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Trump nominates Florida law school dean Alex Acosta as labor secretary

Acosta selected after Trump’s first nominee for labor post, Andrew Puzder, pulled out

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

florida mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — Alex Acosta, the dean of Florida International University’s law school and a former federal prosecutor in Miami, has been named by President Donald Trump to be the nation’s next labor secretary.

FIU Dean Alex Acosta

FIU Law Dean Alex Acosta

The selection of Acosta to head the U.S. Department of Labor came a day after Trump’s first pick for the post, fast food magnate Andrew Puzder, withdrew from consideration after it became clear that he lacked enough votes for Senate confirmation.

Trump made the announcement February 16 during a media appearance at the White House, which Acosta did not attend.

“I think he’ll be a tremendous secretary of labor,” Trump said, after briefly ticking off items from Acosta’s resume, including the fact that he had already been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to three executive department posts.

If confirmed, Acosta will be the first, and so far only, Latino in the Trump cabinet.

Acosta, 48, a Cuban-American, has been dean at FIU’s law school since 2009. From 2005 to 2009, he served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, which comprises nine counties in the southeastern part of the state.

From 2003 to 2005, Acosta headed up the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, the first Latino to serve in that position. From 2002 to 2003, he was a member of the National Labor Relations Board.

Acosta was also a law clerk to now-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito from 1994 to 1995, when Alito was serving on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

His two positions in the Justice Department and his stint at the NLRB all required Senate confirmation. One of the senators who will decide on Acosta’s nomination for the labor post, Florida’s Marco Rubio said he was “a phenomenal choice” and predicted he would be approved.

“I look forward to his confirmation hearing, where I’m confident he will impress my colleagues and secure the support necessary to be the next secretary of labor,” Rubio said in a statement.

13 Southern U.S. House Democrats bow out of Trump inaugural

All of the no-shows represent districts carried by Hillary Clinton

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states smWASHINGTON (CFP) — Thirteen of the 40 Southern Democrats in the U.S. House have announced that they will not take part in the January 20 inauguration of Donald Trump.

Lawmakers from Florida, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are among the no-shows. All of the boycotting members represent urban or black-majority districts that were carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s tweets castigating U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, for announcing an inauguration boycott seemed to particularly rankle some of the members opting not to attend; Trump’s reaction was called “repugnant,” “ignorant,” and “insensitive and foolish.”

“We are sending a message to Mr. Trump. Respect, like Pennsylvania Avenue, is a two-way street,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who will be among the no-shows.

However, none of the three other Democrats in Lewis’s own Georgia delegation have joined the boycott. Also not joining so far is U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who, as head of the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign, had been a sharp Trump critic.

As for the contention by Trump supporters that the inauguration is a celebration not of him but of the peaceful transfer of power, U.S. Rep. Julian Castro, D-Texas, said, “Every American should respect the office of the presidency and the fact that Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. But winning an election does not mean a man can show contempt for millions of Americans and then expect those very people to celebrate him.”

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said Trump’s “behavior and harmful words during and after the campaign have left the country I love with open, bleeding wounds. Instead of binding those wounds, he has poured salt on them. Instead of unifying us, he has reveled in driving wedges between us.”

Trump won 108 of the 154 congressional districts across the South in the November election; none of them are represented by Democrats.

Lawmakers boycotting the inaugural are unlikely to pay a political price, as all but two of them represent districts that Clinton carried with at least 60 percent of the vote. However, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, D-Florida, and John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, come from districts where Clinton’s share was just 55 percent.

The list of boycotting Democrats includes:

Georgia

Florida

Kentucky

Mississippi

North Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

Virginia

Analysis: Election results show Democrats are still a long way from being competitive in the South

Clinton performed worse in the South than Barack Obama in 2012

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Prior to the November 8 election, Democrats were publicly hopeful that they might finally be turning back Republican hegemony in the South, to the degree that pro-Hillary Clinton ads were running not only in the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina but also in reliably Republican Georgia and Texas.

