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South Carolina Primary: U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford defeated; McMaster, Warren advance to GOP governor’s runoff

Democrat Archie Parnell survives 5th District U.S. House primary despite spouse abuse revelations

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLESTON (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford has become the second incumbent to go down in a primary this year, losing the GOP nomination for his Lowcountry seat after President Donald Trump tweeted a last-minute endorsement of his opponent.

In another key race in the June 12 primary, Governor Henry McMaster secured a runoff spot and will now face John Warren, a Greenville businessman and Iraq war veteran making his first run for political office.

In the 5th U.S. House District, Democrat Archie Parnell advanced to the general election, despite pleas from party leaders to get out of the race over revelations about spousal abuse from four decades ago.

And upstate, in the 4th District, where 12 Republicans were fighting for spots in the runoff, former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg snagged one spot, with State Senator William Timmons from Greenville holding on to second place by a narrow margin in unofficial results.

Sanford

Arrington

In the 1st U.S. House District, which includes Charleston and the Lowcountry along the Atlantic Coast, State Rep. Katie Arrington from Summerville took 51 percent to 46 percent for Sanford, who has held the seat since 2013.

She will now face Democrat Joe Cunningham, a Charleston attorney who swept to an easy victory in the Democratic primary with 71 percent of the vote.

Sanford’s demise could be good news for Cunningham, who will now be competing in an open seat against a lesser known, more conservative candidate. He has also raised more than $500,000 in a bid to flip the 1st District seat.

Trump loomed large in the GOP primary, with Arrington taking aim at Sanford for his previous critical comments about the president. Then, on election day, Trump administered the coup de grace on his Twitter feed: “Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina.”

The final sentence is a reference to a 2009 episode in which Sanford, then governor of South Carolina, disappeared for several days after telling the media he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, while he was actually out of the country with a Argentinian woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

Sanford has been one of the few Republicans in Congress to speak out against Trump, calling his behavior in office “weird,” criticizing Trump’s disparagement of Haiti and countries in Africa and calling his policy of imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum “an experiment with stupidity.”

In a concession speech before supporters in Mount Pleasant, Sanford stood by the criticisms that may have cost him his job.

“It may have cost me an election, but I stand by every one of those decisions to disagree with the president because I didn’t think they would be concurrent with the promises I made when I first ran for office and for the very voices of the people of the 1st District that I represent,” he said.

Sanford had never previously been defeated in a career that stretches back to his first election to the U.S. House in 1994 and includes two terms as governor.

The only other incumbent House member to fall this year so far was North Carolina’s U.S. Robert Pittenger. However, Alabama U.S. Rep. Martha Roby was forced in a July runoff against a challenger who made an issue of her decision to rescind her endorsement of Trump after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in October 2016, in which he bragged about groping women.

Warren

McMaster

In the governor’s race, McMaster — who inherited the office last year when former Governor Nikki Haley became UN ambassador — took 45 percent of the vote to 22 percent for Warren, who edged out Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney who served in two state executive positions under Haley.

The winner will face State Rep. James Smith from Columbia, who won the Democratic nomination outright with 62 percent of the vote. Florence lawyer Marguerite Willis came in second with 27 percent, while Phil Noble, a Charleston business consultant who was an adviser to former President Barack Obama, came in third with 22 percent.

Democrats have not won a governor’s race in the Palmetto State in 20 years.

McMaster — the first statewide elected official to endorse President Trump in 2016 — was boosted by a tweeted endorsement from the president. Warren was the dark horse in the race, putting in more than $3 million of his own money to be financially competitive with McMaster and Templeton.

Templeton had touted her connections with Haley and campaigned against what she called a “good ol’ boy” network running South Carolina politics — a shot at McMaster, who has been in state politics for more than 20 years. But in the end, she could not hold off a charge by Warren, who cast himself as the “conservative outsider” in the race.

In the 5th District, which stretches from the Columbia suburbs north toward Charlotte, Parnell took 60 percent, surviving a Democratic primary against three little-known challengers after divorce records came to light three weeks before the primary revealing that he physically abused his first wife in the 1970s.

