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Matt Bevin holds on to win Kentucky GOP governor’s primary

Failed U.S. Senate candidate defeats State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by just 83 votes

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE (CFP) — Just a year after being crushed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a GOP Senate primary, Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin has held on to a razor-thin 83-vote lead to win Kentucky’s GOP gubernatorial primary.

Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin

Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who narrowly trailed Bevin in the May 19 vote, had asked for a recanvas. But after the recanvas didn’t change the outcome, Comer conceded on May 29, opting not to ask for a recount.

Bevin will now face the Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Jack Conway, in November.

Bevin and Comer both took 33 percent of the vote to 27 percent for  former Louisville Councilman Hal Heiner and 7 percent former Supreme Court Justice Will Scott.

Kentucky abolished its primary runoff in 2008, which means Bevin comes out of the primary with just a third of the vote.

Near the end of the race, Comer’s campaign was rocked by abuse allegations from a former college girlfriend, which he denied. Heiner apologized after the blogger who publicized the allegations acknowledged that he had spoken about them with the husband of Heiner’s running mate for lieutenant governor.

The election result was a political comeback for Bevin, 48, who jumped into the governor’s race just hours before the filing deadline.

Bevin, 48, challenged McConnell in 2014 the backing of outside Republican groups critical of the senator’s leadership, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks. But in the end, McConnell won easily with more than 60 percent of the vote and went on to win a sixth term in November.

Despite the bitterness of that race, McConnell stayed out of Bevin’s primary fight.

Although Kentucky has become a reliably Republican state at the federal level, the party has only won the governorship once in the last 44 years. The current governor, Democrat Steve Beshear, is term limited.

Kentucky and Mississippi are the only two states that have off-year elections for state constitutional offices in 2015.

Chris McDaniel raises money for suit to overturn Mississippi GOP U.S. Senate runoff

McDaniel says his June 24 runoff loss to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran was a “sham” with “illegal voting” by Democrats

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

mississippi mugJACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — In the clearest sign yet that State Senator Chris McDaniel isn’t going quietly into the political sunset, he has sent an email to supporters asking for money to pay for a lawsuit to overturn the results of Mississippi’s June 24 GOP runoff for U.S. Senate.

State Senator Chris McDaniel

State Senator Chris McDaniel

“Thanks to illegal voting from liberal Democrats, my opponent stole last week’s runoff election, but I’m not going down without a fight,” McDaniel said.

“We’ve already found thousands of irregularities in the voting process. According to Mississippi state law, Democrats who voted in the Democratic primary cannot vote in the Republican runoff, and that is exactly what happened.”

McDaniel asked supporters to contribute at least $50 for what he described as a “long fight” to overturn the runoff.

After narrowly beating U.S. Senator Thad Cochran in the first found of primary voting on June 3, McDaniel lost to the veteran incumbent by about 6,700 votes in the runoff.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Cochran’s campaign made direct appeals to Democratic and independent voters to support him in the runoff, which they were free to do if they hadn’t already voted in the Democratic primary.

The results of the second round of voting showed how well that strategy worked. About 67,000 more people voted in the runoff than in the primary, and in Hinds County — which includes the predominantly black city of Jackson — Cochran’s margin of victory was 11,000 votes, nearly double what it was in the first round.

The race in Mississippi pitted Cochran and the state’s Republican establishment against Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups — such as the Senate Conservatives FundFreedomWorks and the Club for Growth — that strongly backed McDaniel.

Outside groups on both sides poured millions in advertising into the Magnolia State, clogging its relatively inexpensive airwaves.

McDaniel and his conservative Tea Party supporters cried foul over Cochran’s cross-party strategy, and he has refused to concede defeat. A conservative watchdog group, True the Vote, has already filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the election.

In another bizarre twist in this bitter race, Mark Mayfield, a McDaniel supporter who was arrested during the campaign for his alleged role in videotaping Cochran’s invalid wife in her nursing home, committed suicide after McDaniel’s runoff loss.

Cochran is one of five sitting Southern GOP senators targeted for defeat by Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups. So far, Cochran and three other incumbents have survived, with one contest still to come in August in Tennessee.

If his runoff win holds up, Cochran will face Democratic former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers in the fall.

