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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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Decision 2020: Has Georgia finally arrived at a political tipping point?

Democrats are in contention in presidential, U.S. Senate races, poised to pick up another U.S. House seat

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — When the smoke clears from the 2020 election, a whole new political day may have dawned in Georgia.

Democrats appear ready to capture another U.S. House seat, which would give them six out of 14 seats in the state delegation, nearly at parity with Republicans. They also have a shot at both U.S. Senate seats and an outside chance of capturing a majority in the Georgia House.

And, in perhaps the biggest surprise of all, Joe Biden could become the first Democrat to carry the Peach State in 28 years.

That’s a best case, rosy scenario for the Democrats, one which Republicans would no doubt dismiss as wishful thinking. But even if this optimistic scenario doesn’t all pan out, 2020 is likely to go down as the best year state Democrats have had since they suffered a collapse in 2002, losing the governorship and control of the legislature after a decade in which they had lost their grip on the state’s federal offices.

Trump, Biden neck-and-neck in Georgia polls

In 2016, Donald Trump carried Georgia by 5 points–enough to get the state’s 16 electoral votes but the weakest showing by a Republican since Bob Dole in 1996. The biggest shock in that race was Hillary Clinton carried both Cobb and Gwinnett counties, which had for decades been impenetrable Republican redoubts in the Atlanta suburbs.

These suburbs, which continued to swing toward the Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, are key in the presidential race. Trump should get a sizable win in rural areas and small towns; Biden will easily carry the urban cores of the Atlanta and the state’s other cities; so the suburbs will be where this contest is won or lost.

Polls now show the race between Biden and Trump within the margin of error. The biggest sign the state is truly competitive: Both Trump and Biden are making October campaign stops in Georgia, which rarely gets a glimpse of presidential candidates outside of the primary season.

U.S. Senate

Because of the retirement of Republican Johnny Isakson at the end of last year, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats are up this year. Republican David Perdue is seeking a second term, and Republican while Kelly Loeffler, a wealthy Atlanta businesswoman and political newcomer appointed to fill Isakson’s seat by Governor Brian Kemp, will try to keep it in an all-party special election.

Perdue is facing Democrat Jon Ossoff, who rose to national prominence in an expensive but ultimately unsuccessful U.S. House race shortly after Trump’s election. At the beginning of the race, Perdue wasn’t thought to be in much trouble, but Ossoff has closed the gap, with polls showing the race within the margin of error.

A major source of contention in the race has been the coronavirus epidemic, with Ossoff hitting Perdue for downplaying the severity of the disease during the early days of the pandemic and voting to dismantle Obamacare, which Ossoff says has provided a lifeline to virus victims.

Perdue has hit Ossoff over his fundraising from out-of-state sources, charging that Ossoff’s contributors support a “radical socialist agenda” that he would pursue as a senator.

Ossoff has raised nearly $33 million, much of it in small dollar online contributions from Democratic donors across the country. Perdue has raised about $21 million.

Because of a quirk in Georgia law, if neither Perdue or Ossoff break 50%, they will face each other in a January runoff, which could happen if a Libertarian candidate also in the race draws off enough support.

In the special election, 20 candidates are running, and polls show three are competing for spots in a January runoff: Loeffler; Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins from Gainesville, who has been trying to run at Loeffler from the right; and Democrat Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, a pulpit once held by Martin Luther King Jr.

Warnock has surged to the front in the latest polls, consolidating Democratic support with an ad blitz. Loeffler and Collins are running neck-and-neck for the second spot, in a race that has divided state Republicans into two camps.

Collins, one of Trump’s most vocal defenders during last year’s impeachment fight, decided to challenge Loeffler after Kemp passed him over for the Senate appointment. But he has so far not gotten the president’s endorsement, and Loeffler has been battling him for supremacy on the right by firmly embracing Trump and taking conservative stands on social issues.

One key metric to look at on election night will be whether the Republicans in the race collectively attract more votes overall that the Democrats, which could be a sign of things to come in the runoff.

