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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.
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.
Six Democrats who flipped Southern House seats in 2018 are in battles to keep their seats:
- Virginia 2 (metro Norfolk): Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria is facing a rematch against the man she ousted in 2018, Republican Scott Taylor,.
- Virginia 7 (Richmond suburbs, central Virginia): Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger faces Republican State Delegate Nick Freitas.
- Georgia 6 (Northwest Atlanta suburbs): Democratic incumbent Lucy McBath is also facing a rematch against her 2018 opponent, Republican Karen Handel.
- Oklahoma 5 (Metro Oklahoma City): Democrat Kendra Horn’s win here in 2018 was among the biggest shocks of the election. She is facing Republican State Senator Stephanie Bice.
- South Carolina 1 (Lowcountry and Charleston): Incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham faces Republican State Rep. Nancy Mace.
- Florida 26 (South Miami-Dade and Florida Keys): Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is facing Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Republicans are trying to hang on to four open seats that are in danger of flipping:
- Georgia 7 (Northeast Atlanta suburbs): Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, is facing Republican Rich McCormick.
- Virginia 5 (Central Virginia around Lynchburg): Republican Bob Good is facing Democrat Cameron Webb.
- Texas 22 (Southwestern Houston suburbs): Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls is trying to keep the seat for Republicans against Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni
- Texas 24 (Metro Dallas-Fort Worth): The Republican nominee, former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, is facing Democrat Candace Valenzuela.
A number of Republican incumbents are trying to keep their seats against strong Democratic challenges:
- Arkansas 2 (Metro Little Rock): Republican French Hill vs. Democratic State Senator Joyce Elliott.
- Florida 16 (Sarasota and Bradenton): Republican Vern Buchanan vs. Democratic State Rep. Margaret Good.
- Florida 18 (Treasure Coast): Republican Brian Mast vs. Democrat Pam Keith
- North Carolina 8 (Piedmont between Fayetteville and Charlotte): Republican Richard Hudson vs. Democrat Pat Timmons-Goodson.
- North Carolina 9 (Charlotte suburbs east toward Fayetteville): Republican Dan Bishop vs. Democrat Cynthia Wallace.
- Texas 2 (Houston): Republican Dan Crenshaw vs. Democrat Sima Ladjevardian.
- Texas 3 (Northern Dallas suburbs): Republican Van Taylor vs. Democrat Lulu Seikaly.
- Texas 6 (Arlington, Waxahatchie, Corsicana): Republican Ron Wright vs. Democrat Stephen Daniel.
- Texas 10 (North Austin suburbs, northwest Houston suburbs, areas between): Republican Mike McCaul vs. Democrat Mike Siegel.
- Texas 21 (Austin and Hill Country/San Antonio suburbs): Republican Chip Roy, vs. former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis.
- Texas 25 (Suburban Austin, central Texas): Republican Roger Williams vs. Democrat Julie Oliver.
- Texas 31 (North Austin suburbs, Temple): Republican John Carter vs. Democrat Donna Imam.
GOP’s Alabama headache returns: Roy Moore running for U.S. Senate
Former chief justice ignores Donald Trump’s plea not to seek a rematch of 2017 loss
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
MONTGOMERY (CFP) — Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore will try again in 2020 to get elected to the U.S. Senate, three years after his campaign for the same office imploded amid sexual misconduct allegations — and despite a Twitter plea from President Donald Trump to stay out of the race.
“Can I win? Yes, I can win. Not only can I, they know I can. That’s why there’s such opposition,” Moore said at his June 20 announcement, referring to Republican leaders who will now face the headache of dealing with Moore in the GOP primary as they try to reclaim the seat from Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones.
“Why does the mere mention of my name cause people just to get up in arms in Washington, D.C.?” Moore said. “Is it because I believe in God and marriage and in morality in our country, that I believe in the right of a baby in the womb to have a life? Are these things embarrassing to you?”
Moore’s candidacy is being opposed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of GOP senators, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Alabama’s Republican U.S. Senator, Richard Shelby.
But it is the opposition of Trump — hugely popular in the Yellowhammer State — that may be the most formidable Republican obstacle in Moore’s path.
In a May 29 tweet, as speculation swirled that Moore might run, Trump said, “If Alabama does not elect a Republican to the Senate in 2020, many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost, including our Pro-Life victories. Roy Moore cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating.”
Asked about the president’s opposition during his campaign announcement, Moore reiterated his support for Trump’s agenda and said he believed the president was being pressured to come out against him.
“I think President Trump has every right to voice his opinion. I think he’s being pushed by the NRSC,” Moore said.
Moore, 72, once again denied allegations made by five women that he pursued them sexually when they were teenagers in the 1970s — allegations that proved devastating to his 2017 campaign against Jones.
“I’ve taken a lie-detector test. I’ve take a polygraph test. I’ve done everything I could do,” he said.
Moore also said Jones’s win in 2017 — the first by a Democrat in an Alabama Senate race in 25 years — was “fraudulent” because he was the victim of a “false flag operation using Russian tactics.”
In late 2018, several news organizations reported that a group financed by a Democratic operative used Twitter and Facebook to spread disinformation against Moore, who lost to Jones by just 1 percent of the vote.
Jones, who has said he was not aware of what the group was doing, repudiated what he termed “deceptive tactics” and called for a federal investigation.
In his 2020 announcement, Moore said he suspected “Republican collusion” in the Democratic disinformation campaign, although he didn’t offer specifics.
Moore will be running in the Republican primary against a field that already includes U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne of Mobile, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Secretary of State John Merrill from Tuscaloosa, and State Rep. Arnold Mooney from suburban Birmingham.
The two top vote getters in the March 2020 primary will advance to a runoff.
The challenge for the NRSC and Senate Republican leaders will be finding a way to work against Moore while remaining neutral among the other candidates. In 2017, their open support of Luther Strange backfired when Moore turned his ties with the Washington establishment into a potent campaign issue.
Moore first gained national notoriety as a local judge in 1995 after battling the ACLU over his practice of opening court sessions with a prayer and hanging the Ten Commandments in his courtroom.
He parlayed that prominence into election as Alabama’s chief justice in 2000 but was forced out in 2003 after he had a display of the Ten Commandments installed in the rotunda of the state judicial building and then defied a federal judge’s order to remove it.
Moore was once again elected chief justice in 2012, but in 2016, he was suspended by a judicial disciplinary panel for the rest of his term for ethics violations after telling local officials that they didn’t have to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
After losing an appeal of his suspension, Moore resigned from the Supreme Court to run for the Senate vacancy created when Jeff Sessions resigned to become Trump’s attorney general.
In 2017, Moore was able to use his base of support from his tenure as chief justice to get into the runoff, where he defeated Strange, who had been appointed to the seat temporarily by disgraced former Governor Robert Bentley.
Trump had backed Strange in the runoff but quickly got on board with Moore once he won. But after the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced, McConnell, Shelby and other Republican Senate leaders abandoned their wounded nominee, even announcing that they would expel him from the Senate if he won.
Jones, who now faces the formidable challenge of trying to hang on to his Senate seat in deep red Alabama, is considered to be the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in the Senate in 2020.
Jones greeted Moore’s announcement with a tweet: “So it looks like my opponent will either be extremist Roy Moore or an extremist handpicked by Mitch McConnell to be part of his legislative graveyard team. Let’s get to work so we can get things done!”