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Louisiana governor’s race heads to a November runoff

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards falls short of majority, will face Republican Eddie Rispone in 2nd round

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

BATON ROUGE (CFP) — The Louisiana governor’s race will be decided in a November runoff after Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards fell short of the majority he needed to knock out his two Republican challengers.

Edwards will face Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, who came in second place in the first round of voting Saturday. The runoff is Nov. 16.

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards will face Republican Eddie Rispone in Nov. 12 runoff

Edwards took 47 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Rispone and 24 percent for the third place finisher, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham from Alto.

Under Louisiana’s “jungle” primary system, candidates from all parties run together in the same contest, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the runoff if no one gets an outright majority.

Six other statewide offices were also on the ballot Saturday. Five Republican incumbents won without a runoff, but Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin fell short of a majority and will face Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup in November.

With pre-election polls showing Edwards within striking distance of winning the primary outright, President Donald Trump held a rally Friday night in Lake Charles to rally Republican voters, calling both Abraham and Rispone to the stage.

The president and most of the state’s Republican congressional delegation did not take sides in the battle between Abraham and Rispone, focusing their fire instead on Edwards.

“Louisiana cannot take four more years of a liberal Democrat governor,” said Trump, who accused the governor of “taking money from open borders extremists.”

Edwards, 53, is one of just three Democratic governors in the South, along with North Carolina’s Roy Cooper and Virginia’s Ralph Northam. But unlike Northam and Cooper, Edwards has positioned himself as a conservative Democrat who opposes legal abortion and gun control, both of which have played well in Louisiana.

As a result, national Democrats, including the large crop of 2020 White House contenders, have conspicuously avoided campaigning on his behalf, although former President Barack Obama did make a robocall for the governor.

In 2015, Edwards claimed the governorship by defeating Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter, who was bogged down by personal scandals and the unpopularity of the outgoing GOP governor, Bobby Jindal.

Edwards signature achievements in office have been expanding Medicaid, over Republican objections, and dealing with a budget shortfall he inherited from Jindal.

However, the tax increases imposed to deal with the budget have become fodder for his Republican opponents, who say the new taxes have driven business out of the state.

A Morning Consult poll in June put Edwards’s job approval rating at 47 percent, compared to 33 percent who disapproved.

Rispone, 70, owns an industrial contracting company that has made him one of Louisiana’s richest men. While he has long been a major GOP donor, this is his first race for political office, and he has poured in more than $10 million of his own money.

In addition to Louisiana, two other Southern states will hold governor’s races this year, Kentucky and Mississippi.

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2 Virginia freshmen U.S. House Democrats say Donald Trump may have committed “impeachable offense” in dealings with Ukraine

Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria are part of a group of freshmen denouncing Trump’s actions in the Washington Post

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Seven freshmen U.S. House Democrats with military and national security backgrounds have signed on to an opinion piece in the Washington Post asserting the President Donald Trump committed “an impeachable offense” if he withheld military funding from Ukraine while pressuring  that country’s new president to launch an investigation into political rival Joe Biden.

Among the seven were U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria from Virginia, who narrowly won in Republican-leaning districts in 2018 and had not previously supported efforts by some House Democrats to move toward impeachment.

U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria, D-Virginia

“The president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it,” the members wrote, adding that Congress “must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.”

“These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect,” the members wrote. “We must preserve the checks and balances envisioned by the Founders and restore the trust of the American people in our government.”

The members said Congress should “consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us,” including impeachment hearings, to investigate Trump’s conversations with the Ukrainian leader.

Spanberger, who represents the 7th District in the suburbs of Richmond, was a CIA agent before being elected to Congress; Luria, who represents the 2nd District in the Hampton Roads area, was an officer in the U.S. Navy.

Both women flipped Republican-held seats in 2018 and are top GOP targets in 2020.

Luria also made an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” in which she said the allegations that Trump may have enlisted a foreign government to target a political opponent were a “game changer.”

