLICAN U.S. REP. MO BROOKS KICKS OFF RACE FOR OPEN ALABAMA U.S. SENATE SEAT

Brooks announces Senate bid (WZDX)

Brooks entered the chase for Alabama’s open U.S. Senate seat Monday with a campaign launch where he wrapped himself firmly in the mantle of Donald Trump as he tries to navigate what is likely to become a crowded primary field. He shared the stage with Stephen Miller — a Trump aide who was the architect of Trump’s restrictive immigration policies — and continued to promote the former president’s unfounded claims of election fraud, which he claimed the news media were suppressing. Brooks, 66, who has represented Alabama’s 5th U.S. House District since 2011, made an unsuccessful bid for the state’s other Senate seat in 2017. (Posted March 22)

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REPUBLICAN JULIA LETLOW WINS LOUISIANA 5TH DISTRICT U.S. HOUSE SEAT; RUNOFF IN 2ND DISTRICT

Carter-Peterson

Carter

Letlow

Letlow easily won a special election for the 5th District seat in northeast Louisiana less than three months after her husband, Luke, died of COVID-19 complications before he could be sworn into the post, with 65% of the vote. In a separate special election Saturday in the 2nd District, Democratic state senators Troy Carter and Karen Carter-Peterson advanced to an April 24 runoff in a contest to replace Cedric Richmond, who resigned to take a job as the White House public engagement director in the Biden administration. The district includes most of New Orleans and part of Baton Rouge, along with the River Parishes in between. (Posted March 20)

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ARKANSAS STATE SENATOR JIM HENDREN BOLTS REPUBLICAN PARTY TO SIT AS INDEPENDENT

State Senator Jim Hendren

Saying he was disturbed by the corrosive effects of hyper-partisanship and the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, Hendren announced Thursday that he was leaving the Republican Party, becoming an independent and forming a new centrist political organization, Common Ground AR. The move prompted speculation that Hendren, who has served nearly 15 years in the legislature, could launch an independent bid for governor in 2022, setting up a general election showdown with a Donald Trump-aligned Republican candidate. (Posted February 18)

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2 SOUTHERN REPUBLICANS VOTE TO CONVICT DONALD TRUMP IN IMPEACHMENT TRIAL

Cassidy and Burr

U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Richard Burr of North Carolina broke with most of their Republican colleagues to vote to convict the former president on charges of inciting the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Cassidy and Burr were the only Southern Republicans to vote for conviction; all five Southern Democrats voted to convict, including U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state Trump carried by nearly 40 points in November. After the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell excoriated Trump’s behavior but said the Constitution did not allow him to be convicted once he left office. (Posted February 11)

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ALABAMA REPUBLICAN U.S. SENATOR RICHARD SHELBY WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION IN 2022

Richard Shelby

Saying that “for everything there is a season,” Shelby announced Monday that he will retire in 2022, bringing to a close a political career that has made him that longest-serving senator in his state’s history and triggering what is likely to be a pitched battle among Republicans to replace him. Shelby, 86, was elected to the U.S. House in 1978 and to the Senate in 1986, serving at various times as the chair of the appropriations, banking, intelligence and rules committees. He was a Democrat until switching parties in 1994, as Alabama was transitioning from being solidly Democrat to solidly Republican and the GOP won control of Congress.  (Posted February 8)

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TEXAS GOP U.S. REP. RON WRIGHT BECOMES FIRST MEMBER OF CONGRESS TO DIE FROM COVID

Wright

Three months after being elected to a second term in Congress, Wright died Sunday after battling COVID-19 and lung cancer, become the first sitting member of Congress to die during the pandemic. A statement from his office said Wright died peacefully at a hospital in Dallas with his wife, Susan, at his side. He had announced January 21 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been hospitalized for the past two weeks. Wright, 67, had been diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2019, about seven months after arriving in Congress, but ran for re-election in November as he continued treatment. His death will trigger an all-party special election in Texas’s 6th U.S. House District in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, a seat Democrats targeted in 2020. (Posted February 8)

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U.S. HOUSE VOTES TO STRIP GEORGIA U.S. REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE OF COMMITTEE POSTS

Marjorie Taylor Greene

On a largely party-line vote, House Thursday took the unprecedented step of removing Greene, a Georgia Republican, from her committee assignments after GOP leaders refused to do so in the wake of Greene’s past online support for conspiracy theories and violence against Democrats. Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in support of the resolution, including three GOP members from South Florida, Carlos Giménez, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Maria Elvira Salazar. The vote came after Greene took the floor to express regret about her past embrace of QAnon and conspiracy theories about school shootings and the 9/11 terror attacks, during which she also blamed the news media for mischaracterizing her views and lamented “cancel culture.” (Posted February 4)

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FORMER TRUMP SPOKESWOMAN SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS RUNNING FOR ARKANSAS GOVERNOR

