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Oklahoma Runoff: Kevin Stitt beats Mick Cornett for GOP governor’s nomination

Political newcomer comes from behind with call for reform

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

OKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt has won the Republican nomination for Oklahoma governor in his first try for political office, defeating veteran politico Mick Cornett, who led the state’s largest city for 14 years.

Gubernatorial nominee Kevin Stitt, R-Oklahoma

Stitt took 55 percent of the vote in the August 28 runoff to 45 percent for Cornett, who had come out on top of the first round of primary voting in June.

But in a state roiled by a teachers’ strike earlier this year that shuttered classrooms, Stitt’s message of reforming state government touched a nerve among voters.

“We can demand that our state government be held accountable and transparent and unify our state for a bold new future,” Still told supporters at a victory party in Jenks. “The answers to our problems (are) not bigger government. It’s smaller government and smarter government.”

Stitt will now face former Democratic Attorney General Drew Edmonson in the race to succeed term-limited Republican Governor Mary Fallon.

Stitt, 45, the founder of Gateway Mortgage, was considered a long shot when he entered the race against a field that included Cornett and Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, In addition to his reform message, Stitt was helped by $3 million of his own money that he plowed into the campaign.

In the runoff, he swept Tulsa and most of the rural parts of the state, overcoming Cornett’s lead in metro Oklahoma City.

Former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett

Cornett, 59, was the better-known figure in Oklahoma politics, serving 14 years as mayor of Oklahoma City after a career as a television anchor.

Speaking to his supporters in at a watch party in the capital, Cornett said he would have “nothing but positive memories” of the campaign, although he indicated that the defeat was likely his political swan song.

“There’s a really good chance my name will never be on another ballot,” he said. “So you need to understand tonight as I step away from the political scene how much I’ve always loved the opportunity to represent you.”

While Republicans dominate Oklahoma politics — and Fallon won the last two races by double-digit margins — Democrats will have a viable nominee for governor in Edmundson, 71, who comes from a prominent Oklahoma political family and served as attorney general from 1995 to 2011.

One plus for Democrats may be Fallon’s weak approval ratings, which tumbled in the wake of the teachers’ strike. A Morning Consult survey released in July found she was the nation’s least popular chief executive, with an approval rating of just 19 percent.

Oklahomans also have a recent tradition of rotating Democrats and Republicans in the governor’s chair. Of the state’s last six chief executives, six have been Democrats and six Republicans.

Florida Primary: DeSantis wins GOP governor’s nod; Gillum is surprise winner among Democrats

Three Democratic U.S. House incumbents survive; Donna Shalala wins race for Miami seat

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TALLAHASSEE (CFP) — November’s election for Florida governor will pit a Donald Trump acolyte against a Bernie Sanders-backed Democrat trying to become the first African-American ever elected to lead the Sunshine State.

In the Republican primary, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis easily defeated State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who started the campaign as the front-runner but saw his chances fade after DeSantis got Trump’s endorsement.

But the biggest surprise of the August 28 vote came on the Democratic side, where Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum came from behind to defeat two self-funding millionaires and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who comes from a prominent Florida political family.

Meanwhile, three Democratic incumbent U.S. House members who faced primary challenges survived, including 9th District U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, who easily defeated former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a controversial liberal firebrand trying to make a political comeback.

Also, Donna Shalala, President Bill Clinton’s health secretary, won her primary in a GOP-held district likely to flip in November.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida

In the Republican race for governor, DeSantis, 39, from Palm Coast, beat Putnam by 20 points, carrying all of the state’s large cities.

“I believe there is no limit to what we can accomplish here as long as we have the courage to lead,” he told supporters at a victory party in Orlando. “And I pledge to you as governor to work my but off to accomplish great things for this state.”

DeSantis also offered his thanks to Trump “for viewing me as someone who can be a great leader for Florida.”

The result was a significant stumble for Putnam, 44, who spent 10 years in Congress and two terms as agriculture commission with his eye on the governor’s mansion.

Putnam

Speaking to supporters in Lakeland, Putnam said he would do “any and everything we can” to help DeSantis win in November.

“He’s a veteran, he’s a solid conservative, and he will need our help,” Putnam said.

On the Democratic side, Gillum, who was vastly outspent and did not lead in a single public pre-election poll, took 34 percent to 31 percent for Graham. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine came in at 20 percent and Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene at 10 percent.

