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Virginia Primary: Stewart gets GOP Senate nod; Comstock will face Wexton in D.C. suburbs

Republicans pick Confederacy defender Corey Stewart to face Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

RICHMOND (CFP) — Virginia Democrats picked nominees for four targeted Republican-held U.S. House seats in the June 12 primary election, including a high-stakes race in the Washington, D.C. suburbs that will pit GOP U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock against Democratic State Senator Jennifer Wexton.

Also in the primary, Republicans picked Corey Stewart, Donald Trump’s onetime Virginia campaign chair, as their nominee to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine in November.

Stewart’s win was greeted with dismay by GOP leaders in Virginia, who will now have a candidate at the top of their ticket who has defended preservation of Confederate symbols and once made a public appearance alongside one of the organizers of last summer’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.

Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, took 45 percent to edge out State Delegate Nick Freitas from Culpeper at 43 percent and E.W. Jackson, an African-American Baptist pastor and social conservative activist from Chesapeake at 12 percent.

In U.S. House contests, Democrats are making a play for four Republican-held seats in Virginia in their quest to gain the 24 seats they need nationally to capture control.

Targets include the 2nd District in Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads; the 5th District, which includes Charlottesville and much of central Virginia; the 7th District, which takes in Richmond’s eastern suburbs and areas to the north; and the 10th District, which stretches from the western Washington suburbs toward West Virginia.

Jennifer Wexton

Barbara Comstock

The most money and attention have been lavished on the 10th District, where Comstock is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by 10 points in 2016.

The six Democrats running raised $6.5 million in the primary; Comstock has raised $3.3 million.

Wexton, a state lawmaker from Leesburg who was the choice of  Governor Ralph Northam and other party leaders, took 42 percent of the primary vote, followed by Alison Friedman at 23 percent and Lindsey Davis Stover at 16 percent.

Meanwhile, Comstock easily batted down a Republican primary challenge from Shak Hill, who attacked her as insufficiently conservative. She took 61 percent to Hill’s 39 percent.

In the 2nd District, Democrats picked Elaine Luria, a businesswoman and former Navy officer, to face freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor in a district Trump carried by just 3 points in 2016. Luria took 62 percent to 38 percent for Karen Mallard, a public school teacher.

In the GOP primary, Taylor defeated Mary Jones, a former county supervisor in James City County, with 76 percent of the vote to 24 percent for Jones.

In the 7th District, Democrat Abigail Spanberger a retired CIA operative from Glen Allen, won the right to take on U.S. Rep. Dave Brat in November, winning 72 percent to defeat Daniel Ward, who took 23 percent.

Spanberger has raised more than $900,000 for the race, nearly catching Brat, who is best known nationally for knocking off former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary. Trump carried the district by 7 points.

The one Democrat-targeted seat where there wasn’t any suspense on primary night was the 5th District, where Democrat Leslie Cockburn won the nomination at a Democratic convention and Republican party leaders picked Denver Riggleman to run when the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, pulled out in May after disclosing his alcoholism.

Cockburn, from Rappahannock County, is a former network television producer and correspondent who has raised $715,000 for the race. Riggleman, who owns a distillery near Charlottesville and made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2017, will start the race in a significant financial hole.

Corey Stewart

Tim Kaine

In the Senate race, polls have shown Kaine with a substantial lead over Stewart, in a state where Republicans haven’t won a Senate election in 10 years. Kaine, a former Richmond mayor and two-term governor seeking his second term, is not considered a top-tier GOP target this year.

Stewart was Trump’s Virginia campaign co-chair in 2016 until late in the campaign, when he was fired after leading a protest in front of Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington.

The incident happened shortly after the Access Hollywood videotape surfaced of Trump bragging about groping women. Stewart, upset about reports that GOP leaders might distance themselves from Trump, organized the protest, saying he wanted to start a “rebellion against GOP establishment pukes who betrayed Trump.”