Sanders

Sanders, 38, who gained national prominence battling reporters from the White House podium in defense of President Donald Trump, announced her entry into the 2022 governor’s race in a video released Monday. While the former press secretary will take the Trump brand with her into her run for governor, she faces what is shaping up to be a contentious Republican primary against two current statewide officeholders, Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Her father, Mike Huckabee, served as the Natural State’s chief executive from 1996 to 2007. (Posted January 25)

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SOUTH CAROLINA’S JAIME HARRISON PICKED BY JOE BIDEN AS NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR

Jaime Harrison

Two months after coming up short in a $130-million quest to flip a U.S. Senate seat, Harrison has been picked by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee. Biden also named Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas as two of four vice chairs of the party, putting Southerners in three key positions atop a party that made some headway in 2020 after struggling for relevance in the region. Harrison, 44, a former aide to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, served as chair of the Palmetto State’s Democratic Party from 2013 to 2017. (Posted January 14)

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REPUBLICAN SOUTH CAROLINA U.S. REP. TOM RICE SUPPORTS IMPEACHING DONALD TRUMP

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice

In a last-minute decision that surprised constituents and colleagues alike, Rice joined a group 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach Trump. He was the only one of the 99 Southern Republicans in the House who supported a resolution accusing Trump of inciting insurrection in last week’s deadly riot by his supporters in the Capitol. In a statement explaining his vote, Rice said that though he had “backed this President through thick and thin for four years,” his actions last week were “inexcusable.” Rice has represented South Carolina’s 7th District since 2013. (Posted January 13)

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5 SOUTHERN GOP U.S. SENATORS, 79 HOUSE MEMBERS OBJECT TO JOE BIDEN’S ELECTORAL VOTE WIN

Joint sessions of Congress counts electoral vote (From C-SPAN)

Despite an afternoon of violence that left four people dead and lawmakers running for cover, five Southern Republican U.S. senators and 79 of the region’s GOP U.S. House members persisted in supporting objections to President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania. The five senators were Ted Cruz of Texas, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Rick Scott of Florida and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. All of the Republican House members representing Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia supported at least one of the objections to the counts of Biden’s win. By contrast, only a single member from both Kentucky and Arkansas voted yes. (Posted January 7)

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SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL MAKES PLEA TO REJECT ELECTORAL CHALLENGE

McConnell took to the Senate floor Wednesday to make a somber and impassioned plea against overturning President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win, saying “nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale” needed to overturn the election and that if “this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” His remarks came less than an hour before the Senate had to be evacuated after pro-Trump protestors breached the Capitol. (Posted January 6)

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THE NIGHT THE GOP’S LIGHTS WENT OUT IN GEORGIA: DEMOCRATS WIN U.S. SENATE CONTROL

Ossoff and Warnock

Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have won Georgia’s two hotly contested U.S. Senate runoffs, handing Democrats control of the U.S. Senate and removing a significant impediment to President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. Warnock — the senior pastor of Atlanta’s iconic Ebenezer Baptist Church — defeated Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler by about 64,000 votes, or margin of 50.7% to 49.3%. Ossoff had a smaller 25,000-vote win over Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue, who had been forced into quarantine in the closing days of the race. (Posted January 5)

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25 NEW SOUTHERN U.S. HOUSE MEMBERS, 2 SENATORS SWORN IN AS NEW CONGRESS SESSION BEGINS

Members of the new 117th Congress were sworn into office on Sunday, including 25 new Southern U.S. House members and two new Southern senators. The Southern House freshmen include seven Republican women, part of a wave elected in November that more the doubled the number of GOP women in the chamber, and 25-year-old Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, who is the youngest member of the House sworn in since 1965. In the Senate, Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, and Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee, will join a Southern contingent that now includes 25 Republicans and just three Democrats, after Tuberville defeated Doug Jones in November. Lawmakers were sworn in during a rare Sunday session because the Constitution prescribes January 3 as the date for opening a new Congress. (Posted January 3)

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LOUISIANA REPUBLICAN U.S. REP.-ELECT LUKE LETLOW DIES AT 41 FROM COVID-19 COMPLICATIONS

Luke Letlow

Less than a month after winning a hard-fought runoff to claim a seat in Congress, Letlow died Tuesday at a Shreveport hospital where he had been admitted last week after his condition worsened. The Monroe Star News reported that Letlow died from a heart attack while undergoing a procedure to treat his COVID infection but had no underlying heart issues. Letlow’s death came just five days before he was to be sworn in as a congressman on Sunday. A special election to replace him in the 5th District, which covers 24 parishes in northeast and central Louisiana, has been set for March 20. (Posted December 30)

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MOST SOUTHERN U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICANS BREAK WITH TRUMP ON RELIEF CHECKS, OVERRIDE