Warnock has raised the most money, at $22 million, but Loeffer has more money to spend, after tapping her considerable personal fortune for $23 million in loans. Collins trails at $6 million.

Depending on results in other states, control of the U.S. Senate could hinge on two runoff elections in Georgia in January — a circumstance that would attract massive amounts of money and national attention to the Peach State.

U.S. House

The focus in the U.S. House races with be the 6th District, in Atlanta’s near northwest suburbs, and the 7th District, in the near northeast suburbs.

Two years ago, Democrat Lucy McBath flipped the 6th District seat, defeating Republican Karen Handel, Handel is back for a rematch, but McBath — like other freshmen Democrats defending seats in districts Trump won in 2016 — has raised a mountain of money, nearly $8 million, to less than $3 million for Handel

Trump won this district by less than 2 points in 2020. Demographic changes, including more minority voters, are also contributing to its shift from red to purple, and most election handicappers are giving McBath the edge.

Handel will need a strong margin from East Cobb and North Fulton counties to offset McBath’s strength in more diverse areas such as Sandy Springs and Doraville.

In the 7th District, Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who lost this race by just 400 voters in 2018,  is back for another try, facing Republican Rich McCormick, a physican and retired Marine pilot. (The Republican incumbent, Rob Woodall, retired.) Bourdeaux also enjoys a fundraising advantage, $4.7 million to $2.4 million.

The largest population center in this district is Gwinnett County, where Democrats have been winning legislative seats and county offices in recent years. White voters are also now a minority here, which should help Bourdeaux.

If both McBath and Bourdeaux win, the Georgia delegation will be split 8R and 6D, closer than it has been since 1994.

State Legislature

In the battle for the state House, Democrats need to pick up 15 seats in the 180-member House to gain control, after picking up 11 seats in 2018. The party is targeting seats in the Atlanta suburbs, where Democrats have been making gains in recent years, although it is unclear if enough flippable seats remain to get to 15.

Democrats would need to pick up eight seats in the 56-member Senate to take control, which is considered much less likely.

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Georgia Primary: Jon Ossoff avoids runoff, wins Democratic U.S. Senate race

Republican Karen Handel gets her rematch in 6th U.S. House district; Democratic U.S. Rep David Scott barely escapes getting forced into a runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — Three years after coming up on the short end in the most expensive House race in U.S. history, Democrat Jon Ossoff revived his political fortunes by winning Georgia’s U.S. Senate primary and earning the right to challenge Republican to U.S. Senator David Perdue in the fall.

Offoss took 51 percent over the vote, defeating Teresa Tomlinson, the former mayor of Columbus, who came in second with 15.2 percent, and Sarah Riggs Amico, a Marietta businesswoman who was the party’s unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018, at 12.6 percent.

Jon Ossoff

On election night, Ossoff had been under the 50 percent threshold he needed to avoid a runoff but moved into a majority as tens of thousands of absentee ballots were counted.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the state had mailed absentee ballot applications to every voter in the state to increase mail-in voting. Tuesday’s vote in the Peach State was still marred by long lines and technical issues with the state’s new touch screen voting machines, which forced poll times to be extended up to three hours in parts of metro Atlanta.

Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, rose to national prominence in 2017 in a special election for the 6th District seat in Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, in which he turned Democratic anger at President Donald Trump’s election into a $30 million fundraising haul but was edged out for the seat by Karen Handel.

Handel, who subsequently lost the seat in 2018 to Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, will get a rematch after she easily cleared the Republican primary Tuesday. McBath was unopposed in the Democratic primary

The 6th District race is at the top of the Republican target list, with McBath’s support of Trump’s impeachment likely to be front and center in the fall. Trump carried the district by just 1.5 points in 2016.

The breakout performance in Georgia Tuesday came from political newcomer Rich McCormick, an emergency room doctor and former Marine Corps helicopter pilot won the GOP nomination in the 7th U.S. House District in Atlanta’s northeast suburbs without a runoff.

