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Texas State Rep. Jake Ellzey wins U.S. House runoff, defeats Trump-backed Susan Wright

Ellzey will replace the late U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, who died from COVID-19 in February

TexasARLINGTON, Texas (CFP) — State Rep. Jake Ellzey claimed Texas’s 6th U.S. House District seat in Tuesday’s all-Republican runoff, defeating Susan Wright, who was trying to keep the seat of her late husband, U.S. Rep. Ron Wright.

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U.S. Rep.-elect Jake Ellzey, R-Texas

The result was a blow to former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Wright and publicly supported her candidacy in the final stretch. His super PAC also dropped $100,000 in a last minute advertising buy.

Ellzey took 53% in the runoff to 47% for Wright to win a district that includes Arlington and parts of Tarrant County, along with Ellis and Navarro counties to the south.

The all-party special election was called after Ron Wright’s death from COVID-19, while undergoing cancer treatment in February.

In the first round of voting in May, Wright and Ellzey claimed both spots in the runoff. Democrats were boxed out when the party’s 2018 nominee for the seat, Jana Lynne Sanchez, came in third, just 350 votes behind Ellzey.

Democrats had hopes of flipping the seat in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth, which Trump carried by just 3 points in 2020. But two other Democrats in the race took 10,000 votes from Sanchez, securing the seat for the GOP.

Tuesday’s runoff was something of a rematch from the 2018 election for the post, when Ron Wright defeated Ellzey to win an open seat.

The district’s previous long-time congressman, Joe Barton, endorsed Ellzey, as did Governor Greg Abbott and former Governor Rick Perry. But Trump went all in for Wright.

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Second time’s a charm? Charles Booker makes new run for Kentucky U.S. Senate seat

Former Democratic legislator from Louisville will face uphill climb to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Rand in 2022

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

KentuckyLOUISVILLE (CFP) — When he launched his first run for the U.S. Senate in 2020, few observers gave Charles Booker a snowball’s chance in a Kentucky August.

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Democrat Charles Booker announces U.S. Senate run

He was just 32, had served in the legislature for just one year, and was trying to wrestle the Democratic nomination away from Amy McGrath, a fundraising powerhouse who had the full backing of Senate Democrats and their leader, Chuck Schumer.

But then, Booker took a leading role in social justice protests in Louisville after the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, his charismatic style caught the imagination of the Democratic left, and — amid an uneven, uninspiring and hyper-cautious campaign from McGrath — he came within 16,000 votes of pulling off what would have one of the year’s biggest primary upsets.

Exiting the race, Booker told his supporters, “Don’t ever let someone tell you what’s impossible.”

A year later, he’s trying the impossible again, this time with a run for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat, held by Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul.

“A lot of people don’t believe that change is possible in Kentucky. We’re going to prove the doubters wrong,” Booker told supporters at his kickoff rally in Louisville July 1. “We’re going to win this race, and we’re going to transform Kentucky, and it starts right now. Let’s go.”

Video of Booker’s announcement speech at end of story.

And Booker made it clear that whether or not his optimism is borne out, or whether or not the race against Paul ends up being competitive in the end, his quest to unseat Paul will be fiery, unapologetically liberal and in-your-face, in a way McGrath never was.

“Randal Howard Paul — I see you. I see you, but you don’t see us,” Booker said. “Rand Paul thinks we are a joke. He mocks us whenever he opens his mouth. He’s mocking us. He’s an embarrassment to Kentucky because he does not care.”

“He thinks his job is to stir dysfunction, to weaponize hate and essentially dismiss Kentuckians altogether.”

Rand’s response to Booker’s announcement telegraphed the likely Republican strategy against him; namely, pounding him on his more left-wing positions in a conservative state: “I just don’t think defunding the police and forcing taxpayers to pay for reparations will be very popular in Kentucky.”

What happened to McGrath in 2020 illustrates the decidedly uphill nature of Booker’s quest in 2022. She spent $90 million to lose to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell by 20 points, failing to even break 40%.