Southern U.S. House Republicans were largely unswayed by President Donald Trump’s call for larger coronavirus relief checks in a key vote Monday, and most of them then voted to override the president’s veto of a defense spending bill that had passed earlier in the month with broad bipartisan support. Among the 99 Southern Republicans in the House, just 18 joined in the effort to boost relief checks to $2,000, and 51 voted to overturn Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act. Both measures cleared the House and are headed to the Senate. (Posted December 29)

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NORTH CAROLINA ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATOR MICHAEL REGAN NOMINATED TO LEAD EPA

EPA nominee Michael Regan

Regan, currently the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality was nominated for the post by President-elect Joe Biden. He is the first Southern official to be named to the Biden Cabinet and, if confirmed, will be the first black man to run the EPA, overseeing nearly 14,000 employees and a $9 billion budget. Prior to being appointed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, Regan had been an official with the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental advocacy group, working on clean energy issues. (Posted December 18)

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TRUMP URGES GOP FAITHFUL TO VOTE IN GEORGIA RUNOFF, CONTINUES ASSAULT ON KEMP

Trump rallies Georgia supporters

In his first major public appearance since November’s election, President Donald Trump urged Georgia Republicans to turn out for January runoffs in two U.S. Senate races that will determine which party will control the upper chamber. However, at a Saturday night rally in Valdosta, the president continued to insist that he won November’s presidential election and kept up his drumbeat of criticism aimed at Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for not taking action to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the Peach State. (Posted December 6)

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4 SOUTHERN U.S. HOUSE MEMBERS BREAK PARTY RANKS IN VOTE ON MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION

FL’s Matt Gaetz speaks in favor

In a nearly party-line vote, the U.S. House approved landmark legislation Friday to remove federal criminal penalties for marijuana and erase past convictions for cannabus-related offenses. Three Southern Republicans broke ranks with most of their party to support the measure — U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast of Florida and Denver Riggleman of Virginia. One Southern Democrat, U.S. Rep. Henry Cueller of Texas, was among just six Democrats who voted against the bill. While the bill is not expected to advance in the Senate, Friday’s 222-to-164 vote in represents a sea change in political attitudes toward marijuana, which will soon be legal for medical use in 36 states and for adult recreational use in 15. (Posted December 4)

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NORTH CAROLINA U.S. REP. MARK WALKER ANNOUNCES 2022 RUN FOR OPEN U.S. SENATE SEAT

Mark Walker

Walker opened his campaign December 1 with a video featuring endorsements from state leaders and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and conservative talk show host. Walker, 51, from Greesboro, was a Southern Baptist pastor before his election to Congress. He has represented the 6th U.S. House District since 2015 but did not seek re-election in November after a court-ordered redraw of the state’s congressional districts made his district more Democratic. Among the potential Republican candidates considering the race is Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, who grew up on the Tar Heel State. (Posted December 1)

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2020 OVERTIME: RUNOFFS IN 2 GEORGIA U.S. SENATE SEATS WILL DETERMINE PARTY CONTROL

Ossoff and Perdue

Warnock and Loeffler

Attention, Georgians: Prepare to have your Thanksgiving interrupted by politics. And your Christmas. And your New Year’s. Runoffs will be held January 5 for both of the Peach State’s U.S. Senate seats, with party control of the Senate hanging in the balance. In one contest, Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff; in the other, Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock If Democrats win both runoffs, the party will control the White House and both the U.S. House and Senate starting next January 20. If Republicans win just one, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will remain large and in charge — and standing in their way. (Posted November 7)

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DECISION 2020: REPUBLICANS’ SOUTHERN RED WALL HOLDS; GOP MAKES U.S. HOUSE GAINS

Republican political dominance across the South largely held up in Tuesday’s election, winning 12 states in the presidential race, most of the contested U.S. Senate contests, and taking down four U.S. House Democratic freshmen who had flipped seats in 2018. However, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a small lead in Georgia, pending a recount, and carried Virginia. Republican incumbents appeared to have held on to Senate seats in Texas, Kentucky, and South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as flipping a seat in Alabama, where Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones lost to Republican Tommy Tuberville. (Updated November 7)

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DECISION 2020: DEMOCRATS’ LONE STAR HOPES DASHED AS THEY COME UP BONE DRY IN TEXAS

John Cornyn

Heading into Tuesday’s election, Texas Democrats were hopeful that 2020 would finally be the year that the Lone Star State would turn purple. They had targeted 10 U.S. House seats and had hopes of flipping a U.S. Senate seat and grabbing control of the state House — and perhaps even winning the state’s presidential electoral votes for the first time since 1976. Exactly none of that happened. President Donald Trump carried state, U.S. Senator John Cornyn won re-election, none of the House incumbents lost; and party power in the Texas House will be about where it was before the election began. (Posted November 4)

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