He won 55 percent and defeated six other candidates, including State Senator Renee Unterman, a former mayor who has spent two decades in the legislature, who finished in second with 17 percent.

Democrats in the 7th District nominated Carolyn Bourdeaux, who came within 400 votes of winning the seat in 2018 against Republican Rob Woodall, who decided not to run again. She carried 53 percent of the vote, ahead of State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero and Nabilah Islam, a political consultant, both at 12 percent.

Veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott, running for his 10th term, survived a scare after he was nearly forced into a runoff against former State Rep. Keisha Waites for his seat in Atlanta’s southern and western suburbs. On election night, Scott only stood at 48 percent, but he went over the 50 percent threshold on Thursday, after the remaining absentee ballots were counted.

Republicans also filled runoff slots for two of their safest Georgia U.S. House seats — the 9th District in the north Georgia mountains, which U.S. Rep. Doug Collins is giving up to run for the state’s other Senate seat, and the 14th District in northwest Georgia, where Tom Graves is retiring.

In the 9th District, the GOP runoff will pit State Rep. Matt Gurtler of Tiger, who came in on top with 22 percent, against Andrew Clyde, a retired Navy officer and firearms instructor from Jackson County, who finished in second at 19 percent. Former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, who represented a neighboring district from 2007 until 2015, came in fourth.

In the 14th District, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Milton businesswoman, will face John Cowan, a neurosurgeon from Rome, in the Republican runoff. Greene, who had originally filed to run in the 6th District but switched to the 14th when Graves retired, took 41 percent to 20 percent for Cowan.

Georgia’s other Senate seat, held by Republican Kelly Loeffler,  is also up for election in 2020; however, because that contest is to fill the remainder of a term, a special election will be held until November in which Loeffler will run against candidates from all parties, including Collins, who has launched an intra-party fight to push Loeffler out of the seat.

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Voters in Georgia, West Virginia and South Carolina vote Tuesday in rescheduled primaries

Democrats will pick a U.S. Senate nominee in Georgia and a gubernatorial candidate in West Virginia

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

(CFP) — Voters in three Southern states — Georgia, West Virginia and South Carolina — will vote Tuesday in primaries that were rescheduled from earlier in the year due to the coronavirus crisis.

In Georgia, Democrats will be picking a nominee to oppose Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue in November, while Republicans will begin sorting out their nominees for two open U.S. House seats in safely Republican districts that have both drawn a gaggle of candidates.

In West Virginia, Democrats will pick an opponent to face Republican Governor Jim Justice — who won four years ago as a Democrat before switching parties and embracing President Donald Trump — and will also decide on a nominee to face U.S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito.

In South Carolina, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham faces three little-known challengers in his primary, while his expected Democratic opponent in the fall, Jaime Harrison, is running unopposed.

Republicans in the Lowcountry will also pick a candidate to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, who is one of the GOP’s top 2020 targets.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, mail and early voting has been expanded for the primaries, with a smaller portion expected to vote in person on primary day with reduced numbers of polling stations.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Georgia and South Carolina and from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in West Virginia.

In Georgia, the marquee race is the Democratic contest for U.S. Senate. The polling leader in the race has been Jon Ossoff, who benefits from the statewide name recognition he built in 2017 by spending $30 million in a special election for the 6th District House seat, a race he narrowly lost.

Ossoff’s primary challengers include Teresa Tomlinson, the former mayor of Columbus, and Sarah Riggs Amico, a Marietta businesswoman who was the party’s unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018.

Polls have given Ossoff a large lead but short of the majority he would need to win the nomination outright and earn a spot against Perdue in November. If he does not clear that threshold, he’ll face an August runoff against Tomlinson or Amico.

Georgia’s other Senate seat, held by Republican Kelly Loeffler,  is also up for election in 2020; however, because that contest is to fill the remainder of a term, a special election won’t be held until November, in which Loeffler will run against candidates from all parties, including Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who has launched an intra-party fight to push Loeffler out of the seat.