Florida does not have primary runoffs, so Gillum won the nomination without a runoff.

Combined, Levine and Greene put more than $20 million of their own money into the race, to no avail.

Gillum was outspent by all of his major competitors, although he did get an infusion of cash near the end of the campaign from liberal megadonorrs George Soros and Tom Steyer. He was also endorsed by Sanders, the self-styled democratic socialist who ran an insurgent presidential campaign in 2016.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum

“There were just a few people who said that this moment would not be possible,” Gillum told cheering supporters in Tallahassee. “And then there were a few more who believed this day was possible.”

“This thing is not about me. It never has been. It never will be,” he said. “This race is about every single one of you.”

Gillum’s victory upsets the political equation on both sides. Democrats had been hoping for a DeSantis win, seeing him as a weaker candidate against Graham, who had a moderate record during her one term in Congress. Now, both campaigns will have to adapt to a race pitting the most conservative candidate in the race against the most liberal.

Gillum is also the first African American candidate in either party to win a gubernatorial nomination in Florida and would become the state’s first black governor if he beats DeSantis in November.

One cloud on the horizon for Gillum is an ongoing FBI investigation into corruption in Tallahassee city government. He has insisted that he is not implicated in the probe, although photographs have surfaced of the mayor traveling with two FBI agents who were working undercover.

Gillum, like DeSantis, won all of the state’s major cities. The key to his victory was a collapse in Graham’s vote in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where she didn’t break 20 percent.

Graham

Speaking to her supporters in Orlando, Graham pledged her support to Gillum, relating a phone call she had with the primary winner.

“I said, ‘Now Andrew, go out and win this damn thing because this is too important to the state of Florida,” said Graham, the daughter of former governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.

In the U.S. Senate race, both Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Republican Governor Rick Scott easily won their party’s nominations for the fall election, setting up what is likely to be the nation’s most expensive Senate race this year.

In U.S. House races, three Democratic incumbents also easily turned back primary challengers.

In the 5th District, a majority-minority district that stretches across North Florida from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee took 60 percent of the vote to defeat former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

In the 9th District in metro Orlando, Soto easily dispatched Grayson, 66 percent to 44 percent. Grayson was trying to make a comeback after giving up the seat in 2016 to make an ill-fated bid for the U.S. Senate.

In another Orlando-area district, the 7th, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy crushed Chardo Richardson, an attorney who was running as a “progressive” alternative to Murphy, taking 86 percent of the vote.

Tuesday’s primaries also set up fall matches for four battleground seats that Democrats are trying to take away in their quest to win control of the House.

In the 27th District in Miami-Dade County, Shalala, a Clinton cabinet secretary and former president of the University of Miami, took the first step in her quest to launch a political career at age 77, winning with 32 percent of the vote in a field of five candidates.

She will face Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, a former Spanish-language TV news anchor, who won the GOP race with 41 percent of the vote.

The district, which includes Miami Beach and parts of Miami, is open due to the retirement of veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, who has held it for 30 years. Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the district by nearly 20 points in 2016, making this one of the Democrats best pickup opportunities nationally.

However, the population of the district is more than 70 percent Latino and includes Miami’s politically potent Cuban community. Salazar is a Cuban-American born in Miami; Shalala, of Lebanese descent, was born in Ohio and moved to Miami in 2001.

In the 16th District centered on the southern side of Tampa Bay, Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota is seeking a seventh term in a district Trump carried by 11 points. He will face Democrat David Shapiro, a Sarasota lawyer who easily won his party’s nomination.

Shapiro has raised more than $1.3 million for the race to try to make it competitive, according to Federal Elections Commission campaign finance reports. However, Buchanan has raised $2.2 million.

In the 18th District along the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County, the Democratic nominee will be Laura Baer, an attorney from Palm Beach Gardens who served as a senior adviser to secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. She will now take on Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast from Palm City in a swing district that switched parties in 2012 and 2016.

In the 26th District which takes in parts of Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys, Democrats chose Debbie Murcasel-Powell, a consultant for non-profit groups, to face Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Curbelo been a rare critic of Trump within the House Republican Caucus as he tries to hang on in a district Hillary Clinton won by 16 points.

Republicans also picked nominees for three open GOP-held seats that they will be favored to retain in November.

In the 6th District in metro Jacksonville, which DeSantis gave up to run for governor, Republicans chose Mike Waltz, an aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney. In November, he will face Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a former Bill Clinton aide who served as deputy U.N. ambassador.

