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Oklahoma Primary: Mick Cornett, Kevin Stitt will face off in GOP runoff for governor

Harris, Hern advance to Republican runoff in metro Tulsa’s 1st U.S House District

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

OKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt topped a field of 10 candidates in the Republican primary for governor and will face each other in an August 28 runoff.

Cornett took 29 percent in the June 26 vote to 24 percent for Stitt, who edged out the third-place finisher, Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, by less than 3,500 votes.

The runoff winner will face former Attorney General Drew Edmonson, who cruised to an easy victory in the Democratic primary.

In the state’s open 1st U.S. House District seat in metro Tulsa, the Republican runoff will feature former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris against Kevin Hern, a Tulsa McDonald’s franchisee.

The seat was vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who resigned in April after he was confirmed as NASA administrator.

Harris took 28 percent to 23 percent for Hern, who narrowly edged out Andy Coleman, an attorney and minister from Owasso, with 22 percent. However, the margin between Hern and Coleman was just 840 votes, and media outlets did not make an immediate final call on the second runoff spot.

On the Democratic side in the 1st District, Tim Gilpin, a Tulsa attorney and former member of the state school board, will face a runoff with Amanda Douglas, an energy industry analyst from Broken Arrow.

The winner of the GOP primary will be favored in November in the heavily Republican district.

The GOP race for governor drew 10 candidates to succeed term-limited Republican Governor Mary Fallon. This was the first statewide election in Oklahoma since a teachers’ strike in April shuttered classrooms and roiled state politics.

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.

Stitt, a wealthy Tulsa businessman who founded Gateway Mortgage Group, ran on a platform of reforming the political culture in Oklahoma City, a message that resonated in the wake of the teachers’ strike. He surged in polls in the latter stages of the race after pouring in $2.2 million of his own money, upsetting Lamb for second place.

“Oklahoma’s turnaround starts tonight, folks,” he told supporters at a watch party in Jenks.

In his election night speech to supporters, Cornett also struck a chord for reform, saying “no one in Oklahoma seems to be giving up on this state.”

“People want more transparency. They want more accountability,” he said. “We’re going to have to have higher standards in health and education going forward.”

In the first primary round, Cornett carried Oklahoma City and surrounding areas, while Stitt put up his best numbers in and around Tulsa. Lamb carried most of the rest of the state, where the runoff battle is likely to be fought.

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. He had raised $1.4 million heading into the primary, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

Primaries: Governor’s race tops ballot in Oklahoma; runoffs in South Carolina, Mississippi

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster gets Donald Trump’s backing in quest to keep his job

OKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Oklahoma Republicans will go to the polls Tuesday to decide what is shaping up to be a tight three-way race for governor, picking a nominee to face a stronger-than-usual Democratic challenge in November in a political climate rocked by April’s statewide teachers’ strike.

In the state’s 1st U.S. House District in metro Tulsa, five Republicans and five Democrats are scrambling for spots in runoffs for an open seat.

Warren

McMaster

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Republicans will decide a runoff between Governor Henry McMaster and Greenville businessman John Warren, with McMaster hoping for a last-minute boost from President Donald Trump, who visits the state Monday.

Upstate in the 4th U.S. House District, former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg will face State Senator William Timmons from Greenville in the Republican runoff for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy. Democrats in the district will choose between Doris Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant, and Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville.

And in Mississippi, Democrats will decide a runoff to pick a nominee for the uphill task of trying to defeat Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, while Republicans in the 3rd U.S. House District will settle a runoff for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, who is also retiring.

In the Senate runoff, Howard Sherman, a venture capitalist from Meridian who is married to actress and Meridian native Sela Ward, will face State House Minority Leader David Baria from Bay St. Louis.

In the 3rd District, Michael Guest, the chief prosecutor for the judicial district that includes Madison and Rankin counties, will face Whit Hughes, a hospital executive and aide to former Governor Haley Barbour.

Polls in all three states will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.

In Oklahoma, voters will be going to the polls in the first statewide election since a teachers’ strike in April over low pay and what teachers saw as inadequate state support for education. The strike ended after legislators raised taxes to improve pay and school funding.

Kevin Stitt

Mick Cornett

Todd Lamb

The open Republican race for governor, which drew 10 candidates, is shaping up as a battle between Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Kevin Stitt, a wealthy Tulsa businessman who founded Gateway Mortgage Group.

Cornett, 59, a former television anchor in Oklahoma City, served 14 years as mayor and was president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2016.

Lamb, 46, a former Secret Service agent, is finishing his second term as lieutenant governor, after previously serving in the Oklahoma Senate.

Stitt, running on a platform of reforming the political culture in Oklahoma City that came under fire during the teacher’s strike, surged in polls in the latter stages of the race after pouring in $2.2 million of his own money.

