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Voters in Georgia, Arkansas and Texas also pick party nominees for House seats that could help decide balance of power
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
LEXINGTON, Kentucky (CFP) — In a year in which women candidates have been making noise nationally, Amy McGrath has made her own statement in Kentucky’s Bluegrass country by winning the Democratic nomination for a U.S. House seat over a candidate recruited by party leaders in Washington.
Meanwhile, in other May 22 primaries in Georgia, Arkansas and Texas, Democrats narrowed the fields in races for seven GOP-held seats that are being targeted in November, while Texas Republicans picked nominees in four open seats that are expected to stay in Republican hands.
In central Kentucky’s 6th District, which includes Lexington and Frankfort, McGrath took 48 percent of the vote to 40 percent for Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who had been recruited for the race by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Kentucky does not have primary runoffs, so McGrath won the nomination with a plurality and will now face GOP U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in November.
Declaring victory with her supporters in Richmond, McGrath — a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot whose call sign was “Krusty” — said “what happened tonight is amazing.”
“Six months ago, political pundits and establishment insiders didn’t think we could pull this off,” she said. “What those insiders maybe still don’t know is how this happened. Well, I know how it happened. It’s because you all care about the future of our country.”
McGrath began her campaign in August 2017 with a video in which she told how, as a young girl growing up in Kentucky, she decided she wanted to be a fighter pilot but discovered that women were not allowed to serve in combat. She then wrote letters to members of Congress in which she asked why she was barred from serving, including a letter to Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, which she said was never answered.
After the ban was lifted, McGrath enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy and served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine Corps aviator before retiring at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
McGrath’s video went viral, triggering a wave of contributions to her long-shot campaign. She now raised almost $2 million in her quest to unseat Barr, who is seeking his fourth term.
Another positive sign for McGrath: More than 100,000 Democrats turned out to vote in the primary, compared to just 49,000 Republicans in a district President Donald Trump carried by 15 points in 2016. However, GOP turnout also lagged behind Democratic turnout in 2016, when Barr took 61 percent.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky’s 3rd District in metro Louisville, Republicans nominated Vickie Glisson, a Louisville attorney who headed the state health department, to face U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, who has drawn the particular ire of Republicans nationally with his strong criticism of Trump, including introducing articles of impeachment.
In Georgia, the House races receiving the most attention are in the 6th and 7th districts, where Republican incumbents are seen as possibly vulnerable in districts that President Donald Trump won by narrow margins in 2016.
In the 6th District, in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, where Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel won her seat in 2017 after a hard-fought and hugely expensive special election, Democrats have narrowed their field to Lucy McBath, a gun control activist from Cobb County, and Kevin Abel, a Sandy Springs businessman, who will compete in a July 24 runoff.
McBath’s son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in 2012 by a man at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, over a dispute over loud hip-hop music. His case became part of the nationwide campaign against deadly violence aimed at young African-American men. The shooter, Michael David Dunn, was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.
Handel’s chances of keeping the seat — in a district Trump only carried by just 1.5 points — improved when the man she defeated in the special election, Democrat Jon Ossoff, decided against a rematch.
Bordeaux, from Suwanee, is a professor at Georgia State University and former budget analyst for the Georgia Senate. Kim, from Duluth, is the son of Korean immigrants who owns a company that provides tutoring for students. If elected, he would become Georgia’s first Asian-American congressman, running in a district with a growing Asian population.
While Woodall took 60 percent of the vote in the 7th District in 2016, Trump only won by 6 points, putting the seat within the realm of possibility for Democrats.
In Arkansas, the House race drawing the most attention is the 2nd District in metro Little Rock, where Democrats believe they might have a shot at ousting GOP U.S. Rep. French Hill if a national Democratic wave develops.
The Democratic nominee will be State Rep. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock, who won the primary without a runoff.
While Hill won re-election by 11 points in 2016, the 2nd District is the least Republican district in the state, anchored by Pulaski County, which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Trump won the district by less than 10 points.
In Texas, Democrats have picked nominees in four targeted U.S. House seats now in Republican hands that Democrats have hopes of flipping in the fall.
In the 7th District, in metro Houston, attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher defeated liberal activist Laura Moser for the right to take on Republican U.S. John Culberson, in a district Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Fletcher had been backed by the DCCC against Moser, who was seen by Democratic leaders as too liberal for the district.
In the 21st District, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio and takes in part of the Texas Hill Country, Republican Chip Roy will face Democrat Joseph Kosper for the seat now held by retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a district which Trump carried by 10 points.
Roy served as chief of staff for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. Kosper is a former U.S. Army officer and technology entrepreneur.
In the 23rd District — the largest Texas district geographically, sprawling from the suburbs of San Antonio to near El Paso — Democrats picked Gina Ortiz Jones to take on incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd in November. Clinton also carried this majority-Latino swing district, which has changed hands four times in the last 12 years.
Jones is a former military intelligence officer who worked as a U.S. trade representative in the Obama administration. If elected, she would be the first open lesbian, Iraq War veteran and Filipino American to represent Texas in Washington.
In the 32nd District, in metro Dallas, former NFL player Colin Allred defeated businesswoman Lillian Salerno and will now face Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, who is trying to keep a traditionally Republican seat in a district that Clinton also carried. Allred, a civil rights attorney, played five seasons in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans before his career ended after a neck injury.