“If this isn’t an impeachable offense, what is?” she said. “This is a clear and concise instance that the American people can understand where the president of the United States has tried to enlist foreign influence in our election process.”

Luria conceded that she could face political consequences from her decision to move toward impeachment but said “I came to Congress to do what was right. The people in my district sent me to Washington to make hard choices.”

The other freshmen who signed on to the Post piece were Gil Cisneros of California, a former Navy officer; Jason Crow of Colorado, a former Army Ranger; Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, a former Air Force officer; Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, a former federal prosecutor who flew helicopters in the Navy; and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, who served in the CIA and as an analyst in the Pentagon.

The controversy over Trump’s conversations with Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, began with reports that an intelligence official had filed a whistleblower complaint over dealings between an unnamed administration official and a foreign leader.

News media outlets have subsequently reported that the whistleblower complaint centers around conversations Trump had with Zelensky, urging the Ukrainian leader to investigate corruption allegations involving Biden’s son.

The latest wrinkle in the controversy came with reports that Trump decided to withhold security assistance funding from Ukraine — appropriated by Congress — before talking with Zelensky.

Trump has admitted that he raised the corruption allegations with Zelensky but has insisted that nothing improper was done.

The Trump administration has so far refused to turn the whistleblower complaint over to Congress. However, Trump has said he would consider releasing a transcript of his call with Zelensky.

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Republicans hold 9th District U.S. House seat in North Carolina

State Senator Dan Bishop defeats Democrat Dan McCready with last-minute help from Donald Trump

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLOTTE (CFP) — Republican State Senator Dan Bishop has squeaked out a victory over Democrat Dan McCready in a special election to fill North Carolina’s vacant 9th District U.S. House seat, keeping the seat in GOP hands.

U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Bishop, R-North Carolina

Bishop — bolstered by an election-eve campaign appearance on his behalf by President Donald Trump — took 51 percent in the September 10 vote to 49 percent for McCready.

Although McCready beat Bishop decisively in the part of the district in suburban Mecklenburg County in and around Charlotte, Bishop rolled up a 20-pont margin in exurban Union County, which was enough to put him over the top.

McCready’s defeat extinguishes Democratic hopes of making a breakthrough in the Tar Heel State, where they failed to flip a single U.S. House seat in 2018.

In another special election in the 3rd District, Republican State Rep. Greg Murphy defeated Democrat Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville. The seat became vacant when longtime incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Walter Jones died in February.

Murphy took 62 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Thomas.

The 9th stretches from the suburbs of Charlotte east along the South Carolina state line toward Fayetteville. The 3rd is a mostly rural district that takes in the counties along the state’s Atlantic coast.

Last November, McCready fell 900 votes short in a race against Republican Mark Harris, but the State Board of Elections ordered a rerun of the election after allegations of absentee ballot fraud were raised against a contractor working for Harris.

The contractor is now facing criminal charges; Harris dropped out of the race, clearing the way for Republicans to pick Bishop as a replacement.

The seat has been vacant for nine months as the dispute over the seat lingered.

Bishop, 55, is a social conservative who has served in both houses of the legislature. He is best known as one of the authors of North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” a law passed in 2016 which required transgendered people to use the restroom assigned to their birth gender in public facilities. After a public outcry and organized boycotts of the state, the law was repealed in 2017.

Trump held a rally in Fayetteville Monday in which he heaped praise on Bishop and went on the attack against McCready, whom he accused of wanting “open borders,” “sanctuary cities” and gun control.

In 2016, Trump won the 9th District by 12 points, but the district swung toward the Democrats in 2018, part of a similar shift seen in suburban areas across the South.

While that shift allowed Democrats to make breakthroughs in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Richmond, Charleston and Oklahoma City, they came up short in all four targeted House races in North Carolina.

With the results Tuesday, Republicans will hold a 10-to-3 advantage in the Tar Heel State’s House delegation.

