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Video: Newcomer Kevin Stitt takes helm in Oklahoma

Republican outlasted field of veteran politicos to claim governorship

Video from KJRN-TV via YouTube

7 new Southern U.S House Democrats who ousted Republicans support Nancy Pelosi for speaker

Cunningham of South Carolina and Spanberger of Virginia keep vow to oppose Pelosi; North Carolina’s 9th District remains vacant

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Seven Southern Democratic U.S. House freshmen who ousted GOP incumbents in November supported Nancy Pelosi’s bid to reclaim the gavel as speaker of the U.S. House — handing Republicans an issue to use against them in 2020.

Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi accepts gavel from GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (From Twitter)

Colin Allred and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Texas, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Elaine Luria and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida all supported Pelosi in the January 3 vote.

Two other freshmen Democrats who had vowed during their campaign that they would not support Pelosi — Joe Cunningham of South Carolina and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia — kept that promise, voting instead for Cheri Bustos of Illinois.

And despite signing a letter in November calling for new leadership in the House, Filemon Vela of Texas switched course to vote for Pelosi.

Meanwhile, as the new Congress convened in Washington with 29 new Southern  members, one seat sat empty — the representative from North Carolina’s 9th District, where state elections officials have refused to certify Republican Mark Harris’s narrow win over Democrat Dan McCready amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud.

In the vote for speaker, just three Southern Democratic members did not support Pelosi — Cunningham and Spanberger, who voted for Bustos, and Jim Cooper of Tennessee, who voted present.

Cooper, who has been in Congress since 1983, had been a long-time opponent of Pelosi’s speakership, having voted against her five times previously.

After the November election, a group of 16 Democratic members, including Cooper, Cunningham and Vela, signed a letter calling for “new leadership” in the Democratic caucus.

Vela changed course after Pelosi agreed to support term limits for the House Democratic leadership, which will limit her speakership to no more than four years.

Pelosi needed a majority of the 430 votes cast for speaker. In the end, she got 220 votes, four more than necessary.

Of the seven Southern Democrats who ousted Republicans and voted for Pelosi, McBath, Horn and Luria represent districts carried by President Donald Trump in 2016, while Allred and Fletcher represent districts he lost by less than 2 points.

Hillary Clinton carried Murcasel-Powell’s district in South Florida by 16 points and Wexton’s district in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. by 10 points.

Three other Southern Democratic newcomers who won open seats in November also supported Pelosi — Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Donna Shalala of Florida. All three represent districts Clinton carried handily.

Among Southern Republicans, only three did not support their candidate for speaker, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Jody Hice of Georgia supported Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the founders of the House Freedom Caucus, a grouping of the most conservative Republican members.

Walter Jones of North Carolina did not vote. He has been absent from Congress since September because of an undisclosed illness.

Of the 29 new Southern members of the House, 17 are Republicans and 12 are Democrats. Republicans hold 101 Southern seats, compared to 50 for Democrats, with North Carolina’s 9th District vacant.

The 9th District seat is likely to remain vacant until after the state elections board completes its investigation into the allegations of absentee ballot irregularities, which has been delayed until February because of a new law revamping the board.

Harris has filed a lawsuit seeking for force certification of the election.

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Change in party control of U.S. House diminishes Southern clout

Just five House committees in new Congress will have Southerners at the helm

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — When it comes to Southern clout in the U.S. House, what a difference an election makes.

In the recently departed Congress, with Republicans in control, 13 of the 22 committee chairs hailed from the 14 Southern states; in the newly installed Congress, with Democrats in charge, that number will fall to just five.

Five Southern Republican chairs retired, and one, Pete Sessions of Texas, went down to defeat in November. Those who stayed find themselves in the minority for the first time in eight years.

The switch in control has shifted power from the GOP, in which Southerners made up nearly half of the caucus, to the Democrats, where Southerners only make up a fifth. And that has led to reduced numbers of Southerners among committee chairs.

All five of the committees that will be chaired by Southern Democrats in the new Congress were chaired by Southern Republicans in the last Congress, so there will be no loss of influence on those panels.

Also, the outgoing majority whip, Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana, will be replaced by the incoming majority whip, Democrat Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Both men remain the only Southern members in their party’s top leadership.

But eight other committees that had GOP chairmen will now be headed by lawmakers from outside the region. And that list contains a number of the most powerful and high-profile chairmanships in Washington, including Judiciary, Rules, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform.

The five Southern Democratic committee chairmen are John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Budget; Ted Deutch of Florida, Ethics; Bobby Scott of Virginia, Education and Labor; Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Homeland Security; and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, Science, Space and Technology.