Stewart nearly won the GOP nomination for governor in 2017 after a campaign in which the Minnesota native championed the preservation of Confederate monuments. In announcing his Senate bid, Stewart vowed to “run the most vicious, ruthless campaign” against Kaine, the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president.

During the primary, Freitas had criticized Stewart for making an appearance alongside one of the organizers of last-year’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, calling on voters to reject Stewart’s “dog-whistling of white supremacists, anti-Semites and racists.”

Stewart responded by calling Freitas an “establishment Republican” using “leftist tactics of CNN.”

After Stewart’s win, Virginia’s former Republican lieutenant governor unleashed a blistering tweet: “This is clearly not the Republican Party I once knew, loved and proudly served. Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight.”

Virginia Primary: Democrats pick nominees in GOP-held U.S. House targets

Republicans will pick candidate to face Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine in November

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

RICHMOND (CFP) — Virginia Democrats will pick nominees for four targeted Republican-held U.S. House seats in Tuesday’s primary election, including a race in the Washington, D.C. suburbs where a large gaggle of Democrats have already raised $6.5 million to try to unseat U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock.

Republicans will decide on a nominee for an uphill battle to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, with Corey Stewart, the controversial chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, leading the pack.

Polls are open across the commonwealth Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In U.S. House contests, Democrats are making a play for four Republican-held seats in Virginia in their quest to gain the 24 seats they need nationally to capture control.

Targets include the 2nd District in Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads; the 5th District, which includes Charlottesville and much of central Virginia; the 7th District, which takes in Richmond’s eastern suburbs and areas to the north; and the 10th District, which stretches from the western Washington suburbs toward West Virginia.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia

The most money and attention have been lavished on the 10th District, where Comstock is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by 10 points in 2016.

Six Democrats are running and, because Virginia does not have primary runoffs, whichever candidate can cobble together the most votes Tuesday will win the nomination.

The most recent Federal Elections Commission filings show three Democrats — State Senator Jennifer Wexton, Alison Friedman, and Dan Helmer — have raised more than $1 million, while a fourth, Lindsey Davis Stover, has approached the $1 million mark.

Wexton, from Leesburg, has gotten endorsements from Governor Ralph Northam and other elected Democrats. Both Friedman and Stover served in the Obama administration. Helmer, from Fairfax, is a business strategist and former Army officer.

In all, the six Democrats have raised nearly $6.5 million for the 10th District race, a testament to Democratic enthusiasm in the wake of the party’s strong showing in state elections last year.

However, Comstock — who has turned back stiff Democratic challenges in the last three election cycles — still has far and away the biggest fundraising haul at $3.3 million.

Comstock also has a Republican challenger, Shak Hill, a primary that turned contentious in the closing days. Hill has attacked Comstock as insufficiently conservative, branding her “Beltway Barbara;” Comstock has questioned Hill’s personal history, calling him “Shady Shak.”

In the 2nd District, two Democrats are running to face freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, in a district Trump carried by just 3 points in 2016:  Elaine Luria, a businesswoman and former Navy officer, and Karen Mallard, a public school teacher.

Taylor also faces a GOP primary challenge from Mary Jones, a former county supervisor in James City County, who has wrapped herself in the Trump mantle and criticized Taylor for not being conservative enough.

In the 7th District, Democrats Abigail Spanberger and Daniel Ward are vying for the right to take on U.S. Rep. Dave Brat in November. Spanberger, from Glen Allen, is a retired CIA operative; Ward, from Orange, is an airline pilot and former Marine Corps officer who worked as a State Department aide during the Obama administration.

Both Democrats have each raised more than $900,000 for the race, nearly catching Brat, who is best known nationally for knocking off former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary. Trump carried the district by 7 points.

The one Democrat-targeted seat where there won’t be any suspense on primary night is the 5th District, where Democrat Leslie Cockburn won the nomination at a Democratic convention and Republican party leaders picked Denver Riggleman to run when the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, pulled out in May after disclosing his alcoholism.

Cockburn, from Rappahannock County, is a former network television producer and correspondent who has raised $715,000 for the race. Riggleman, who owns a distillery near Charlottesville and made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2017, will start the race in a significant financial hole.

GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart

In the Republican U.S. Senate race, Stewart is facing off against State Delegate Nick Freitas from Culpeper and E.W. Jackson, an African-American Baptist pastor and social conservative activist who was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2013.

Stewart nearly won the GOP nomination for governor in 2017 after a campaign in which the Minnesota native championed the preservation of Confederate monuments. In announcing his Senate bid, Stewart vowed to “run the most vicious, ruthless campaign” against Kaine, the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president.

Freitas has criticized Stewart for making an appearance alongside one of the organizers of last-year’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, calling on voters to reject Stewart’s “dog-whistling of white supremacists, anti-Semites and racists.”

Stewart responded by calling Freitas an “establishment Republican” using “leftist tactics of CNN.”

Polls have shown Kaine with a substantial lead over all three of his potential GOP challengers. Republicans haven’t won a Senate election in the Old Dominion since 2008.

Southern Politics 2014: The Year In Review

2014 was a much better year for Republicans than for reality stars revamped as politicos

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states smA congressman man caught kissing. Reality stars trying to remake themselves as politicians. A snowstorm that threatened to torpedo a sitting governor. A top U.S. House leader unceremoniously unseated in a primary. And a flap over a fan during a heated debate.

Those were just some of the strange and unlikely events in Southern politics in 2014, a year that ended with Republicans roaring through the region like Sherman in reverse. Here are some of the memorable moments:

Loose Lips Sink More Than Ships — Republican U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, a married Christian conservative from northeast Louisiana, was caught on videotape passionately kissing a female staffer who was, ahem, not his wife. He refused to resign but decided not to run for re-election. Then, he changed his mind and ran again, with his wife’s vocal support. But his constituents were less forgiving than the missus, and he finished a distant fourth in the primary.

Snowmageddon — When a January snowstorm paralyzed metro Atlanta, Republican Governor Nathan Deal took the heat for a sluggish state response and his initial attempt to shift the blame elsewhere. But Democratic hopes that this snowy debacle might bury Deal had melted by November, when he was comfortably re-elected.

Taking Aim At Obamacare — Alabama Republican U.S. House candidate Will Brooke posted a YouTube video, entitled “Let’s Do Some Damage,” in which he fired bullets into a copy of the Obamacare bill. The gambit gained him a bit of attention, though, alas, not enough to win the primary in his Birmingham-area district.

Strange Bedfellows — Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani both waded into the Florida governor’s race this year, cutting ads for Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Rick Scott, respectively. However, their shoes were on the other feet in 2006, when Crist was a Republican (before becoming an independent and then a Democrat.) Back then, it was Crist who enjoyed Giuliani’s support, while Clinton backed his Democratic opponent.

Overheated Debate — Speaking of the Florida governor’s race, a televised debate between Crist and Scott came to an abrupt halt when Crist insisted on putting a small fan at his feet under the podium, in apparent violation of the debate rules. Scott first refused to take the stage until the fan was removed, but he eventually relented — after seven awkward minutes of scrambling by the debate moderators. In the end, Scott won a narrow victory.

Real Mean Politics — Three reality TV stars — American Idol Clay Aiken, former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards and former South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel — all vied for political office this year. But political reality proved harsh, as all three lost badly. However, Aiken is turning his unsuccessful U.S. House campaign in North Carolina into — wait for it — a new reality show.

Biggest Upset — In an outcome that shocked the political world, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia lost his Richmond-area seat to Dave Brat, a little known college professor who ran at Cantor as a Tea Party insurgent. Weep not for Cantor, though. He bounced back with a job on Wall Street.

Worst Campaign — Texas State Senator Wendy Davis tried to parlay her filibuster against a bill restricting abortions in the Lone Star State into the governor’s mansion. But a series of gaffes — including questions about the veracity of her rags-to-riches story as a single trailer-park mom made good — sunk her chances, and she lost by a staggering 20 points.

