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Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd will face Democrat Cheri Beasley in key fall U.S. Senate race
RALEIGH (CFP) – Republican voters in Western North Carolina brought the political career of scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn crashing down in Tuesday’s primary, while voters statewide set up a fall U.S. Senate contest between Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley.
In November, he’ll face Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court who easily won her party’s nomination.
North Carolina is considered one of the Democrats’ prime pick-up opportunities in the fall, which will make the likely race between Budd and Beasley a high-decibel, high-spending affair that gets outsized national attention.
In the state’s 11th U.S. House district, which takes in 15 counties in the western end of the state, Cawthorn – elected to office in 2020 at just 25 – was defeated by State Senator Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville, who had the backing of state GOP leaders.
Edwards took 34% to 32% for Cawthorn, who conceded the race trailing by about 1,500 votes.
Cawthorn — once seen as a rising star in the MAGA wing of the GOP — has been enmeshed in a bevy of controversy and questionable behavior: He was caught twice trying to take a gun through airport security, cited twice for driving with a revoked license, and infuriated colleagues by musing in a podcast that he had been invited to orgies and witnessed cocaine use.
He also raised eyebrows by dismissing of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a “thug” and has been featured in a photo wearing women’s lingerie and in a video naked in bed with a male friend.
He also made a political blunder by abandoning the 11th District to run in a neighboring district, then reversing course after a state court drew a new map that obliterated his new district.
Trump endorsed Cawthorn and urged voters on the eve of the primary to give him another chance, though the former president conceded Cawthorn had made “some foolish mistakes.”
In other primary contests, American Idol finalist Clay Aiken lost in his second run for the U.S. House, while former Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers’s comeback bid was thwarted by Bo Hines, a 26-year-old political newcomer and former college football star who appears on his way to riding a Trump endorsement to Washington.
Here is a look at other races of note on Tuesday’s ballot:
1st District: Democratic State Senator Don Davis won his party’s nomination for this open seat over former State Senator Erica Smith, who got out of the U.S. Senate race to run here instead. He will face Republican Sandy Smith, a farmer and businesswoman from Nash County, who had a narrow win in the GOP primary.
4th District: Democratic State Senator Valerie Foushee from Chapel Hill cruised to an easy primary win over Nida Allam, the first Muslim woman to win political office in North Carolina, and Aiken. She will favored in the fall in this heavily Democratic district.
6th District: Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning is trying to hang on to this seat, which became more Republican under the final court-drawn map. She will face Republican Christian Castelli, a businessman and former U.S. Army Special Forces officer from Randolph County.
13th District: Armed with Trump’s endorsement, Hines, a 26-year-old political newcomer and former college football star who did not live in the district before running here, avoided a runoff in this newly configured, Republican-leaning district, centered in suburban Raleigh. Among the candidates he defeated was Ellmers, who was trying to make a comeback after losing a Republican primary for her seat in 2016.
14th District: The contest in this newly configured swing district in metro will be between Democratic State Senator Jeff Jackson, who exited the U.S. Senate race to run here and Pat Harrington, a Green Beret and firearms dealer.
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Trump’s sway will be key metric in outcome of midterm elections across region
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — 2022 has dawned, and with it a mid-term election year in which most Southern states will decide who gets to be their governor and congressional races across the region will play a key role in deciding which party controls Congress.
Of the eight Southern states with open races for governor this year, seven will feature incumbents seeking re-election, with the only open race in Arkansas, where former Donald Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders appears on her way to victory.
Nine U.S. Senate seats will be up, with open races in Alabama and North Carolina and Georgia Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock battling for a full term after winning a special election runoff in 2020.
Here is a look at some of the hottest races, and likely biggest political stories, of the upcoming year.
The redrawing of new U.S. House maps after reapportionment has set up two Southern primary contests, one in each party, where incumbents will need to defeat a current colleague to stay in Congress.
In Georgia, Republican mapmakers have pitted Democratic U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux against each other in Atlanta’s suburbs. McBath’s existing district in the northwest suburbs became too Republican for her to survive; Bourdeaux’s in the northeast suburbs actually became more Democratic with the addition of areas that had been in McBath’s orbit.
The two women — who campaigned with each other in 2018 and 2020 and differ little politically — will face off in what is likely to be an expensive primary. McBath has a stronger national profile and fundraising operation, but the district now centers on Gwinnett County, which Bourdeaux currently represents.
One caveat is that voting rights groups are suing the block the new map, which, if successful, could provide a wrinkle ahead of the March filing deadline.
