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Open Louisville U.S. House race, U.S. Senate contest up Tuesday in Kentucky primary

Charles Booker seeking Democratic nomination to try to take out Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

KentuckyLOUISVILLE (CFP) — Democratic voters in Louisville will pick their likely next Congress member in Tuesday’s primary, while Kentucky voters statewide are expected to set up a fall showdown between Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Democratic challenger Charles Booker.

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Rand Paul and Charles Booker expected to face off in fall U.S. Senate race

Legislative and local offices are also on the ballot Tuesday; contests for statewide offices aren’t held until 2023.

Polls for in-person voting open at 6 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. in both the Central and Eastern time zones.

In the 3rd U.S. House District in metro Louisville, where Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth is retiring, State Senator Morgan McGarvey and State Rep. Attica Scott are competing for the Democratic nomination in the state’s only Democratic-leaning district.

Seven Republicans are also competing in the 3rd District, including businessman Stuart Ray and Mike Craven, a former union official who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2018 and 2020.

None of Kentucky’s other five House seats – all held by Republicans – are expected to be competitive.

In the Senate race, Paul, from Bowling Green, is facing five little-known Republican challengers in his bid for a third term, while Booker is the biggest name in a four-candidate Democratic race.

Booker, a former state representative from Louisville, broke onto the political scene in 2020 when he nearly upset Amy McGrath, the anointed candidate of the Democratic establishment, in the state’s U.S. Senate primary. She was later crushed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Booker launched his uphill run against Paul in July 2021 and opted to stay in the race rather than switching to the metro Louisville U.S. House seat when Yarmuth retired.

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West Virginia U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney rides Trump endorsement to primary win

Mooney defeats fellow Republican incumbent David McKinley, who voted for bipartisan infrastructure bill and independent January 6th investigation

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

West VirginiaMORGANTOWN, West Virginia (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney has won the hotly contested incumbent-vs-incumbent primary in West Virginia’s 2nd U.S. House District, riding Donald Trump’s coveted endorsement to an easy win over U.S. Rep. David McKinley in the state’s May 10 primary.

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U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-West Virginia

“When Donald Trump puts his mind to something, you better watch out,” Mooney told supporters in his victory speech, in which he said voters in northern West Virginia “spoke loud and clear tonight.”

Mooney also took a shot at Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who crossed party lines to endorse McKinley, hinting that he might run against him for the Senate when Manchin’s seat comes up in 2024.

“I’m 2-0 against him. Maybe I should make it 3-0,” Mooney said.

Mooney took 54% of the vote to 36% for McKinley, with the rest split among three other candidates. He will be heavily favored in November against Democrat Barry Wendell, a former city council member in Morgantown, who won his party’s primary.

One possible wild card in that race: Mooney is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations that he misused campaign funds, had office staff perform personal errands, and interfered in a previous ethics investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.

McKinley and Mooney were forced to run against each other after West Virginia lost one of its three U.S. House seats after 2020 reapportionment. State legislators decided to slice the state into northern and southern districts, throwing both men into a primary for the same seat.

The 2nd District includes the northern and western panhandles and the northern third of the state, including the cities of Morgantown, Wheeling and Parkersburg.

McKinley has represented more of the district than Mooney in the previous House map, but Mooney ended up carrying all but three counties.

Trump endorsed Mooney over McKinley, who was one of just 35 Republicans to support an independent investigation into the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol and one of just 12 GOP members voting for Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

McKinley later voted against a House-led January 6th investigation in which Republican leaders aren’t participating.

McKinley said he supported the infrastructure measure because West Virginia needed money, but Mooney has labeled him as a RINO – Republican in Name Only – for going along with a plan championed by Biden and Democrats.

The state’s other incumbent U.S. House member, Republican Carol Miller, easily won her primary in the southern 1st District that includes Charleston and Huntington. She will face Democrat Lacy Watson, an instructor at Bluefield State College, in November.

Mountaineer State voters also decided state legislative primaries and other local races Tuesday; there are no statewide races or U.S. Senate seats up this year.

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Republican U.S. House incumbents David McKinley, Alex Mooney face off in West Virginia primary

Donald Trump backing Mooney after McKinley votes for independent January 6th investigation

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia (CFP) — Republicans in the northern half of West Virginia will go to the polls Tuesday to decide an incumbent-vs-incumbent U.S. House race that will test the potency of Donald Trump’s political brand in one of his strongest states.

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U.S. Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney, R-West Virginia

In the state’s 2nd U.S. House District, Republican U.S. Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney –- thrown into the same district after West Virginia lost a House seat in reapportionment –- will face off in what has become a contentious intra-party spat.

Mountaineer State voters will also decide state legislative primaries and other local races Tuesday; there are no statewide races or U.S. Senate seats up this year.

Trump has endorsed Mooney over McKinley, who was one of just 35 Republicans to support an independent investigation into the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol and one of just 12 GOP members voting for Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

McKinley later voted against a House-led January 6th investigation in which Republican leaders aren’t participating.