Of course, McConnell is a more formidable political force than Paul, and McGrath’s near loss to Booker in the Democratic primary — in which he beat her in Louisville-Jefferson County by 36,000 votes — was a glaring sign of her weakness as a candidate. Booker does have stronger political skills, and it seems likely at this point that he won’t have to battle through a primary.

Still, Donald Trump carried Kentucky by 26 points in 2020, and Paul heads into the race with Trump’s endorsement. And a Democrat has not won a Senate race in the commonwealth for 30 years.

Booker’s theory of the race is that he can reach, rally and motivate voters on the left, rather than trimming his sails to appear more moderate, which did not work for McGrath. To that end, he has hired two campaign operatives involved in Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock’s runoff win in January, which won with a rallying-the-base strategy.

Booker, like Warnock, is a charismatic African-American candidate with an engaging, pulpit speaking style. However, Kentucky has a much smaller black population than Georgia and is much less urban. Louisville’s impact on the statewide vote will not be as determinative as Atlanta’s was.

Indeed, Booker’s loss to McGrath shows the challenges of a base-centric style in the Bluegrass. He beat her in Louisville and Lexington, but she won the primary by carrying most of the rest of the state.

So, the key question for 2022 is, can he find enough votes in more heavily populated parts of the state to overcome Paul’s margins in more rural areas? Or can he cut into those margins with an economic appeal to rural voters in poorer counties in Eastern Kentucky, where Democrats still have local influence?

Another wild card in this race is the amount of institutional support Booker might get from national Democrats, for a race that is seen as rather less than winnable. The powers-that-be who went all in for McGrath may be wary of going down that road again, although, as Paul’s foil, Booker should be able to raise enough money on his own to be competitive.

It is not impossible for a Democrat to win statewide in Kentucky, as Governor Andy Beshear proved in 2019. Then again, Beshear was running against Matt Bevin, whose performance as governor had made him as popular as a bad rash. Paul starts the race in much better shape.

Booker starts the race with an audacious belief in his own chances, and he has clearly decided that caution is not the better part of valor. While that may or may not end up making a senator, it will make the Kentucky Senate race among them most compelling of the 2022 cycle.

Video of Charles Booker’s announcement

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Murder plot? Secret recording roils Florida U.S. House race

District 13 candidate William Braddock reportedly brags about having access to a “hit squad” to make rival Anna Paulina Luna “disappear”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

FloridaST. PETERSBURG (CFP) — Florida Republican congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna’s claim that her political rivals were plotting to murder her raised skeptical eyebrows when she made the charge in a court application asking for stalking protection.

“I really think that she’s exhibiting behavior that I would say is concerning,” said one. “This woman is off her rocker,” said another.

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Florida GOP congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna

But then, Politico obtained a recording in which a man identified as her political rival, William Braddock, is heard bragging that he has access to a “hit squad” of “Ukrainians and Russians” prepared to make Luna “disappear” if she closes in on the Republican nomination in the 13th U.S. House District in Pinellas County.

“I really don’t want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America,” says the man identified as Braddock in the secretly recorded telephone conversation. “That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done.”

“Luna is a f—ing speed bump in the road,” the man identified as Braddock says. “She’s a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood.”

When contacted by Politico, Braddock declined to say whether the voice on the recording, made June 9 by conservative activist Erin Olszewski, is him or whether he threatened to kill Luna. But he said, “This is a dirty political tactic that has caused a lot of people a lot of stress and is completely unnecessary.”

Florida’s 13th District seat, which Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is vacating to run for governor, is perhaps the GOP’s best pick-up opportunity next year in the Sunshine State. It is perhaps not helpful, then, that the two Republican candidates currently in the race — Luna and Braddock — are now involved in a police investigation over a possible murder plot.

A hearing has been scheduled for June 22 on whether to extend the injunction Luna got that bars Braddock from both her speaking events and Conservative Grounds, a coffee shop in Largo frequented by Pinellas conservatives.

After losing to Crist in November in the swing district, Luna, 32, a businesswoman and Air Force veteran, decided to make another run, encouraged by the prospect that Florida’s GOP-led legislature may make the district more Republican during redistricting.

Braddock, 37, a St. Petersburg attorney and former Marine, entered the race last week after Luna’s allegations became public.

