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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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Insight: U.S. House 2020 target lists show Democrats playing defense in the South

Democratic and Republican campaign arms are targeting 25 Southern seats

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — The U.S. House campaign arms for both parties have released their first list of targets for 2020, with Southern Democrats playing an unfamiliar role they haven’t enjoyed in recent cycles — on defense, protecting their 2018 gains.

Chicken Fried Politics Editor Rich Shumate

Next year’s congressional battles in the South will take place almost entirely in the suburbs. Nearly all of the 25 districts being targeted by both parties contain suburban areas around large cities, territory where Democrats made major gains last November and hope to make more.

The National Republican Congressional Committee — trying to claw its way back into a majority after a disappointing 2018 — is targeting 12 Democrat-held seats across the South, 10 of which are held by by freshmen who flipped seats, including three seats in Virginia, two each in Texas and Florida, and seats won in breakthroughs in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Georgia.

Among the targets are eight Democratic freshmen who supported Nancy Pelosi’s bid for House speaker — a vote that is sure to be front and center on TV screens when 2020 rolls around.

Only two veteran Democrats, both in Florida, are on the GOP’s target list — Charlie Crist in the Clearwater-based 13th District, and Stephanie Murphy in the 7th District in metro Orlando. Both districts look competitive on paper, although neither Crist nor Murphy had much trouble in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting 13 Republican-held seats across the South, an audacious list that includes nine veteran GOP incumbents, some with decades of experience.

Chip Roy

Ross Spano

And while Democrats will have to defend a bumper crop of incumbents, just two of the Southern Democratic targets are freshman Republicans — Ross Spano in Florida’s 15th District and Chip Roy in Texas’s 21st District.

Defending long-term incumbents is usually easier that defending freshmen seeking a second term, which could give

Republicans an advantage overall in the South in 2020.

The GOP has another advantage — while its targets are nearly evenly split between districts that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, 12 of the 13 Democratic targets are in districts Trump carried, which will be more difficult to flip. (The lone exception is Will Hurd in Texas’s 23rd District.)

Democrats are also unlikely to replicate the wave they enjoyed in 2018, which carried them to victory in some rather unlikely places.

Still, Republicans find themselves with the unexpected — and unwelcome — prospect of spending energy and money to reclaim seats in such normally red areas as Oklahoma City, Charleston and the suburbs of Atlanta, Houston and Dallas.

Among the Republican freshman targeted, Spano, whose district stretches inland from the suburbs of Tampa, may be vulnerable in 2020 after admitting that he borrowed money from two friends that he then plowed into his election campaign, which is a violation of federal campaign finance laws.

He blamed bad advice from this then-campaign treasurer; Democrats are pushing for an investigation.

Roy, a former top aide to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, won by just two points in 2018. His district includes suburbs of Austin and San Antonio and rural areas to the west.

One seat on the Democrats’ list, Georgia’s 7th District in Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, will be open, thanks to the pending departure of Rob Woodall, who decided to retire after winning by just 400 votes in 2018. Another seat, North Carolina’s 9th District, is vacant due to an ongoing dispute over allegations of absentee ballot fraud.

Democrats have decided to forgo, at least for now, targeting two seats that they tried and failed to flip in 2018 — Arkansas’s 2nd District in metro Little Rock, held by French Hill, and West Virginia’s 3rd District, which takes in the southern third of the state, held by Carol Miller.

Andy Barr

However, they are once again trying to flip Kentucky’s 6th District, in and around Lexington, where Andy Barr held off a spirited challenge from Democratic newcomer Amy McGrath, who raised a whopping $8.6 million.

McGrath hasn’t said if she’s running again. Senate Democrats have been encouraging her for forgo a rematch with Barr and instead challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The toughest sled for Democrats will be taking out nine veteran Republicans they have targeted, including five in Texas alone.

Among the Texas targets are five men who between them have more than 60 years of seniority: John Carter in the 31st District in the northern Austin suburbs; Kenny Marchant in the 24th District in Dallas-Ft. Worth; Mike McCaul in the 10th District that stretches from Austin toward Houston; and Pete Olson in 22nd District in Houston’s western suburbs.

Until the 2018 cycle, these Texas seats had been thought safely Republican. But Carter and Marchant won by just 3 points in 2018; McCaul won by 4 points and Olson by 5 points.

Democrats are also going after Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th District north of Palm Beach; and, in North Carolina, George Holding, in the 2nd District around Raleigh, and Ted Budd, in 13th District between Charlotte and Greensboro.

Lucy McBath

Joe Cunningham

The freshmen that Democrats will have to defend including two in the Miami area, Donna Shalala in the 27th District, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the 26th District; Lucy McBath in Georgia’s 6th District in Atlanta’s northeast suburbs; Kendra Horn in the Oklahoma City-based 5th District; and Joe Cunningham, who represents the South Carolina Low Country in the 1st District.

Three freshmen Democrats in Virginia are also on the list — Elaine Luria, who represents the 2nd District in Hampton Roads; Abigail Spanberger, who represents the 7th District in the Richmond suburbs, and Jennifer Wexton, whose 10th District includes the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

The Republican target list also includes two Texas freshman: Colin Allred, who represents the 32nd District in metro Dallas, and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, who represents the 7th District in metro Houston.

All of these freshmen, except for Spanberger and Cunningham, voted for Pelosi for speaker.