Election results show that thinking was not just wishful, it was magical.CFP Facebook Mugshot

In fact, Clinton did comparatively worse in the South than Barack Obama did four years ago (which, oddly, seems to undercut the notion that the South’s resistance to Obama was based on his race.) A look at regional and state-by-state figures in the presidential race shows just how grim election night was for Southerners with a D attached to their name.

Donald Trump carried 53.3 percent of the vote and 13 out of 14 Southern states. That performance was not as good as Mitt Romney’s in 2012, when he came in with 54.4 percent (although Romney only carried 12 states.) However, the performance gap between Trump and Clinton was actually larger than the gap between Romney and Obama because Clinton’s underperformance was even worse.

She took just 42.5 percent of the Southern vote; Obama won 44.3 percent. Some of that was due to a larger third-party vote which, at 4.2 percent, was about 3 points more than it was in 2012. However, the gap between the Republican and Democratic share of the vote went up everywhere except Texas and Georgia and the lone Southern state Clinton carried, Virginia.

A look at raw vote totals shows the degree to which Clinton hemorrhaged Obama supporters.

In Mississippi, Clinton’s raw vote total was nearly 101,000 less than Obama’s in 2012, a huge shift in a state where less than 1.2 million votes were cast. Given that African-Americans play an outsized role in the state’s Democratic base, Clinton’s numbers are a clear sign that black voters did not turn out for her as they did for Obama.

But if Mississippi was bad for Clinton, Appalachia was even worse — down 51,000 votes in Kentucky, 92,000 in Tennessee, and 52,000 votes in West Virginia, where Trump’s percentage of the vote soared 15 points above Romney’s number. Those three states together have 270 counties; she carried exactly five.

In Arkansas, where Clinton was first lady and her husband governor for 10 years, she lost 16,000 votes and managed just 33.6 percent of the vote, 3.3 points lower than Obama’s vote in 2012. At the same time, Trump’s vote went up 34,000 over Romney’s, a net difference of nearly 50,000 votes.

Even in Virginia, which Clinton won, her vote total was 11,000 less than what Obama put up in 2016. She won because Virginia Trump’s vote total came in less than Romney’s by about 59,000 votes.

Meanwhile, as Clinton’s vote was fading, Trump’s was surging, beating 2012 GOP totals in every state except Virginia and Mississippi.

In Florida, where a growing Latino population was supposed to lead Clinton to victory, Trump added 442,000 votes to Romney’s tally, while Clinton added just 245,000 to Obama’s. In North Carolina, he added 69,000; she lost 16,000 in a battleground state she visited repeatedly.

In total across the South, Trump added more than 1 million votes to Romney’s haul; Clinton managed to add 448,000 by offsetting her losses in 11 states with gains in Texas, Florida and Georgia.

This led to some remarkable net vote changes between the two parties — 128,000 in Alabama, 166,000 in Kentucky, 150,000 in Tennessee and 118,000 in West Virginia.

The only glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel for Democrats was their improved performance in both Georgia and Texas.

In the presidential race, Democrats closed the gap with Republicans from 8 to 5 points in Georgia and 16 points to 9 points in Texas. Clinton also carried two big suburban counties in Atlanta, Cobb and Gwinnett, that had not gone Democratic in 40 years, along with Fort Bend County in suburban Houston, normally a no-man’s-land for a Democrat.

So perhaps Democratic wistfulness for those two states may not have been entirely misplaced, although that’s cold comfort when Trump carried Florida and North Carolina on his way to the White House.

And if the presidential results were grim, the U.S. Senate races were just as bad. Republicans  went eight-for-eight, with a race in Louisiana heading for a December 10 runoff in which Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy is favored to keep the seat in GOP hands.

Democrats didn’t even bother contesting Alabama, Oklahoma or South Carolina; they did recruit credible candidates in the rest of the races, such as Conner Eldridge in Arkansas, Jim Barksdale in Georgia and Jim Gray in Kentucky. But all lost by double-digit margins.