In Southwest Florida’s 15th District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross retired, State Rep. Ross Spano won the Republican nomination and will now face Democrat Kristen Carlson, former general counsel for the Florida Department of Citrus.

And the 17th District, a rural district south of Orlando, Republicans chose State Senator Craig Steube, while Democrats chose April Freeman, a TV producer and political consultant from Cape Coral.

Southern primary season concludes with contests in Florida, Oklahoma

Wide-open governor’s races top ballot in Florida; Republicans pick governor nominee in Oklahoma

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TALLAHASSEE (CFP) — The Southern primary season draws to a close Tuesday with competitive races in both parties for Florida’s open governor’s seat and a runoff for Oklahoma Republicans to pick their gubernatorial nominee.

Adam Putnam

Ron DeSantis

The marquee race in Florida is the GOP contest for governor between U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who carries the imprimatur of President Donald Trump, and State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who was considered the front-runner in the GOP race until DeSantis announced his run in January and got Trump’s endorsement.

The Democratic race for governor features a three-candidate battle between former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham from Tallahassee, the daughter of former U.S. Senator Bob Graham; former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine; and Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene.

Florida does not have primary runoffs, so the first-place finisher on Tuesday will get the nomination.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Republican Governor Rick Scott are expected to easily win their party’s nomination for the fall election, setting up what is likely to be the nation’s most expensive Senate race this year.

Also in Florida, three sitting Democratic U.S. House members are trying to survive primary challenges, while Republicans will pick their nominees for three open GOP-leaning seats.

Tuesday’s primaries will also set up fall matches for four battleground seats that Democrats are trying to take away in their quest to win control of the House, including in the 27th District in Miami-Dade County, where Donna Shalala, President Clinton’s health secretary and former president of the University of Miami, is trying to launch a political career at age 77.

In Oklahoma, the GOP runoff pits former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett against Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt. The winner will face Democratic former Attorney General Drew Edmonson in the fall to succeed term-limited Republican Governor Mary Fallon.

Kevin Stitt

Mick Cornett

Cornett came out on top during the first round of voting in June, although he carried just 29 percent of the vote. However, more recent public polling has shown Stitt, making his first bid for public office, with the lead.

Stitt ran on a platform of reforming the political culture in Oklahoma City, a message that resonated in the wake of a teachers’ strike in April that shuttered classrooms and roiled state politics. His campaign has surged after he poured in more than $3 million of his own money.

Cornett, 59, is a well known figure in Oklahoma politics, serving 14 years as mayor of Oklahoma City after a career as a television anchor.

While Republicans dominate Oklahoma politics — and Fallon won the last two races by double-digit margins — Democrats will have a viable nominee for governor in Edmundson, 71, who comes from a prominent Oklahoma political family and served as attorney general from 1995 to 2011.

In Florida U.S. House races, Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson is trying to turn back a primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in the 5th District, a majority-minority district that stretches across North Florida from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

Two years ago, Lawson, from Tallahassee, ousted former U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown after she was indicted on corruption charges. Brown is now trying to return the favor and bring the seat back to Jacksonville, which is the largest population center in the district.

Lawson has criticized Alvin Brown for his past association with Corinne Brown (no relation), who is now serving a federal prison sentence.

In the 9th District in metro Orlando, Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto is being challenged by former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a controversial liberal firebrand who held the seat until giving it up in 2016 to make an ill-fated U.S. Senate run.

In an illustration of how much Grayson’s former colleagues don’t relish his attempted comeback, all 10 Democratic House members representing Florida districts have endorsed Soto, along with former Vice President Joe Biden.

Soto, the first person of Puerto Rican heritage to represent the Sunshine State in Congress, will also benefit from a growing number of Puerto Ricans who have settled in Central Florida since the island was hit by economic problems and Hurricane Maria.

In another Orlando-area district, the 7th, Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy is facing a primary challenge from Chardo Richardson, an attorney who is running as a “progressive” alternative to Murphy, who flipped the seat from Republican to Democratic hands in 2016.

Florida Democrats are also picking nominees in four Republican-held districts that they hope to flip in November.

In the 16th District centered on the southern side of Tampa Bay area, Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota is seeking a seventh term in a district Trump carried by 11 points. But Democrat David Shapiro, a Sarasota lawyer, has raised more than $1.3 million for the race to try to make it competitive, according to the most recent Federal Elections Commission campaign finance reports.

