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Republican is the 117th person to serve as governor of Palmetto State
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Democrats within shooting distance in Oklahoma, Tennessee; GOP incumbents heavily favored in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and South Carolina
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Eight Southern governorships are on the ballot in Tuesday’s midterm elections, highlighted by close and contentious races in Florida and Georgia that have garnered national attention.
Democrats are hoping to make history: If Democrat Andrew Gillum wins in Florida, he will be the Sunshine State’s first African-American governor, while a victory by Democrat Stacey Abrams in Georgia would make her not only its first black governor but also the first woman to hold the post and the first black female governor in U.S. history.
However, in both states, Democratic nominees will have to overcome a long history of Republican control. The last time a Democrat won a governor’s race in Florida was 1994; in Georgia, 1998.
In Florida, the Republican nominee is former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has received considerable help in his quest for the governorship from President Donald Trump. The president stopped twice in Florida to campaign for DeSantis in the closing days of the campaign.
The Republican nominee in Georgia is Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who has also benefited from a Trump endorsement and a presidential visit on the Sunday before the vote.
Public polling has shown both races are within the statistical margin of error, which means neither race can be forecast with certainty heading into election day.
In 2016, Trump carried Florida by a single point and Georgia by 5 points. While Florida has long been a swing state, the result in Georgia was the smallest win by a Republican in the Peach State since 1996, giving Democrats hope that it might be in play in 2020.
A win by either Abrams or Gillum would be a boon to Democratic prospects in 2020. It will also give them a say in redrawing congressional districts after the 2020 census — a process that Republicans have totally controlled in both states for the past decade.
And if the race in Georgia is close, it might not be decided on election night. State law requires a candidate to win an outright majority to claim the governorship. With a Libertarian in the race, neither major-party candidate could reach that threshold, triggering a December 4 runoff between them.
The remaining six Southern governorships up this year — all held by Republicans — look to be more secure, though Democrats may have outside shots in Oklahoma and Tennessee.
In the Sooner State, where Republican Governor Mary Fallin is term-limited, Republican businessman Kevin Stitt is facing former Democratic Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who comes to the race having served 16 years in statewide office.
Approval polling has pegged Fallin as America’s most unpopular governor, which has not helped Stitt’s cause. Oklahoma teachers also went on strike last year in a public display of protest that has reverberated through state politics.
Public polling has shown Stitt with a small lead near the edge of the margin of error. While Stitt is still regarded as the favorite, one prominent national prognosticator, The Cook Political Report, rates the race as a toss-up.
In Tennessee, where voters are also filling an open seat for a term-limited incumbent, Governor Bill Haslam, Republican Bill Lee, a first-time candidate who worked in Haslam’s administration, is facing Democrat Karl Dean, the former mayor of Nashville.
Public polling has shown Lee above 50 percent and with a statistically significant lead over Dean.
Four other governor’s races on the midterm ballot — in Arkansas, Alabama, Texas and South Carolina — all feature Republican incumbents who are expected to easily win re-election:
- In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson is facing Jared Henderson, a non-profit executive and former NASA research scientist.
- In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey is being challenged by Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox. Ivey became governor in 2017 after her predecessor, Robert Bentley, resigned after a sex scandal. Since then, Ivey ridden a wave of public approval for her handling of the aftermath.
- In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is squaring off against former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez.
- In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster is running against Democratic State Rep. James Smith from Columbia. McMaster became governor in 2017 after Nikki Haley left office to become Trump’s U.N. ambassador.
Heading into Tuesday’s election, Republicans hold 11 of the 14 Southern governorships; Democrats are in charge in North Carolina, Louisiana and Virginia.
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State Senator William Timmons gets GOP nod in 4th District U.S. House race
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Buoyed by backing from President Donald Trump, Governor Henry McMaster defeated Greenville businessman John Warren in a Republican runoff for governor, clearing a major hurdle in his quest to keep the job he inherited last year when Nikki Haley left to become UN ambassador.
McMaster took 53 percent in the June 26 runoff to 47 percent for Warren, a political newcomer who came from the back of the pack in the first primary round to win the second spot in the runoff.
In November, McMaster will face the Democratic nominee, State Rep. James Smith from Columbia. Democrats have not won a governor’s race in the Palmetto State in 20 years.
Meanwhile, upstate in the 4th U.S. House District, State Senator William Timmons from Greenville defeated former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.
Timmons took 54 percent to 46 percent for Bright, who came out on top in the first round of voting June 12. Brown beat Turner 62 percent to 38 percent.
Timmons will be a prohibitive favorite in the fall in the heavily Republican district.
McMaster, while lieutenant governor, was the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse Trump in 2016. The president returned the favor by making a high-profile election-eve appearance on his behalf in Columbia. Vice President Mike Pence also came to the Palmetto State to campaign for McMaster.
In his victory speech, McMaster touted his special relationship with Trump.
“Our team extends from the White House to the Statehouse to your house, and that’s the most powerful team there is,” he said. “We going to keep on winning, winning, winning in South Carolina.”
McMaster, who has spent 11 years in statewide office as attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor, took over as the state’s chief executive in 2017 after Haley, who was then governor, was nominated and confirmed as Trump’s U.N. ambassador.
Warren, a former Marine officer who owns a mortgage company in Greenville, was making his first bid for office, casting himself as a conservative outsider.