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Democrat Jon Ossoff jumps into Georgia U.S. Senate race against David Perdue

Ossoff became a national political sensation in unsuccessful 2017 U.S. House race

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

ATLANTA (CFP) — Democrat Jon Ossoff, who raised and spent more than $30 million in an unsuccessful congressional bid in the wake of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election, will return to the political stage to challenge Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue in 2020.

Ossoff announced his run with a video on Twitter and local and national video appearances in which he cast himself as someone who will take on a “crisis of political corruption” in Washington.

Jon Ossoff on MSNBC

“[Perdue] is a guy who has not once in five years come down from his private island to hold a single public town hall,” Ossoff said in an interview on MSNBC. “He is a caricature of Washington corruption.”

Among the “corruption” Ossoff cited was the influence of money on politics, concentration of wealth and the refusal of Congress to pass gun control measures opposed by the National Rifle Association.

“We need now to mount an all-out attack on political corruption in America, or I’m not sure our democracy will survive, ” he said.

Ossoff’s decision gives Democrats a high-profile challenger with proven fundraising chops to run against Perdue as they try to overturn the GOP’s three-seat majority in the Senate.

He also got a quick endorsement from Georgia Democratic icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who in a statement said Ossoff’s 2017 campaign “sparked a flame that is burning brighter than ever, in Georgia and across the country.”

However, the National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly dismissed Ossoff as a “unaccomplished, far-left candidate” who “will stand in sharp contrast to David Perdue’s positive record of delivering results for all of Georgia.”

Ossoff, 32, is a former congressional aide and documentary filmmaker. In 2017, shortly after Trump’s election, he ran for the 6th District U.S. House seat in Atlanta’s northwestern suburbs, which turned into a high-octane relitigation of the presidential vote.

Although the 6th was long considered a safe Republican seat, Ossoff channeled national Democratic anger over 2016 into a fundraising behemoth, eventually raising and spending nearly $32 million to make the race competitive.

In the end, he lost by 3 points to Republican Karen Handel; however, Democrat Lucy McBath — running with the political infrastructure built by Ossoff’s campaign — defeated Handel in 2018.

With the retirement of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson at the end of this year, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats will be on the ballot in 2020.

Ossoff decided to pursue the Democratic nomination to oppose Perdue rather than running in an open contest for Isakson’s seat against candidates from both parties, likely including Isakson’s yet-to-be-announced temporary Republican replacement, who will be appointed by Governor Brian Kemp.

By choosing to run for Perdue’s seat, Ossoff will have to win a primary in which three other Democrats are already running. However, going after Isakson’s seat would have required him to defend it again in 2022 if he won it in 2020.

The last Democrat to win a Senate race in Georgia was the late Zell Miller in 2000.

Other Democrats in the race against Perdue include Sarah Riggs Amico, the party’s unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018; Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

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Voters decide Tuesday who fills disputed North Carolina 9th District U.S. House seat

Donald Trump heading to Tar Heel state to rally Republicans ahead of vote

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLOTTE (CFP) — Voters in two North Carolina congressional districts will go to the polls Tuesday to fill vacant seats, with Democrats hoping to make a breakthrough by flipping the 9th District into their column.

In a sign of the national implications of the vote, President Donald Trump is heading to Fayetteville Monday to campaign for Republican State Senator Dan Bishop, who is in a tight race with Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th District.

Dan McCready and Dan Bishop

A McCready win would flip a House seat to the Democrats and add to the majority they won in 2018. The seat has been vacant for nine months after a narrow GOP win last November was overturned amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud.

In the 3rd District, Republican State Rep. Greg Murphy is heavily favored to win over Democrat Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville. The seat became vacant when longtime incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Walter Jones died in February.

The 9th District stretches from the suburbs of Charlotte east toward Fayetteville. The 3rd District takes in the counties along the state’s Atlantic coast.

Polls point to a close race between McCready, a political newcomer who came close to winning in last November’s disputed election, and Bishop, a veteran state lawmaker whom Republican picked to replace their previous tarnished nominee.

In November, McCready fell 900 votes short in a race against Republican Mark Harris. But the State Board of Elections ordered a rerun of the election after allegations of absentee ballot fraud were raised against a contractor working for Harris.