Shapiro is facing Jan Schneider, an attorney who holds a Ph.D. in political science, in the Democratic contest.

In the 18th District along the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County, two Democrats are competing to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast from Palm City in a swing district that switched parties in 2012 and 2016.

Laura Baer, an attorney from Palm Beach Gardens, who served as a senior adviser to secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, is facing Pam Keith, an attorney and U.S. Navy veteran. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, has picked sides in this race by supporting Baer, who has raised three times as much money as Keith.

In the 26th District which takes in parts of Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys, Democrats are going after Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who has been a rare critic of Trump within the House Republican Caucus as he tries to hang on in a district Hillary Clinton won by 16 points.

Two Democratic political newcomers are competing to face Curbelo: Debbie Murcasel-Powell, a consultant for non-profit groups, and Demetrius Grimes, a retired Navy commander. Murcasel-Powell holds a wide fundraising advantage in the primary, having taken in $1.9 million, although Curbelo has raised twice that amount.

The seat in the 27th District, which includes Miami Beach and parts of Miami, is open due to the retirement of veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, who has held it for 30 years. This district, where Clinton beat Trump by nearly 20 points, is considered to be perhaps the Democrats’ best pickup opportunity nationally.

Five Democrats are running, with Shalala the biggest name on the Democratic side. However, she has been outraised by one of her rivals, State Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, who is the first openly gay man elected to Florida’s legislature. Matt Haggman, a foundation executive and former journalist from Coconut Grove, has also raised more than $1 million for the race.

On the Republican side, leading candidates include Maria Elvira Salazar, a Spanish-language TV news anchor; Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro; and Michael Ohevzion, a businessman and Brazilian immigrant.

The population of the district is more than 70 percent Latino and includes Miami’s politically potent Cuban community. However, none of the leading Democrats are Latino, while all of the leading Republicans are.

Republicans are also picking nominees for three open GOP-held seats that they will be favored to retain in November.

In the 6th District in metro Jacksonville, which DeSantis gave up to run for governor, three Republicans and three Democrats are running. In Southwest Florida’s 15th District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross retired, five Republicans and three Democrats are fighting for nominations.

In the 17th District, a rural district south of Orlando, three Republicans and two Democrats are running to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

 

 

Tennessee Primary: Bill Lee wins GOP nod for governor; Blackburn, Bredesen advance in U.S. Senate race

Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. David Kustoff survives challenge in West Tennessee

By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

NASHVILLE (CNN) — Bill Lee, a cattle rancher making his first bid for political office, came from behind to easily beat two politically connected rivals to capture the Republican nomination for Tennessee governor.

Among the losers was U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who gave up chairmanship of the powerful House Budget Committee to seek the governorship and now finds herself out of politics.

As expected, voters in the August 2 primary also set up what will be a pitched U.S. Senate battle between Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen, who both easily won their primaries.

Republicans also settled primaries for four GOP-held U.S. House seats, including in West Tennessee’s 8th District, where freshman Republican U.S. Rep. David Kustoff turned back a self-funding challenger after getting an endorsement from President Donald Trump.

Gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee, R-Tennessee

In the governor’s race, Lee, 58, a businessman and rancher from Franklin, took 37 percent of the vote to 24 percent for Randy Boyd, an adviser to outgoing Governor Bill Haslam. Black finished third with 23 percent.

Because Tennessee doesn’t have primary runoffs, Lee won the nomination with a plurality.

“How overwhelming is this?” Lee told jubilant supporters at a victory party in his hometown of Franklin. “I could stand right here and not say anything for a long time.”

Lee started the race a virtual unknown, crisscrossing the state in an RV and telling voters how he was called to public service by the death of his first wife in a horseback riding accident in 2000.

But what may have helped Lee the most were his outsider persona and his decision to refrain from negative attacks on his opponents, even as Black and Boyd both turned their fire on each other and him.

“I’m a man who is not a politician, but I do have a vision for Tennessee to lead this nation,” Lee said. “Thank you for choosing leadership over politics.”

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean

In the fall, Lee will face former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who easily won the Democratic primary.

Black, 67, had once been considered the front-runner in the race but faded as Lee surged from the back of the pack. In the final insult, she lost most of the counties in the 6th District in Middle Tennessee, which she represented in Congress for the last eight years.

