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Texas U.S. House Primaries: Challenged incumbents survive, as does Donald Trump’s former doctor

But the latest Bush to try politics, Pierce Bush, falls short in suburban Houston

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — Two veteran members of the Texas U.S. House delegation, Republican Kay Granger and Democrat Henry Cuellar, have turned back challenges from within their own party, as a wide-open primary night in the Lone Star State shaped the field for May runoffs and the November contests that will follow.

President Donald Trump’s controversial former White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, has advanced to a runoff in his House primary in the Panhandle, while Pete Sessions, a veteran Republican congressman who lost his metro Dallas seat in 2018, found more luck in Waco, where he too made a runoff.

However, the latest Bush family member to try to launch a political career, Pierce Bush, came up short in suburban Houston.

The primary competition in Texas House races was particularly intense Tuesday, as large fields of candidates entered open races triggered by the departures of five sitting Republicans, along with contests for seats that both parties are targeting in the fall.

Runoffs will be held in at least 13 of the state’s 36 congressional districts, including some of the seats expected to be most competitive between the two parties in November, which means the full state of the fall race won’t be known until after the runoffs on May 26.

However, Republicans did settle on opponents for the two Democrats who flipped seats in 2018. In the 7th District in Houston, Iraq War veteran Wesley Hunt will face Democratic incumbent Lizzie Fletcher, while in the 32d District, in Dallas, business executive Genevieve Collins was selected to challenge Democrat Collin Allred.

One candidate who also won without a runoff was former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention in a bid for governor in 2014. She moved from Fort Worth to Austin to run the 21st District and easily won the Democratic nomination to face freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Roy.

Kay Granger and Henry Cuellar survive primaries

In the 12th District, which includes Fort Worth, Kay Granger — the House’s senor woman Republican and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee — easily beat back a challenge from Chris Putnam, a former Colleyville city councilman who called Granger “a creature of the swamp” and criticized her for calling on Trump to get out of the 2016 race after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced.

Granger, however, countered Putnam’s criticism with the most powerful tool in modern Republican politics — an endorsement from Trump himself.

In the 28th District in South Texas, Democrat Henry Cuellar had a closer call, getting a 4-point win over Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney from Laredo who had gotten endorsements from a who’s who of the party’s left flank, including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York.

The win is a blow for the Justice Democrats, a group affiliated with Ocasio-Cortez that targeted Cuellar and six other incumbent House Democrats they viewed as too conservative.

In the 13th District in the Panhandle, Jackson — who drew national notoriety after Trump nominated him to run the Veterans Administration and then withdrew the nomination in the face of Senate opposition and questions about his conduct — finished in second place and will face Josh Winegarner, a former congressional aide, in the runoff.

In the 22nd District in suburban Houston, Pierce Bush missed the runoff, placing third. He is the son of Neil Bush, the grandson of President George H.W. Bush, and the nephew of President George W. Bush.

Sessions, who lost his metro Dallas seat in 2018, is trying to make a comeback in the Waco-centered 17th District, where he grew up but hasn’t lived in decades. He came in first place and in the runoff and will face Renee Swann, a medical office manager who got the endorsement of U.S. Rep Bill Flores, the man who now holds the seat and served with Sessions in the Texas delegation.

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Super Tuesday: Democratic White House chase and down ballot races to be decided in 7 Southern states

Biden, Bloomberg and Sanders scramble for Southern support; Jeff Sessions mounts a comeback in Alabama; another Bush tries to launch

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoitics.com

(CFP) — Southern voters from the shores of Virginia to the deserts of West Texas will go to the polls to vote in primary elections Tuesday, with the Democratic presidential race as the day’s marquee event.

In what’s come to be known as Super Tuesday, 621 delegates are up for grabs in presidential primaries in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma, with polling showing a three-way tussle in those states between former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is making his campaign debut.

In North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas, voters will also decide down ballot races in addition to the White House contest.

North Carolinians will pick nominees for governor, and there are contested U.S. Senate primaries among Democrats in Texas and North Carolina and among Republicans in Alabama, where Jeff Sessions is trying to reclaim the seat he gave up to serve as President Donald Trump’s attorney general.

A wave of Republican U.S. House retirements in Texas has also triggered a string of wide-open primaries there, including one in which Pierce Bush, grandson of President George H.W. Bush, is trying to launch a political career with an establishment pedigree in the age of Trump.

Two veteran members of the Lone Star delegation, Republican Kay Granger and Democrat Henry Cuellar, are also trying to fend off primary challenges — she from the Trump right, and he from the “progressive” left — while former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, who lost his metro Dallas seat in the Democratic sweep of 2018, is trying to mount a comeback from a different district in Waco.

Presidential Race

Heading into Super Tuesday, the state of Democratic presidential contests in Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma are a big unknown, given a paucity of public polling in any of those states. The polling that has been done in Texas, North Carolina and Virginia shows Biden, Sanders and Bloomberg bunched at the top, with the other candidates trailing behind.

However, those polls don’t take into account the possible effect from Biden’s big win in South Carolina on Saturday, which was the first Southern stop on the primary calendar, and the subsequent departures from the race of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, both of whom endorsed Biden.

In the Super Tuesday states, Biden must also cope with Bloomberg’s lavish campaign spending and Sanders’s formidable ground operation.

One of the biggest factors in who can carry these Southern states will be performance among African American voters, who make up a majority of the Democratic electorate in Alabama and more than a quarter in Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.

