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Primaries: Governor’s race tops ballot in Oklahoma; runoffs in South Carolina, Mississippi

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster gets Donald Trump’s backing in quest to keep his job

OKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Oklahoma Republicans will go to the polls Tuesday to decide what is shaping up to be a tight three-way race for governor, picking a nominee to face a stronger-than-usual Democratic challenge in November in a political climate rocked by April’s statewide teachers’ strike.

In the state’s 1st U.S. House District in metro Tulsa, five Republicans and five Democrats are scrambling for spots in runoffs for an open seat.

Warren

McMaster

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Republicans will decide a runoff between Governor Henry McMaster and Greenville businessman John Warren, with McMaster hoping for a last-minute boost from President Donald Trump, who visits the state Monday.

Upstate in the 4th U.S. House District, former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg will face State Senator William Timmons from Greenville in the Republican runoff for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy. Democrats in the district will choose between Doris Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant, and Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville.

And in Mississippi, Democrats will decide a runoff to pick a nominee for the uphill task of trying to defeat Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, while Republicans in the 3rd U.S. House District will settle a runoff for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, who is also retiring.

In the Senate runoff, Howard Sherman, a venture capitalist from Meridian who is married to actress and Meridian native Sela Ward, will face State House Minority Leader David Baria from Bay St. Louis.

In the 3rd District, Michael Guest, the chief prosecutor for the judicial district that includes Madison and Rankin counties, will face Whit Hughes, a hospital executive and aide to former Governor Haley Barbour.

Polls in all three states will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.

In Oklahoma, voters will be going to the polls in the first statewide election since a teachers’ strike in April over low pay and what teachers saw as inadequate state support for education. The strike ended after legislators raised taxes to improve pay and school funding.

Kevin Stitt

Mick Cornett

Todd Lamb

The open Republican race for governor, which drew 10 candidates, is shaping up as a battle between Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Kevin Stitt, a wealthy Tulsa businessman who founded Gateway Mortgage Group.

Cornett, 59, a former television anchor in Oklahoma City, served 14 years as mayor and was president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2016.

Lamb, 46, a former Secret Service agent, is finishing his second term as lieutenant governor, after previously serving in the Oklahoma Senate.

Stitt, running on a platform of reforming the political culture in Oklahoma City that came under fire during the teacher’s strike, surged in polls in the latter stages of the race after pouring in $2.2 million of his own money.

Oklahoma has primary runoffs, which means that a runoff between the top two vote-getters is likely. The runoff will be August 28.

Incumbent Republican Governor Mary Fallon is term limited.

While Republicans dominate Oklahoma politics — and Fallon won the last two races by double-digit margins — Democrats will have a viable nominee for governor, former Attorney General Drew Edmonson, who had raised $1.4 million heading into the primary, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

Edmundson, 71, comes from a prominent Oklahoma political family and served as attorney general from 1995 to 2011. His father was a congressman, his uncle a governor, and his brother, James, serves on the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

In Oklahoma’s 1st District, voters are picking a replacement for former Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who resigned in April after he was confirmed as NASA administrator.

The Republican contest is shaping up as a battle between former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris; Kevin Hern, a Tulsa McDonald’s franchisee; and Andy Coleman, an attorney and minister from Owasso.

On the Democratic side, the front runner is Tim Gilpin, a Tulsa attorney and former member of the state school board who has the backing of the Oklahoma Education Association.

In South Carolina, McMaster — who inherited the office last year when former Governor Nikki Haley became UN ambassador — is trying to hold off Warren, a political newcomer who came from the back of the pack to win the second spot in the runoff.

McMaster was the first statewide elected official to endorse President Trump in 2016, and the president returned the favor by tweeting an endorsement and making an appearance on his behalf Monday at a suburban Columbia high school.

Vice President Mike Pence campaigned with McMaster Saturday in Myrtle Beach.

The winner of the GOP runoff will face State Rep. James Smith from Columbia. Democrats have not won a governor’s race in the Palmetto State in 20 years.

Mississippi Primary: Guest, Hughes advance to runoff in 3rd District U.S. House race

Democrats narrow U.S. Senate field to Howard Sherman and David Baria

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

JACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — A crowded field of six Republicans vying for the open 3rd District U.S. House seat in Mississippi has been narrowed to two contenders, with Michael Guest and Whit Hughes winning the right to face each other in a June 26 runoff.