Peach State Republicans will also start the process for picking nominees for two of their safest U.S. House seats — the 9th District in the north Georgia mountains, which Collins is giving up to run for the Senate, and the 14th District in northwest Georgia, where Tom Graves is retiring. Nine Republicans have entered the primary for both of those seats, making runoffs a near certainty.

In the 7th District in Atlanta’s northeast suburbs, seven Republicans and six Democrats are running in their respective primaries for the seat Republican Rob Woodall kept by a scant 413 votes in 2018. He decided to retire rather than to contest the seat again.

Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democrat whom Woodall barely beat two years ago, is back, but she faces a primary battle against five challengers including State Senator Zahra Karinshak, a lawyer and former Air Force officer; State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, the first Latina to serve in the Georgia legislature; and John Eaves, the former chairman of the Fulton County Commission and former Atlantan who decamped for the suburbs in a bid to get to Congress.

On the Republican side, State Senator Renee Unterman, a former mayor who has served 22 years in the legislature, is facing off against six competitors, including Lynne Homrich, a former Home Depot executive, and Rich McCormick, an emergency room doctor and former Marine Corps helicopter pilot.

The only House incumbent in either party facing a significant primary challenge in Georgia is Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott, who is being challenged in the 13th District in the southern and western Atlanta suburbs by Jannquelle Peters, the former mayor of East Point; former State Rep. Keisha Waites; and Michael Owens, the former chair of the Cobb County Democratic Party who challenged Scott unsuccessfully in 2014.

Scott, 74, is seeking his 10th term in the House and has held elected office continuously for 46 years. The majority black 13th District is strongly Democratic, which means whoever emerges from the primary will likely win the seat in November.

In West Virginia, Democrats are itching for a grudge match against Justice, who infuriated them by jumping to the GOP just seven months after taking office — and adding insult to injury by announcing the switch on stage with the president at a Trump rally.

Five Democrats are running for the nomination to oppose the governor, led by Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, who has the backing of a slew of labor and teachers unions. He was also endorsed by Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who had flirted with running against Justice himself before deciding to take a pass.

Also running are State Senator Ron Stollings from Madison; Jody Parker, a former journalist from Madison; and Stephen Smith, a community organizer and former executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, who is running what he describes as a grassroots, progressive campaign.

A fifth candidate who filed to run, Doug Hughes, later announced on Facebook that he was pulling out and endorsing Smith.

In the Senate race, 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 — is the best-known of the three candidates vying to take on Capito, whose seat is not currently considered to be jeopardy.

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

In South Carolina, the marquee race is the U.S. House contest in the 1st District, where Republicans have their sights set on Cunningham, who flipped the seat in 2018.

The race for the GOP nomination includes State Rep. Nancy Mace from Daniel Island, a real estate agent and businesswoman who was the first female graduate of The Citadel; Kathy Landing, a businesswoman who serves on the town council in Mount Pleasant; Chris Cox, a chainsaw artist who was one of the founders of the Bikers for Trump group; and Brad Mole, a housing administrator from Bluffton.

Mace and Landing have led the race in fundraising and advertising, with Mace raking in more than $1.3 million for the race to $630,000 for Landing, according to the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. The question will be whether either woman will be able to clear the majority needed to avoid a runoff with Cox and Mole also in the race.

Mace has gotten the backing of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the conservative business groups Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth. But Landing has her own conservative backers, including the House Freedom Fund, a campaign group associated with House Freedom Caucus, as well as conservative stalwart and former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint.

In the U.S. Senate race, Republican primary voters will decide whether to reward Graham for his enthusiastic embrace of Trump.

Six years ago, he faced a slew of candidates who ran at him from the right and criticized him as inauthentically conservative. But this time around, Graham faces only token opposition from three little-known candidates, none of whom has raised enough money to compete with his $26 million war chest.

Harrison, who hopes to be the first Democrat to win a Senate race in South Carolina since 1998, faces no opposition on the Democratic side of the ballot. He has so far raised $19 million, according to the latest FEC filings.

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