Olszewski said that in her phone call with Braddock, he tried to dissuade her from supporting Luna in next year’s GOP primary; she recorded the call and turned it over to St. Petersburg police because she said she was concerned about Braddock’s “unhinged” dislike of Luna.

However, in Florida, secretly recording a phone call without the other person’s knowledge is a felony, and Braddock told Politico that he would seek civil damages and criminal charges against “folks in possession of whatever recording they think they have of myself or someone else.”

In her request for protection, Luna also said that Braddock claimed he was “working together” with two other Pinellas Republicans — Amanda Makki, whom Luna defeated in the 13th District GOP primary in 2020, and Matt Tito, a conservative political commentator who lost a Florida House race last year.

Both Makki and Tito have denied having any role in a plot against Luna (Makki is the person who called Luna’s behavior “concerning”), and Tito has said he’s talked to a lawyer about pursuing a defamation claim.

Tito told the Tampa Bay Times that although he knows Braddock and Makki, he has infrequent contact with both.

“[Luna’s] goal was to embarrass us, it was to get us to keep us out of the race, to intimidate us,” he told the Times.

In the meantime, the four Democratis in the race — State Reps. Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner, Christian Hotchkiss and Eric Lynn continue their campaign, without any mention of political assassination or Russian and Ukrainian hit squads.

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Terry McAuliffe wins Democratic nomination for Virginia governor

Attorney General Mark Herring survives primary challenge; Hala Ayala’s victory sets up all-female contest for lieutenant governor

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

VirginiaRICHMOND (CFP) — Terry McAuliffe has won a chance to reclaim Virginia’s governorship, easily winning Tuesday’s Democratic primary to set up what is likely to be a bruising general election campaign against Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin.

Attorney General Mark Herring also saw off a challenge from the left in his quest to win a third term, and State Delegate Hala Ayala made history by winning the Democratic nod for lieutenant governor.

Ayala, who identifies as an Afro-Latina, is the first Hispanic woman to win nomination to statewide office, and her win also insures that Virginia will have its first female lieutenant governor, as Republicans chose Winsome Sears, an African-American woman, in a nominating convention in May.

McAuliffe coasted to an easy win in the governor’s race, taking 62% and carrying every county and independent city in the commonwealth. Former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy came in second at 20%.

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, whose once promising political career crashed amid allegations from two women that he sexually assaulted them, mustered less than 4% in his bid for the state’s top job.

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Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe

McAuliffe, 64, a Clinton confidante and prolific Democratic fundraiser, served as governor from 2014 to 2018 but was forced from office by a rule unique to Virginia that doesn’t allow governors to run for a second term.

If his comeback is successful, it will mark only the second time that a former governor has reclaimed the office (the other was Democrat Mills Godwin elected in 1965 and 1973).

Youngkin, 57, a wealthy private equity executive from the Washington D.C. suburbs, is trying to become the first Republican since 2009 to break the Democrats’ lock on the state’s top office.

In the attorney general’s race, Herring faced a stiff primary challenge from Delegate Jay Jones from Norfolk, who centered his campaign on criminal justice reform, including repealing qualified immunity for police officers.

Jones’s upstart campaign was boosted by endorsements from term-limited Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and New Jersey U.S. Senator Cory Booker, along with support from Democracy for America, a grassroots advocacy group on the Democratic left. But in the end, Jones could only muster 43% of the primary vote, to 57% for Herring.

Herring will face Republican Delegate Jason Miyares from Virginia Beach in November.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Ayala, from Prince William County, snagged endorsements from Northam and much of the Democratic establishment. She took 39% of the vote, defeating Delegates Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, with 26%, and Mark Levine from Alexandria, with 12% and Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan with 11%

Rasoul, who led the race in fundraising, was trying to become the first Muslim to win statewide office. Levine would have been the first openly gay and Jewish nominee.

Sears, 57, who served a single term in the legislature nearly 20 years ago and hasn’t held office since, was the biggest surprise to come out of the Republican convention, dispatching five rivals.

A Jamaican immigrant and former Marine from Winchester, she served as national chair of Black Americans to Re-Elect President Trump in 2020, and her campaign posters and Twitter feed showed her carrying an assault rifle.

