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Ossoff became a national political sensation in unsuccessful 2017 U.S. House race
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
ATLANTA (CFP) — Democrat Jon Ossoff, who raised and spent more than $30 million in an unsuccessful congressional bid in the wake of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election, will return to the political stage to challenge Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue in 2020.
Ossoff announced his run with a video on Twitter and local and national video appearances in which he cast himself as someone who will take on a “crisis of political corruption” in Washington.
“[Perdue] is a guy who has not once in five years come down from his private island to hold a single public town hall,” Ossoff said in an interview on MSNBC. “He is a caricature of Washington corruption.”
Among the “corruption” Ossoff cited was the influence of money on politics, concentration of wealth and the refusal of Congress to pass gun control measures opposed by the National Rifle Association.
“We need now to mount an all-out attack on political corruption in America, or I’m not sure our democracy will survive, ” he said.
Ossoff’s decision gives Democrats a high-profile challenger with proven fundraising chops to run against Perdue as they try to overturn the GOP’s three-seat majority in the Senate.
He also got a quick endorsement from Georgia Democratic icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who in a statement said Ossoff’s 2017 campaign “sparked a flame that is burning brighter than ever, in Georgia and across the country.”
However, the National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly dismissed Ossoff as a “unaccomplished, far-left candidate” who “will stand in sharp contrast to David Perdue’s positive record of delivering results for all of Georgia.”
Ossoff, 32, is a former congressional aide and documentary filmmaker. In 2017, shortly after Trump’s election, he ran for the 6th District U.S. House seat in Atlanta’s northwestern suburbs, which turned into a high-octane relitigation of the presidential vote.
Although the 6th was long considered a safe Republican seat, Ossoff channeled national Democratic anger over 2016 into a fundraising behemoth, eventually raising and spending nearly $32 million to make the race competitive.
With the retirement of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson at the end of this year, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats will be on the ballot in 2020.
Ossoff decided to pursue the Democratic nomination to oppose Perdue rather than running in an open contest for Isakson’s seat against candidates from both parties, likely including Isakson’s yet-to-be-announced temporary Republican replacement, who will be appointed by Governor Brian Kemp.
By choosing to run for Perdue’s seat, Ossoff will have to win a primary in which three other Democrats are already running. However, going after Isakson’s seat would have required him to defend it again in 2022 if he won it in 2020.
The last Democrat to win a Senate race in Georgia was the late Zell Miller in 2000.
Other Democrats in the race against Perdue include Sarah Riggs Amico, the party’s unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018; Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.
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Decision means both of the Peach State’s Senate seats will be up in 2020
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Two days after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor from his kidney, Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia has announced he will resign at the end of the year because due to poor health.
The decision means that both of the Peach State’s Senate seats will be open in 2020, giving Republicans another seat to defend in as they try to maintain their three-seat majority in Congress’s upper chamber.
Isakson, who has been battling Parkinson’s disease, underwent surgery on August 26 for removal of a renal carcinoma. In a statement announcing his resignation, he said, “I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff.”
“With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve,” he said. “It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state.”
Republican Governor Brian Kemp will appoint a replacement for Isakson to serve until a special election is held in November 2020 to fill the two years remaining on his Senate term.
The seat of the state’s other Republican senator, David Perdue, is also up for election in 2020, putting both seats on the ballot.
However, under state law, there will be no party primaries for Isakson’s seat. Candidates from all parties will run in the same race, with the top two finishers meeting in a runoff if no one gets a majority.
That last time that happened in Georgia, in 2017 in the 6th U.S. House district, it triggered a contentious nationalized race between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff during which the candidates blew through $50 million. Handel won that race, although she lost the seat to Democrat Lucy McBath in 2018.
One possible Democratic contender for Isakson’s seat, Stacey Abrams, the party’s unsuccessful candidate against Kemp in 2018, quickly announced that she would not be a candidate. She had earlier passed on challenging Perdue.
Isakson, 74, was first elected to the Senate in 2004 after losing campaigns for governor in 1990 and Senate in 1996. He was re-elected easily in 2010 and 2016, becoming the first Republican in state history to win three Senate elections.
His decision to retire brings to a close a storied career in Georgia GOP politics, dating back to the early 1970s when he was among a small number of Republicans serving in the Democrat-dominated legislature, representing suburban Cobb County near Atlanta.
In 1990, Isakson gave up his legislative seat to run for governor against conservative Democrat Zell Miller, falling short but coming closer than any Republican had in decades — a portent of the rising fortunes for a GOP that now dominates state politics.
In 1999, Isakson was elected to the U.S. House to succeed former Speaker Newt Gingrich and went to the Senate five years later when Miller retired.