Oklahoma has primary runoffs, which means that a runoff between the top two vote-getters is likely. The runoff will be August 28.

Incumbent Republican Governor Mary Fallon is term limited.

While Republicans dominate Oklahoma politics — and Fallon won the last two races by double-digit margins — Democrats will have a viable nominee for governor, former Attorney General Drew Edmonson, who had raised $1.4 million heading into the primary, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

Edmundson, 71, comes from a prominent Oklahoma political family and served as attorney general from 1995 to 2011. His father was a congressman, his uncle a governor, and his brother, James, serves on the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

In Oklahoma’s 1st District, voters are picking a replacement for former Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who resigned in April after he was confirmed as NASA administrator.

The Republican contest is shaping up as a battle between former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris; Kevin Hern, a Tulsa McDonald’s franchisee; and Andy Coleman, an attorney and minister from Owasso.

On the Democratic side, the front runner is Tim Gilpin, a Tulsa attorney and former member of the state school board who has the backing of the Oklahoma Education Association.

In South Carolina, McMaster — who inherited the office last year when former Governor Nikki Haley became UN ambassador — is trying to hold off Warren, a political newcomer who came from the back of the pack to win the second spot in the runoff.

McMaster was the first statewide elected official to endorse President Trump in 2016, and the president returned the favor by tweeting an endorsement and making an appearance on his behalf Monday at a suburban Columbia high school.

Vice President Mike Pence campaigned with McMaster Saturday in Myrtle Beach.

The winner of the GOP runoff will face State Rep. James Smith from Columbia. Democrats have not won a governor’s race in the Palmetto State in 20 years.

Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Tom Cole: Trump owes Obama an apology

Oklahoma Republican calls Trump’s wiretap charge against Obama “reckless”

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Donald Trump may have carried U.S. Rep. Tom Cole’s district by 38 points in November, but the Oklahoma Republican is mincing no words in calling for Trump to apologize to former President Barack Obama over claims that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma

Speaking to reporters in the Capitol March 17, Cole said there is “no indication” that Trump’s allegation against Obama is true.

“It’s not a charge I would ever have made. And frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling proof, then I think … President Obama is owed an apology,” said Cole.

“If (Obama) didn’t do it, we shouldn’t be reckless in accusations that he did.”

In a March 4 tweet, Trump claimed that Obama has his “wires tapped” in Trump Tower, his New York home. He followed that up with additional tweets comparing Obama’s conduct to the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon in 1974.

Trump has so far offered no evidence to back that claim, but he has not retracted it. Leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees from both parties have said the claim is unsubstantiated. Obama administration officials have also said the claim has no merit.

While other Republican leaders have distanced themselves from Trump’s wiretapping claim, none of them have gone as far as Cole in calling for an apology.

Cole has a place in the GOP leadership as a deputy whip to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. From 2006 to 2008, he served as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s House campaign arm.

Cole, from Moore, represents Oklahoma’s 4th District, which stretches from the southern Oklahoma City suburbs south to the Texas border. He has held the seat since 2003.

A college history professor before entering politics, Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, is one of only two Native Americans currently serving in Congress. The other is U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a Republican who represents Oklahoma’s 2nd District.

In the 2016 election, Trump carried 66 percent of the vote in the 4th District, to just 28 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt picked as next EPA chief

Nomination of EPA critic to head agency is drawing fire from environmental groups

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

oklahoma mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a vocal critic of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and a skeptic of climate change science, has been picked by President-elect Donald Trump to be the EPA’s next administrator.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

Pruitt’s nomination to the post was announced December 8 by Trump, who, like Pruitt, has been critical of EPA regulations on the energy industry designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said in a statement announcing Pruitt’s selection.

“(Pruitt) will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”

Pruitt, who has both sued and been publicly critical of the agency, said in his own statement that “the American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations.”

“I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” he said.

But Pruitt’s nomination has already run into fierce opposition from environmental groups.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement that putting Pruitt in charge of the EPA “is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”

Kassie Siegal, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, dismissed Pruitt as “a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry,” pointing to political contributions he has received from Oklahoma oil interests.

“Nominating him to lead the agency that protects our air, water and climate from pollution is like putting the Swamp Thing in charge of draining the swamp,” she said in a statement. “Any senator who doesn’t fight this nomination is handing corporate polluters a wrecking ball to destroy our future.”

Pruitt, 48, is in his second term as attorney general. His criticism of the EPA largely stems from the agency’s imposition of new restrictions on coal-fired power plants in order to curb carbon dioxide emissions, which proponents of climate change believe are harming the planet.

Pruitt, who has called the science behind the theory of climate change “unsettled,” sued the EPA after it rejected a plan put forward by the state to control power plant emissions in Oklahoma. He has also accused the EPA of overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by natural gas producers.

