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Texas U.S. Rep. Rob Wright dies after battle with COVID-19

Arlington Republican’s death opens up a potentially competitive House seat

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

DALLAS (CFP) — Three months after being elected to a second term in Congress, Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Wright died Sunday after battling COVID-19 and lung cancer, become the first sitting member of Congress to die during the pandemic.

A statement from his office said Wright died peacefully at a hospital in Dallas with his wife, Susan, at his side. He had announced January 21 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been hospitalized for the past two weeks.

U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas

Wright, 67, had been diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2019, about seven months after arriving in Congress, but ran for re-election in November as he continued treatment. His final vote in Congress was against the impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

Wright’s death opens up a vacancy in Texas’s 6th U.S. House District in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs.

Democrats had targeted Wright’s seat as a pickup opportunity in 2020, but he defeated Democrat Stephen Daniel by nearly 9 points. However, the special election will present a new dynamic because candidates from all parties will run in the same race, with the top two vote-getters meeting in a runoff if no one gains a majority.

In the 2020 election, Trump only carried the district by 3 points over President Joe Biden. About 47% of the district’s residents identify as African American, Latino or Asian.

While Wright is the first sitting member of Congress to die from COVID-19, the pandemic claimed Republican U.S. Rep-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana, who died in December before being sworn in.

Prior to his election to Congress, Wright had served as a city councilman in Arlington and as the tax assessor in Tarrant County. He was also chief of staff for his predecessor in the House, former U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, who retired in 2019.

The district includes southeast Tarrant County and Ellis and Navarro counties to the south.

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Louisiana U.S. Rep-elect Luke Letlow dies from COVID-19 complications

Letlow was elected to represent the 5th District in December runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

SHREVEPORT (CFP) — Less than a month after winning a hard-fought runoff to claim a seat in Congress, Louisiana Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow has died from complications from COVID-19, becoming the first member or prospective member of Congress claimed by the pandemic.

Letlow, 41, died Tuesday at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport, where he was admitted last week after his condition worsened. He had announced on December 18 that he had tested positive and was admitted to a hospital in Monroe the next day.

U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, R-Louisiana

The Monroe Star News reported that Letlow died from a heart attack while undergoing a procedure to treat his COVID infection but had no underlying heart issues.

Letlow’s death came just five days before he was to be sworn in as a congressman on Sunday. He is survived by his wife, Julia, and two young children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Before his election to Congress, Letlow had served as chief-of-staff for Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham. After Abraham announced his retirement in March, Letlow ran to be his replacement in the 5th District, which covers 24 parishes in northeast and central Louisiana.

With Abraham’s endorsement, Letlow had come in first place in November’s all-party jungle primary. In the December runoff, he defeated Republican State Rep. Lance Harris, capturing 62% of the vote.

His death will trigger a special election in the 5th District. Governor John Bel Edwards has set the election for March 20, to coincide with other state elections and another special election in metro New Orleans to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is leaving the House to join the Biden administration.

The 5th District is heavily Republican, making it likely that another Republican will replace Letlow. Abraham has said he does not plan to be a candidate.

Edwards released a statement saying he was “heartbroken that [Letlow] will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. representative, but I am even more devastated for his loving family.”

The Louisiana congressional delegation also released a statement saying that Letlow “had such a positive spirit, and a tremendously bright future ahead of him. He was looking forward to serving the people of Louisiana in Congress, and we were excited to welcome him to our delegation where he was ready to make an even greater impact on our state and our Nation.”

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Letlow “fought passionately for his point of view and dedicated his life to public service.”

“As the House grieves Congressman-elect Letlow’s passing, our sorrow is compounded by the grief of so many other families who have also suffered lives cut short by this terrible virus,” Pelosi said.

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Decision 2020: Democrats’ Lone Star hopes dashed as they come up bone dry in Texas

Dreams of turning Texas purple subsumed in a red wave in Tuesday’s vote

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — Heading into Tuesday’s election, Texas Democrats were hopeful that 2020 would finally be the year that the Lone Star State would turn purple.

They had targeted 10 U.S. House seats and had hopes of flipping a U.S. Senate seat and grabbing control of the state House — and perhaps even winning the state’s presidential electoral votes for the first time since 1976.

Exactly none of that happened.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, re-elected

President Donald Trump carried Texas by 6 points; U.S. Senator John Cornyn won by 10 points over Democrat MJ Hegar; none of the targeted U.S. House incumbents lost; and the balance of power in the Texas House will be about where it was before the election began.

The only bright spot for Democrats was that they kept the two U.S. House seats they flipped in 2018, as Collin Allred won re-election in Dallas, and Lizzie Fletcher won in Houston.

Perhaps nothing symbolized Democrats’ night of woe as much as what happened in the 23rd U.S. House District, which stretches across a vast expanse of West Texas from San Antonio toward El Paso.

This district is always hard fought, changing hands four times in the last 20 years. Two years ago, Republican Will Hurd won it by a mere 926 votes over Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones.

After Hurd retired, Ortiz Jones ran again and was expected to pick up the seat. But she lost to Republican Tony Gonzales by 9,300 votes, a worse showing than two years ago.

Democrats had also expected to pick up the Dallas-area seat that had been held by Kenny Marchant, but former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne appears to have won a narrow victory over Democrat Candace Valenzuela, although the race has yet to be called.

Valenzuela had attracted national attention after winning the Democratic primary, picking up endorsements from Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Kamala Harris.

Republican House incumbents who survived included Mike McCaul in central Texas (+7), Van Taylor in the northern Dallas suburbs (+12), Chip Roy in the Austin suburbs (+7), Dan Crenshaw in Houston (+14), Ron Wright in suburban Dallas (+9), Roger Williams in metro Austin (+14) and John Carter in the northern Austin suburbs (+9).