Guest, the chief prosecutor for the judicial district that includes Madison and Rankin counties, took 45 percent in the first round of voting June 5, to 22 percent for Hughes, a hospital executive and aide to former Governor Haley Barbour.

Perry Parker, a farmer and investment executive from Seminary, came in third at 16 percent.

The 3rd District stretches across southern Mississippi from Natchez to Meridian and also includes the northern Jackson suburbs. The seat is being vacated by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, who is retiring after five terms.

The winner of the race between Guest and Hughes will face Democratic State Rep. Michael Ted Evans of Preston, who easily won his party’s primary.

Also in Mississippi, Democrats narrowed their field of candidates contending for the nomination to take on veteran Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker in November, a race in which the senator will be heavily favored.

Howard Sherman, a venture capitalist from Meridian who is married to actress and Meridian native Sela Ward, will face State House Minority Leader David Baria from Bay St. Louis in the runoff. Sherman took 32 percent to Baria’s 31 percent, eliminating four other candidates.

The Magnolia State’s other Senate seat is also open, after the retirement of Thad Cochran earlier this year. It will be filled in an all-party special election in November that features Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed as a temporary replacement for Cochran; GOP State Senator Chris McDaniel, who ran unsuccessfully to unseat Cochran in 2014; and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Espy, who served as agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration.

McDaniel had initially filed to run against Wicker in the primary but switched to the other race after Hyde-Smith was appointed to Cochran’s seat.

Southern Primaries: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey seeks full term; U.S. Rep Martha Roby tries to survive backlash over Trump criticism

6 Republicans also battle for open U.S. House seat in Mississippi

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

BIRMINGHAM (CFP) — Governor Kay Ivey, who became Alabama’s chief executive last year after her disgraced predecessor resigned amid a sex scandal, will take the first step toward winning a new term in her own right in Tuesday’s Republican primary against three challengers.

In another closely watched race in Alabama, Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is trying to survive the backlash from her pointed criticism of President Donald Trump during last year’s presidential race, facing four GOP challengers who have hit her hard for being insufficiently supportive of the president.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Mississippi, the marquee race in Tuesday’s primary is in the state’s 3rd U.S. House District, where six Republicans are vying for two runoff spots in a race likely to be decided in the GOP primary.

Six Democrats are also vying for their party’s nomination to take on Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker in November, a race in which Wicker will be heavily favored.

Polls in both states are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey

Ivey, 73, became governor in April 2017 after her predecessor, Robert Bentley, resigned amid allegations that he used state resources to try to hide an extramarital affair with a female aide, a scandal complete with salacious audio recordings that roiled state politics for months.

After five months in office, Ivey, who won plaudits for her handling of the Bentley debacle and its aftermath, announced that she would seek a full term as governor. A Morning Consult poll earlier this year  put her approval rating at 67 percent, making her one of the most popular governors in the country.

However, she still drew primary challengers from Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, State Senator Bill Hightower from Mobile and Scott Dawson, an evangelist from Birmingham. A fourth candidate, Michael McAllister, died in April, too late for his name to be removed from Tuesday’s ballot.

The governor’s campaign was thrown a curve ball in May when Alabama’s only openly gay legislator, Democratic State. Rep. Patricia Todd, posted on social media that Ivey was a closeted lesbian.

The governor’s campaign called the assertion “a disgusting lie.” Todd later said she has no evidence to back up the claim.

Pre-primary polling showed Ivey with a wide lead over her opponents; she will need a majority to avoid a July 17 runoff.

Six Democrats are competing in the primary to face the eventual Republican winner in the fall, including Sue Bell Cobb, former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court; four-term Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox; and former State Rep. James Fields from Hanceville.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

In the 2nd District U.S. House race in southeast Alabama, Roby is facing four Republican challengers motivated by the congresswoman’s decision to distance herself from Trump during the 2016 election.

In October 2016, after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women, Roby withdrew her endorsement and announced she would not vote for him because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

In November, almost 30,000 people cast write-in votes against Roby. Although she won in the end, she wound up with just 49 percent of the vote in a strongly Republican district, virtually ensuring she would face a primary fight in 2018.