In West Virginia, the loss of one of the state’s three U.S. House seats sets up a primary contest between Republican U.S. Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney for a new district that includes the northern half of the state.
However, this race will have more of an ideological flavor than the primary in Georgia. Mooney, a former Washington lobbyist who moved to the state in 2014 from Maryland to run for Congress, is a member of the ultra-conservative, anti-establishment Freedom Caucus. McKinley, a seventh-generation West Virginian and former state party chair, is more aligned with the Republican Party’s establishment wing.
Expect to hear a great deal in this race about McKinley’s vote in favor of establishing a bipartisan commission to investigation the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, which Mooney opposed.
The Power of Trump
The former president has already been active in offering endorsements and pursuing revenge, particularly against Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for refusing to indulge his claims of widespread fraud in the state’s 2020 vote.
Trump recruited former U.S. Senator David Perdue to run against Kemp, setting off what is likely to be a bare-knuckled brawl in the Republican primary ahead of a stiff challenge from Democrat Stacey Abrams. He also endorsed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice’s bid to unseat Raffensperger.
And in one of the strangest early developments of the 2020 campaign, Trump also reportedly encouraged his former ambassador to Slovenia, Lindy Blanchard, to drop out of the U.S. Senate race to run instead against the very popular Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, in a fit of pique over cancellation of a July 4th Trump rally (a decision Ivey did not actually make.)
Trump has also waded into the attorney general’s race in Texas with an endorsement of incumbent Ken Paxton, who has drawn a gaggle of primary challengers (including Bush family scion George P. Bush and stalwart pro-Trump U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert) after a criminal indictment and FBI bribery investigation.
Taking down Ivey would seem a long shot at this point; Kemp is holding his own against Perdue in early polls; and Paxton race seems likely to be headed to an unpredictable runoff in March. So it remains to be seen whether the Trump endorsement machine will produce results in 2022.
Trump has also endorsed in three U.S. Senate races. In Georgia, his nod put Herschel Walker on a glide path to the Republican nomination, but his chosen candidates in Alabama (U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks) and North Carolina (U.S. Rep. Ted Budd) are facing tough primary battles against more establishment candidates.
Adding to the MAGA Squad
Trump’s election has led to the rise of a core group of MAGA-philes in the House – social media savvy, outspoken, and willing to pounce on fellow Republicans who display the slightest scrap of bipartisanship. Among this group are Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, Florida’s Matt Gaetz, the aforementioned Gohmert and Brooks, and North Carolina’s Madison Cawthorn.
In 2022, they are hoping to add to their numbers by offering endorsements and fundraising help to like-minded candidates across the South and around the country, which will put them in position to be power brokers if Republicans take control of the House (a prospect likely to give House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy heartburn.)
Some of these candidates are little known and will face tough climbs against incumbent Republicans. But it is worth noting that both Greene and Cawthorn followed this same playbook successfully in 2020, going from unknowns to the halls of Congress with lightning speed.
Southern Black Woman in the U.S. Senate?
No black woman has ever been elected to represent a Southern state in the Senate. This year, Democrats are poised to pick two black women as their Senate nominees – U.S. Rep. Val Demings in Florida and Cheri Beasley in North Carolina.
Demings, the former police chief of Orlando who served on the first House impeachment committee that investigated Trump, faces an uphill climb against Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, particularly with his strong core of support among Hispanic voters in South Florida. But with her national profile, she has been posting strong fundraising numbers that could make the race competitive.
Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, may have better prospects in running for an open seat in a race where Republicans are slogging through a multi-candidate race in which Trump has intervened in favor of Budd.
A victory by either in November will make history.
Palmetto State “RINOs”
The most serious insult that can be hurled in Republican politics these days is to call someone a RINO – a Republican in Name Only.
Two incumbent U.S. House members in South Carolina have been branded with the RINO label by their critics – Nancy Mace in the Lowcountry and Tom Rice in the Pee Dee – and are each facing multiple challengers in their respective Republican primaries.
Mace was among the few Republican House members to offer criticism of Trump after the January 6th Capitol attack, although she did not vote to impeach him. Rice did, which got him censured by the state’s Republican Party, and he compounded his sin among the MAGA fervency by supporting the bipartisan commission to investigate the attacks.
As a result, Mace has four GOP challengers; Rice has 12. Trump has encouraged their challengers but has yet to announce a favorite. His blessing may be good enough to earn a runoff slot against the incumbent.
Thinking Outside The Box
After Warnock won a January special U.S. Senate election runoff in Georgia, he immediately become the Republicans’ primary 2022 target. Yet, no sitting U.S. House member ventured to take him on, nor did the three Republicans who ran against him in 2020.
