In the first major test of how Southern Democrats in vulnerable seats will navigate through ongoing House investigations of President Donald Trump, all of them stuck to the party line in supporting new powers that could escalate those inquiries. Ten Southern House Democrats who flipped seats in 2018 and are at the top of the GOP hit list in 2020 voted to authorize the Judiciary Committee to go into federal court and demand that the Justice Department comply with requests for documents and witness testimony. Not a single Southern Republican supported the resolution, including 11 GOP members who are on the Democrats’ target list for 2020.
Media organizations have been trumpeting results of a new poll that purports to show President Donald Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in Texas — a somewhat shocking result, given that a Democrat hasn’t carried the Lone Star State since 1976 and hasn’t been close since 1996. But a closer look at the numbers of the Quinnipiac Poll show that, given the poll’s margin of error, the results do not establish a definite lead for Biden, although he does appear to be more competitive against Trump than other 2020 Democratic contenders. (Posted June 6)
Just four days after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach left 12 people dead, Northam has launched a renewed push for gun control, saying “no one should go to work, to school or to church wondering if they will come home.” But the Democratic governor needs Republican support to get gun restrictions through the legislature — and GOP leaders are giving a frosty reception to a sure-to-be contentious initiative from the commonwealth’s politically wounded chief executive. Among the measures Northam is proposing are universal background checks, limits on the size of ammunition magazines, and “extreme risk” protective orders to keep guns out of the hands of people who might be violent. (Posted June 5)
Cochran, who became one of Mississippi’s most revered statesmen in a political career that spanned nine presidents, died May 30 at a nursing home in Oxford. Cochran had retired in April 2018 because of ongoing health issues that had kept him away from the Senate for several months. During his seven terms in the Senate, he chaired both the agriculture and appropriations committees, steering billions of dollars in federal money back to the Magnolia State. (Posted May 30)
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
Consider if you will a leader who is unapologetic, unconventional and unleashed. Who is in office not because of, but in spite of, the political class and cares little for its opinions. A man whose opponents are reduced to sputtering fits of rage at the mere mention of his name. Who plays happily to his base, unperturbed by tepid approval ratings.
That, of course, describes Donald Trump, but it also describes the central player in the South’s hottest governor’s race in 2019, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who may be the first canary in the coal mine to tell us how Trump himself might fare in 2020. (Posted May 29)
Harrison, the former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, entered the 2020 Senate race with a pledge to bring “the spirit of helping” back to politics — and with withering criticism of Graham, whom he accused of trading “his moral compass for petty political gain” in making an about-face in his views of Donald Trump. Although South Carolina hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998, Harrison said he believes the party “is on the verge of a renaissance in the South.” (Posted May 29)
Attorney General Andy Beshear narrowly won the Democratic primary for Kentucky governor, setting up a November showdown with Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who turned in a mediocre primary result against weak competition. Beshear captured 38 percent in the May 21 primary to 32 percent for State Rep. Rocky Adkins and 27 percent for former State Auditor Adam Edelen. In the Republican primary, Bevin could only manage 52 percent against three-little known rivals, coming in with a total vote less than Beshear’s. (Posted May 21)
Casada announced his departure from the speakership after House Republicans voted no confidence in his leadership and Republican Governor Bill Lee threatened to call the legislature into to special session to remove him. Earlier this month, Tennessee’s Gannett newspapers gained access to copies of text messages sent by Cade Cothren, Casada’s chief of staff, in which he referred to women with obscene and derogatory terms and solicited sex and nude photos from an intern. Casada was a participant in some of those conversations. (Posted May 21)
Bishop, from Charlotte, easily won the Republican primary in the 9th District and will now defend the seat against Democrat Dan McCready in a September special election. Bishop took 48 percent in the May 14 vote, well above the 30 percent he needed to avoid a runoff. McCready, who got a second chance at the seat when the results of November’s election were tossed out, was unopposed in the Democratic primary. The special election will take place under the glare of national attention for a seat Democrats hope to flip. (Posted May 14)
Southern members of the House Judiciary Committee have voted along party lines to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing to turn over an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Muller’s final report. Among the 10 Southern Democrats voting for the contempt measure May 8 was freshman U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, a top GOP target in 2020 in a Republican-leaning district in the Atlanta suburbs, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, another top Republican target next year. The committee approved the contempt resolution 24-16. It will now go to the full House, where it is expected to pass. (Posted May 8)
State Rep. Greg Murphy, a Greenville physician, and Joan Perry, a pediatrician from Kinston and former member of the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors, took the top spots in the crowded April 23 primary for the vacant 3rd District seat, which featured 17 Republican candidates. They will face off in a July 9 primary, with the winner advancing to face the Democratic nominee, former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas. The winner of the Republican runoff will be prohibitive favorite in the 3rd District, which includes 17 mostly rural counties along the state’s Atlantic coast. (Posted May 2)
Collective amnesia is on display these days in Richmond, where Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and Democrats in the House of Delegates are resisting calls from Republican legislators to allow two women who have accused Fairfax of sexual assault to testify publicly.
