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Louisiana governor’s race heads to a November runoff

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards falls short of majority, will face Republican Eddie Rispone in 2nd round

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

BATON ROUGE (CFP) — The Louisiana governor’s race will be decided in a November runoff after Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards fell short of the majority he needed to knock out his two Republican challengers.

Edwards will face Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, who came in second place in the first round of voting Saturday. The runoff is Nov. 16.

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards will face Republican Eddie Rispone in Nov. 12 runoff

Edwards took 47 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Rispone and 24 percent for the third place finisher, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham from Alto.

Under Louisiana’s “jungle” primary system, candidates from all parties run together in the same contest, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the runoff if no one gets an outright majority.

Six other statewide offices were also on the ballot Saturday. Five Republican incumbents won without a runoff, but Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin fell short of a majority and will face Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup in November.

With pre-election polls showing Edwards within striking distance of winning the primary outright, President Donald Trump held a rally Friday night in Lake Charles to rally Republican voters, calling both Abraham and Rispone to the stage.

The president and most of the state’s Republican congressional delegation did not take sides in the battle between Abraham and Rispone, focusing their fire instead on Edwards.

“Louisiana cannot take four more years of a liberal Democrat governor,” said Trump, who accused the governor of “taking money from open borders extremists.”

Edwards, 53, is one of just three Democratic governors in the South, along with North Carolina’s Roy Cooper and Virginia’s Ralph Northam. But unlike Northam and Cooper, Edwards has positioned himself as a conservative Democrat who opposes legal abortion and gun control, both of which have played well in Louisiana.

As a result, national Democrats, including the large crop of 2020 White House contenders, have conspicuously avoided campaigning on his behalf, although former President Barack Obama did make a robocall for the governor.

In 2015, Edwards claimed the governorship by defeating Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter, who was bogged down by personal scandals and the unpopularity of the outgoing GOP governor, Bobby Jindal.

Edwards signature achievements in office have been expanding Medicaid, over Republican objections, and dealing with a budget shortfall he inherited from Jindal.

However, the tax increases imposed to deal with the budget have become fodder for his Republican opponents, who say the new taxes have driven business out of the state.

A Morning Consult poll in June put Edwards’s job approval rating at 47 percent, compared to 33 percent who disapproved.

Rispone, 70, owns an industrial contracting company that has made him one of Louisiana’s richest men. While he has long been a major GOP donor, this is his first race for political office, and he has poured in more than $10 million of his own money.

In addition to Louisiana, two other Southern states will hold governor’s races this year, Kentucky and Mississippi.

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards aiming for knockout in Saturday’s jungle primary

Trump making election-eve visit to Lake Charles to rally Republicans and force Edwards into a runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

BATON ROUGE (CFP) — Unless pre-election polls are seriously off the mark, Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards will come out on top when the votes are counted in Saturday’s primary election.

So the two questions to be answered Saturday are whether Edwards can knock out both of his Republican challengers by clearing 50 percent of the vote and, if he doesn’t, which of the two leading Republicans he will face in a November runoff.

Governor John Bel Edwards

In Louisiana’s “jungle” primary, candidates from all parties run together in the same contest, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the runoff if no one gets an outright majority. Polls have put Edwards within striking distance of that mark, which would be a significant embarrassment for the GOP in the very conservative Pelican State.

In the clearest sign of Republicans’ concern about the outcome, President Donald Trump is holding a rally in Lake Charles on Friday night, even though he has not taken sides in the battle for second place between U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham from Alto and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.

Both Abraham and Rispone, who have sparred with each other and with Edwards during the campaign, have welcomed the president’s visit for what Trump termed “a big Republican rally” designed to leverage his popularity into forcing Edwards into a runoff against a single GOP challenger.

Edwards is one of just three Democratic governors in the South, along with North Carolina’s Roy Cooper and Virginia’s Ralph Northam. But unlike Northam and Cooper, Edwards has positioned himself as a conservative Democrat who opposes legal abortion and gun control, both of which have played well in Louisiana.