In 2013, Isakson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but sought re-election in 2016 as he battled the illness. However, this summer he was seriously injured in a fall at his Washington home. After returning to Georgia for the congressional recess, he underwent surgery to remove what his office described as “a 2-centimeter renal cell carcinoma” from his kidney.
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Southern U.S. House Democrats in Trump districts post strong fundraising numbers for 2020 re-election bids
Democratic challengers in targeted GOP seats show more fundraising success so far than Republican challengers in targeted Democrat seats
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Five Southern U.S. House Democratic freshmen who represent districts carried by President Donald Trump in 2016 have posted strong fundraising numbers during the first half of 2019, stocking up their war chests ahead of expected stiff re-election challenges from Republicans in 2020, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Topping the list was Joe Cunningham of South Carolina at $1.28 million, followed by Lucy McBath of Georgia at $1.15 million and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia at $1.12 million. Kendra Horn of Oklahoma raised $961,500, while in Virginia, Elaine Luria raised $865,400.
All five hold significant leads in fundraising over their Republican rivals, although McBath’s GOP challengers have, together, raised more money than she has. So far, Spanberger and Luria are getting a free ride against GOP challengers who have raised very little money, with 17 months to go before election day.
The new numbers also show that across the South, Democratic challengers in targeted GOP seats have had somewhat more fundraising success to date than Republican challengers in targeted Democrat seats, with no significant fundraising to this point from Republican challengers in five of the 10 seats Democrats flipped in 2018.
However, the lone Southern Republican who represents a district Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 — Will Hurd in West Texas’s 23rd District — raised $1.23 million, more than twice as much as Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones, whom he beat in 2018.
The race that has drawn the most money so far is the contest in Georgia’s 7th District, a GOP-held seat in Atlanta’s northeastern suburbs where Rob Woodall is retiring. Seven Republicans and five Democrats have together raised nearly $2.9 million, with Republican State Senator Renee Unterman and Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who nearly unseated Woodall in 2018, leading the pack.
In 2018, five Democrats won Clinton districts that had been held by Republicans — Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala in Florida; Colin Allred and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in Texas; and Jennifer Wexton in Virginia. Powell, Allred and Fletcher have all raised more than $1 million for 2020; Wexton, $932,400; and Shalala, $691,500.
Shalala, Allred and Wexton have yet to draw challengers who have raised significant amounts of money. Mucarsel-Powell and Fletcher have, although both hold a significant fundraising advantage over their nearest Republican rival at this point in the campaign cycle.
The Democrats’ House campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is targeting 11 Southern seats currently held by Republicans, and Democratic challengers have raised at least $300,000 in six of those districts, including four seats in Texas, where Democrats hope to build on gains made in 2018.
The Republicans’ House campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, is targeting 12 Southern seats currently held by Democrats, and Republican challengers have raised at least $300,000 in just three of those districts, held by Horn, McBath and Fletcher.
GOP challengers have topped the $200,000 mark in the race against Cunningham and in two other Democrat-held seats in Florida, now held by Mucarsel-Powell in South Florida and Charlie Crist in Pinellas County.
The most glaring absence for Republicans is in Virginia, where all three Democrats who flipped seats in 2018 — Spanberger, Luria and Wexton — are, to this point, getting a free ride.
Based on the latest fundraising numbers, here are the 2020 races to keep an eye on:
Texas: Democratic challengers have raised substantial money in four districts where Republican incumbents won narrow victories in 2018: Hurd in West Texas; Pete Olson in suburban Houston; Kenny Marchant in Dallas-Ft. Worth; and Michael McCaul, whose district runs from the suburbs of Austin to the suburbs of Houston. All four incumbents still hold a fundraising advantage, although Olson has only raised $230,000 more than Democrat Sri Kulkarni, whom he beat by just 5 points in 2018, and two Democrats running against McCaul have together raised nearly $670,000, compared to his $875,500. Given that Democrats are staying competitive financially, all four of these races will likely be close in 2020.
Georgia 6/Atlanta’s Northwest Suburbs: McBath shocked the political world in 2018 when she defeated Republican Karen Handel, a former statewide officeholder with a long political pedigree. Handel is trying a comeback in 2020, and the Republican race has already turned into a food fight between her and former State Senator Brandon Beech. But the surprise so far in fundraising has come from Republican Marjorie Greene, a Milton businesswoman making her first run for political office who has already raised $523,400, eclipsing both Handel and Beech. And while Republicans will need to spend money slugging it out in a primary, McBath has what appears to be an unobstructed path to the Democratic nomination.
