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Oklahoma Primary: Voters will decide whether to expand Medicaid under Obamacare

Republicans will also pick challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

OKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Voters in Oklahoma will decide Tuesday whether to make an end run around resistant statehouse politicians and implement Medicaid expansion authorized as part of Obamacare.

Also in Tuesday’s primary, voters in the 5th U.S. House District in metro Oklahoma City will pick a nominee to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, who flipped the seat in 2018 and is one of the GOP’s top targets for 2020.

Sooner State Democrats will also pick a nominee to face Republican U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, running for a fifth full term that could secure his place in the Senate into his 90s.

In-person voting opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m., although absentee voting is expected to break records due to concerns about coronavirus.

Oklahoma is one of 14 Republican-controlled states whose leaders have refused to expand Medicaid to extend coverage to low-income residents without insurance who don’t currently qualify for the program but can’t afford private coverage on the Obamacare exchanges.

According to proponents, expansion could benefit 200,000 state residents and help rescue rural hospitals how in financial trouble.

Proponents collected enough petition signatures to put expansion on the ballot Tuesday as a constitutional amendment, following similar successful efforts in the conservative states of Utah, Idaho and Nebraska to use voter initiatives to get around lawmakers philosophically opposed to participating in Obamacare.

Republican Governor Kevin Stitt also opposes expansion, arguing that the state cannot afford to cover its part of the cost amid a budget crunch caused by the coronavirus crisis.

In the 5th District, nine Republicans are competing for the right to take on Horn, with the race expected to come down to State Senator Stephanie Bice and businesswoman Terry Neese, both of whom have raised $1 million for the race. Also in the field is former State School Superintendent Janet Barresi and David Hill, a businessman from Edmond.

If no candidate wins a majority Tuesday, the top two voter-getters will face off in an Aug. 25 runoff for the right to face Horn, whose election to the House from deep-red Oklahoma was one of the biggest surprises of the 2018 cycle.

Horn has raised more than $3.3 million as she fights to keep her seat.

The Democratic race for U.S. Senate features four candidates, including Abby Broyles, a former investigative reporter for an Oklahoma City television station, and Elysabeth Britt, a human resources professional who finished third in the 5th District race in 2018.

Inhofe will be the prohibitive favorite in November. At 85, if he wins, he’ll be 92 by the time his term ends in 2029.

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Virginia Primary: Webb wins Democratic nod in 5th U.S. House District, Taylor is GOP pick in 2nd

Daniel Gade picked by Republicans to take on Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

(CFP) — Former Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor will get a November rematch in his quest to return to the House, while Charlottesville physician Cameron Webb will be the Democratic nominee in the 5th U.S. House District, where Democrats smell blood after the incumbent Republican lost renomination earlier this month.

Also in Tuesday’s primary, Republicans selected Daniel Gade, a retired Army officer from Alexandria and professor at American University, for the decidedly uphill task of trying to defeat Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner in November.

In the 2nd District in southeast Virginia, Taylor took 48% to 29% for Ben Loyola, a Cuban immigrant and defense contractor from Virginia Beach, and 22% for Jarome Bell, a retired Navy chief petty officer and football coach from Virginia Beach. Virginia doesn’t use primary runoffs, so Taylor won the nomination with a plurality.

His win sets up a rematch with freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, who defeated him in 2018.

Luria is one of the top Republican targets in November, along with fellow Democrat Abigail Spanberger, who flipped the 7th District seat near Richmond in 2018. Republicans in that district will pick their nominee from among eight contenders in a convention on July 18, rather than in Tuesday’s primary.

State law allows parties to decide whether to use a primary or a convention to pick their nominees.

In the 5th District — which stretches through central Virginia from the Washington D.C. suburbs to the North Carolina border — Webb had a surprisingly easy win against three competitors, taking 67% of the vote. Claire Russo, a former Marine intelligence officer, was well behind in second place at 18%, with the rest in single digits.

Republicans in the district held a convention on June 14 to pick their nominee, ousting Republican U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman in favor of Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good, a former athletics official at Liberty University who was recruited to run for the position by conservative activists unhappy with the congressman’s participation in a same-sex wedding.

Good’s win over Riggleman has buoyed Democrats’ hopes of flipping the district in November, although it does lean Republican.

In the U.S. Senate primary, Gade took 67% to 18% for Alissa Baldwin, a public school teacher from Victoria, and 15% for Tom Speciale, an Army reservist from Woodbridge who owns a firearm safety training company.