As a result, national Democrats, including the large crop of 2020 White House contenders, have conspicuously avoided campaigning on his behalf.

In 2015, Edwards claimed the governorship by defeating Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter, who was bogged down by personal scandals and the unpopularity of the outgoing GOP governor, Bobby Jindal.

Edwards signature achievements in office have been expanding Medicaid, over Republican objections, and dealing with a budget shortfall he inherited from Jindal. However, the tax increases imposed to deal with the budget have become fodder for his Republican opponents, who say the new taxes have driven business out of the state.

A Morning Consult poll in June put Edwards’s job approval rating at 47 percent, compared to 33 percent who disapproved.

Abraham, 65, who is both a veterinarian and medical doctor, is in his third term in Congress representing the 5th District, which covers the northeastern corner of the state.

Rispone, 70, owns a building company that has made him one of Louisiana’s richest men. While he has long been a major GOP donor, this is his first race for political office, and he has poured in more than $10 million of his own money.

Other elected Republicans, including both U.S. senators and most of the House delegation, have stayed on the sidelines in the race between Abraham and Rispone. Both Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. have held rallies in Louisiana that both candidates attended.

In addition to Louisiana, two other Southern states will hold governor’s races this year, Kentucky and Mississippi.

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin won’t try to reclaim job as West Virginia governor

Decision removes a significant obstacle to Republican Governor Jim Justice’s path to re-election

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (CFP) — After toying for months with the idea of leaving the U.S. Senate for another shot at West Virginia’s governorship, Democrat Joe Manchin has announced he will not run against Republican Governor Jim Justice in 2020.

The decision deprives Democrats of the most formidable candidate they had to defeat Justice, who bolted to the GOP shortly after winning election as a Democrat in 2016.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin

In a September 3 statement announcing his decision, Manchin called the governorship, which he held from 2005 to 2010, “the best job I ever had.” But he said he decided he “couldn’t focus just on which job I enjoyed the most, but on where I could be the most effective.”

“I believe my role as U.S. Senator allows me to position our state for success for the rest of this century,” he said.

Manchin also went out of his way to mention President Donald Trump, an popular figure in the Mountaineer State who campaigned against his re-election in 2018 and will likely pull out all of the tops for Justice next year.

“As I have done since coming to Washington, I will work with the President to accomplish what best serves our state and our country, and I will speak truth to power when I don’t agree with the path the President has chosen to take,” he said. “That is what West Virginians elected me to do.”

Manchin’s decision came just days after the West Virginia Metro News published a poll showing him with a 10-point lead over Justice in a hypothetical match-up.

The senator has won two statewide contests for governor and three for Senate, surviving in 2018 despite Trump’s vocal support for his Republican opponent, in a state the president carried by 40 points in 2016.

With Manchin out, Democrats in West Virginia have a thin bench of possibilities to take on Justice.

Manchin is the only Democrat holding federal office, Republicans control both houses of the legislature, and the only Democrat holding statewide office is State Treasurer John Perdue, who is running for re-election to his seventh term.

While Manchin’s decision not to run clears a major hurdle for Justice, the governor is facing at least two Republican primary challengers. Pro- and anti-Justice factions have been battling for control of the state party, and the governor’s business dealings have also come under scrutiny, including questions about conflicts of interest and delinquent taxes.

Justice, 68, a billionarie who had never held elected office before winning the governorship, is thought to be the state’s wealthiest individual, with interests in coal mining and agribusiness. He also owns the famed Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs.

In 2015, he switched his party registration from Republican to Democrat to run for governor. Less than seven months after being elected, he announced he was switching parties during a rally with Trump.

The White House has signaled the president’s support for Justice, sending two key aides to West Virginia to advise his campaign.

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Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves wins GOP nomination for governor

Reeves defeats Bill Waller Jr. in runoff; State Treasurer Lynn Fitch wins Republican nod for attorney general

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

JACKSON (CFP) — Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves has won the Republican runoff for governor, setting up a November contest with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood that could be the most competitive governor’s race in the Magnolia State in a generation.

Reeves defeated former Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr. in the August 27 runoff, taking 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Waller.