Roy’s victory was particularly sweet for Republicans, as he defeated former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who gained a national following in 2013 after filibustering to kill a bill restricting legal abortion, which she parlayed into an unsuccessful run for governor in 2014.

Davis moved from Fort Worth to Austin to run against Roy and raised nearly $9 million. But in the end, it was not enough to overcome Texas’s Republican tendencies.

Which was the story of the night for Texas Democrats.

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Decision 2020: Republicans’ red wall holds across the South

Though Joe Biden appears to have carried Georgia, Democrats failed to make gains in U.S. Senate, House

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

(CFP) — Republican political dominance across the South largely held up in Tuesday’s election, winning 12 states in the presidential race, most of the contested U.S. Senate contests, and taking down four U.S. House Democratic freshmen who had flipped seats in 2018.

However, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a small lead in Georgia, pending a recount, and carried Virginia.

Republican incumbents appeared to have held on to Senate seats in Texas, Kentucky, and South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as flipping a seat in Alabama, where Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones lost to Republican Tommy Tuberville.

Two Senate seats in Georgia will be heading to January 5 runoffs. Republican incumbent David Perdue won a plurality against Democrat Jon Ossoff but not the majority he needed to avoid a runoff. In the other race, incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler will face Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Among the GOP senators who will return are two who were prime targets for Democrats — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who won a seventh term in Kentucky, and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who won in South Carolina despite more than $100 million spent to defeat him by his Democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison.

McConnell defeated Democrat Amy McGrath by 20 points; Graham beat Harrison by 22.

Incumbents won both of the governor’s races in the South: Democrat Roy Cooper won in North Carolina and Republican Jim Justice won in West Virginia.

Republicans also retook several U.S. House seats that Democrats had won in 2018, ousting U.S. Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala in Florida; Joe Cunningham in South Carolina; and Kendra Horn in Oklahoma.

Mucarsel-Powell and Shalala, whose districts are in based in metro Miami-Dade, were swept up in a Republican wave of Cuban-American voters, who were also key to Trump’s victory in the Sunshine State.

Republican Tony Gonzales also picked up an open GOP-held seat in West Texas, defeating Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones

The news was better in Georgia, where Democrat Lucy McBath kept her seat in the northwest Atlanta suburbs and and Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux was leading in a Republican-held district in the northeast suburbs.

In the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, Democrat Elaine Luria also kept her seat, and Abigail Spanberger held a small lead in her district in the Richmond suburbs. Democrats also picked up two seats in North Carolina that had become more Democratic after a court-ordered redraw of the state’s map.

But Democrats came up bone dry in Texas, where they had targeted 10 seats and lost them all. They also failed to flip targeted seats in North Carolina, Florida and Arkansas.

Overall across the South, Democrats lost a net of two seats, which would put the balance of power at 103 Republicans and 48 Democrats.

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Voters heading to polls as election day finally arrives across the South

Democrats poised to possibly have their best result in a generation

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

(CFP) — Amid unprecedented levels of early voting, a deadly pandemic, racial unrest, and partisan political turmoil, voters across the South will give their final verdict Tuesday, as in-person voting brings the 2020 election to a conclusion.

The most watched story line will be whether Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden can flip some Southern states into his column and whether Republican incumbents in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House can hang on amid  the severe disruption to the nation’s political climate caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Four Southern states carried by President Donald Trump in 2016 are in play, including the traditional battlegrounds of North Carolina and Florida, joined by previously safe states Georgia and Texas. A Democrat hasn’t carried Texas in 44 years; Georgia, hasn’t gone for a Democrat in 28 years.

As many as six U.S. Senate seats could also change hands, five of which are held by Republicans. And Democrats are hoping to build on their gains made in the U.S. House in 2018, particularly in Texas, where as many as seven seats could be in play.

Democrats are also trying to flip state legislative chambers in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, which would increase their influence of the reapportionment process after this year’s census.

U.S. Senate

In Alabama, Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones is trying to keep his seat in a contest with the Republican nominee, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. Given the Yellowhammer State’s ruby red political leanings, Jones’s seat is seen as the GOP’s best opportunity nationally for a pick-up.

In North Carolina, Republican U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is trying to beat back a challenge from Democrat Cal Cunningham, who has led in the polls throughout the race. Cunningham is facing headwinds after admitting to an extramarital affair, although the revelations have not seemed to dent his poll numbers.

In South Carolina, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is facing a spirited challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison, who has raised more money for this race than any Senate candidate in history. Graham’s transformation from being a critic of Trump to one of his biggest defenders has brought national attention to the contest.

In Georgia, both U.S. Senate seats are up this year. Republican U.S Senator David Perdue is being challenged by Democrat Jon Ossoff in one race; the second is an all-party special election with 20 candidates, which has narrowed down to a chase for runoff spots between Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, appointed to the seat last year;  Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who decided to challenge Loeffler after he was overlooked for the appointment, and Democrat Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, who making his political debut.

Because of a quirk in Georgia law, both of these races will head to a runoff in January if none of the candidates get a majority on Tuesday. Ossoff and Perdue have been neck-and-neck in the polls; Warnock leads the special election race but will likely fall short of avoiding the runoff.

In Texas, Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn is facing Democrat MJ Hegar. This race has tightened as Biden’s numbers have gone up in the Lone Star State, although Cornyn still has an edge.

Two other Southern states have Senate races that have been competitive but appear unlikely to flip: Kentucky, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing Democrat Amy McGrath, and Mississippi, where Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is facing Democrat Mike Espy.

U.S. House

Six Democrats who flipped Southern House seats in 2018 are in battles to keep their seats:

Republicans are trying to hang on to four open seats that are in danger of flipping:

A number of Republican incumbents are trying to keep their seats against strong Democratic challenges:

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