Warner, a former governor who is seeking his third term, is considered a prohibitive favorite in the race. Virginia hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 2002, although Warner only won by 17,000 votes the last time he ran in 2014.

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Cliffhanger in the Bluegrass: Charles Booker poised for upset in U.S. Senate Democratic primary

As absentee ballot count continues, Booker takes the lead over establishment favorite Amy McGrath

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

(CFP) — State Rep. Charles Booker has taken the lead in the Democratic race for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, setting the stage for one of the year’s biggest political upsets that will upend the best-laid plans by the party establishment to take out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

With the absentee ballot count continuing, Booker took a 2,500 vote lead over former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath as the first batch of votes began trickling in from Jefferson County, which includes Louisville.

While absentee ballots are still being counted across the commonwealth, the bulk of the outstanding vote was from Jefferson and Fayette County, which includes Lexington. In Jefferson, where Booker lives, he was carrying 80% of the vote; he was carrying 72% in Fayette.

A loss by McGrath — who has raised $40 million and has the backing of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — would be a embarrassing upset at the hands of Booker, a 35-year-old first-term lawmaker whose scrappy campaign surged from behind in the closing weeks of the race with the support of grassroots groups on the Democratic left.

It would also jumble the fall race in which establishment Democrats saw McGrath as their best chance to unseat McConnell, who carried 87% in his primary Tuesday against seven challengers.

In the only other contested federal race in Kentucky, Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie easily turned back a challenge from Covington attorney Todd McMurtry in the 4th District in the Cincinnati suburbs, despite his sometimes rocky relationship with President Donald Trump.

Due to coronavirus concerns, absentee balloting was expanded statewide, with more than 800,000 ballots mailed out. Election officials in Jefferson and Fayette counties have said it could take until June 30 for final results to be released.

Booker went to court to extend the poll closing time in Jefferson County, where all voters countywide voted at a single polling place at the Kentucky Exposition Center. In Fayette County, everyone voted at the University of Kentucky’s football stadium.

Amy McGrath and Charles Booker

In 2018, McGrath, 45, rode a wave from a viral announcement video  to become a national fundraising sensation in a U.S. House race in central Kentucky, which she narrowly lost.

She spent $20 million in the Senate primary, almost all of it on ads that focused on McConnell, rather than her primary opponents.

Booker criticized McGrath as a “pro-Trump Democrat” unable to motivate the Democratic grassroots. He had the backing of U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker; two members of “The Squad” in the U.S. House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; and a number of self-described “progressive” activist groups.

However, Booker also got the backing of the state’s two largest newspapers, the Louisville Courier-Journal, which called him a “change agent”, and the Lexington Herald-Leader, which urged voters to choose “passion over pragmatism.”And he received the endorsements of former Secretary State Allison Lundergan Grimes, who lost to McConnell in 2018, and former Attorney General Greg Stumbo.

The state’s two most prominent elected Democrats — Governor Andy Beshear and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth — did not endorse either candidate.

One factor in the race was the effect of protests over police violence that have roiled Louisville, home to the state’s largest pool of Democratic voters, in the wake of the death of Breonna Taylor, an African-American woman who was mistakenly shot in her home by police executing a no-knock warrant.

In the race’s closing days, Booker went up with ads criticizing McGrath for not participating in the protests, which included a awkward clip from a recent debate in which McGrath said she wasn’t involved because she “had some family things going on.” By contrast, Booker is shown addressing the protest crowd will a bullhorn.

The McGrath campaign has responded with ads that, while not attacking Booker directly, touted her as the only Democrat who can possibly beat McConnell, a formidable campaigner who has been in the Senate since 1985 and is seeking his seventh term.

Kentucky does not have primary runoff, which means that the candidate with the most votes when the smoke finally clears will be the nominee.

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West Virginia Primary: Democrats pick Kanawha Commissioner Ben Salango to take on GOP Governor Jim Justice

 Environmental activist Paula Jean Swearingen wins Democratic U.S. Senate nomination

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (CFP) — West Virginia Democrats have selected Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango to take on party-switching Republican Governor Jim Justice in November.

Salango won Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary with 39 percent to 33 percent for Stephen Smith, a community organizer and former executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. State Senator Ron Stollings came in third with 14 percent.