Norman

Parnell

Democratic leaders have urged Parnell to quit, but he has refused. He will now face Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman in November.

In a special election last year to fill the seat vacated when Mick Mulvaney became Trump’s budget director, Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs executive, shocked the political world by coming in just 2 points behind Norman in a district Trump carried by 19 points in 2016.

Based on the closeness of the special election, Parnell has raised more than $3.6 million for the rematch, putting him in the top 20 nationally among House candidates. But the abuse allegations likely extinguished any hope Democrats had of defeating Norman and flipping the seat.

Norman drew national headlines in April when he pulled out a loaded gun during a meeting with gun control advocates at a local diner. The incident came less than two months after the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Norman defended his actions, saying he was “tired of guns being demonized.”

Upstate in the 4th District, which includes Greenville and Spartanburg, Bright, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in a GOP primary in 2014, took 25 percent to secure a runoff spot for the seat being given up by the retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.

Timmons was in second place with 19 percent, but he was only 350 votes ahead of State Rep. Dan Hamilton, also from Greenville, so news organizations did not make an immediate call for the second spot in the runoff.

Democrats in the district will also decide a runoff between Doris Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant, who took 29 percent, and Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville, who took 28 percent.

South Carolina primary: Governor Henry McMaster and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford try to keep their jobs

Democrats in 5th U.S. House District will decide fate of Archie Parnell after spouse abuse revelations

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLESTON (CFP) — Governor Henry McMaster and two of his GOP opponents will jockey for runoff spots in South Carolina’s Republican primary Tuesday, while U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford will try to hang on to his seat against a Republican primary challenger who has made his critical comments about President Donald Trump an issue in the race.

Republicans in the 4th U.S. House District will also cull down a staggering field of 12 candidates vying for the party’s nomination for an open seat, while in the 5th District, Democrat Archie Parnell will find out if his own party will abandon him over revelations about spousal abuse from four decades ago.

Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In the governor’s race, recent polling shows McMaster — who inherited the office last year when Nikki Haley became UN ambassador — appears likely to snag one of the top two runoff spots but fall short of the outright majority he needs to avoid a runoff.

Warren

Templeton

McMaster

The chase for the second spot is between Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney who served in two state executive positions under Haley, and John Warren, a Greenville businessman and Iraq war veteran making his first run for political office.

McMaster and Templeton have both been competing for the imprimatur of the popular Haley, who appointed Templeton to head both the state health and labor departments and served for two years with McMaster as lieutenant governor before leaving for New York.

Haley, who is barred by federal law from getting involved in partisan political campaigns while serving in the executive branch, has remained neutral. But on her campaign website, Templeton features a quote from Haley calling Templeton a “great professional who hasn’t just been good at anything, she’s been great at everything.”

Warren has become the dark horse in the race, putting in more than $3 million of his own money to be financially competitive with McMaster and Templeton.

The Democratic governor’s race also appears headed to a runoff, with three candidates bunched together in pre-election polls. The field includes State Rep. James Smith from Columbia, Phil Noble, a Charleston business consultant who was an adviser to former President Barack Obama, and Marguerite Willis, a Florence lawyer and wife of former longtime Florence Mayor Frank Willis.

The two two finishers in both races will compete in June 26 runoffs. Also for the first time this year, candidates for governor have selected running mates for lieutenant governor, rather than having the office elected independently.

Katey Arrington

Mark Sanford

In the 1st U.S. House District, which includes Charleston and the Lowcountry along the Atlantic Coast, Sanford is facing a strong primary challenge from Republican State Rep. Katie Arrington, who has made Sanford’s previous comments about Trump an issue.

Sanford has been one of the few Republicans in Congress to speak out against the president, calling his behavior in office “weird,” criticizing Trump’s disparagement of Haiti and countries in Africa and calling his policy of imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum “an experiment with stupidity.”

In an era in which anti-establishment outsiders often have the upper hand, Sanford is also a consummate insider, having served 14 years in the House and two terms as governor.

However, Sanford has also proven himself a political survivor, battling his way back to Congress in 2012 after his second term as governor spiraled down in scandal amid public revelations about an extramarital affair with an Argentinian lover.