Unlike Republicans, who select committee chairs by voting within the caucus, Democrats use seniority. All five of the Southern Democrats ascending to chairmanships had been the ranking Democratic member when Democrats were in the minority.

Scott, Thompson and Johnson, all members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are among eight new chairs who are African American or Latino. In the departing Republican Congress, all of the chairs were white, and 20 were men.

Southerners will make up a slight majority within the Republican caucus in the new Congress, which is reflected in the GOP’s new committee leadership. On 14 of the 22 House committees, the ranking Republican in the new Congress will be from the South.

Among the notable newcomers to that group are Kay Granger of Texas, who will be ranking member on Appropriations, and Doug Collins of Georgia, on Judiciary–the committee that would handle any impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Michael McCaul of Texas, who had been chairman of Homeland Security, has shifted to become the new ranking member of Foreign Affairs.

Six Southern Republicans who had been chairs of their committees will continue as ranking members in the new Congress–Mike Conaway of Texas, Agriculture; Mac Thornberry of Texas, Armed Services; Steve Womack of Arkansas, Budget; Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Education and Labor; Phil Roe of Tennessee, Veterans’ Affairs; and Kevin Brady of Texas, Ways and Means.

In addition to Granger and Collins, five other Southern Republicans were also newly named as ranking members–Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, Financial Services; Kenny Marchant of Texas, Ethics; Mike Rogers of Alabama, Homeland Security; Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Rules; and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Science, Space and Technology.

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Election Preview: Governor’s races could make history in Florida, Georgia

Democrats within shooting distance in Oklahoma, Tennessee; GOP incumbents heavily favored in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and South Carolina

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

(CFP) — Eight Southern governorships are on the ballot in Tuesday’s midterm elections, highlighted by close and contentious races in Florida and Georgia that have garnered national attention.

Abrams

Gillum

Democrats are hoping to make history: If Democrat Andrew Gillum wins in Florida, he will be the Sunshine State’s first African-American governor, while a victory by Democrat Stacey Abrams in Georgia would make her not only its first black governor but also the first woman to hold the post and the first black female governor in U.S. history.

However, in both states, Democratic nominees will have to overcome a long history of Republican control. The last time a Democrat won a governor’s race in Florida was 1994; in Georgia, 1998.

Kemp

DeSantis

In Florida, the Republican nominee is former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has received considerable help in his quest for the governorship from President Donald Trump. The president stopped twice in Florida to campaign for DeSantis in the closing days of the campaign.

The Republican nominee in Georgia is Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who has also benefited from a Trump endorsement and a presidential visit on the Sunday before the vote.

Public polling has shown both races are within the statistical margin of error, which means neither race can be  forecast with certainty heading into election day.

In 2016, Trump carried Florida by a single point and Georgia by 5 points. While Florida has long been a swing state, the result in Georgia was the smallest win by a Republican in the Peach State since 1996, giving Democrats hope that it might be in play in 2020.

A win by either Abrams or Gillum would be a boon to Democratic prospects in 2020. It will also give them a say in redrawing congressional districts after the 2020 census — a process that Republicans have totally controlled in both states for the past decade.

And if the race in Georgia is close, it might not be decided on election night. State law requires a candidate to win an outright majority to claim the governorship. With a Libertarian in the race, neither major-party candidate could reach that threshold, triggering a December 4 runoff between them.

The remaining six Southern governorships up this year — all held by Republicans — look to be more secure, though Democrats may have outside shots in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

In the Sooner State, where Republican Governor Mary Fallin is term-limited, Republican businessman Kevin Stitt is facing former Democratic Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who comes to the race having served 16 years in statewide office.

Approval polling has pegged Fallin as America’s most unpopular governor, which has not helped Stitt’s cause. Oklahoma teachers also went on strike last year in a public display of protest that has reverberated through state politics.

Public polling has shown Stitt with a small lead near the edge of the margin of error. While Stitt is still regarded as the favorite, one prominent national prognosticator, The Cook Political Report, rates the race as a toss-up.

In Tennessee, where voters are also filling an open seat for a term-limited incumbent, Governor Bill Haslam, Republican Bill Lee, a first-time candidate who worked in Haslam’s administration, is facing Democrat Karl Dean, the former mayor of Nashville.

Public polling has shown Lee above 50 percent and with a statistically significant lead over Dean.

Four other governor’s races on the midterm ballot — in Arkansas, Alabama, Texas and South Carolina — all feature Republican incumbents who are expected to easily win re-election:

Heading into Tuesday’s election, Republicans hold 11 of the 14 Southern governorships; Democrats are in charge in North Carolina, Louisiana and Virginia.

See ChickenFriedPolitics.com’s latest ratings for hot governor’s races.

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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.

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.

 

 

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.

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