Despite Black’s ardent support for Trump and her work getting his tax cuts through Congress, she did not receive a coveted presidential tweet of endorsement, which has buoyed GOP candidates for governor in primaries in Georgia and Florida.

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee

Giving a concession speech to supporters in Nashville, Black noted that this was the first time she had lost an election in 19 races over a 30-year political career.

“Sometimes God just sets a different course for you than what you set for yourself,” she said.

While the primaries narrowed the Democratic and Republican fields, the fall race for governor will still be a crowded affair, as 26 independents have qualified for the ballot, including 13 Libertarians. Because the Libertarian Party does not have official ballot access, the party has no primary, and all 13 candidates will appear on the ballot as independents.

In the U.S. Senate race, Blackburn took 85 percent in the Republican primary, while Bredesen took 92 percent of the Democratic vote. However, overall, she outpolled him by more than 260,000 votes statewide.

Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in the Volunteer State since 1990, when Al Gore won a second term. But recent polling shows a close race between Blackburn and Bredesen, and outside groups are expected to pour millions in a race that could decide control of the Senate.

The seat is being given up by Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker, who opted not to seek re-election after become one of Trump’s strongest critics in Congress.

Former Governor Phil Bredesen

Bredesen, 74, served two terms as governor from 2003 to 2011 after serving as mayor of Nashville from 1991 to 1999. A political moderate, he was the last Democrat to win statewide in Tennessee when he was re-elected governor in 2006.

When Corker announced his retirement in September 2017, Bredesen initially said he would not run for the Senate seat, only to reverse course two months later after lobbying by national Democratic leaders. His entry in the race turned what looked like a long-shot for Democrats into a competitive contest.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee

Blackburn, 66, from Brentwood, has served in the House since 2003 and is a deputy whip in the House leadership. In her announcement for the Senate, she described herself  as a “hardcore card-carrying Tennessee conservative” with a gun in her purse. She has largely been supportive of Trump, who has endorsed her.

Both candidates have so far raised more than $8 million for the Senate battle, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

In U.S. House races, Kustoff was the only incumbent to face a significant challenge from George Flinn, a former Shelby County commissioner who poured more than $3 million of his own money in his fifth try for federal office. But Kustoff dispatched Flinn easily, taking 56 percent of the vote, 16 points ahead of his challenger.

In the Democratic race in the 8th District, the leader is Erika Stotts Pearson, the former assistant general manager of the WNBA’s Memphis Blues, who came in ahead of John Boatner, a social worker from Shelby County. However, only 284 votes separated the candidates, too close to declare a final winner.

In the 2nd District, which includes metro Knoxville and surrounding portions of East Tennessee, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett won the Republican primary with 48 percent of the vote, defeating State Rep. Jimmy Matlock from Lenior City at 36 percent.

Burchett will now face Democrat Renee Hoyos from Knoxville, former director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, who easily won her primary.

The seat opened when U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan retired. Burchett will be a prohibitive favorite in the heavily Republican district.

In the open race for Black’s 6th District seat, the Republican winner was John Rose from Cookeville, a former state agriculture commissioner, who took 41 percent to defeat Bob Corlew, a retired judge from Mount Juliet, with 31 percent.

In November, Rose will face Dawn Barlow, a physician from Livingston who carried 55 percent in the Democratic primary.

In the open race for Blackburn’s 7th District seat, which includes Nashville’s southern suburbs and west-central Tennessee, Democrats picked Justin Canew from College Grove, a digital media producer and two-time contestant on The Amazing Race. He will now face State Senator Mark Green from Ashland City, who was the only Republican to file.

In 2017, Trump nominated Green, a physician and West Point graduate, to be Secretary of the Army, but Green withdrew the nomination amid controversy of some of his previous public statements, including an assertion in 2016 that most psychiatrists believe being transgendered is a “disease.” (The American Psychiatric Association does not classify gender non-conformity as a mental illness).

Tennessee Primary: GOP battle for governor, open U.S. House seats top ballot

U.S. Rep Diane Black tries to fend off two Republican rivals in governor’s race, without Donald Trump’s endorsement

By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

NASHVILLE (CNN) — Voters in Tennessee are heading to the polls for a unique Thursday primary in which the Republican race for the open governor’s seat is getting the lion’s share of attention.

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who had been considered the front-runner earlier in the race, is now facing a battle with Randy Boyd, an adviser to outgoing Governor Bill Haslam, and Bill Lee, a businessman and rancher from Williamson County.