In one of her ads, Arrington directly alluded to the scandal: “Bless his heart, but it’s time for Mark Sanford to take a hike — for real this time,” a reference to a lie Sanford told to the media that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was actually out of the country with his paramour.

The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democrat Joe Cunningham, a Charleston attorney who has raised more than $500,000 in a bid to flip the 1st District seat.

Archie Parnell

In the 5th District, which stretches from the Columbia suburbs north toward Charlotte, Parnell is now trying to a survive a Democratic primary that had once looked like a sure thing, after divorce records came to light three weeks ago revealing that he physically abused his first wife in the 1970s.

Democratic leaders have urged Parnell to quit, but he refused. He faces three little-known candidates — one of whom is a professional circus clown — which should insure Parnell at least a place in a runoff if he can’t win the nomination outright.

In a special election last year to fill the seat vacated when Mick Mulvaney became Trump’s budget director, Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs executive, shocked the political world by coming in just 2 points behind Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, in a district Trump carried by 19 points in 2016.

Based on the closeness of the special election, Parnell raised more than $3.6 million for the rematch, putting him in the top 20 nationally among House candidates. But the abuse allegations probably extinguished any hopes Democrats had of defeating Norman and flipping the seat.

Norman drew national headlines in April when he pulled out a loaded gun during a meeting with gun control advocates at a local diner. The incident came less than two months after the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Norman defended his actions, saying he was “tired of guns being demonized.”

Upstate in the 4th District, which includes Greenville and Spartanburg, 12 Republicans are running for the seat being given up by the retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, virtually ensuring a runoff.

Among the competitors are former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in a GOP primary in 2014; State Senator William Timmons from Greenville; Josh Kimbrell, a Christian radio host from Spartanburg; and State Rep. Dan Hamilton from Greenville.

On the Democratic side of the ballot, five candidates are competing for runoff spots including Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville; J.T. Davis, a Simpsonville businessman; Eric Graben, a Greenville attorney; Will Morin from Greenville, a former trainer for the U.S. Olympic luge team; and Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant.

Alabama Primary: Governor Kay Ivey avoids runoff; U.S. Rep. Martha Roby doesn’t

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox wins Democratic nomination for governor

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

BIRMINGHAM (CFP) — Governor Kay Ivey cruised to an easy win in Alabama’s June 5 Republican primary, defeating three opponents without a runoff and clearing a major hurdle in her quest to win in her own right a job she inherited after her disgraced predecessor resigned.

However, in another closely watched race, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby will face a July 17 runoff for her seat in southeast Alabama’s 2nd District, after facing a backlash from her pointed criticism of President Donald Trump during last year’s presidential race.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey

In the GOP governor’s primary, Ivey took 56 percent of the vote to defeat Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who won 25 percent, and Scott Dawson, an evangelist from Birmingham, with 14 percent.

Her Democratic opponent in November will Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who took 55 percent in the Democratic primary to defeat Sue Bell Cobb, former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court,

Ivey, 73, became governor in April 2017 after her predecessor, Robert Bentley, resigned amid allegations that he used state resources to try to hide an extramarital affair with a female aide, a scandal complete with salacious audio recordings that roiled state politics for months.

Ivey decided to seek the governorship in her own right after winning plaudits for her handling of the Bentley debacle and its aftermath. A Morning Consult poll earlier this year  put her approval rating at 67 percent, making her one of the most popular governors in the country.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

In the 2nd District GOP race, Roby took 39 percent, to 28 percent for Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor who held the seat as a Democrat before losing it to Roby in 2010

State Rep. Barry Moore from Enterprise came in third at 19 percent, while Rich Hobson, the campaign manager for failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, managed just 8 percent.

Roby faced criticism from her opponents for being insufficiently supportive of Trump, stemming from her decision in October 2016 to rescind her endorsement of him after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women, Roby said she would not vote for Trump because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

But in November, almost 30,000 people cast write-in votes against Roby, reducing her vote total to  just 49 percent of the vote in a strongly Republican district and virtually ensuring she would face a primary fight in 2018.

