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Primary Wrap: Kemp, Raffensperger survive Trump’s ire; Brooks makes Alabama U.S. Senate runoff
Texas Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar survives challenge from the left; George P. Bush gets blown out by Attorney General Ken Paxton
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have both survived Donald Trump’s crusade to drive them into political oblivion, winning renomination in Tuesday’s primary election.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks – whom Trump initially endorsed but then unendorsed – made a runoff for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, where he will face off against Katie Britt, a former top aide to retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.
Trump had better luck in Arkansas, where his former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders won the Republican nomination for governor, and in the Georgia U.S. Senate race, where NFL football great Herschel Walker, who ran at Trump’s encouragement, easily won the Republican nomination to face Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock in the fall.
In Texas, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the last pro-life Democrat left in the U.S. House, appears to have narrowly won his primary runoff over Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney who ran against him with support of major figures in the Democratic left.
With all of the precincts reporting, Cuellar had a 175-vote lead. He has declared victory, but Cisnersos is refusinng to concede.
The Bush family’s political dynasty also came to at least a temporary end Tuesday, as George P. Bush was badly beaten in a Republican primary runoff by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who won despite facing criminal charges and an active FBI investigation.
And in a Democratic primary between two U.S. House incumbents in Georgia. Lucy McBath easily dispatched colleague Carolyn Bourdeaux, who will leave Congress after a single term.
Republican legislators triggered the primary fight when they dismembered McBath’s former district in Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, prompting her to run against Bourdeaux in a district centered in Gwinnett County.
Both Kemp and Raffensperger ran afoul of Trump by refusing to go along with his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the Peach State in 2020.
Trump persuaded former U.S. Senator David Perdue to make the race against Kemp and pumped more than $2 million from his own campaign operation into the race. During the campaign, Perdue echoed Trump’s debunked claims about election fraud, and Trump campaigned on his behalf.
But Perdue’s campaign never caught fire, and, in the end, Kemp crushed him by 52 points.
Raffensperger, who as secretary of state oversaw the 2020 election, had a more difficult time, coming in at 53%. But that was enough to avoid a runoff against Trump’s endorsed candidate, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, came in second at 33%.
The results in Alabama will present a predicament for Trump, who must now decide whether to sit out the race, wade into the race on behalf of Britt — who had strong ties to the Republican establishment he frequently castigates — or re-endorse Brooks.
Brooks was one of Trump’s strongest supporters in the House and led the charge against accepting the 2020 election results. But Trump withdrew his endorsement after Brooks urged Republicans to move on from 2020.
Given up for dead at that point, he surged in the last weeks of the race as the third-place candidate, Mike Durant, faded. But he’ll have to make up a 100,000-vote gap to defeat Britt in the June 21 runoff.
Cuellar narrowly kept his seat by defeating Cisneros, who made his opposition to legal abortion a centerpiece of her campaign, particularly after leak of a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade.
The House Democratic leadership stood behind Cuellar, despite intense pressure in the days before the primary from advocates of legal abortion.
His next battle will be to keep his seat in the fall against Republican Cassy Garcia, a former aide to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. The Texas legislature made the district more Republican during redistricting, putting the seat on the list of GOP targets.
Bush, the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, had served two terms as land commissioner before launching his run against Paxton, who is facing criminal charges for insider trading and is being investigated for bribery by the FBI, a probe started by allegations from his own subordinates.
Trump endorsed Paxton, although Bush, unlike some other members of his family, has embraced the former president. But in the end, he was crushed 2-to-1 by Paxton.
Perhaps the surprise of the night came in Alabama, where Republican Governor Kay Ivey — who consistently polls as one of the nation’s most popular governors — was kept to just 54% in a race where she was expected to roll to victory.
Lindy Blanchard, a former Trump ambassador who reportedly left the Senate race at his urging to run for governor, came in second at 19%.
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Tuesday’s Southern primaries will test Donald Trump’s continuing grip on Republican Party
Trump’s effort to get rid of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp likely to go up in flames, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes step toward Arkansas governor’s mansion
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Donald Trump’s continuing grip on the Republican Party will be front and center in Tuesday’s Southern primaries, as GOP voters in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas decide whether to punish some of Trump’s top nemeses and support candidates he anointed.
Trump appears likely to fail in his quest to defeat Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who angered him by refusing entreaties to overturn his 2020 election loss in the Peach State.
And in Alabama, the U.S. Senate candidate he endorsed and then unendorsed, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, has risen from the dead and may snag a spot in the runoff, which could create a tricky predicament for the former president.
Meanwhile, Trump’s former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is expected to be nominated for Arkansas governor Tuesday, and Herschel Walker, whom Trump recruited, is expected to win the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Georgia.