Weirdest Campaign Appearance — Matt Bevin, who was challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a GOP primary in Kentucky, appeared at a rally hosted by a group that supports legalizing cockfighting. While insisting he didn’t condone cockfighting, Bevin didn’t help himself when he told a radio reporter that the Founder Fathers were “very actively involved” in the blood sport. Perhaps not surprisingly, McConnell won rather handily.

Best Don Quixote Impression — Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel — peeved that he was defeated in a GOP U.S. Senate runoff by crossover votes from Democrats and independents — launched a three-month court fight to overturn the result. Alas, his windmill tilting came to naught, and U.S. Senator Thad Cochran kept the seat.

Best Houdini Impression — Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee faced voters for the first time since lurid details emerged from his bitter 2001 divorce during which he admitted a string of extra-marital affairs and — perhaps even more damaging for an avowed right-to-life lawmaker — encouraging his first wife to have two abortions. However, GOP voters in his district proved surprisingly forgiving, handing DesJarlais a narrow primary victory. He went on to win re-election in November.

If You Can’t Override, Indict — Texas Governor Rick Perry was indicted on charges of abuse of power and coercion over his veto of a funding bill for an Austin prosecutor who refused his demand that she resign after being arrested for driving with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit. A defiant Perry vowed to fight the charges, noting that in America, “we settle our political differences at the ballot box,” rather than in criminal court.

Double Dipper — Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul announced he would run for re-election in 2016, even as he is also considering a White House bid. One pesky little problem, though: Kentucky law doesn’t allow somebody to be on the ballot for two offices at once. Paul’s supporters are trying to find a way to work around that technicality.

Democrat Dam Breaks in Upper South — While the general election was grim for Democrats across the South, the news was especially depressing in Arkansas and West Virginia, which had been places where the party of Jackson was still competitive. In Arkansas, Republicans took all seven statewide constitutional offices and every congressional seat for the first time since Reconstruction. In West Virginia, the GOP took all three U.S. House seats and captured control of the state legislature for the first time since 1931.

“D” Is The New Scarlet Letter — Three sitting Southern Democratic U.S. senators — Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — all went down to defeat, paving the way for Republicans to take control of the Senate. Republicans also took away an open seat in West Virginia that they hadn’t won since 1942.

Louisiana U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise wins majority whip

Scalise is the only Southern member in the House GOP leadership

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.editor

louisiana mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana has been elected as House majority whip, making him the sole Southerner in the House GOP hierarchy.

Scalise, 48, who represents the Pelican State’s 1st District anchored in the New Orleans suburbs, defeated U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam of Illinois and Martin Stutzman of Indiana in the June 19 vote.

House Majority Whip-elect Steve Scalise

House Majority Whip-elect Steve Scalise

The final vote total wasn’t announced, but Scalise won a majority among the 233 House Republicans on the first ballot. He will take office August 1 as the No. 3 Republican in the House.

“I’m looking forward to bringing a fresh new voice to our leadership table and joining with this team to help confront the challenges that people all across this country are facing,” Scalise said after the vote.

“We’ve got solid conservative solutions that are going to solve the problems facing our country.”

Scalise’s ascension was made possible by the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia in his June 10 GOP primary race.

Cantor resigned as majority leader, and the current majority whip, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, claimed Cantor’s spot, opening up the whip’s post for Scalise.

Despite the fact that nearly half of the 233 members of the House Republican caucus represent Southern states, Scalise is the only Southerner in the party’s leadership. Cantor had also been the only Southern leader.

Southerner members also hold nine of the 21 committee chairmanships in the House.

Scalise was elected to the House in 2008. He was previously a state legislator in Louisiana.

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor goes down in primary shocker

House’s No. 2 Republican ousted by his own voters in Virginia’s 7th District

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

virginia mugRICHMOND (CFP) — In one of 2014’s biggest election shockers, U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost a Republican primary to a challenger who derided him as a Washington insider.