Roby, who has toned down her criticisms of Trump since the election, opened up a huge fundraising advantage, taking in $1.4 million — more than twice as much as all of her GOP opponents combined, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

The winner of the runoff will be heavy favorite against Democrat Tabitha Isner from Montgomery, a pastor’s wife and business analyst for a software company who easily won the 2nd District Democratic primary.

State Primary Wrap: Stacey Abrams roars to Democratic governor’s nomination in Georgia; GOP faces runoff

Final fields for governor’s races also set in Arkansas and Texas; incumbent survives in Arkansas Supreme Court contest

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — Democrat Stacey Abrams has made history in Georgia’s Democratic primary for governor, crushing her opponent to become the first African American woman ever nominated for governor by a major political party in a U.S. state.

Georgia Republicans are headed to a runoff between Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, after neither won a majority in the May 22 primary.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson was nominated for a second term and will be heavily favored over the Democratic winner, political newcomer Jared Henderson. And Texas Democrats picked former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez to face incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott in November, making her the first Latina and first openly lesbian candidate to be nominated by a major party for Texas governor.

Georgia Democratic governor nominee Stacey Abrams

In Georgia, Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House whose candidacy has drawn national attention, took 76 percent of the vote to 24 percent for former State Rep. Stacey Evans, winning all but six of the state’s 159 counties.

Speaking to jubilant supporters in Atlanta, Abrams vowed to create a “coalition that reaches across backgrounds, sharing our constant belief in our capacity to win.”

“We have to reach out to those who do not believe their voices matter, who’ve been disappointed again and again by promises made and never kept,” she said. “In the Book of Esther, there is a verse that reminds us that we were born for such a time as this.”

After seeing their party lose four governor’s elections in a row, Democrats who voted in the primary clearly bought into Abrams’s argument that the way to reclaim the governor’s mansion was to expand the electorate, rather than Evans’s argument that Democrats needed a nominee who could appeal to Republican-leaning voters by offering more moderate stands.

But while Abrams did win more votes in the primary than any candidate on either side of the ballot, overall, 54,000 more voters picked up Republican ballots, in a state that has no party registration.

Brian Kemp

Casey Cagle

In the Republican primary, Cagle, serving his third term as lieutenant governor, took 39 percent of the vote to 26 percent for Kemp, who has been secretary of state since 2011. Cagle beat Kemp in the large suburban Atlanta counties, where the bulk of Georgia Republicans live, and in all of the smaller cities except Athens, which Kemp once represented in the Georgia Senate.

However, Georgia has a long history of the second-place finisher in a primary coming from behind to win a runoff, most notably in 2010, when current Governor Nathan Deal defeated Karen Handel, who returned to political office last year by winning a seat in Congress.

The runoff in Georgia in July 24.

In another Georgia race of interest, former Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow, who lost his seat in 2014, won his party’s nomination for secretary of state without a runoff. Republicans will have a runoff between former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle and State Rep. Brad Raffensperger of Johns Creek.

In Arkansas, Hutchinson took 70 percent to 30 percent for Jan Morgan, a gun rights activist and television pundit who ran at the governor from the right, beating him in five rural counties. In November, he will face Henderson, a former NASA scientist who runs a Little Rock non-profit that advocates on education issues.

The most contentious battle in the Natural State was a non-partisan contest for a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court, where incumbent Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson advanced to a runoff against David Sterling, who was appointed by Hutchinson as chief counsel for the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Goodson took 37 percent of the vote; Sterling, 34 percent.

A week before the election, Goodson filed a defamation lawsuit against the Judicial Crisis Network, a Washington-based conservative legal group, over ads it was running against her on Arkansas TV stations which alleged she accepted gifts for donors and sought a pay raise.

She also asked judges in three jurisdictions to enjoin stations from airing the ads, triggering protests from media organizations, although some of them voluntarily agreed to stop running the ads. JCN also spent more than $500,000 in 2016 to defeat Goodson in a race for chief justice.

Although the JCN’s ads targeted Sterling’s opponents, he has insisted that he has no connection to the group.

Goodson and Sterling will now face each other on the November general election ballot.

