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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.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear launches 2019 governor’s race

Democrat is running for top job after three years of legal tussling with Republican Governor Matt Bevin

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoiltics.com editor

BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (CFP) — Democratic Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has launched his campaign to unseat Republican Governor Matt Bevin in 2019. taking a dig at the incumbent with a pledge to “set a standard for transparency and decency” in Frankfort.

Attorney General Andy Beshear greets a supporter July 10 at Western Kentucky University. (CFP/Rich Shumate)

“Instead of leadership, we see name calling and bullying. Instead of working together, our government says it’s my way or the highway,” Beshear said at a July 10 rally at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, the final stop on a two-day campaign kickoff tour. “Kentucky deserves better.”

Beshear is the first candidate to announce a run for governor in 2019, getting a jump on other Democratic candidates who are considering the race, including Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins and former State Auditor Adam Edelen.

Beshear and Bevin have been at war — in public and in court — since 2016, when Beshear assumed the attorney generalship and the governor took over as chief executive from Beshear’s father, former Governor Steve Beshear, who served as governor from 2007 to 2015.

Beshear has sued the governor at least eight times, including a challenge to a pension reform bill that prompted thousands of public school teachers to converge on the State Capitol in protest earlier this year. A lower court judge blocked the plan on constitutional grounds, a decision which the Bevin administration is now appealing.

The potency of the teachers’ protests as a political issue is reflected in Beshear’s choice for a running mate for lieutenant governor — Jacqueline Coleman, 36, a civics teacher and high school basketball coach from Harrodsburg, who was active in the protest movement.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

Bevin drew the ire of teachers for remarks he made in April after protests shut down a number of school districts: “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them. I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”

The governor later apologized for the comments, which drew the ire of even his fellow Republicans in the legislature. But Coleman made it clear that Bevin’s comments will live on in the governor’s race.

“Make no mistake — public education is under an all-out assault,” she said. “We have been insulted, disrespected, devalued and even called names by our current governor.”

In April, after the battle over pensions, WKU’s Big Red Poll found that Bevin’s job approval stood at just 32 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. A majority of poll respondents also said they sided with teachers in their dispute with Bevin, while just 16 percent expressed support for the governor.

In an early sign of how personal the governor’s race is likely to get, Bevin greeted news of Beshear’s candidacy with his own pointed tweet: “For those Kentuckians who did not get enough corruption, self-dealing, embezzlement and bribery during the 8 corrupt years of Governor Steve Beshear, his son, Andy, is now offering a chance for 4 more years of the same …” He added the hashtag #BeshearFamilyTradition.

Bevin’s comment stems from the conviction of Beshear’s former chief deputy for accepting bribes from lobbyists when he worked in the administration of Beshear. Neither Beshear has been implicated in the case.

Asked about Bevin’s tweet, Beshear said, “I’m running for governor to restore transparency and decency … I think our current governor’s comments show how much that decency is needed.”

Beshear, 40, is in his first term as attorney general. He and Grimes are the only Democrats holding statewide office in Kentucky and may face each other in the governor’s primary.

Grimes made an unsuccessful challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014 — after McConnell first crushed Bevin in a GOP primary.

The governor has not announced if he will seek re-election in 2019. No Republican has ever won a second term as governor.

Kentucky is one of four states that elect their governors in off years, along with Mississippi, Virginia, and New Jersey. However, state legislators are up this fall, and nearly three dozen public school educators have filed to run for legislative seats across the commonwealth.

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.

South Carolina Runoff: With Trump’s help, McMaster wins Republican nomination for governor

State Senator William Timmons gets GOP nod in 4th District U.S. House race

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Buoyed by backing from President Donald Trump, Governor Henry McMaster defeated Greenville businessman John Warren in a Republican runoff for governor, clearing a major hurdle in his quest to keep the job he inherited last year when Nikki Haley left to become UN ambassador.

McMaster

Governor Henry McMaster

McMaster took 53 percent in the June 26 runoff to 47 percent for Warren, a political newcomer who came from the back of the pack in the first primary round to win the second spot in the runoff.

In November, McMaster will face the Democratic nominee, State Rep. James Smith from Columbia. Democrats have not won a governor’s race in the Palmetto State in 20 years.

Meanwhile, upstate in the 4th U.S. House District, State Senator William Timmons from Greenville defeated former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.

Democrats chose as his opponent Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville who defeated Doris Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant.

Timmons took 54 percent to 46 percent for Bright, who came out on top in the first round of voting June 12. Brown beat Turner 62 percent to 38 percent.

Timmons will be a prohibitive favorite in the fall in the heavily Republican district.

McMaster, while lieutenant governor, was the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse Trump in 2016. The president returned the favor by making a high-profile election-eve appearance on his behalf in Columbia.  Vice President Mike Pence also came to the Palmetto State to campaign for McMaster.

In his victory speech, McMaster touted his special relationship with Trump.

“Our team extends from the White House to the Statehouse to your house, and that’s the most powerful team there is,” he said. “We going to keep on winning, winning, winning in South Carolina.”

McMaster, who has spent 11 years in statewide office as attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor, took over as the state’s chief executive in 2017 after Haley, who was then governor, was nominated and confirmed as Trump’s U.N. ambassador.

John Warren

Warren, a former Marine officer who owns a mortgage company in Greenville, was making his first bid for office, casting himself as a conservative outsider.

Despite being endorsed by the third and fourth place finishers in the first primary round and running strong in the Upstate and Charleston, he could not overcome McMaster’s margins across the rest of the state.

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