In the other statewide runoff for the Republican nomination for attorney general, State Treasurer Lynn Fitch defeated Andy Taggart, a former Madison County supervisor, by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.

Her win sets up an all-female contest in November against Democrat Jennifer Riley-Collins, the former executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. The winner will make history as the first woman to serve as the state’s top law enforcement official.

Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves

The primary win by Reeves, 45, completes an ascent through state politics that began when he was elected as state treasurer in 2003 at age 29. After two terms as treasurer, he was elected twice as lieutenant governor.

He will now face Hood, 57, the lone Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi, who has been attorney general since 2004.

During the campaign, Hood has parted ways with national Democrats by taking more conservative positions on criminal justice and legal abortion, which he opposes. He has also made expanding Medicaid in Mississippi — long blocked by Republicans in Jackson — a centerpiece of his campaign.

However, any Democrat faces a steep climb in ruby red Mississippi, which has not elected a Democrat as governor since 1999.

The incumbent governor, Republican Phil Bryant, is term-limited.

Mississippi is one of three Southern states holding off-year elections for governor and other state offices in 2019, joining Kentucky and Louisiana.

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Decision 2019: All eyes on GOP race for governor in Mississippi primary

Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves leads Republican field; Attorney General Jim Hood expected to win Democratic nod

JACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — Voters in Mississippi head to the polls Tuesday to decide statewide races up for grabs in off-year party primaries.

With incumbent Republican Governor Phil Bryant term limited, a field of three Republicans and eight Democrats are vying to replace him. Also on the ballot are competitive primaries for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state treasurer, as well as state legislative seats.

Polls close at 7 p.m. CT.

The race that has drawn the most attention is the Republican primary for governor, where polls have shown Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves holding a commanding lead, though likely not enough to avoid a runoff against the second-place finisher. The two candidates competing for the other runoff slot are former Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr. and State Rep. Robert Foster from DeSoto County.

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jim Hood — the only Democrat holding statewide office in the Magnolia State — is expected to win his primary over seven challengers in his quest to become the first Democrat in 20 years to win the state’s top job.

Reeves, 45, has served two terms as lieutenant governor after two terms as state treasurer, an office he first won when he was just 29 years old.

Waller, 67, served 21 years on the state’s high court — an elected but non-partisan position — before resigning to run for governor. He is trying to follow in the footsteps of his late father, Bill Waller Sr., who served as governor as a Democrat from 1972 to 1976.

Foster, 36, was elected to the House in 2015. During the campaign, he drew national media attention after refusing to let a female reporter for the website Mississippi Today accompany him on the campaign trail because of a rule he has of not being alone with any woman other than his wife.

Foster defended the practice, followed by the late evangelist Billy Graham and Vice President Mike Pence, and used the controversy to raise money after he was criticized for it in national media outlets.

Hood, 57, has been attorney general since 2004. He has parted with his fellow Democrats by taking more conservative positions on criminal justice and legal abortion, which he opposes. He has also made expanding Medicaid in Mississippi — long blocked by Republicans in Jackson — a centerpiece of his campaign.

If no one wins a majority in Tuesday’s first round of voting, a runoff will be held in three weeks on August 27.

Of the eight elected statewide executive posts, five are open in 2019. Tate and Hood’s campaigns for governor opened up their positions as lieutenant governor and attorney general; Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann gave up his post to run for lieutenant governor; and State Treasurer Lynn Fitch left hers to run for attorney general.

Republicans have competitive primaries for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state treasurer. Democrats’ only competitive primary is for secretary of state.

Among the lower-tier races, the one that has gotten the most attention is the Republican race for attorney general, pitting Fitch against State Rep. Mark Baker from Brandon and Andy Taggart, a former Madison County supervisor who has served as an advisor to several Republican governors.

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Matt Bevin, Andy Beshear pull no punches at Fancy Farm political picnic

Candidates for Kentucky governor address crowd of partisans amid dueling chants of “Four More Years” and “Throw Him Out”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

FANCY FARM, Kentucky (CFP) — Kentucky’s August political ritual, the Fancy Farm picnic, is known for tasty barbecue, hot weather and barbed comments coming from politicians on the stage.