The contractor is now facing criminal charges; Harris dropped out of the race, clearing the way for Republicans to pick Bishop in an effort to keep the seat.

Bishop, 55, is a social conservative who has served in both houses of the legislature. He is best known as one of the authors of North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” a law passed in 2016 which required transgendered people to use the restroom assigned to their birth gender in public facilities. After a public outcry and organized boycotts of the state, the law was repealed in 2017.

McCready, 36, is a Marine Corps veteran and solar energy entrepreneur making his first bid for political office.

Trump won the district by 12 points in 2015, but the district swung toward the Democrats in 2018, part of a similar shift seen in suburban areas across the South.

While that shift allowed Democrats to make breakthroughs in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Richmond, Charleston and Oklahoma City, they came up short in all four targeted House races in North Carolina. Winning Tuesday would be a bit of redemption.

Republicans currently hold a 8-to-3 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation, with two seats vacant.

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Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will challenge Donald Trump for GOP nomination

Sanford says Trump has strayed from Republican orthodoxy and damaged political institutions

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

Note: Video of Sanford’s announcement is at end of post.

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford has announced he will challenge President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination, faulting the president for straying from GOP orthodoxy on spending and trade and damaging the nation’s political culture.

“I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican. I think that as a Republican Party, we have lost our way,” Sanford said on Fox News Sunday, where he announced his challenge on September 8. “Americans deserve and need a choice.”

Sanford announces on Fox News Sunday

Despite his long pedigree in politics, which includes two terms as governor and 12 years in the U.S. House, Sanford faces the steepest of uphill climbs in trying to unseat Trump, whose approval ratings among Republicans top 80 percent.

The Republican National Committee has shut down the possibility of primary debates, and state parties have begun scrapping primary contests against Trump — including Sanford’s home state of South Carolina.

The president, who announced his 2020 re-election bid shortly after his inauguration in 2017, has already raised $125 million for the coming campaign.

Asked about the long odds he faces, Sanford noted that Trump was also considered a long shot when he ran in 2016 and insisted rank-and-file Republicans are more interested in a primary contest than their party leaders.

“This is the beginning of a long walk, but it begins with that first step,” he said.

Sanford said he would emphasize the ballooning level of spending and debt on Trump’s watch and the president’s tariffs policy, both of which he said are a departure from conventional Republican positions of spending restraint and free trade.

He said his campaign would also provide the opportunity to discuss “the degree to which institutions and political culture are being damaged by this president.”

“Those institutions and that political culture is really the glue that holds together our balance of power,” Sanford said.

He also took a slap at Trump’s use of his favorite medium of communication, Twitter.

“At the end of the day, a tweet is interesting, maybe newsworthy, but it’s not leadership,” he said. “And we’re not going to solve some of the profound problems that we have as Americans by tweet.”

After winning his second term as the Palmetto State’s governor in 2006, Sanford was being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2012 — until he disappeared after telling his staff that he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he was actually in Argentina canoodling with his mistress.

Ignoring calls to resign, Sanford completed his term in 2011. Two years later, he came back from the political graveyard by reclaiming his Low Country House seat in a special election.

After Trump was elected, Sanford became one of the few Republicans in the House willing to criticize him publicly. The president got his revenge by endorsing Sanford’s opponent on the day of the 2018 primary election — and taking great public glee when Sanford lost. (Democrat Joe Cunningham won the seat in November.)

Sanford told Fox News that his run against Trump is not personal but based on principle, noting that he voted with the president 90 percent of the time. But he said Trump’s active opposition to his re-election “is indicative of the way he makes too many things personal.”

“The world of Trump is personal loyalty,” he said.

In addition to Sanford, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh from Illinois are running against Trump. Weld comes from the GOP’s moderate wing; Walsh, like Sanford, is a conservative.

In addition to South Carolina, Republicans in Nevada and Kansas have also canceled their 2020 primary contests.