Despite her ardent support for President Donald Trump and her work getting his tax cuts through Congress, Black has not received a coveted presidential tweet of endorsement, which has buoyed GOP candidates for governor in primaries in Georgia and Florida.

Because Tennessee doesn’t have primary runoffs, the candidate who finishes first in the six-way primary will become the nominee.

Phil Bredesen

Marsha Blackburn

In the U.S. Senate race, Republicans are expected to nominate U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn to face Democratic former Governor Phil Bredensen in what’s likely to become one of the fall’s hottest Senate contests.

Parties are also picking nominees for U.S. House seats given up by Black and Blackburn and the 2nd District seat that opened with the retirement of U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan.

In West Tennessee’s 8th District, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. David Kustoff is facing a strong primary challenge from George Flinn, a self-funding former Shelby County commissioner making his fifth try for federal office.

Tennessee is one of only two states that do not hold their primary elections on a Tuesday, a schedule dating back to its admission as a state in 1796; Louisiana holds its primaries for state and local offices on Saturdays.

Polls open in most of Tennessee at 7 a.m., although times may vary by county. Polls close at 8 p.m. in the Eastern time zone and 7 p.m. in the Central time zone.

Bill Lee

Randy Boyd

Diane Black

The governor’s race features six Republican candidates, including Black, 67, from Gallatin, who has spent the last eight years in Congress representing the 6th District, which includes the northern Nashville suburbs and north-central Tennessee; Boyd, 58, from Knoxville, who made his fortune with a company that makes electronic fences for dogs and was an adviser to Haslam on education policy and economic development; and Lee, 58, owner of a heating and air company making his first run for political office.

Also running on the Republican side is State House Speaker Beth Harwell, 60, from Nashville, although polls showed her slightly behind the three candidates at the front of the pack. She has been in the legislature for 20 years, culminating in her selection as the first woman speaker in state history.

While President Donald Trump has waded into Republican governor primaries in Georgia and Tennessee, he did not offer an endorsement in Tennessee, something of a blow to Black, who, as chairwoman of the House Budget Committee, helped shepherd the Republicans’ tax cut bill through the House.

However, Black has been using video of Trump praising her in one of her TV ads, and she did get the endorsement of Vice President Mike Pence.

Haslam is term-limited and hasn’t endorsed anyone in the race. However, Boyd — who, like Haslam, is from Knoxville — has served in his administration, and the New York Times has reported that the Republican Governors Association, which Haslam chairs, has been lobbying Trump not to endorse Black. (The governor’s office has refused to confirm that report.)

Karl Dean

The winner of the Republican primary is expected to face former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who is the favorite the three-way Democratic primary.

The fall race for governor will be a crowded affair, as 26 independents have qualified for the ballot, including 13 Libertarians. Because the Libertarian Party does not have official ballot access, the party has no primary, and all 13 candidates will appear on the ballot as independents.

In U.S. House races, Republicans will be settling contested primaries in four GOP-held districts in which the Republican winner will be favored in the fall.

In Duncan’s 2nd District seat, which includes metro Knoxville and surrounding portions of East Tennessee, the GOP race features Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett; State Rep. Jimmy Matlock from Lenior City; Jason Emert, a Bount County lawyer and former chairman of the Young Republicans National Federation; and Ashley Nickloes from Rockford, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Tennessee Air National Guard.

On the Democratic side, Renee Hoyos from Knoxville, former director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, is facing Joshua Williams, a Knoxville psychologist.

In the open race for Black’s 6th District seat, the Republican race includes John Rose from Cookeville, who served as state agriculture commissioner; Bob Corlew, a retired judge from Mount Juliet; and State Rep. Judd Matheny from Tullahoma.

Democrats running include Merrilie Winegar, a Methodist minister from Hendersonville; Pete Heffernan, a management consultant from Gallatin; and Dawn Barlow, a physician from Livingston.

In the open race for Blackburn’s 7th District seat, which includes Nashville’s southern suburbs and west-central Tennessee, State Senator Mark Green from Ashland City was the only Republican to file.

In 2017, Trump nominated Green, a physician and West Point graduate, to be Secretary of the Army, but Green withdrew the nomination amid controversy of some of his previous public statements, including an assertion in 2016 that most psychiatrists believe being transgendered is a “disease.” (The American Psychiatric Association does not classify gender non-conformity as a mental illness).