Also in Texas, the fields have been set in four other open GOP-held districts that Republicans will be favored to keep in November:
- In the 2nd District, a metro Houston seat given up by retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, the Republican David Crenshaw, a retired Navy officer, will face Democrat Todd Litton, a lawyer and non-profit executive.
- In the 5th District, an East Texas seat now held by U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, State Rep. Lance Gooden defeated Bunni Pounds, a political consultant, in the Republican runoff, despite endorsements of Pound by both Hensarling and Vice President Mike Pence. Gooden will face former Terrell City Councilman Dan Wood in November.
- In the 6th District, a seat in metro Fort Worth now held by U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, Republican Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright will face Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez.
- In the 27th District, a South Texas seat that opened up after Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold resigned in April, Republican Michael Cloud will face Democrat Eric Holguin in November. Cloud is the chair of the Victoria County Republican Party. Holguin, from Corpus Christi, is a former congressional aide.
Barton decided not to seek re-election after after a nude selfie he had exchanged with a woman with whom he was having a consensual extramarital relationship wound up on social media.
Farenthold resigned after news reports that $84,000 in taxpayer dollars had been used to pay a settlement to a former female staffer who alleged that she suffered sexual harassment from Farenthold and another male staffer. The congressman denied the harassment allegations, while conceding that a lax management style in his Washington office created a “decidedly unprofessional” work environment.
A special election is being held in June to fill the remainder of Farenthold’s current term, with Cloud, Holguin and seven other candidates on the ballot.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray wins Democratic nomination to face Republican Rand Paul in U.S. Senate race
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com
Clinton took 46.8 percent of the vote in the May 17 vote, compared to just 46.3 percent for Sanders. a margin of just 1,900 votes. That was a stark reversal from eight years ago, when Clinton walloped Barack Obama by more than 35 points in the Bluegrass State.
With the results in Kentucky, Clinton ends the Southern primary season by nearly running the table, taking 12 out of 14 contests. Sanders won only Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate primary, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray won the Democratic nomination over a crowded field, taking 58 percent of the vote. He will now face Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul in November.
Given Kentucky’s Republican tendencies in federal elections, Paul, seeking his second term, is considered a prohibitive favorite, although Gray, as mayor of the commonwealth’s second-largest city and the wealthy owner of a family construction business, poses a credible challenge.
Gray is also trying to become the first openly gay man ever elected to the Senate.
Paul’s decision comes two days after he finished fifth in the Iowa GOP caucus
LOUISVILLE (CFP) — U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has ended his quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and will now concentrate on winning a second term in the Senate.
“Today, I end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of liberty,” Paul said in a statement announcing his departure. “Brushfires of liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I.”
Paul’s decision came just two days after he finished in fifth place in the Iowa presidential caucus, winning just 4.5 percent of the vote. He will now turn to his re-election race in Kentucky, which he was pursuing simultaneously with his presidential bid.
Paul, 53, ran a campaign appealing to the GOP’s libertarian wing, differing from many of his competitors by calling for less international intervention and opposing counterterrorism surveillance programs that he believed threatened civil liberties.
Considered a potential frontrunner early in the campaign, Paul’s campaign failed to catch fire and became mired in single digits in national polls.
The Kentucky GOP changed its presidential nominating contest to a caucus to facilitate Paul’s political double-dipping. But he had been under increasing pressure from within his party to abandon his floundering White House quest and focus on the Senate race, which intensified after he drew a high-profile Democratic challenger, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.
Paul, an eye surgeon from Bowling Green, won election to the Senate in 2010 with Tea Party support. He is the son of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who made three unsuccessful tries for the White House.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray’s entry into race may increase pressure on Paul to drop presidential bid
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
FRANKFORT, Kentucky (CFP) — As he battles to keep his presidential hopes alive, U.S. Senator Rand Paul has drawn a high-profile, independently wealthy Democratic challenger in his Senate re-election challenge back home in Kentucky.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, chairman of his family’s international construction company, announced January 26 that he would challenge Paul, a first-term Republican who is simultaneously seeking the GOP presidential nomination and re-election to the Senate.
“Washington offers dysfunction and gridlock, and Senator Paul confuses talking with getting results,” Gray said in a video announcing his campaign. “He offers ideas that will weaken our country at home and abroad, and he puts himself and his own ambitions above Kentucky.
In 2014, Gray, 62, was elected to his second term as mayor of Lexington, the commonwealth’s second-largest city. He is one of seven Democrats who filed to run against Paul and–given his political profile and ability to self-fund his campaign–is the prohibitive favorite to be Paul’s opponent in November.
However, Gray is also openly gay, a probable complication in a state where Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis became a cause celebre after she want to jail last year for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Democrats have not won a Senate race in Kentucky since 1992. But Paul’s decision to run for two offices at once has put the Bluegrass State on the Democrats’ radar.
While the Kentucky GOP changed its presidential nominating contest to a caucus to facilitate Paul’s political double-dipping, he has been under increasing pressure from within his party to abandon his White House quest and focus on the Senate race–pressure that is likely to intensify now that he has a potentially formidable Democratic challenger.
The latest national polls in the Republican presidential contest show Paul mired in single digits.
Paul, 53, an eye surgeon from Bowling Green, won election to the Senate in 2010 with Tea Party support, besting a candidate backed by Kentucky’s Republican establishment. He is the son of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who made three unsuccessful tries for the White House.