In Texas, in the Democratic race for governor, Valdez defeated Andrew White, a Houston businessman and the son of former Governor Mark White, by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent. Abbott won the Republican nomination outright in the March primary.

Valdez, 70, was elected to four terms as sheriff of Dallas County, the state’s second largest with 2.5 million people. She resigned in 2017 when she launched her campaign for governor.

Valdez starts the race as a decided underdog against Abbott, who has raised more than $43 million for the campaign. Texas has not elected a Democratic governor since 1988.

Voters in Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas will decide primary contests Tuesday

Wide open race for governor featured in Georgia; legislative races take center stage in Kentucky

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — Voters in four Southern states will decide primary contests on Tuesday, with a wide-open race for Georgia’s governorship topping the list of closely watched contests.

Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky are holding primaries, while in Texas, runoffs will be held for 15 U.S. House seats that were not decided in the initial round of voting back in March, including four targeted by Democrats as pickup opportunities.

In Georgia, all eyes are on the race to succeed term-limited Republican Governor Nathan Deal, with competitive races among both Republicans and Democrats. In Kentucky, much of the attention will be on races for the state legislature, in the wake of teacher protests that have battered GOP Governor Matt Bevin’s popularity. And in Arkansas, the hottest race is a Supreme Court contest in which the incumbent sued an outside conservative group for defamation over controversial TV ads.

In Georgia, seven Republicans are running for governor, including Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle from Gainesville and Secretary of State Brian Kemp from Athens, who pre-election polls indicate will likely face off in a July 24 runoff. Their departures have also created wide-open races for the GOP nominations for lieutenant governor and secretary of state, where runoffs are also expected.

But it is the Democratic race for governor that is drawing national attention with the candidacy of former State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams from Atlanta, who is trying to become the first African American women ever elected as governor of a U.S. state. Pre-election polls showed Abrams with a wide lead over former State Rep. Stacey Evans from Smyrna, although a large number of voters were still undecided.

In the Democratic race for secretary of state, former U.S. Rep. John Barrow, who lost his seat in 2014, is trying to make a political comeback against three challengers

Among U.S. House races in the Peach State, most of the attention is on the 6th and 7th districts, where Republican incumbents are seen as possibly vulnerable in districts that President Donald Trump won by a narrow margin in 2016.

In the 6th District, in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, four Democrats are vying to take on U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, who won her seat in 2017 after a hard-fought and hugely expensive special election against Democrat Jon Ossoff. Handel’s chances of keeping the seat — in a district Trump only carried by just 1.5 points — improved when Ossoff decided against a rematch.

In the 7th District, in northwest metro Atlanta, six Democrats are competing to take on U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall. While Woodall took 60 percent of the vote in 2016, Trump only won by 6 points, putting the seat within the realm of possibility for Democrats.

In Kentucky, with no statewide races on the ballot, much of the focus has been on state legislative seats, where Democrats are hoping Bevin’s role in a fight over teacher pensions, which led to statewide protests by teachers, might translate into progress at the ballot box.

The standoff over pensions, which ended when the Republican-controlled legislature approved controversial changes after overriding Bevin’s vetoes, has roiled the Bluegrass State for months, particularly Bevin’s assertion that teacher protests might have led to abuse of children after schools had to be closed when teachers didn’t show up for work.

Bevin, who isn’t up for re-election until 2019, later apologized, but a poll from Western Kentucky University’s Social Science Research Center showed that disapproval of Bevin’s job performance spiked to 60 percent after those remarks.

While the GOP has controlled the Kentucky Senate since 2000, Democrats held the House until 2016, when Republicans finally took control for the first time in 95 years. The Kentucky House was the last legislative chamber anywhere in the South controlled by Democrats.

Republicans hold a 63 to 37 advantage in the House, which means Democrats will have to flip 14 seats to take control. While that is a tall order, those numbers are very similar to the situation in neighboring Virginia, where Democrats flipped 15 seats to come within one seat of winning control in2017

Among Kentucky’s six U.S. House seats, party nominees will be picked Tuesday in two that could become competitive in the fall, the 6th and 3rd districts.