Also, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led the legal charge to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss, is in a tight primary runoff with Bush family scion George P. Bush, son of Trump nemesis Jeb Bush. Trump endorsed Paxton, who is seeking a third term while facing criminal charges and an FBI investigation.
Here is a look at the key Trump-involved races on Tuesday’s ballots:
Polls show Kemp will likely crush former U.S. Senator David Perdue, who was encouraged to challenge Kemp by Trump in his quest to take down the governor.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who likewise earned Trump’s wrath by refusing to intervene in the 2020 election, also faces a Trump-backed challenger, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, in his quest for a second term. With four candidates in the race, a runoff is likely, which would give Trump an additional venue to try to take down Raffensperger.
In the U.S. Senate race, Walker – whom Trump encouraged to run and endorsed – appears likely to win the GOP primary, despite questions about his thin political resume and past personal behavior.
To the frustration of his Republican primary opponents, Walker has run a stealth campaign, skipping primary debates, avoiding the media, and making a few carefully crafted public appearances. While that lack of exposure seems to have served him well in the primary, the question will be whether it will work in the fall against Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, who possesses significant political skills.
Trump initially endorsed Brooks, one of his strongest supporters in the House who led the charge in disputing the 2020 election results. But after Brooks’s poll numbers sank and he urged Republicans to move on from 2020, Trump pulled the endorsement, which was seen at the time as the death knell for Brooks.
However, recent polling indicates a surge of support for Brooks, mostly at the expense of political newcomer Mike Durant, which could propel him into the June 21 runoff against Katie Britt, a former top aide to retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.
Both Britt and Durant have been angling for Trump’s endorsement, to no avail. A Britt-vs-Brooks runoff would put him in the awkward position of either re-endorsing Brooks or supporting Britt, who is backed by Republican establishment figures of whom Trump has been critical. Or he could stay out of the race.
Republican Governor Kay Ivey is facing a gaggle of primary challengers, including Lindy Blanchard, a former Trump ambassador whom he reportedly encouraged to leave the Senate race challenge Ivey. Trump was reportedly miffed at the governor over cancellation of one of his rallies at a state park in Mobile, even though she did not make the decision.
However, Trump has not directly endorsed Blanchard, and Ivey – who consistently polls as one of the nation’s most popular governors – is expected to easily see off her primary foes.
Sanders is expected to win the governor’s primary after bigfooting both Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge out of the race. Neither could get any political oxygen after Trump went all in for Sanders and are now running instead for each other’s current offices.
Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman is facing three primary challengers, including Jake Bequette, a former Arkansas Razorbacks star and NFL player who has criticized Boozman as insufficiently supportive of the MAGA agenda. However, Trump endorsed Boozman, who has been highlighting the endorsement in his advertising.
In Texas, the Republican primary for attorney general has become a contentious battle between Paxton and Bush, pitting Trump’s endorsed champion against the state’s most famous and successful political family.
Unlike other members of his family, George P. Bush has embraced Trump and has been hitting Paxton on his sea of legal troubles – he’s facing criminal charges for insider trading and is being investigated for bribery by the FBI, a probe started by allegations from his own subordinates.
Still, it is worth remembering that Paxton won re-election in 2018 while facing those same criminal charges – and the Bush name may not have the magic it once did among conservatives in the Lone Star State.
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7 new Southern U.S House Democrats who ousted Republicans support Nancy Pelosi for speaker
Cunningham of South Carolina and Spanberger of Virginia keep vow to oppose Pelosi; North Carolina’s 9th District remains vacant
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Seven Southern Democratic U.S. House freshmen who ousted GOP incumbents in November supported Nancy Pelosi’s bid to reclaim the gavel as speaker of the U.S. House — handing Republicans an issue to use against them in 2020.
Colin Allred and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Texas, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Elaine Luria and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida all supported Pelosi in the January 3 vote.
Two other freshmen Democrats who had vowed during their campaign that they would not support Pelosi — Joe Cunningham of South Carolina and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia — kept that promise, voting instead for Cheri Bustos of Illinois.
And despite signing a letter in November calling for new leadership in the House, Filemon Vela of Texas switched course to vote for Pelosi.
Meanwhile, as the new Congress convened in Washington with 29 new Southern members, one seat sat empty — the representative from North Carolina’s 9th District, where state elections officials have refused to certify Republican Mark Harris’s narrow win over Democrat Dan McCready amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud.
In the vote for speaker, just three Southern Democratic members did not support Pelosi — Cunningham and Spanberger, who voted for Bustos, and Jim Cooper of Tennessee, who voted present.
Cooper, who has been in Congress since 1983, had been a long-time opponent of Pelosi’s speakership, having voted against her five times previously.
After the November election, a group of 16 Democratic members, including Cooper, Cunningham and Vela, signed a letter calling for “new leadership” in the Democratic caucus.