Democrats in the 7th District race include Justin Canew from College Grove, a digital media producer and two-time contestant on The Amazing Race, and Matt Reel from Primm Springs, a congressional aide who serves in the Tennessee National Guard.

In the 8th District, which includes part of Memphis city, its eastern suburbs and the Mississippi Delta, Kustoff, a former federal prosecutor from Germantown, who was elected in 2016, is facing a challenge from Flinn, a physician who also owns a string of 40 radio and television stations.

Flinn, who lost to Kustoff in the GOP primary in 2016, is making his fifth run for Congress, having run twice in the U.S. House in the 8th District, once in the Memphis-based 9th District and for the U.S. Senate in 2014. He has poured more than $3 million of his own money into the campaign, giving him a signficant fundraising advantage over Kustoff.

However, Kustoff is likely to benefit from a last-minute endorsement by Trump, whom he called “a champion for the Trump Agenda.”

The Democratic race in the 8th District is between John Boatner, a social worker from Shelby County, and Erika Stotts Pearson, the former assistant general manager of the WNBA’s Memphis Blues.

Poll: Graham, DeSantis both now clearly front-runners in Florida governor primaries

Mason-Dixon poll shows DeSantis up by double digits in GOP contest; Graham leads by 9 points among Democrats

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

JACKSONVILLE (CFP) — With a month to go before Florida’s primaries for governor, a new poll shows that Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican Ron DeSantis have opened up leads over their party rivals in the chase to be the Sunshine State’s next chief executive.

Governor’s candidate Gwen Graham, D-Florida

The Mason-Dixon poll released July 27 found that Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee and daughter of former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, was the choice of 27 percent of Democrats, leading former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 18 percent and Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene at 12 percent.

Trailing in the crowded Democratic field were Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, at 10 percent, and Chris King, an attorney and real estate investor from Orlando, at 7 percent.

The margin of error in the poll of 500 likely Democratic voters was plus or minus 4.5 percent, which means Graham’s lead over Levin is statistically significant. However, 25 percent of voters said they were still undecided, indicating that the race still remains fluid.

Because Florida does not have primary runoffs, Graham could win the nomination with a plurality in the crowded Democratic field.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida

On the Republican side, DeSantis, a congressman from metro Jacksonville, holds a more substantial lead over State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, 41 percent to 29 percent. However, 28 percent of likely Republicans in the poll said they were still undecided.

The margin of error in the poll of 500 likely Republican voters was also plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Putnam, a veteran of state politics from Polk County who served a decade in Congress before being elected agriculture commissioner in 2010, was considered the front-runner in the GOP race until DeSantis announced his run in January, backed with an endorsement from President Donald Trump.

A previous Mason-Dixon poll in February showed Putnam with a 4-point lead over DeSantis, indicating a shift of 16 points in the past five months.

Mason-Dixon did not pit the Republican and Democratic front-runners in a hypothetical matchup. However, the poll did find that among voters as a whole, Graham was viewed more favorably than DeSantis.

Among voters who recognized Graham, 35 percent had a favorable view of her, compared to just 5 percent who did not. For DeSantis, the figures were 32 percent approval and 21 percent disapproval.

The Florida primaries are August 28.

Incumbent Governor Rick Scott is term limited and running instead for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp gets landslide win in GOP runoff for Georgia governor, will now face Stacey Abrams

Democrats pick nominees for two targeted GOP-held seats in Atlanta suburbs

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — With the backing of both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Brian Kemp has won the Republican nomination for Georgia governor, winning a runoff by nearly 40 points after a stunning collapse by Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle.

Kemp’s win sets up one of the nation’s marquee governor’s races this fall against Democrat Stacey Abrams, the first African American woman ever nominated for governor by a major political party in a U.S. state, who won her nomination in May without a runoff.

Georgia Democrats have also settled on nominees for two Republican-held U.S. House seats in metro Atlanta being targeted this fall, picking Lucy McBath in the 6th District and Carolyn Bourdeaux in the 7th District.

McBath will now face U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, while Bourdeaux will take on U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp

In the GOP governor’s race, Kemp took 69 percent of the vote in the July 24 runoff to 31 percent for Cagle, who had finished 13 points ahead of Kemp in the first round of voting in May but saw his support collapse in the final weeks of the race.