Among those running against Roby are Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor whom Roby beat to win the seat in 2010 when Bright was a Democrat; Rich Hobson, the campaign manager for failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore; State Rep. Barry Moore from Enterprise; and Tommy Amason from Prattville, a military veteran making his first run for office.

Roby, who has toned down her criticisms of Trump since the election, opened up a huge fundraising advantage, taking in $1.4 million — more than twice as much as all of her GOP opponents combined, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

The Democratic race in the 2nd District is between Tabitha Isner from Montgomery, a pastor’s wife and business analyst for a software company, and Audri Scott Williams, a former college dean.

In Mississippi, six Republicans and two Democrats are running in the 3rd District, which stretches across the southern part of the state from Natchez to Meridian and also includes Jackson’s northern suburbs

The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, is retiring after five terms.

Republicans in the race include Michael Guest, the chief prosecutor for the judicial district that includes Madison and Rankin counties; Whit Hughes, a hospital executive and aide to former Governor Haley Barbour; Perry Parker, a farmer and investment executive from Seminary, near Hattiesburg; State Senator Sally Doty from Brookhaven; Morgan Dunn, a healthcare consultant from Magee; and Katherine “Bitzi” Tate, a former high school teacher.

If no candidate captures a majority Tuesday, the top two finishers will meet in a June 26 runoff.

The Democratic race is between State Rep. Michael Ted Evans of Preston and Michael Aycox, a police officer from Newton. The district is heavily Republican, making it a long shot for Democrats to flip a Mississippi seat.

In the Senate race, six Democrats are running to take on Wicker, including State House Minority Leader David Baria from Bay St. Louis; State Rep. Omeria Scott from Laurel; and Howard Sherman, a venture capitalist from Meridian who is married to actress Sela Ward, a Meridian native.

The Magnolia State’s other Senate seat is also open, after the retirement of Thad Cochran earlier this year. It will be filled in an all-party special election in November that features Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed as a temporary replacement for Cochran; GOP State Senator Chris McDaniel, who ran unsuccessfully to unseat Cochran in 2014; and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Espy, who served as agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration.

South Carolina U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy bowing out of Congress

Gowdy, chair of the House Oversight Committee, won’t seek re-election in 2018

WASHINGTON (CNN) — U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who drew national attention for leading a congressional investigation into the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, has announced he is retiring from Congress after four terms.

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina

In a January 31 statement announcing his departure, Gowdy, a former federal and state prosecutor, said he planned to return to work in the criminal justice system, although he gave no specifics.

“Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system,” the Republican lawmaker said in his statement. “As I look back on my career, it is the jobs that both seek and reward fairness that are most rewarding.”

“The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us there is a time and a season for all things. There is a time to start and a time to end. There is a time to come and a time to go. This is the right time, for me, to leave politics and return to the justice system.”

Gowdy, who was named chairman of the House Oversight Committee last summer, becomes the eighth Republican committee chair overall, and the sixth Southern chair, to forgo a re-election bid this year.

His election will open up a seat in South Carolina’s 4th District, in metro Greenville-Spartanburg. The district is solidly Republican, so Gowdy’s successor is likely to be picked in the June primary. Filing for office begins March 30.

Gowdy, 53, was elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010. He quickly rose to prominence after former House Speaker John Boehner appointed him to head a special investigative committee that looked into a terror attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.

The most lasting impact from that investigation was the disclosure that than-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had used a private email server during her tenure at the State Department, an issue which dogged her throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.

Gowdy joins a growing list of Southern House committee chairs who are leaving Congress, which includes Jeb Hensarling of Texas, chair of the Financial Services Committee; Diane Black of Tennessee, chair of the House Budget Committee, who is running for governor; Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chair of the House Judiciary Committee; Joe Barton of Texas, chair of the House Energy Commitee; and Gregg Harper of Mississippi, chair of the House Administration Committee.

So far, 15 Southern House Republicans have announced they won’t seek re-election in 2018, including six from Texas and two each from Tennessee and Florida. Only two Southern Democrats aren’t running, both in Texas.

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