Enter Herschel Walker, University of Georgia football hero and NFL standout. Though he carries significant personal baggage and has not a whiff of political experience, he does have the one accessory every Republican candidate wants in 2022 – Trump’s blessing.
Trump’s endorsement didn’t clear the primary field, but it did get Republican Senate leaders in Washgington behind Walker’s candidacy – taking a significant leap of faith in a race against a charismatic Democrat with Obama-level political skills.
Is this a gamble that will pay off or blow up? The answer may decide control of the Senate.
Beto O’Crist for Governor
The good people of Texas told Beto O’Rourke that they didn’t want him to be their senator in 2018, even after he spent $80 million trying to persuade them otherwise. The good people of Iowa and New Hampshire told him they didn’t want him to be their president in 2020, without nearly as much money going down the drain.
But not willing to take no and no for an answer, O’Rourke is back again, running this time for governor against incumbent Republican Greg Abbott. Only this time, he’s running in the gun-loving Lone Star State after telling a Democratic presidential debate audience that he was in favor of confiscating their assault weapons.
But lest you think Beto is the region’s most resolute embracer of questionable causes, he pales in comparison to Florida’s well-tanned political chameleon Charlie Crist, who is running for governor again this year after losing two statewide races in the past eight years and metamorphosing from a conservative Republican into an independent and then into a liberal Democrat.
Which begs the question: What part of “no” don’t you understand?
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U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and Tim Scott have raised more money than any other Senate candidates nationwide
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — African American candidates have historically faced a structural barrier in gaining election to high office — difficulty raising the money needed to run a competitive race. But in 2022, black candidates appear to be kicking down that barrier in Southern U.S. Senate races.
Six Southern African American candidates have each raised more than $1 million; three have raised more than $10 million. And more than a year before election day, Democratic U.S Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia has raised more money than any other Senate candidate in the country, $44 million.
Behind Warnock is Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, at $31 million.
In the 150 years since Reconstruction, just two African Americans have been elected to represent a Southern state in the U.S. Senate — Scott and Warnock, who are both up for re-election in 2022 and amassing mountains of cash.
But the four other Southern African American candidates trying to join Scott and Warnock in the Senate are also pulling in impressive amounts of campaign money, the possession of which doesn’t ensure victory but the absence of which would certainly spell defeat.
In Georgia, Warnock is likely to face another black candidate, Republican Herschel Walker, the NFL and Georgia Bulldog great whom Donald Trump inveighed to get into the race.
In the third quarter of 2021, Warnock and Walker combined raised $13.3 million for what is likely to be among the most competitive races of the 2022 cycle; Warnock pulled in $9.5 million to $3.8 million for Walker.
Trump’s endorsement has not cleared the Republican primary field for Walker, who faces a multi-candidate primary before he can get to Warnock,. However, in his first five weeks in the race, Walker has already raised more money than any of his primary rivals.
Unlike Warnock, Scott is not facing a competitive race in the Palmetto State in 2022. But his haul during the third quarter — $8.4 million — is stoking speculation that Scott may be filling his cash cupboard for a possible 2024 run for the Republican presidential nomination.
In Florida, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings — who raised her a national political profile as an House manager in the first Trump impeachment trial — raised $8.5 million in the third quarter, eclipsing the $6 million raised by her likely Republican opponent, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. But he’s raised $19 million overall so far, compared to her $13.5 million.
Neither Demings nor Rubio appear likely at this point to face a serious primary challenge that would deplete their coffers before turning their fire on each other.
In North Carolina, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley raised $1.5 million in the third quarter. While that total was not as impressive as some of the black candidates in other races, it was more than any other candidate in her race in either party, although she remains slightly behind her strongest white rival for the Democratic nomination, State Senator Jeff Jackson, in overall fundraising.
In heavily Republican Kentucky, former State Rep. Charles Booker from Louisville is considered the longest of long shots to unseat U.S. Senator Rand Paul, running as a self-styled “progressive.” But he, too, has taken in $1.7 million, tapping into national Democratic anger at some of Paul’s statements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this point in the cycle, five of the six Southern African American candidates — Warnock, Scott, Demings, Walker, and Booker — are likely to be their party’s nominee, while Beasley’s fundraising will make her competitive in North Carolina’s Democratic primary. That number of major party Southern African-American nominees will shatter historical precedent.
The races in Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina are also likely to be among the most hard-fought, and expensive, in the country, with African American candidates in the mix for victory, while Scott could use 2022 as a springboard to bigger and better things.