At a congressional hearing in 2015, Pruitt charged that the EPA was trying to force an “anti-fossil fuel agenda” on the states.

Trump, too, has been critical of the science behind climate change, once describing it as a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. However, in an interview after he won the November 8 election, he partially walked back that statement, saying there might be a link between human activity and changes in global temperature.

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.

Republican U.S. Senate incumbents trying to fight off Democratic challengers

Florida and North Carolina are Senate battlegrounds; Louisiana holds all-party primary for Vitter’s seat

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Nine GOP-held Southern U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs in the November 8 election, with Republican incumbents heavily favored in six races.

The exceptions are Florida, where Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is facing off against Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, and in North Carolina, where the GOP incumbent, U.S. Senator Richard Burr, is facing Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor.

And in Louisiana, 24 candidates are running in an all-party “jungle” primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a December 10 runoff, which could potentially decide the balance of power in the Senate.

Pre-election polls have shown Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy in the lead, followed by Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat; Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette; and Democrat Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer.

If Kennedy and Boustany can both clear the runoff, the GOP would be guaranteed of keeping the seat, now held by U.S. Senator David Vitter. But if Campbell or Fayard can come through, the December 10 runoff will be the last word on Senate races this year — and, if the Senate is closely divided, decide which party controls the chamber.

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

All are heavily favored, although the race in Georgia between U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson  and Democratic businessman Jim Barksdale is somewhat more competitive.

In Alabama, Richard Shelby faces Democrat Ron Crumpton, a marijuana rights activist; in Arkansas John Boozman is seeking a second term against Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville; and in Kentucky, Rand Paul is running against Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

In Oklahoma,  James Lankford faces Mike Workman, a Tulsa political consultant, and in South Carolina, Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, faces Democrat Thomas Dixon, a Charleston pastor.

Trump, Clinton roll across the South on Super Tuesday

Trump carries five of seven Southern GOP primaries; Clinton takes six on Democratic side
SUPER TUESDAY SOUTHERN RESULTS
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern-states-lg(CFP) — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton rolled across the South on Super Tuesday, carrying 11 of the 14 primaries and the lion’s share of the delegates up for grabs.

The only outliers were Oklahoma, which both Trump and Clinton lost, and the Republican primary in Texas, which went for homestate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

Trump and Clinton won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia in the March 1 vote. Clinton also won the Democratic primary in Texas

Super Tuesday was rough sledding for  U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who came in second place in Virginia and Georgia but could only manage a third-place finish in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas.

In addition to winning Texas and Oklahoma, Cruz finished second to Trump in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee. He was third in Georgia and Virginia.

While Trump won most of the Super Tuesday primaries on the Republican side, he cleared 40 percent only one Southern state, Alabama, which he swept by 18 points.

Trump also notched double-digit wins in Georgia and Tennessee. His victories in Arkansas and Virginia were narrow, 2 and 3 percent, respectively.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Buoyed by her strong support among African-Americans, Clinton rolled up huge numbers across the South. With the exception of Oklahoma, which she lost by 10 points to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Clinton’s support ranged from 64 percent in Virginia to 78 percent in Alabama.

Her margin of victory ranged from 29 points in Virginia to a staggering 59 points in Alabama.

The next Southern stops in the presidential race are:

  • Saturday, March 5: Kentucky (GOP caucus), Louisiana (primary)
  • Tuesday, March 8: Mississippi (primary)
  • Tuesday, March 15: Florida (primary); North Carolina (primary)
  • Tuesday, May 19: West Virginia (primary)

Southern Super Tuesday Results

ALABAMA
Trump—43%
Cruz—21%
Rubio-19%
Carson–10%
Kasich–4%

Clinton–78%
Sanders–19%

ARKANSAS
Trump—33%
Cruz—31%
Rubio-25%
Carson–6%
Kasich–4%

Clinton–66%
Sanders–30%

GEORGIA
Trump—39%
Rubio–25%
Cruz–24%
Carson–6%
Kasich–6%

Clinton–71%
Sanders–28%

OKLAHOMA
Cruz—34%
Trump—28%
Rubio–26%
Carson–6%
Kasich–4%

Sanders–52%
Clinton–42%

TENNESSEE
Trump—39%
Cruz–25%
Rubio–21%
Carson–8%
Kasich–5%

Clinton–66%
Sanders–32%

TEXAS
Cruz–44%
Trump–27%
Rubio–18%
Carson–4%
Kasich–4%

Clinton–65%
Sanders–33%

VIRGINIA
Trump—35%
Rubio–32%
Cruz–17%
Kasich–9%
Carson–6%

Clinton–64%
Sanders–35%

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