Since the lieutenant governorship became an elected office in the 1850s, all of its occupants have been men and all but two have been white. The incumbent, Justin Fairfax, is one of the two, along with Douglas Wilder, who went on to become governor.

Because of the single-term limit for governors, the lieutenant governorship is often a stepping stone to that office, as it was for Northam, who served under McAuliffle.

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Virginia Democrats decide statewide nominees in Tuesday primary

Former Governor Terry McAuliffe tries to make a comeback; Attorney General Mark Herring trying to hang on

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

VirginiaRICHMOND (CFP) — Virginia Democrats go to the polls Tuesday to pick their nominees for three statewide posts, with former Governor Terry McAuliffe expected to win a chance to reclaim that post and Attorney General Mark Herring trying to fend off a spirited primary challenge from the left.

State Democrats will also pick a nominee for lieutenant governor in a muddled six-person race with no clear front-runner, with the possibility that the all-male, straight, mostly white string of No. 2s stretching back 170 years could end with the state’s first-ever female, Jewish, gay or Latina lieutenant governor.

In-person voting opens Tuesday at 6 a.m., with polls closing at 7 p.m. Republicans opted to pick their nominees at a state convention in May, so there will be no GOP contests.

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Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe trying to regain office in Tuesday’s primary

In the governor’s race, polls have shown McAuliffe with a clear lead over four challengers: Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, State Delegate Lee Carter, State Senator Jennifer McClellan, and former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy.

McAuliffe, 64, a Clinton confidante and prolific Democratic fundraiser, served as governor from 2014 to 2018 but was forced from office by a rule unique to Virginia that doesn’t allow governors to run for a second term.

If his comeback is successful, it will mark only the second time that a former governor has reclaimed the office (the other was Democrat Mills Godwin elected in 1965 and 1973).

Republicans picked political newcomer Glenn Youngkin as their nominee, who is trying to become the first Republican since 2009 to break the Democrats’ lock on the state’s top office.

Youngkin, 54, who lives in the Washington D.C. suburbs, is running as a Christian conservative and has been endorsed by Donald Trump. He made a fortune running a private equity company, giving him deep pockets to compete with McAuliffe’s fundraising prowess.

In the attorney general’s race, Herring, who is seeking a third term, is facing a stiff primary challenge from Delegate Jay Jones from Norfolk, who has centered his campaign on criminal justice reform, including repealing qualified immunity for police officers.

Jones’s upstart campaign has been boosted by endorsements from term-limited Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and New Jersey U.S. Senator Cory Booker, along with support from Democracy for America, a grassroots advocacy group on the Democratic left.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Delegate Jason Miyares from Virginia Beach.

The six candidates in the race for lieutenant governor include State Delegates Hala Ayala, Mark Levine, and Sam Rasoul; Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan, attorney Sean Perryman and businessman Xavier Warren.

Rasoul, who led the field in fundraising, represents Roanoke in the legislature and would become the first Muslim elected to statewide office in Virginia.

Ayala, from Prince William County, snagged endorsements from Northam and much of the Democratic establishment. She identifies as an Afro-Latina and would be the first Latina statewide nominee.

Levine, from Alexandria, would be the first openly gay and first Jewish nominee if he prevails Tuesday.

Virginia does not have primary runoff elections, so the candidate who wins a plurality Tuesday will win the right to face Republican Winsome Sears in November.

Sears, 57, who served a single term in the legislature nearly 20 years ago and hasn’t held office since, was the biggest surprise to come out of the Republican convention, dispatching five rivals.

A Jamaican immigrant and former Marine from Winchester, she served as national chair of Black Americans to Re-Elect President Trump in 2020, and her campaign posters and Twitter feed showed her carrying an assault rifle.

Since the lieutenant governorship became an elected office in the 1850s, all of its occupants have been men and all but two have been white. The incumbent, Justin Fairfax, is one of the two, along with Douglas Wilder, who went on to become governor.

Because of the single-term limit for governors, the lieutenant governorship is often a stepping stone to that office, as it was for Northam, who served under McAuliffle.

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