GOP House nominee Dave Brat

GOP House nominee Dave Brat

Despite being outspent 25-to-1, Dave Brat of Henrico, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, took 56 percent of the June 10 vote in Virginia’s 7th District, compared to 44 percent for Cantor.

Cantor, widely seen as the heir apparent to House Speaker John Boehner, is now out of Congress, leaving an unexpected vacancy in the House leadership.

Brat began the race saying he wanted to be Cantor’s “term limit.” He also said the majority leader “has spent his time climbing the power ladder, making backroom deals and undermining conservative legislation.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

Brat also criticized Cantor for supporting legislation that would have allowed some children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country. Cantor shot back, saying he was opposed to granting “amnesty” to illegal immigrants and touting his opposition to an immigration reform bill now stalled in the House.

Federal Election Commission reports also show Cantor raised and spent more than $5 million on the primary — 25 times what Brat managed to raise.

The 7th District takes in suburban Richmond and some rural areas to the north. The district is heavily Republican, making Brat the prohibitive favorite in November.

Louisiana U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister won’t run again in November

McAllister’s exit comes after video surfaced showing him kissing a female staffer outside his district office

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitcs.com editor

louisiana mugMONROE, Louisiana (CFP) — Three weeks after video surfaced showing him passionately kissing a female staffer, embattled Republican U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister has announced that he won’t seek re-election this fall.

U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister

U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister

However, despite calls from leading Louisiana Republicans and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for his resignation, McAllister is vowing to serve out the remainder of his term.

“The people of the Fifth District of Louisiana need and deserve a voice in Washington,” McAllister said in a statement released April 28. “Today, I am announcing that I will not seek re-election, but I will continue to be that voice and will uphold the office to which I was elected to serve for the remainder of my term.”

“As I’ve said before, there’s no doubt I’ve made a mistake. I’ve failed those I care most about and let down the people who elected me to represent them. I take full responsibility for this personal failure, and I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done.”

The decision to hang on to his office ran into immediate opposition from Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, who met with McAllister and told him he needed to resign, Politico reported.

McAllister, 40, a Christian conservative and married father of five, was elected to the vacant 5th District seat last November in his first bid for political office.

Both Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Roger Villere, chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, have called on McAllister to resign.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will face primary challenge in Virginia

Dave Brat says he’ll bring “true conservative representation” to Congress, tying Cantor to President Obama

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

virginia mugRICHMOND (CFP) — Add one more name to the list of Republican leaders in Congress facing a primary challenge from their Tea Party flank — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Cantor challenger Dave Brat

Cantor challenger Dave Brat

Dave Brat, 49, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College who lives in Henrico County, announced January 9 that he would seek the 7th District seat in Virginia, which Cantor first won in 2000.

“This will be a tough campaign, but I believe the Seventh District deserves better, and that we can restore government to the people,” Brat said in an announcement of his candidacy posted on his Web site.

Brat’s site features a picture of Cantor standing next to Obama, with the caption “Reforming Washington.”

Brat told the National Review that his campaign would “rattle some cages.”

“I want to be Eric Cantor’s term limit,” Brat said.

However, Brat will face a major hurdle in trying to unseat Cantor — cash. The congessman raised more than $3 million during the first nine months of 2013 and had $1.8 million in cash on hand, according to figures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The 7th District includes northern and western areas of metro Richmond, then stretches northwest to the Shenandoah Valley. It is solidly but not overhwlemingly Republican, giving Mitt Romney 57 percent of the vote in 2012 percent of the vote.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

Cantor, 50, from Richmond, is second in the GOP hierarchy, behind House Speaker John Boehner. He won with 58 percent of the vote iin 2012, which was the closest election he’s had since first coming to the House.

Cantor has the distinction of being the only Jewish Republican in Congress.

Canton and Boehner have run into criticism from some Tea Party groups over their support for immigration reform and a recent budget deal reached with Democrats to avoid another government shutdown.

Tea Party activists have vowed to fund a primary challenge to Boehner back home in Ohio. Meanwhile, the two top Republicans in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip John Cornyn of  Texas, are both facing primary challengers in 2014.

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