Vela changed course after Pelosi agreed to support term limits for the House Democratic leadership, which will limit her speakership to no more than four years.
Pelosi needed a majority of the 430 votes cast for speaker. In the end, she got 220 votes, four more than necessary.
Of the seven Southern Democrats who ousted Republicans and voted for Pelosi, McBath, Horn and Luria represent districts carried by President Donald Trump in 2016, while Allred and Fletcher represent districts he lost by less than 2 points.
Hillary Clinton carried Murcasel-Powell’s district in South Florida by 16 points and Wexton’s district in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. by 10 points.
Three other Southern Democratic newcomers who won open seats in November also supported Pelosi — Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Donna Shalala of Florida. All three represent districts Clinton carried handily.
Among Southern Republicans, only three did not support their candidate for speaker, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Jody Hice of Georgia supported Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the founders of the House Freedom Caucus, a grouping of the most conservative Republican members.
Walter Jones of North Carolina did not vote. He has been absent from Congress since September because of an undisclosed illness.
Of the 29 new Southern members of the House, 17 are Republicans and 12 are Democrats. Republicans hold 101 Southern seats, compared to 50 for Democrats, with North Carolina’s 9th District vacant.
The 9th District seat is likely to remain vacant until after the state elections board completes its investigation into the allegations of absentee ballot irregularities, which has been delayed until February because of a new law revamping the board.
Harris has filed a lawsuit seeking for force certification of the election.
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Southern congressmen join effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
Effort to oust official overseeing investigation of 2016 Russian election meddling fizzles after opposition from House leaders
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Four Southern U.S. House members are part of a group of 11 Republicans who introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — only to back down after the plan ran into opposition from House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders.
Now, instead, the group will seek to hold Rosenstein in contempt of Congress if the Justice Department does not fully comply with requests for documents about the Russia probe.
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina was one of the primary sponsors of the impeachment resolution filed July 25, along with Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Three other Southern members — Jody Hice of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee — signed on as co-sponsors.
However, the impeachment resolution was tabled the next day, after Meadows and Jordan met with House GOP leaders, including Ryan, who had said he did not support Rosenstein’s impeachment and would not bring it forward for a vote.
The congressmen who pushed the impeachment are all members of the Freedom Caucus, a group of about three dozen of the most conservative House Republicans that emerged in 2015 out of the Tea Party movement.
Members of the caucus have been among President Donald Trump’s strongest defenders in Congress — and among the harshest critics of Mueller’s investigation of possible coordination between Russian agents and Trump’s campaign, which the president has dismissed as a “witch hunt.”
The impeachment articles fault Rosenstein for not producing documents subpoenaed by a House committee and for approving a warrant request for surveillance of Carter Page, who was a national security adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign.
In a joint statement with Jordan and the other co-sponsors, Meadows said Rosenstein — who has been overseeing the Mueller probe since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after acknowledging contacts with the Russian ambassador — “has made every effort to obstruct legitimate attempts of Congressional oversight.”
“The stonewalling over this last year has been just as bad or worse than under the Obama administration,” he said. “It’s time to find a new Deputy Attorney General who is serious about accountability and transparency.”
Meadows represents North Carolina’s 11th District, which takes in the state’s far western panhandle.
Hice, who represents the 10th District in east-central Georgia, decried “a culture of stonewalling and misdirection” that he said has “permeated the highest levels” of the Justice Department and the FBI.
Gaetz, who represents the 1st District that in the western Florida Panhandle, said the request to put Page under surveillance was “likely improper” and that Rosenstein’s actions have “weakened Americans’ faith in the intelligence community and in seeing justice served.”
DesJarlais accused Rosenstein of refusing to produce documents “because they implicate top Department of Justice and FBI officials, including himself.”
“His own role in fraudulent warrants and wiretapping the President’s campaign is a major conflict of interest that renders him unfit to oversee the Special Counsel or DOJ,” said DesJarlias, who represents the 4th District in south-central Tennessee.
Rosenstein and the Justice Department have not commented on the impeachment articles.
While Ryan and other GOP leaders were cool to the idea of impeaching Rosenstein, the effort did get support from the highest-ranking Southerner in the House GOP caucus — Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who told Fox News that “putting impeachment on the table is one more tool” to get the Justice Department to provide documents.
Scalise, who represents the 1st District in suburban New Orleans, is reportedly considering a bid to succeed Ryan as speaker after he retires in January — a contest in which members of the Freedom Caucus will play a key role.
But another Southern Republican — U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida — had harsh words for the impeachment effort, taking to Twitter to denounce it as a “reckless publicity stunt.”
“No different from Dems who filed articles of impeachment against the President some months ago. What a sad, pathetic game of ‘how low can you go?'” Curbelo said.
Curbelo, who represents a South Florida district Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, is considered one of the most endangered House Republicans in the 2018 cycle.