Despite being endorsed by the third and fourth place finishers in the first primary round and running strong in the Upstate and Charleston, he could not overcome McMaster’s margins across the rest of the state.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
South Carolina Primary: U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford defeated; McMaster, Warren advance to GOP governor’s runoff
Democrat Archie Parnell survives 5th District U.S. House primary despite spouse abuse revelations
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
CHARLESTON (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford has become the second incumbent to go down in a primary this year, losing the GOP nomination for his Lowcountry seat after President Donald Trump tweeted a last-minute endorsement of his opponent.
In another key race in the June 12 primary, Governor Henry McMaster secured a runoff spot and will now face John Warren, a Greenville businessman and Iraq war veteran making his first run for political office.
In the 5th U.S. House District, Democrat Archie Parnell advanced to the general election, despite pleas from party leaders to get out of the race over revelations about spousal abuse from four decades ago.
And upstate, in the 4th District, where 12 Republicans were fighting for spots in the runoff, former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg snagged one spot, with State Senator William Timmons from Greenville holding on to second place by a narrow margin in unofficial results.
In the 1st U.S. House District, which includes Charleston and the Lowcountry along the Atlantic Coast, State Rep. Katie Arrington from Summerville took 51 percent to 46 percent for Sanford, who has held the seat since 2013.
She will now face Democrat Joe Cunningham, a Charleston attorney who swept to an easy victory in the Democratic primary with 71 percent of the vote.
Sanford’s demise could be good news for Cunningham, who will now be competing in an open seat against a lesser known, more conservative candidate. He has also raised more than $500,000 in a bid to flip the 1st District seat.
Trump loomed large in the GOP primary, with Arrington taking aim at Sanford for his previous critical comments about the president. Then, on election day, Trump administered the coup de grace on his Twitter feed: “Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina.”
The final sentence is a reference to a 2009 episode in which Sanford, then governor of South Carolina, disappeared for several days after telling the media he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, while he was actually out of the country with a Argentinian woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
Sanford has been one of the few Republicans in Congress to speak out against Trump, calling his behavior in office “weird,” criticizing Trump’s disparagement of Haiti and countries in Africa and calling his policy of imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum “an experiment with stupidity.”
In a concession speech before supporters in Mount Pleasant, Sanford stood by the criticisms that may have cost him his job.
“It may have cost me an election, but I stand by every one of those decisions to disagree with the president because I didn’t think they would be concurrent with the promises I made when I first ran for office and for the very voices of the people of the 1st District that I represent,” he said.
Sanford had never previously been defeated in a career that stretches back to his first election to the U.S. House in 1994 and includes two terms as governor.
The only other incumbent House member to fall this year so far was North Carolina’s U.S. Robert Pittenger. However, Alabama U.S. Rep. Martha Roby was forced in a July runoff against a challenger who made an issue of her decision to rescind her endorsement of Trump after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in October 2016, in which he bragged about groping women.
In the governor’s race, McMaster — who inherited the office last year when former Governor Nikki Haley became UN ambassador — took 45 percent of the vote to 22 percent for Warren, who edged out Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney who served in two state executive positions under Haley.
The winner will face State Rep. James Smith from Columbia, who won the Democratic nomination outright with 62 percent of the vote. Florence lawyer Marguerite Willis came in second with 27 percent, while Phil Noble, a Charleston business consultant who was an adviser to former President Barack Obama, came in third with 22 percent.
Democrats have not won a governor’s race in the Palmetto State in 20 years.
McMaster — the first statewide elected official to endorse President Trump in 2016 — was boosted by a tweeted endorsement from the president. Warren was the dark horse in the race, putting in more than $3 million of his own money to be financially competitive with McMaster and Templeton.
Templeton had touted her connections with Haley and campaigned against what she called a “good ol’ boy” network running South Carolina politics — a shot at McMaster, who has been in state politics for more than 20 years. But in the end, she could not hold off a charge by Warren, who cast himself as the “conservative outsider” in the race.
In the 5th District, which stretches from the Columbia suburbs north toward Charlotte, Parnell took 60 percent, surviving a Democratic primary against three little-known challengers after divorce records came to light three weeks before the primary revealing that he physically abused his first wife in the 1970s.
Democratic leaders have urged Parnell to quit, but he has refused. He will now face Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman in November.
In a special election last year to fill the seat vacated when Mick Mulvaney became Trump’s budget director, Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs executive, shocked the political world by coming in just 2 points behind Norman in a district Trump carried by 19 points in 2016.
Based on the closeness of the special election, Parnell has raised more than $3.6 million for the rematch, putting him in the top 20 nationally among House candidates. But the abuse allegations likely extinguished any hope Democrats had of defeating Norman and flipping the seat.
Norman drew national headlines in April when he pulled out a loaded gun during a meeting with gun control advocates at a local diner. The incident came less than two months after the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Norman defended his actions, saying he was “tired of guns being demonized.”
Upstate in the 4th District, which includes Greenville and Spartanburg, Bright, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in a GOP primary in 2014, took 25 percent to secure a runoff spot for the seat being given up by the retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.
Timmons was in second place with 19 percent, but he was only 350 votes ahead of State Rep. Dan Hamilton, also from Greenville, so news organizations did not make an immediate call for the second spot in the runoff.
Democrats in the district will also decide a runoff between Doris Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant, who took 29 percent, and Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville, who took 28 percent.