In the 6th District, which includes Lexington and Frankfort, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and State Senator Reggie Thomas, also from Lexington, are among a field of six Democrats vying to take on GOP U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in November. As Kentucky does not have runoffs, the top vote-getter Tuesday will face Barr in November.

Gray was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016, losing by 14 points to Republican US. Senator Rand Paul. However, in that race he carried Fayette County, the most populous in the 6th District.

In the neighboring 3rd District, which takes in metro Louisville, Republicans are making a play for the seat held by U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, an unabashed liberal who has introduced articles of impeachment against Trump. Vickie Glisson, a Louisville attorney who headed the state health department in the Bevin administration, is favored over two Republican primary challengers.

In Arkansas, six state executive offices, including governor, are up in 2018. However, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson faces only token opposition in the primary, with two little-known Democrats vying to take him on in November. The only race with a competitive GOP primary is for secretary of state, where incumbent Republican Mark Martin is term-limited.

Among the Natural State’s four U.S. House seats, the race drawing the most attention is the 2nd District in metro Little Rock, where Democrats believe they might have a shot at ousting GOP U.S. Rep. French Hill if a national Democratic wave develops. Four Democrats are vying for the nomination to replace him, a field that includes State Rep. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock.

While Hill won re-election by 11 points in 2016, the 2nd District is the least Republican district in the state, anchored by Pulaski County, which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Trump won the district by less than 10 points.

The most contentious race in Arkansas is a non-partisan battle for a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court, where incumbent Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson is being challenged by Court of Appeals Judge Ken Hixson and David Sterling, who was appointed by Hutchinson as chief counsel for the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

A week before the election, Goodson filed a defamation lawsuit against the Judicial Crisis Network, a Washington-based conservative legal group, over ads it was running against her on Arkansas TV stations which alleged she accepted gifts for donors and sought a pay raise. She also asked judges in three jurisdictions to enjoin stations from airing the ads, triggering protests from media organizations, although some of them voluntarily agreed to stop running the ads.

The JCN ads have targeted both Goodson and Hixson, although Hixson has so far not brought any legal action. Sterling has insisted that he has no connection to the group. JCN spent more than $500,000 in 2016 to defeat Goodson in a race for chief justice.

If none of the candidates captures a majority on Tuesday, the top two vote-getters will face off during the general election in November, which would drag out the contentious race for five more months.

In Texas, Democrats will pick nominees in four targeted U.S. House seats now in Republican hands that Democrats have hopes of flipping in the fall:

Also in Texas, the fields will be set in four other open GOP-held districts that Republicans will be favored to keep in November:

Barton decided not to seek re-election after after a nude selfie he had exchanged with a woman with whom he was having a consensual extramarital relationship wound up on social media.

Farenthold resigned after news reports that $84,000 in taxpayer dollars had been used to pay a settlement to a former female staffer who alleged that she suffered sexual harassment from Farenthold and another male staffer. The congressman denied the harassment allegations, while conceding that a lax management style in his Washington office created a “decidedly unprofessional” work environment.

Texas primaries narrow crowded fields in U.S. House races

Valdez, White face off in Democratic governor’s primary; Cruz, O’Rourke in U.S. Senate race

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN — Texas primary voters have narrowed crowded fields vying for 11 open or potentially competitive U.S. House seats and the U.S. Senate, while the Democratic race for governor is heading to a May runoff to pick a nominee for an uphill climb against Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

And while Democrats have high hopes of riding a wave of enthusiasm to put a dent into the GOP’s 25-to-11 advantage in the Texas U.S. House delegation, more than 530,000 more voters chose the Republican over the Democratic ballot in the March 6 primaries, although that was a better showing by Democrats than in the last midterm primary in 2014.

O’Rourke

Cruz

In the U.S. Senate race, as expected, Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke both easily won their primaries, setting up a November race likely to draw national attention. O’Rourke took 62 percent, and Cruz, 85 percent.

In the governor’s race, Abbott, seeking a second term, won outright with 90 percent of the vote. The Democratic runoff will be between former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Andrew White, a Houston investment banker and son of the late former Governor Mark White. Valdez had a strong lead in the race, 43 percent to 27 percent, over White.