McKinley said he supported the infrastructure measure because West Virginia needed money, but Mooney has labeled him as a RINO – Republican in Name Only – for going along with a plan championed by Biden and Democrats.

The candidates’ West Virginia bona fides could also be a deciding factor: McKinley, 70, from Wheeling in the northern panhandle, touts that his family has been in the state for seven generations. Mooney, 50, from Charles Town in the eastern panhandle, is a former state senator in Maryland and Washington lobbyist who moved to the state prior to running for Congress in 2014.

Mooney is also currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations that he misused campaign funds, had office staff perform personal errands, and interfered in a previous ethics investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.

McKinley has been endorsed by both Republican Governor Jim Justice and Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, the only Democrat still holding a statewide or federal office.

During a virtual appearance at a pre-election rally, Trump, who carried West Virginia by 40 points in 2016 and 39 points in 2020, charged that McKinley “betrayed Republican voters in West Virginia” with his bipartisan votes and called Mooney a “warrior In every sense of the way.”

But McKinley touts that he supported Trump 92% of the time in Congress and has accused Mooney of misleading voters into thinking that he supported Biden’s larger social spending program, which he opposed, rather than the smaller spending bill focused on infrastructure.

McKinley and Mooney were forced to run against each other after West Virginia lost one of its three U.S. House seats after 2020 reapportionment. State legislators decided to slice the state into northern and southern districts, throwing both men into a primary for the same seat.

The 2nd District includes the northern and western panhandles and the northern third of the state, including the cities of Morgantown, Wheeling and Parkersburg. McKinley represents more of the district than Mooney in the previous House map.

The state’s other incumbent U.S. House member, Republican Carol Miller, is running in the southern 1st District that includes Charleston and Huntington. She faces four Republican opponents but is expected to easily win the primary and face Democrat Lacy Watson, an instructor at Bluefield State College.

Democrats in the 2nd District will choose between former Morgantown city councilman Barry Wendell and Angela Dwyer, a security operations manager and mother of seven from Falling Waters. The winner will face either McKinley or Mooney in November

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Florida lawmakers coming back to approve Governor Ron DeSantis’s new U.S. House map

Lawmakers convene special session on governor’s plan to add 4 Republican-leaning seats, nuke North Florida majority-minority district

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

FloridaTALLAHASSEE (CFP) — Florida lawmakers will be back in Tallahassee this week to approve a new U.S. House map, with the Republicans in charge ready (or maybe just resigned?) to letting Governor Ron DeSantis take the lead – a decision that’s almost certain to result in both state and federal court fights over how far Republicans can go in gerrymandering the map to their advantage.

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New U.S. House map proposed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis

DeSantis has proposed a new map that will add four GOP-leaning seats across the state, giving the party a shot at winning 20 of 28 seats – in a state where Republicans usually only win by single-digit margins in statewide races.

Potentially more problematically from a legal perspective, DeSantis wants to nuke the current 5th District in North Florida, a Democratic-leaning, majority-minority district that stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

Instead, metro Jacksonville will be carved into two Republican-leaning districts, and Tallahassee and rural areas in the district will be subsumed into two existing districts, which have heavy GOP majorities.

DeSantis has railed against the 5th District, which was created by the Florida Supreme Court after a lawsuit over the 2012 U.S. House map. Its existence was the primary reason he vetoed the map approved earlier this year by Republican legislators, who were wary of trying to dismantle a district that is 47% black, represented by black Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.

But DeSantis has insisted he wants a “race neutral” map, in which districts aren’t drawn with racial considerations in mind, and Republican legislative leaders now appear resigned to letting him get his way.

While DeSantis’s new map leaves the current line-up of seats in South Florida intact, he’s rejiggered the lines in Tampa Bay to make the 13th District in Pinellas County (currently held by Democrat Charlie Crist) more Republican and also made changes in metro Orlando to give the currently competitive 7th District (held by Democrat Stephanie Murphy) a decidedly Republican tilt.

Currently, there are 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats in Florida’s House delegation. Under the new map, there will be 18 Republican-leaning seats, eight that lean Democratic and two in South Florida that will be competitive but are now both held by Republicans.

Should DeSantis’s map pass as is, the legal fight will commence in two directions.

First, in 2010, Florida voters passed two constitutional amendments, dubbed the Fair Districts amendments, designed to prevent legislators from drawing maps designed to protect incumbents or create partisan advantage. This makes Florida somewhat unique among states by limiting, at least in theory, how far legislators can go in partisan map making.

In 2015, the Florida Supreme Court cited those very amendments in overturning the U.S. House map drawn in 2012 and imposing a new one, which created the districts that Lawson and Murphy won.

However, thanks to appointments by DeSantis and his predecessor as governor, Rick Scott, the state’s high court is more conservative that it was in 2015, and there is speculation the justices will look more favorably on legislators’ handiwork this time around.

But what also remains as a potential impediment to DeSantis’s best-laid plans is the federal Voting Rights Act. Although Florida no longer has to get clearance from the Justice Department for its maps, they still must conform to the act’s purpose of maximizing minority voting representation.