Georgia 7/Atlanta’s Northeast Suburbs: After winning by a scant 420 votes in 2018, Woodall decided to retire. Bourdeaux, the woman who nearly toppled him, is running again and currently holds a large fundraising lead over her Democratic rivals at $654,200. On the Republican side, Unterman — best known in the legislature as the author of a controversial law outlawing abortions once a child’s heartbeat has been detected — has raised $677,500, followed by Lynne Hormich, a former Home Depot executive making her political debut, at $500,300. This race, which could feature two Republican women in a runoff, will closely watched by GOP leaders looking to add to the thin ranks of Republican women in Congress.
Oklahoma 5/Metro Oklahoma City: Horn may arguably be the nation’s most vulnerable Democrat, in ruby red Oklahoma. And while she has posted strong fundraising numbers so far, two Republican rivals have together raised more than $710,000 to her $961,500. One key to her ultimate survival is how much money her GOP rivals will spend in a primary; right now, businesswoman Terry Neese has outraised the other Republican in the race, State Senator Stephanie Bice, by a 3-to-1 margin. The less competitive the Republican primary is, the more Horn will need to worry — but she’ll need to worry quite a bit in any case.
South Carolina 1/Charleston and the Lowcountry: Cunningham, too, faces an uphill battle for re-election in a traditionally Republican district. But his fundraising has been strong — only two Southern incumbents in either party have raised more money — and he has been trying to carve out a moderate voting record. Three Republicans running against him have, together, raised just a little more than $540,000, less than half of his total. Cunningham is to this point running a textbook campaign for someone trying to survive tough political terrain.
Two Seats To Watch: In Florida’s 13th District, Republican Amanda Makki, a former congressional aide, raised $220,000 is less than a month in her quest to unseat Crist, a former Florida governor who at various times in his career has been a Republican, an independent and now a Democrat. In North Carolina’s 2nd District, in and around Raleigh, Democrat Scott Cooper, a Marine Corps veteran, has raised more than $300,000 in his challenge against Republican incumbent George Holding for a seat that could be the top pick-up prospect for Democrats in the Tar Heel State next year.
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South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham, Texas’s Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher lead pack in 2020 contributions
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — The 10 Southern U.S. House Democrats who flipped Republican-held seats in 2018 all posted strong fundraising numbers for their re-election campaigns during the first quarter of 2019, as they try to build the war chests they will need to stave off GOP challengers next year.
Leading the pack was Joe Cunningham, representing the Low Country of South Carolina, who raised $663,500 during the first three months of the year, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
He raised more money than any other Southern House incumbent in either party, except for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, who raised $2.5 million.
Cunningham was followed by two Texans — Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in Houston, who raised $582,900, and Colin Allred in Dallas, who raised $530,400. In the Atlanta suburbs, Lucy McBath, who already has two Republicans actively campaigning against her for 2020, raised $482,000.
Among the three Democrats who won seats in Virginia in 2018, Jennifer Wexton, in the Washington D.C. suburbs, raised $424,200; Abigail Spanberger, in suburban Richmond, raised $415,300; and Elaine Luria, in Hampton Roads, took in $327,000.
Kendra Horn, who won a surprise victory last November in metro Oklahoma City, raised $377,600 during the quarter.
While all of these Democrats will have stout competition in 2020, no potential Republican challengers raised any significant money during the first quarter, except the two candidates running against McBath in Georgia. So as of now, all of these Democrats are out ahead financially of their challengers.
McBath raised more money than both of her Republican rivals combined. Karen Handel, who is gunning for a rematch with McBath after losing to her in 2018, raised $259,800, and State Senator Brandon Beach raised $123,800.
Historically, freshmen House members tend to be most vulnerable during their first re-election race, particularly in a wave year such as 2018, when large numbers of seats changed hands between parties.
Six of the 10 Southern Democrats who flipped seats won by 2 points or less in 2018, and, in 2020, President Donald Trump — who won or nearly won seven of these districts — will also be on the ballot.
Cunningham and Horn face perhaps the biggest hurdle. Both won their 2018 races by less than 2 points; Trump carried their districts by 13 points.
Trump won Spanberger’s district by 7 points in 2016, and she won it by 2 points in 2018. Trump narrowly won the districts represented by McBath and Luria; they each won by less than 2 points in 2018.
In Texas, Fletcher and Allred represent districts Trump narrowly lost, but their margins of victory in 2018 were slightly larger, 5 and 7 points respectively.
Wexton, Mucarsel-Powell, and Shalala would seem to have little to fear from a Trump effect in their districts, all of which Hillary Clinton carried handily. However, Mucarsel-Powell only won her 2018 race by 2 points, and her district, the 26th, has a history of swinging back and forth between the parties.
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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.
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.