But the nastiness went into overdrive Saturday amid highly contentious governor’s race between Republican Governor Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, with both men — and their supporters — making it abundantly clear just how much they do not like each other.

Bevin speaks at Fancy Farm; Beshear works the picnic crowd

The only moment of unity came when Bevin ended his remarks by asking the crowd to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Democrats obliged — and then went right back to heckling the commonwealth’s controversial chief executive with chants of “Throw Him Out.”

Republicans on the other side of the picnic pavilion responded with “Four More Years” and “Daddy’s Boy” — a reference to the fact that Beshear’s father, Steve, served as governor before Bevin.

Note: Videos of Bevin, Beshear at Fancy Farm follow this story.

Beshear’s campaign — buoyed by teachers, state employees and other groups angered during Bevin’s tenure — turned out more signs and a somewhat larger crowd. Republicans, however, accused Democrats of busing in non-Kentuckians from across the Ohio River in Illinois and Indiana to bolster their ranks.

“Andy Beshear may have won the sign battle today, but you will lose the war in November,” promised State Rep. Richard Heath, a local GOP legislator who warmed up the crowd for Bevin.

Among the Democrats’ signs was a giant cutout of the head of Republican Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton, whom Bevin tossed from his ticket and with whom his administration touched off an ugly feud by firing members of her staff.

The Fancy Farm picnic, a fundraiser for St. Jerome Catholic Church, draws thousands of partisans from across Kentucky to the town of 500 on the far western side of the state. The church has hosted the event on the first Saturday in August every year since 1880, and it has become a ritual for ambitious politicians across the commonwealth

As Bevin has throughout the campaign, he sought to use national political issues as a wedge with the conservative Kentucky electorate, beginning his remarks by noting that the picnic raises money for a Catholic church and then displaying a poster from a recent Beshear fundraiser hosted by the owner of the state’s last remaining abortion clinic in Louisville.

“The only collusion that has ever happened in Kentucky is the collusion between this attorney general and the abortion industry,” said Bevin, who criticized Beshear — who supports legal abortion — for refusing to defend in court abortion restrictions passed by the Republican-controlled legislature.

The governor said the issue to be decided by voters in the November election is “which side are you on?”

“This should not be a difficult decision. It’s a function of whether you stand for America and American principles or whether you stand for socialism,” the governor said. “Do you stand with Donald Trump as the president of America, or do you stand with The Squad?,” a reference to four far-left Democratic congresswomen who have drawn Trump’s Twitter ire.

Beshear then followed Bevin to the stage to continue the strategy he has pursued throughout the campaign — to make the election about Bevin and his tenure in Frankfort, rather than Trump or national hot-button issues. He offered no response at all to the governor’s digs on the abortion issue.

Beshshear began by thanking Bevin “for finally showing up” to face him and then adding, “I guess we’ve got to thank the Koch brothers, too, for letting him,” a reference to the conservative mega-donors who have supported the governor.

“I guess they didn’t tell him Fancy Farm wasn’t one of their fancy resorts,” Beshear said.

Beshear called Bevin “reckless and erratic” and said “he never takes responsibility” for his decisions. He called the governor “more show pony than work horse” and said he had “left us a lot of manure.”

“The only thing we’re shoveling out of Frankfort this fall is you,” he said, as Bevin looked on impassively.

Beshear said the race comes down to four “critical” issues — fixing the financial problems in the state’s pension system, supporting public education, creating well-paying jobs and protecting health care. “And on every single one of them, Matt Bevin is wrong,” he said.

The attorney general also didn’t pass up the possibility to remind the crowd about what has become the most controversial moment of Bevin’s tenure as governor, in April 2018, when he claimed “somewhere in Kentucky” a student had been sexually assaulted or “ingested poison” because schools closed when teachers called in sick to protest pension changes at the Capitol.