North Florida has sent an African-American representative to Congress continuously since 1992; DeSantis’s proposed map would almost certainly end that representation for the foreseeable future, which will certainly raise voting rights concerns.

It would also have the effect of reducing the number of black Congress members from the Sunshine State from five to four. (Those numbers include Republican Byron Donalds, who represents a mostly white district in Southwest Florida; South Florida Democrats Federica Wilson and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick; and Democrat Val Demings from Orlando.)

That would leave Florida’s black representation in the congressional delegation at about 14%, the same as the state’s black voting age population – which could be an argument in the map’s favor despite the loss of the North Florida seat.

And the final arbiter of a federal challenge to DeSantis’s new map might very well be the U.S. Supreme Court, whose conservative justices seem ready and eager to wade into the issue of voting rights.

In a larger sense, the fight over the maps also shows how DeSantis, in just four short years, has come to amass enough power to bring legislative leaders to heel – in this case, even against their better judgment.

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Political Tornado: Can North Carolina U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn survive his penchant for controversy?

Decision to switch districts, comments about cocaine use and orgies have put his political future in jeopardy

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

North CarolinaASHEVILLE (CFP) — When Madison Cawthorn came out of nowhere to win a North Carolina U.S. House seat in 2020 at the tender age of 25, he was seen as a handsome, fresh-faced rising star in the Republican firmament, an ardent partisan of Donald Trump with a compelling personal story of overcoming hardship.

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U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-North Carolina

Now, less than two years later, a series of missteps and controversies has alienated GOP colleagues in the House, drawn active opposition to his re-election from top state Republicans, and landed him in a crowded primary where he’s fighting for his political life.

So, can Cawthorn regroup, retool and survive, or will his political career crash ignominiously after barely taking flight?

To be sure, Cawthorn has significant assets –- strong name recognition, a fervent following among the MAGA base, and a reputation as a passionate foe of liberalism in all of its forms. He has raised $2.9 million, nearly three times as much as any of his primary opponents and a massive haul for a district without expensive media markets.

Most importantly, he has been endorsed by Trump, who invited him to speak at an April 9 rally in Selma even as House Republican colleagues were setting their hair on fire over Cawthorn’s ill-considered podcast musings about being invited to orgies and witnessing cocaine use.

That controversy – coming on the heels of Cawthorn’s dismissal of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a “thug” and news that he was arrested for driving on a revoked license – prompted both of North Carolina’s U.S. senators and the two top Republicans in the legislature to publicly support one of Cawthorn’s primary opponents, State Senator Chuck Edwards from Hendersonville.

Cawthorn was also on the receiving end of a talking to from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who bluntly told reporters that Cawthorn wasn’t telling the truth and had lost his trust.

Cawthorn has shown little sign of being chastened by the experience, issuing a statement afterward saying he “will not back down to the mob” and adding: “My comments on a recent podcast appearance calling out corruption have been used by the left and the media to disparage my Republican colleagues and falsely insinuate their involvement in illicit activities.”

But perhaps Cawthorn’s most consequential political blunder was his decision to abandon the 11th District in Western North Carolina, where he was elected in 2020, to run for re-election instead in a new district closer to Charlotte, created by Republican legislators as part of a map gerrymandered to the party’s advantage.

The state Supreme Court threw out that map and adopted a new one that obliterated Cawthorn’s new district, prompting him to return to the 11th. But by that time, seven Republicans had already entered the race, and all of them decided to stay.

Had he not initially forsaken the district, Cawthorn would probably have had an easy road through the primary and been the favorite in November in a conservative, pro-Trump district. Now, he faces a dogfight in which the overriding issue will be him – his judgment, his temperament, and his behavior.

However, what may rescue Cawthorn in the end is North Carolina’s unique primary system, which only requires a candidate to get 30% of the vote to avoid a runoff. So his name recognition and MAGA support could be enough to triumph in an eight-candidate field.

Edwards has consolidated support from the party establishment.  But he’s lagged in fundraising behind another competitor, Bruce O’Connell, a hotel owner from Haywood County who drew national attention for fighting the Biden administration’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Also in the race in Michelle Woodhouse, the Republican party chair for the 11th District, who bills herself as the “America First” candidate in the race and was endorsed by Cawthorn as his replacement when he moved to the different district.

If the anti-Cawthorn vote divides between these contenders, he’s likely to finish first and will win if he can clear 30%.

Waiting in the wings for whoever survives is Democratic Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a pastor and LGBTQ activist who has raised $1.2 million so far for the race.

This is not district that has been in play in recent years, although a Democrat held it as recently as 2013. But Cawthorn’s presence in the race has clearly helped Beach-Ferrara’s fundraising, and she’ll raise even more if he survives the primary.

This plays into the argument by Cawthorn’s primary opponents that, given his flaws, he’s vulnerable to a Democrat in a way they are not. Whether that argument gains traction may depend on whether the tornado of controversy surrounding Madison Cawthorn dissipates — or continues to churn.

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