The Democrats’ best shots to pick up GOP-held seats were thought to be in Florida, where U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy was challenging Marco Rubio, and in North Carolina, where Deborah Ross was challenging Richard Burr. Murphy lost by 8 points; Ross, by 7. Both actually underperformed Clinton in their states.

The only good news for Democrats came in races for governor in West Virginia, where Jim Justice kept the office in Democratic hands, and in North Carolina, where Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper appears to have ousted Republican Governor Pat McCrory, although that race may be headed for a recount.

U.S. House: Democrats make a net gain of 2 Southern U.S. House seats

Charlie Crist makes a comeback in Florida, but John Mica falls; Republicans keep open seats in Florida, Louisiana

election-central-16(CFP) — Democrats made a slight, two-seat net gain in Southern Republican U.S. House seats in the November 8 election, taking down two Republican incumbents in Florida but coming up short in targeted GOP-held seats in Virginia and Texas.

Republicans also picked up an open seat along Florida’s Treasure Coast and kept an open seat in Louisiana, where two Republicans will face each other in a December 10 runoff.

Republicans still hold a commanding lead over Democrats in House seats in the South, 113 to 40, with another seat in Louisiana still to be determined.

Mica

Mica

Murphy

Murphy

The night’s most prominent casualty was Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica, who lost his bid for a 12th term to Democrat Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th District, which takes in central Orlando and the city’s northern suburbs.

Murphy, making her first bid for office, beat Mica by a margin of 51-49 percent.

A redraw of Florida’s U.S. House map ordered by the Florida Supreme Court added Democratic voters to Mica’s district, forcing him to run in a constituency in which 30 percent of the voters were new.

Jolly

Jolly

Crist

Crist

The new map also had an effect in Florida’s 13th District, in Pinellas County, where Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist resurrected his political career by knocking off Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly.

Crist, who served as Florida governor from 2007 to 2011 as a Republican, won by a 52-48 percent margin after the Supreme Court added Democratic areas of St. Peterburg into what had been a swing district.

Jolly had initially decided to abandon a re-election bid in the new district and run for the U.S. Senate. But he changed course after U.S. Senator Marco Rubio changed his mind about running for a second term.

Will Hurd

Will Hurd

Meanwhile, in Texas, Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd won re-election by just 3,700 voters over the man he defeated two years ago, Democrat Pete Gallego.

Hurd managed to survive in this majority Latino district, even with Donald Trump at the head of his party’s ticket. In fact, Hurd managed to increase his victory margin by about 1,300 votes over 2014.

Two other Republicans who had been targeted by Democrats for defeat, U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Florida and Barbara Comstock of Virginia, also managed to survive.

Curbelo

Curbelo

Curbelo defeated former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia by a 53-41 percent margin in Florida’s 26th District, which includes part of Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys.

His margin of victory was a significant improvement from 2014, when Curbelo defeated by Garcia by just 5,800 votes.

Comstock

Comstock

Comstock defeated Democrat LuAnn Bennett by a 53-47 percent margin in Virginia’s 10th District, which starts in the western D.C. suburbs and stretches out to West Virginia.

Democrats had hoped that Trump’s candidacy would be a drag on Comstock in this suburban district in a state Hillary Clinton won. But Comstock had no difficulty.

In Florida’s 18th District, a swing seat that includes parts of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, Republicans picked up the seat vacated by Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who made an unsuccessful run for the Senate.

Mast

Mast

Republican Brian Mast, an Army veteran who lost both his legs while serving as a bomb disposal specialist in Afghanistan, defeated Democrat Randy Perkins, a multimillionaire businessman from Delray Beach. Mast’s margin of victory was 54-43 percent.

Republicans also kept one of their two seats in Louisiana that opened up when the incumbents ran for the Senate. In the 3rd District, which takes in the southwest part of the state, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle from Breaux Bridge and Clay Higgins, a law enforcement officer from Lafayette, both cleared the field in the state’s all-party “jungle” primary and will face off in the December 10 runoff.

In Louisiana’s 4th District, which takes in the northwest part of the state, Republican State Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier Parish will face Democrat Marshall Jones, an attorney from Shreveport, in the runoff, which will be the last pickup opportunity for Democrats.