Among the GOP targets, Shalala and Wexton are likely in the least danger, as both represent districts Hillary Clinton carried easily in 2016. Horn, McBath and Cunningham — whose 2018 wins were among the biggest surprises of the election cycle — are likely in the most jeopardy.

Democrats’ success in 2018 was largely the result of raising enough money to be competitive in GOP-held districts, in many cases even outraising incumbents who didn’t take their races seriously enough.

Democratic freshmen being targeted in 2020 should have no problem raising money; neither will challengers to Republican incumbents who had close calls in 2018. Members of the majority party also tend to have easier access to campaign money than the party out of power.

Still, 2020 will no doubt see Republicans loaded for bear, with two years to regroup and build up their treasuries, leaving voters facing loud, expensive and contentious races across the South.

Heading into 2020, Republicans hold 101 seats among delegations in the 14 Southern states; Democrats have 50, with one vacant seat in North Carolina.

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Georgia GOP U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall won’t seek re-election in 2020

Decision will give Democrats a prime pickup opportunity in the Atlanta suburbs

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — After nearly losing his seat to a Democratic challenger in 2018, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall has announced that he will forgo an expected rematch and instead retire from the House in 2020 after four terms.

Woodall is the first Southern congressman to forgo a re-election bid in 2020, opening the 7th District seat in Atlanta’s northwestern suburbs, a once a solidly Republican area that has shifted Democratic.

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Georgia

The congressman announced the decision in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, citing family concerns, including the recent death of his father, for his decision.

“Doing what you love requires things of you, and having had that family transition made me start to think about those things that I have invested less in because I’ve been investing more here,” he said.

He said he wanted to announce his retirement early in the 2020 cycle to “give the next team time to prepare.”

After Woodall’s retirement, Democrat Carolyn Bordeaux — who lost to him by just 433 votes after a recount in what turned out to be the closest House race of 2018 — announced that she will seek the 7th District seat again in 2020, a contest that will be a the top of both party’s target lists.

Bordeaux, a professor at Georgia State University, has scheduled her formal announcement for February 12.

While Bordeaux will be a prohibitive favorite on the Democratic side, the race is likely to draw a large field of Republican candidates, from among both state legislators and local officials.

The 7th District is centered in Gwinnett County, which has been trending less Republican as its growing population has become more racially and ethnically diverse. It also includes parts of Forsyth County, which remains solidly Republican.

Overall, the district is now majority non-white, with large and growing African American, Asian and Latino communities.

Woodall, 48, served as an aide to the district’s former representative, U.S. Rep. John Linder, before being elected to the seat in 2010 when Linder retired.

He won re-election by relatively safe margins before running into Bordeaux and a Democratic suburban wave in 2018 that nearly took him down.

In the neighboring 6th District, Republican incumbent Karen Handel lost to Democrat Lucy McBath, a seat the GOP will try to reclaim in 2020.

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Decision ’18: Democrats’ net gain of 10 Southern U.S. House seats came in the suburbs

Republicans still have 2-to-1 advantage and hold the line in North Carolina, upper South

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

(CFP) — With all races now decided, Democrats have made a net gain of 10 U.S. House seats across the 14 Southern states in the November 6 election.

While that total was an improvement over their results in 2014 and 2016, Democrats flipped only about a third of the seats they targeted, and Republicans will still hold a 2-to-1 advantage in Southern seats when Congress reconvenes in January.

Democratic gains were centered in suburban areas around major cities, including Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Richmond, Miami, the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. and the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia. They also carried a district that contains metro Oklahoma City and another that includes Charleston and the Low Country of South Carolina.

However, Democrats went 0-for-4 in targeted seats in North Carolina, 2-for-9 in Florida and 2-for-8 in Texas. They also fell short in targeted races in the upper South states of Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia, where Republicans continue to hold 12 out of 13 House seats.

Among those losses was in Kentucky’s 6th District, where Democrat Amy McGrath could not pull out a victory despite raising an astounding $7.8 million, more than any other Southern challenger in this election cycle.

McBath

Hurd

Democrats did win five of the six GOP-held Southern seats that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016; the lone exception was in Texas’s 23rd District, in West Texas, where Republican Will Hurd won a narrow victory. Democrat Lucy McBath also ousted Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th District, where Donald Trump won by just 1.5 points in 2016.

Four Republican House members, with a combined 48 years of service, went down in the Clinton districts, including Pete Sessions and John Culberson in Texas, Barbara Comstock in Virginia, and Carlos Curbelo in Florida. Republicans also lost in Florida’s 27th District in Miami-Dade, which U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had held for 30 years before deciding to retire.

Democrats kept all of the 40 seats they held going into the election. With the 10 Democratic gains, Southern Republicans will hold 102 seats to 50 for Democrats when Congress reconvenes in January.

In the last Congress, just 13 white Democrats who were not Latino or Asian represented Southern districts. That number will go up to 20 in January, as seven white Democrats displaced Republicans.

Two of the seats that flipped to Democrats were won by African-American candidates — McBath in Georgia and Colin Allred in Texas — and one by a Latina, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who defeated Curbelo.

Hurd, who represents a majority Latino district, will be the only African-American Republican in the new House. Three Southern Republicans are Latino — Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Bill Flores of Texas, and Alex Mooney of West Virginia, whose mother is Cuban.

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