George P. Bush

Republican incumbents also won in six other statewide races, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who took 58 percent of the vote to beat back three challengers.

In the U.S. House races, Democrats’ top targets in November are three GOP incumbents who represent districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016:  John Culberson in the 7th District in Houston; Pete Sessions in the 32nd District in Dallas; and William Hurd, who represents the 23rd District in West Texas stretching from the suburbs of San Antonio over to El Paso. All three easily won their primaries.

In the 7th District, the two Democrats who qualified for the runoff are Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a Houston lawyer, and Laura Moser, a journalist who carried the endorsement of Our Revolution, a liberal group that sprang from Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential campaign.

This race heated up when Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, intervened by publishing opposition research critical of Moser because of fears she won’t be competitive against Culberson in November. However, she used the DCCC’s memo to raise money and made it past five other Democrats into the runoff with Fletcher.

In the 32nd District, Collin Allred, an attorney and former player for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, topped the Democratic primary with 39 percent and will face Lillian Salerno, who served as a deputy undersecretary on the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama administration, who got into the runoff with 18 percent.

In the 23rd District, Gina Oritz Jones, an Iraq war veteran from San Antonio who worked as a U.S. trade representative, led the race with 42 percent and will face Rick Trevino, a high school teacher from San Antonio who served as a Sanders delegate in 2016. The majority Latino 23rd District, where Hurd is seeking a third term, is a perennial swing seat that changed hands in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

In addition to the races that Democrats are targeting, there are also eight other open seats in Texas that drew crowded primaries:

Random drawing gives GOP control of Virginia House of Delegates

Republican Delegate David Yancey declared winner in race tied after disputed recount

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

RICHMOND (CFP) — Republicans have retained control of the Virginia House of Delegates after a random drawing to settle a race in Newport News that remained tied after a disputed recount.

Va. Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News

Republican Delegate David Yancey will get to keep his seat after his name was drawn from a bowl by James Alcorn, chairman of the State Board of Elections, as Yancey’s Democratic challenger, Shelly Simonds, looked on.

With Yancey’s win, Republicans will hold 51 seats in the House of Delegates, to 49 for Democrats, although Democrats have gone to federal court to overturn another race in which their candidate lost narrowly in a recount.

Speaking to reporters after the January 4 drawing, Simonds refused to concede and said “all options are on the table,” including possible legal action to contest the outcome in District 94.

Yancey, who didn’t attend the drawing, issued a statement saluting Simonds on running a “great campaign.”

“The election is behind us, the outcome is clear, and my responsibility now is to begin the work I was re-elected to do,” he said.

Despite falling short of control, Democrats made an astonishing breakthrough in the November vote in Virginia, nearly overturning a 66-34 Republican House majority by flipping 15 seats and taking out 12 GOP incumbents, including many veteran lawmakers in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

Democrats also carried all three statewide races, including a win by Governor-elect Ralph Northam, and only trail Republicans by one vote in the Senate, where the GOP holds a 21-19 majority. Northam takes office January 13.

The drawing to settle the contest in District 94 was the latest bizarre twist in the seesaw battle between Yancey and Simonds that has roiled Virginia politics for more than eight weeks.

Shelly Simonds

After the initial results were reported, Yancey held a 10-vote lead. Then, a December 19 recount overturned Yancey’s margin and showed Simonds ahead by one vote. But when a panel of judges met to certify the results the next day, they decided to count a ballot for Yancey in which the bubbles for both candidates had been filled in but the bubble for Simonds was crossed off.

With that ballot counted, Simond’s single vote lead became a tie, which, under Virginia law, had to be settled by drawing lots.

Simonds asked the judges who counted the disputed ballot to reconsider, but they refused, saying they had complied with state law in determining the intention of the voter who filled out the ballot, who had voted for the Republican candidates in all of the other races.

The unusual circumstances of the drawing drew a large crowd to the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, despite a snow storm. Slips of paper with the names of both candidates were put inside film canisters and then placed in a large bowl and mixed, with Alcorn selecting the winner.

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