Court-ordered redraws of congressional maps affected a number of races in both Florida and Virginia.

Dunn

Dunn

In Florida, Republicans picked up the 2nd District seat in the Panhandle, which became more Republican under the new map. Panama City urologist Neal Dunn defeated Democrat Walt Dartland by a margin of 67-30 percent.

Demings

Demings

However, the GOP lost the 10th District seat in Orlando, which became more Democratic. Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings carried this seat for the Democrats over Republican Thuy Lowe by a margin of 65-35 percent.

McEachin

McEachin

In Virginia, Republicans lost in the newly configured 4th District, where Democratic State Senator Donald McEachin defeated Republican Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade by a margin of 57-45 percent.

Garrett

Garrett

However, the GOP hung on to another redrawn seat in the 5th District, where Republican State Senator Tom Garrett from Buckingham County defeated Democrat Jane Dittmar, the former chair of the Albermarle County Board of Supervisors, by a margin of 58-42 percent.

 

U.S. Senate: Republicans hold on to all 8 of their Southern seats

Rubio and Burr beat back challenges in Florida, North Carolina; Kennedy and Campbell will contest runoff in Louisiana

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Republicans held on to all eight of their Southern U.S. Senate seats, with Marco Rubio in Florida and Richard Burr in North Carolina turning back strong Democratic challengers.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana’s all-party “jungle” primary, State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell will advance to a December 10 runoff for the open seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter.

Kennedy led with 25 percent, with Campbell at 18 percent, edging out Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany at 15 percent.

Because Republicans already secured their 51-seat Senate majority, the Louisiana runoff will not affect the balance of power.

In addition to Rubio and Burr, Republican incumbents also won re-election in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

With the wins on November 8, Republicans will hold 23 of the 28 Southern Senate seats, with Louisiana still to be decided.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

In Florida, Rubio had initially decided to give up his Senate seat to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. But after losing the White House contest, he changed course and filed to run for a second term, improving the GOP ‘s prospects for keeping the seat.

Rubio took 52 percent, defeating Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who took 44 percent.

Alluding to his withdrawal from the presidential race in March, he told election night supporters in Miami, “This is a lot better than the last time I did one of these.”

Rubio, who had been a critic of Trump before reluctantly endorsing him, did not mention his party’s  victorious presidential standard-bearer in his speech, but he did make a plea for civility in politics.

“While we can disagree on issues, we cannot share a country where people hate each other because of their political affiliations,” Rubio said.

U.S. Senator Richard Burr

U.S. Senator Richard Burr

In North Carolina, Burr, seeking a third term, took 51 percent of the vote, defeating Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor, who took 45 percent.

“I am truly humbled by the support I’ve received from people across this state,” Burr said at a victory celebration in Winston-Salem. “This is a victory for all of those who have believed in me.”

In a state notorious for exchanging Senate seats between parties, Burr becomes the first senator to win three consecutive terms since Jesse Helms in 1984.

Here are the other Southern Senate results:

Shelby

Shelby

Alabama: Republican U.S. Senator Richard Shelby won a seventh term by defeating Democrat Ron Crumpton, a marijuana rights activist. by a margin of 64-36 percent. At the end of his new term, Shelby will be 88 and will have served in Congress for 44 years.

boozman-sm

Boozman

Arkansas: Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman won a second term by taking 60-36 percent for Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville. Boozman suffered an aortic aneurysm in 2014 that kept him away from Washington for two months.

Isakson

Isakson

Georgia: Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson won a third term in the Senate by defeating Democrat Jim Barkdale, a wealthy Atlanta businessman, by a 55-41 percent margin. Isakson ran for re-election to a third term despite announcing in 2015 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

paul sm

Paul

Kentucky: Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul defeated Lexington Mayor Jim Gray by a margin of 57-43 percent. Paul had pursued re-election simultaneously with a presidential campaign until he dropped out of the White House race in February.