Salango addresses supporters in Charleston (From WOWK via YouTube)

“Tomorrow morning, we get to work, and we’re going to win the general election,” Salango told supporters at his victory rally in Charleston. “I’ll be a governor who gets things done. I’ll be a governor who shows up and puts public service ahead of self-serving.”

Justice easily won the Republican primary, carrying 63 percent of the vote against three challengers.

The race against Justice will be a grudge match for Democrats, after the governor infuriated them by jumping to the GOP just seven months after taking office in 2017 — and adding insult to injury by announcing the switch on stage at a rally with President Donald Trump.

Salango had the backing of a slew of labor and teachers unions and was also endorsed by Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who had flirted with running against Justice himself before deciding to take a pass. Smith ran a more grassroots campaign, using the slogan “WV Can’t Wait.”

Also on Tuesday in the primary for U.S. Senate, Democrats selected environmental activist Paula Jean Swearingen, to face Republican U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito.

Swearingen took 38 percent to 33 percent for former State Senator Richard Ojeda, an outspoken retired Army officer who lost a race for Congress in 2018 and then launched a quixotic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination that failed to gain traction. Coming in third was Richie Robb, the former mayor of South Charleston, at 29 percent.

In 2018, Swearingen ran in the Democratic primary against the state’s other senator, Democrat Joe Manchin, taking 30 percent of the vote. That campaign was profiled in a Netflix documentary “Knock Down The House.”

Capito will be a heavy favorite in November, given the Mountain State’s strong GOP tilt in federal elections.

West Virginia does not have primary runoffs, which means that the leading vote-getter in both the governor’s and Senate races is the nominee.

Also on Tuesday, State Senate President Mitch Carmichael was defeated in the GOP primary by Amy Nichole Grady, a teacher from Leon. Legislative leaders have been at odds with state teachers over pay and education funding, which led to two strikes by teachers.

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South Carolina Primary: State Rep. Nancy Mace gets easy win in GOP primary for Lowcountry U.S. House seat

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham easily dispatches 3 primary opponents, will face Democrat Jaime Harrison in the fall

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLESTON (CFP) — State Rep. Nancy Mace cruised to an easy victory Tuesday in the Republican primary in South Carolina’s 1st U.S. House District, setting up a Lowcountry slugfest this fall against Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, one of the GOP’s top 2020 targets.

Mace, from Daniel Island, took 57 percent of the vote, easily eclipsing Mount Pleasant Councilwoman Kathy Landing, at 26 percent. Chris Cox, a founder of the Bikers for Trump organization, came in third with 10 percent.

Nancy Mace speaks to supporters after her primary victory (From SCETV via YouTube)

Speaking to supporters after her win, Mace said her campaign would “take back the Lowcountry and put it back into the hands of someone who’s going to be a truly independent voice.”

“Joe Cunningham votes with Nancy Pelosi of California and [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] of New York 85 percent of the time,” she said. “The Lowcountry doesn’t want that, and they don’t deserve it.”

Mace, 42, a real estate agent and businesswoman elected to the legislature in 2017, was the first female graduate of The Citadel, the state’s formerly all-male military college, in 1999. If elected in November, she would be the first woman to ever represent South Carolina in the House.

In her primary battle with Landing, she had the backing of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the conservative business groups Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth.

Cunningham, 38, a Charleston lawyer, narrowly won the 1st District seat in the Democratic wave of 2018, after the incumbent Republican, Mark Sanford, was upset in his primary. He is the first Democrat in nearly four decades to hold the seat.

President Donald Trump carried the district by 13 points in 2016, making it one of the prime targets for Republicans running in 2020 with Trump on the ballot. Cunningham’s vote in favor of impeaching Trump will no doubt feature prominently in GOP ads this fall.

Also Tuesday Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, as expected, easily dispatched three little-known challengers in his primary, getting 68 percent of the vote. He will now face Democrat Jaime Harrison in November.

When Graham last ran for re-election in 2014, he faced a hotly contested primary against candidates running at him from the right who charged that he was inauthentically conservative. But his strong embrace of Trump over the last three years helped quiet his Republican critics.

Harrison, a Columbia lawyer and former state party chair, is trying to become the first Democrat to win a Senate race in South Carolina since 1998 or any statewide race since 2006. His campaign has caught on with Democratic donors, collecting $19 million so far for his challenge to Graham, according to the latest FEC filings.

Graham has raised $26 million.

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