“Matt Bevin thinks our teachers are ignorant thugs. I think you are amazing and selfless,” Beshear said, adding that if he is elected, teachers “will always be respected, you will never be locked out of your Capitol, and you will always have a seat at the table.”

The fall race in Kentucky will be a test of whether Trump’s popularity in Kentucky, which he won by 30 points in 2016, will be enough to save Bevin, who was ranked as the nation’s most unpopular governor in a recent Morning Consult poll. In Kentucky, 55 percent approve of Trump’s job performance; by contrast, 52 percent of state voters disapprove of Bevin’s performance, including 37 percent of Republicans.

Trump is expected to travel to Kentucky in the fall to campaign with Bevin, who attended the president’s rally last week in Cincinnati, just over the Ohio River.

Kentucky is one of three Southern states electing governors in 2019, along with Mississippi and Louisiana.

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Bevin’s remarks at Fancy Farm:

Beshear’s remarks at Fancy Farm:

Twitter war escalates between Andrew Gillum and Florida mega donor John Morgan

Morgan threatens lawsuit over Gillum’s “slush fund;” Gillum retorts that he doesn’t live on Morgan’s “plantation”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ORLANDO (CFP) — Morgan and Morgan may be “for the people,” but for Andrew Gillum, not so much.

Orlando attorney John Morgan

John Morgan, the Orlando lawyer and political mega donor who stars in TV ads for the law firm that bears his family’s name, has stepped up a nasty Twitter war with Gillum, the party’s defeated candidate for Florida governor in 2018, over Gillum’s decision to transfer leftover campaign money into a non-profit that doesn’t have to disclose how it spends the money.

How nasty? Morgan signed off one Sunday tweet with, “Thank God for Florida that @GovRonDeSantis won.”

Gillum fired right back: “I don’t live on your plantation and I don’t take advice from Trump impersonators & DeSantis suck ups.”

The fussing between Morgan and Gillum started back in April when Morgan learned that Gillum’s campaign, which received more than $2 million in financial backing from members of his firm, failed to spend more than $3 million in contributions for a race he lost by less than 33,000 votes, which Morgan called “stunning.”

The latest dust-up started with a story on the website Tallahassee Reports that Gillum planned to transfer $500,000 from those leftover campaign funds to a non-profit that is exempt from campaign disclosure requirements.

“Does anyone believe anything that comes out of this dude’s mouth?” Morgan wrote. “Of course it must be in an account that the public and his donors never see. And when will he transfer another $500K? When he spends this first $500K.”

Morgan went on to say, “We need to explore a lawsuit to recover the monies given in trust to @AndrewGillum and now in a slush fund” — no idle threat from the man who runs one of the nation’s largest law firms.

Gillum replied by noting that Morgan had originally backed another candidate in the Democratic primary and had pressured him to drop out in order to prevent former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham from winning.

“You only care about transactions and distractions,” Gillum said, concluding with his observation about not living on Morgan’s plantation.

Morgan — who said he gave $250,000 to Gillum in the closing days of the campaign after Gillum made a plea for funds he didn’t use — called the plantation comment “race bating,” which he said “is what people with something to hide do.”

“I say what I think but I don’t think like Trump,” he said. “Most people are afraid to speak truth to power, especially to those they supported. Not me. Plus I’m too damn old to care.”

A spokesman for Gillum told the Tampa Bay Times that the money was transferred to the non-profit Florida Forward Action because the group can “directly spend money on voter registration efforts,” which his campaign committee could not, although it is unclear why a campaign committee would be barred from registering voters. The spokesman said Gillum would not be paid a salary from the transferred funds.

Forward Florida Action has launched campaign “to register and engage” 1 million voters before the 2020 election.

In addition to his Twitter feud with Morgan, a federal grand jury has subpoenaed records from Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign; it is unclear if or why the campaign might be under investigation or by whom.

Morgan is a longtime Democratic donor on both the state and federal levels who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for statewide office in Florida. However, in 2017, he announced that he was disillusioned with the party and was registering as an independent.

Morgan said that while he would continue to support individual Democratic candidates, he would no longer financially support party organizations, which he said would be “like pissing money down a rat hole.”

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