Instead, Fairfax wants prosecutors in North Carolina and Boston — where the alleged assaults took place — to investigate cases that are 19 and 15 years old, respectively, knowing full well that said prosecutors have absolutely no incentive to get involved in cases that involve no one now living in their jurisdictions and are unlikely to lead to criminal prosecution.
Virginia House Democrats are resisting public testimony because, in the words of Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, the hearing proposed by Republicans would turn into “a politically motivated and unprecedented spectacle.”
Unprecedented? Anyone remember Brett Kavanagh and Christine Blasey Ford?
The questions here isn’t whether Justin Fairfax should go to jail; it’s whether he should remain in high office. And that is a political matter clearly under the purview of Virginia legislators. And how can anyone say, as Fairfax has, how much we need to listen to sexual assault victims while at the same time thwarting efforts to let them be heard?
Tuberville, who coached Auburn for nine seasons and led the team to an SEC championship in 2004, announced his candidacy in an April 6 Twitter post in which he said “after more than a year of listening to Alabama’s citizens, I have heard your concerns and hopes for a better tomorrow” and would seek the Republican nomination for the seat currently held by Democrat Doug Jones. In his tweet, Tuberville used the hashtag #MAGA, President Donald Trump’s pledge to “Make America Great Again.” Politico reported that Sean Spicer, Trump’s first press secretary, will work for Tuberville, who will face U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne in the primary, with other Republicans also expected to join the race. (Posted April 6)
Days after two women vividly described for a national television audience how they were sexually assaulted by Fairfax, the lieutenant governor called a news conference to once again deny the allegations and release results of polygraph examinations that he insists clear him. “Sensationalizing allegations does not make them true,” said Fairfax, who admitted having sexual encounters with both women but said they were consensual. Meanwhile, Republican and Democratic leaders in the House of Delegates continued to spar over whether to let Fairfax’s accusers, Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, testify in a public hearing, as the women have requested. (Posted April 3)
Robin Hayes, a former congressman who chairs the North Carolina Republican Party, and the state’s top political donor have been indicted in what federal prosecutors called a “brazen” scheme to bribe Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Prosecutors charged Hayes and Durham businessman Greg E. Lindberg with wire fraud and bribery for an alleged scheme to bribe Causey to get favorable treatment from regulators for one of Lindberg’s companies. The indictment also appears to connect Walker to Lindberg but does not accuse him of wrongdoing. (Posted April 2)
Graham, a one-time Trump critic who has become one of his most vigorous and unlikely defenders in the Senate, was rewarded with a visit from Vice President Mike Pence, who traveled to South Carolina for the kickoff of Graham’s 2020 re-election campaign. Pence told a rally in Greenville that he and Trump were “standing next to this man because of the way he stood next to us.” Graham also put his relationship with the president front-and-center, saying “purpose No. 1 is to help President Trump in his second term, to be an ally of this president who has kept his word, who is making America great again and will continue to do so.” Graham, 63, is seeking his fourth term in the Senate. (Posted March 31)
In an extemporaneous speech to an enthusiastic hometown crowd, O’Rourke called on Americans to show more compassion toward immigrants and take on an “unprecedented concentration of wealth and power” that he said has “corrupted” America’s democracy. “This is our moment of truth, and we cannot be found wanting. The challenges before us are the greatest of our lifetimes,” he said. Among the challenges he cited were income inequality, access to health care and climate change. O’Rourke barely mentioned Donald Trump other than to accuse the president of sowing “fear and division.”(Posted March 30)