Lankford

Lankford

Oklahoma: Republican U.S. Senator James Lankford easily won his first full six-year term by defeating Democrat Mike Workman, a Tulsa political consultant, by a margin of 68-25 percent. In 2014, Lankford was elected to finish out the final two years of Tom Coburn’s term after he resigned.

Scott

Scott

South Carolina: Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, easily won a full six-year term by defeating Democrat Thomas Dixon, a Charleston pastor, by a margin of 61-36 percent. In 2014, Scott was elected to serve out the remaining two years of Jim DeMint’s term, after he resigned.

President: Trump rolls across the South, shuts out Clinton in Florida, North Carolina

Clinton takes just one Southern state, Virginia

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Republican Donald Trump blazed through the South on his way to the White House, defeating Hillary Clinton in the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina.

Trump won 13 of 14 Southern states, with a combined 167 electoral votes, a better performance than Mitt Romney had in 2012, when he took 12.

Trump’s haul of Southern electoral votes made up 58 percent of his national total.

Clinton’s only Southern victory came in Virginia, where she defeated Trump by a margin of 50-46 percent, thanks to a late vote surge from the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

Trump defeated Clinton by a margin of 49-48 percent in Florida and 51-47 percent in North Carolina.

Across the rest of the South, Trump rolled up double-digit margins, including winning by a whopping 43 points in West Virginia. 36 points in Oklahoma and 30 points in Kentucky.

Trump outperformed Romney’s totals in every Southern state except Georgia and Texas. In Georgia, the GOP result was down 3 points; in Texas, 6 points.

How much can Hillary Clinton dent the South’s Republican hegemony?

Trump must beat Clinton in Florida and North Carolina, and avoid any other Southern surprises, to win

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney blew across the South, carrying 12 of the 14 Southern states — 10 of them by double-digit margins —  and losing another, Florida, by just a single point.

Heading into Tuesday’s election, Donald Trump’s quest for the White House may hinge on how well he can hang on to Romney’s Southern support, amid signs that Hillary Clinton is poised to do better in the region than Barack Obama did four years ago.

Pre-election polls show that both Florida, which Obama carried in 2012, and North Carolina, which he did not, are toss-ups between Clinton and Trump.

The news is better for Clinton in Virginia, where polls show her with a clear lead in a state Obama carried in both 2008 and 2012.

Together, those three states have 57 electoral votes, out of the 270 needed to win.

Florida and North Carolina are more important to Trump than to Clinton: She could lose both and still win in the Electoral College, but if he loses either of them, his route to victory is likely cut off.

A key metric in Florida will be how many Latino voters turn out and how much Clinton can benefit from Trump’s anti-immigration stance and incendiary comments about Latinos, particularly Mexicans.

About 15 percent of the Florida electorate is Latino, about 1.8 million voters, and about a third of those voters are Cuban-Americans, normally a reliably Republican group. But Trump’s support in that community — necessary for a Republican to win statewide — remains a question mark.

Much of the GOP Cuban-American political leadership in Miami has refused to endorse Trump, including U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart. Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera has also kept his distance from Trump, although he did appear at an event in Miami with the GOP nominee back in October.

With Florida and North Carolina up for grabs, an equally intriguing question heading into election night is the degree to which Trump might be in trouble in other unexpected places in the South.

For instance, three media polls taken last week in Georgia showed that the race between Clinton and Trump in Georgia was a statistical tie. Georgia has not gone for a Democrat for president since 1992, when Clinton’s husband, Bill, won narrowly in a three-way race.

Priorities USA, a Clinton-allied Super PAC, had been airing ads in Georgia, although the Clinton campaign itself has not moved resources into the state.

Polls in mid-October also showed a closer-than-expected race in Texas, where Trump’s weakness among Latino voters seemed to be having an effect. However, more recent polling in Texas has shown Trump reestablishing a lead.

Because most Southern states are perceived to be solid Republican territory, there has been little public polling in most of them, save for Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Texas.

However, some national polling has shown Trump’s support weaker across the South than what Romney managed to put up four years ago. So, in an election that has seen its share of surprises, there is no way until the votes are counted to know if there might be other Southern surprises lurking in the presidential race.

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