State House Speaker Thom Tillis wins North Carolina GOP U.S. Senate primary

Tillis turns back a challenge from Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon and will now face Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan in November

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

north-carolina mugCHARLOTTE (CFP) — North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis has beaten back a Tea Party challenger to win the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, avoiding a divisive and expensive primary runoff that could have hurt GOP chances to take the seat out of Democratic hands.

State House Speaker Thom Tillis

State House Speaker Thom Tillis

Tillis captured 46 percent in the May 6 primary, ahead of Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon with 27 percent and Mark Harris with 18 percent. Under state law, Tillis needed to clear 40 percent to avoid a runoff, which would have extended the primary fight until July 15.

He will now face Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan in a race Republicans have targeted in their quest to gain a Senate majority.

Speaking to supporters at his victory rally in Charlotte, Tillis called Hagan an “echo chamber” for President Obama and vowed “to beat Kay Hagan and make (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid irrelevant in American life.”

“I want you all to grab a broom, and let’s sweep Kay Hagan out of office, and let’s sweep Harry Reid right into the back row,” he said.

Tillis, 53, from Charlotte, raised the most money, had the backing of the state GOP establishment and was endorsed by Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and Governor Pat McCrory.

Brannon, 53, an obstetrician from Cary making his first bid for political office, ran with the backing of Tea Party organizations and FreedomWorks, an anti-establishment conservative group.

Brannon had hoped a last-minute, high-profile visit from Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul on the day before the primary would enable him to force Tillis into a runoff.

Harris, 48, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charlotte, was one of the leaders behind a 2012 ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage in the Tar Heel State and was endorsed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. In his first television ad, Harris vowed to “stand up and defend the values that are the foundation of our country.”

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan

Hagan, 60, first elected to the Senate in 2008, is considered among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents this year.

In a statement issued after the primary results came in, Hagan said Tillis’ “priorities are out of sync with our common sense North Carolina values.”

“As we say in our state toast, North Carolina is supposed to be a place ‘where the weak grow strong, and the strong grow great.’ I still believe in this ideal, but it is on the line this year as Thom Tillis has abandoned this shared value,” she said.

North Carolina is one of four Southern states carried by Romney in 2012 where seats held by Democrats are up for grabs this year.The others are Arkansas, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

Click here to watch video of Tillis’ victory rally from WSOC-TV.


Mitch McConnell’s GOP challenger picks up another conservative endorsement

FreedomWorks, a conservative activist group with Tea Party ties, comes out for Matt Bevin

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE, Kentucky (CFP) — The conservative jihad against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky continues, with the group FreedomWorks endorsing McConnell’s Republican primary challenger, Matt Bevin.

Kentucky Senate challenger Matt Bevin

Kentucky Senate challenger Matt Bevin

“Matt Bevin is a great upgrade for Kentuckians who are serious about transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability in government,” said Matt Kibbe, the president of the FreedomWorks, in a January 22 statement.

McConnell’s campaign dismissed the endorsement, accusing FreedomWorks of changing its focus “from conservative reform to conservative cannibalism.”

FreedomWorks, which bills itself as a champion of smaller government and lower taxes, has a history of backing anti-establishment candidates in GOP primaries, including U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.

The group is backing Bevin even though the its own scorecard of Senate votes this year gives McConnell a rating of 73 out of 100.

In 2010, the group endorsed Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s successful challenge to Senate veteran Richard Lugar. Despite Indiana’s Republican tilt, Mourdock went on to lose in November after he said that if a woman gets pregnant during a rape, the pregnancy is “God’s plan.”

Republican leaders, including former Bush political consigliere Karl Rove, have been critical of FreedomWorks and two other prominent groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth, for backing weak contenders in Republican primaries, in the process helping Democrats keep control of the Senate.

The Senate Conservatives Fund has poured nearly $1 million into Bevin’s campaign, counting both direct contributions and independent expenditures made on his behalf. The Club for Growth has not yet entered the Kentucky race.

Bevin, 47, of Louisville is a former investment adviser who now runs his family’s bell manufacturing company in New Hampshire. This is his first run for political office.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

McConnell, 71, has been in the Senate since 1985. He was elected GOP leader in 2007 and would become majority leader if he wins re-election and Republicans pick up the six seats they need to take control.

McConnell has a substantial financial advantage over Bevin, outraising him by a 10-to-1 margin.

Whoever wins the Republican primary will face Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is the only Democrat in race.

McConnell is the Democrats’ top Senate target in 2014 and likely the only chance they have to pick up a seat anywhere in the South.

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