Video of Sanford’s announcement

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Chasing Cornyn: Gaggle of Democrats vie to take on Texas’s senior U.S. senator

Wild card in Democratic primary remains Beto O’Rourke, although window to switch to Senate race may be running out

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — As he faces re-election in 2020, Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn can boast of nearly two decades of experience; he has more than $9 million tucked away in his campaign coffers, with millions more on the way; and he represents a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic senator since the days of Ronald Reagan.

And yet, Democrats are falling all over themselves to get into what appears to be, at least on paper, an enterprise with dubious chance of success.

Nine Democrats are already running, with a little more than three months to go before the filing deadline. And the question mark hanging over their primary is whether former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke will abandon his campaign for president and return to the Lone Star Star state to try once again for the job that eluded him in 2018.

Indeed, it was O’Rourke’s 2018 race that has inspired the Democratic energy now aimed at Cornyn. O’Rourke didn’t beat Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, but he came closer than any Democrat since the late Lloyd Bentsen won in 1988. After getting kicked in the teeth in statewide races for 20 years, Democrats have seized on that result as a sign of happier days ahead.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn

However, there are some shadows over such a sunny assessment. For one thing, Cornyn is much less polarizing than Cruz and has a higher net approval rating. The vaunted “blue wave” — which, in the end, was unable to carry O’Rourke to victory — is unlikely to be replicated in an election with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, in a state where his approval ratings are better than they are nationally. And the Democrats will have to slog through a competitive primary, which was a hurdle O’Rourke didn’t face.

O’Rourke and his campaign team insist, with some vehemence, that he will stay in the presidential race and has no interest in switching to the Senate. And even if he were inclined to change his mind, his time may be running out.

Texas has an unusually early primary, in March 2020; the filing deadline is in December 2019, well before O’Rourke will know how he fares in Iowa or New Hampshire. Just six months remain to put together a credible campaign in the nation’s second-most populous state, and it is unlikely that the other Democrats in the race are going to abandon their campaigns to accommodate a failed presidential candidate settling for his second choice.

The candidate in the Democratic race who is perhaps the most O’Rourke-like is MJ Hegar, 43, a retired Air Force fighter pilot. Like O’Rourke, she excited the Democratic grassroots during 2018 with what was ultimately a losing campaign for a U.S. House seat in suburban Austin, and she got into the Senate race after O’Rourke decided to make a White House run instead of taking on Cornyn.

Hegar is the only Democrat who was in the race and raising money during the first half of 2019. According to Federal Elections Commission reports, she raised just over $1 million — about one-tenth of Cornyn’s haul over the same period.

The Democrat chasing Cornyn with the most robust political pedigree is State Senator Royce West, 66, who has represented a metro Dallas district for more than 25 years and is among the state’s most prominent African American leaders.

State senators in Texas actually represent more people that members of the U.S. House, giving him a strong geographical base, and the state now has the largest African-American population of any state, at more than 3.8 million.

The decision by West — a veteran lawmaker not given to tilting at political windmills — to challenge Cornyn was seen as an indication of Cornyn’s perceived vulnerability. However, West doesn’t have to give up his seat in Austin to run.

African Americans and Latinos together make up a majority of Texas Democratic voters, which is reflected in the Senate primary field, where seven of the nine candidates come from those two communities.

Three African-American candidates are running in addition to West, including Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards. The race has also drawn three Latino candidates, including Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, 36, a Latina community activist who founded the civil rights group Jolt Texas.

Rounding out the top tier of candidates is Chris Bell, a former congressman from Houston who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2006.

Geography also plays a role in Texas politics. West has the Dallas lane mostly to himself; Bell and Edwards will compete in Houston, and Hegar and Tzintzún Ramirez are both based in Austin.

Fundraising totals for the third quarter, due in October, should provide more clarity about which of these candidates are actually going to be viable. But none of them are going to come anywhere close to the $80 million O’Rourke raised in 2018, for a race he didn’t win.

Cornyn has not drawn a primary opponent, which will allow him to aim all of his financial firepower at whomever survives on the Democratic side

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