“We have earned a clear and convincing victory,” Kemp told supporters at a election night rally in Athens. “We had the momentum in this race, and those endorsements by the president and vice president — they poured gasoline on the fire.”

Although both men had vied for the Trump vote, the president endorsed Kemp a week before the runoff, and Pence traveled to Georgia to campaign with him. Cagle, serving his third term as lieutenant governor, was endorsed by incumbent Republican Governor Nathan Deal,  who is term limited.

During the campaign, Kemp drew criticism for a humorous ad in which he points a shotgun at a young man who wants to date one of his daughters and gets him to acknowledge “a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment, sir.” Kemp was unapologetic, saying in a statement that “liberal media and radical, left-wing activists — who have probably never even held a firearm — are freaking out and creating fake controversy.”

The National Rifle Association had earlier endorsed Cagle after the lieutenant governor proposed stripping a lucrative tax exemption from Atlanta-based Delta Airlines to retaliate against the company for ending a discount program for NRA members in the wake of the massacre of high school students in Parkland, Florida.

The turning point in the race may have been release of secretly recorded audio in June in which Cagle admitted that he had supported “bad public policy” in the legislature to undercut one of his primary rivals and complained that the Republican primary had devolved into a contest of “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who could be the craziest.”

In a concession speech to supporters in Atlanta, Cagle promised his “full, undivided support” for Kemp in the general election.

“It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it, but at the end of the day, I can promise you my life is so rich,” he said.

Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams

Democrats, who have not won a governor’s race in Georgia since 1998, are hoping to turn those fortunes around with Abrams, 44, a Yale-educated Atlanta lawyer who served six years as minority leader of the Georgia House.

During the Democratic primary, Abrams had argued that the way to reclaim the governor’s mansion was to energize and expand the electorate, rather than trying to appeal to Republican-leaning voters by offering more moderate stands. That strategy will be put to the test against Kemp, 54, a conservative businessman from Athens who has been secretary of state since 2011.

Kemp went after Abrams in his victory speech, calling her an “out-of-touch radical liberal who cares more for her billionaire backers than for you all.”

“This election is going to be for the soul of our state,” Kemp said. “It is going to be about our values, and it is going to be literally a fight for the future of the great state of Georgia.”

While Republicans have dominated Georgia politics for nearly two decades, demographic changes — particularly an influx of new minority voters — have begun to shift the political calculus. In 2004, George W. Bush carried Georgia by 16 points; Trump only won by 5 points in 2016, and he lost two large suburban Atlanta counties — Cobb and Gwinnett — that had not gone Democratic in a generation.

Both of the U.S. House races where Democrats may have a shot this fall are anchored in those same suburbs. In the 6th District, which takes in Cobb, North Fulton and North DeKalb counties, Trump won by just 1.5 points; in the 7th District, which includes Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, he won by just 6 points.

Lucy McBath

Karen Handel

Handel won the 6th District seat in a special election in 2017 that became nationalized amid rising resistance to Trump. More than $50 million was spent on that race, making it the most expensive House election in history.

The Democrat who Handel defeated in that race, Jon Ossoff, decided against a rematch, leaving her to face McBath, a retired flight attendant and gun control activist from Cobb County, who took 54 percent in the runoff to defeat Kevin Abel, a Sandy Springs businessman, who took 46 percent.

McBath’s son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in 2012 by a man at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, over a dispute over loud hip-hop music. His case became part of the nationwide campaign against deadly violence aimed at young African-American men. The shooter, Michael David Dunn, was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Rob Woodall

Carolyn Bourdeaux

In the 7th District, Woodall will face Bourdeaux, from Suwanee, a professor at Georgia State University and former budget analyst for the Georgia Senate.  In the runoff, she took 52 percent of the vote to defeat Duluth businessman David Kim with 48 percent.

In the runoff, Republicans also settled on their nominees for the posts of lieutenant governor and secretary of state given up by Cagle and Kemp.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, former State Rep. Geoff Duncan from Cumming, a former professional baseball player, edged out State Senator David Shafer from Duluth. However, the two candidates were separated by less than 1,700 votes, which could trigger a runoff.

Duncan will now face the Democratic nominee, Kennesaw businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico.

In the secretary of state’s race, State Rep. Brad Raffensperger from Johns Creek defeated Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle. He will now face former U.S. Rep. John Barrow from Athens, who was the last white Democrat left in Georgia’s congressional delegation until he was defeated in 2014.

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