While Biden ran away with the black vote in South Carolina, he will face new competition Tuesday from Bloomberg, who has been organizing across the region and getting endorsements from African American elected officials.

Down Ballot Races

North Carolina Republicans are also deciding who to pick to try to unseat Democratic Governor Roy Cooper in November, with Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest facing State Rep. Holly Grange.

To win without a runoff in North Carolina, a candidate needs to win 30 percent of the vote, as opposed to the majority requirement in most Southern states.

In Texas and North Carolina, Democrats will be selecting nominees to face incumbent Republican U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Thom Tillis; in Alabama, Republicans will pick a challenger for Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones.

The Alabama GOP primary pits Sessions against U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, a Mobile Republican, and Tommy Tuberville, the former head football coach at Auburn University making his political debut. Polls point to a likely runoff.

In North Carolina, the Democratic establishment’s pick, Cal Cunningham, a Raleigh attorney and former state senator, is facing State Senator Erika Smith from Gaston and Mecklenberg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller. Cunningham will need to win 30 percent to avoid a runoff.

In Texas, a field of 12 Democrats includes MJ Hegar, a retired Air Force combat pilot; State Senator Royce West from Dallas; Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, a labor organizer from Austin; former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell from Houston; and Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards. Given the fractured field, a runoff is likely.

Texas U.S. House

The primary competition for U.S. House races in Texas will be particularly intense on Tuesday, thanks to the departures of five sitting Republicans in the Texas delegation and a number of other seats that both parties are targeting in the fall.

At least 13 seats that are open or potentially competitive are likely headed to runoffs in one and possibly both parties, which means the state of play for the fall won’t be apparent until after runoffs on May 26.

Among the notable candidates trying to get to Congress are former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention in a bid for governor in 2014, who is running in the 21st District near Austin for the chance to oppose Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Roy; Ronny Jackson, Trump’s former physician and unsuccessful nominee for veterans secretary, running for the GOP nomination in the 13th District in the Panhandle with Trump’s support; and Pierce Bush in the 22nd District in suburban Houston.

Bush is the son of Neil Bush, the grandson of President George H.W. Bush, and the nephew of President George W. Bush. If elected, he would be the second of his generation of the Bush family to hold elective office in Texas, joining State Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

In the 12th District, which includes Fort Worth, Granger, — the House’s senor woman Republican and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee — is trying to hold off a challenge from Chris Putnam, a former Colleyville city councilman who calls Granger “a creature of the swamp” and criticizes her for calling on Trump to get out of the 2016 race after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced.

He has also hit Granger for changing her position on legal abortion, which she now opposes but supported earlier in her career.

Granger, however, has countered Putnam’s criticism with the most powerful tool in modern Republican politics — an endorsement from Trump himself.

In South Texas, Cuellar, one of more conservative Democrats in the House, is being challenged by Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney from Laredo who has gotten endorsements from a who’s who of the party’s left flank, including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York.

Culler is also one of seven Democratic House incumbents who are being targeted for defeat by Justice Democrats, a group affiliated with Ocasio-Cortez.

Cisneros has hit Cuellar for being too willing to support Trump, opposing federal funding for abortion, and being too cozy with the National Rifle Association. But Cuellar has countered by stressing his constituent service over more than a decade in Congress and arguing that voters in his majority Latino 28th District, which stretches from San Antonio to Laredo and down through the Rio Grade Valley, don’t share Cisneros’s more liberal policy positions.

Sessions, who lost his metro Dallas seat in 2018, is trying to make a comeback in the Waco-centered 17th District, where he grew up but hasn’t lived in decades. The man who now holds the seat, U.S. Rep Bill Flores, has pointedly endorsed one of Sessions’s 10 Republican rivals, Renee Swann, saying “our next congressperson needs to be one of us.”

However, of all of the candidates in the race, Sessions has the highest political profile, which could be enough for him to get into what is likely to be a runoff for the nomination.

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Greg Murphy wins GOP nomination in North Carolina’s 3rd U.S. House District

Murphy defeats Joan Perry, who receive significant support from groups pushing to elect more Republican women

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

GREENVILLE, North Carolina (CFP) — In a setback for the cause of adding to the thin ranks of Republican women in the U.S. House, Republicans in North Carolina’s 3rd District have chosen State Rep. Greg Murphy as their nominee in a special election for one of two vacant seats in the state’s delegation.

State Rep. Greg Murphy

Murphy, a urologist from Greenville, won the July 9 runoff with 60 percent to defeat Joan Perry, a pediatrician from Kinston, who took 40 percent.

Perry, a political newcomer, had received significant financial support from outside groups pushing to elect more Republican women to the House. Her loss will leave the number of GOP women at 13, the party’s lowest ebb in female membership in the last 25 years.

Murphy will be a heavy favorite in the September 10 special election against the Democratic nominee, former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas, in the Republican-leaning district, which takes in 17 mostly rural counties along the state’s Atlantic coast.

President Donald Trump carried the district by 24 points in 2016.

The seat has been vacant since U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, who held it for 24 years, died in February.

In the first round of voting in April, which drew 17 Republican candidates, Murphy took 23 percent to 15 percent for Perry. A runoff was required because neither candidate met the 30 percent threshold to win outright.

During the runoff, the contest between Perry and Murphy became a proxy war pitting advocates for electing more Republican women to the House, who supported her, against ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus members, who campaigned for him.

Winning for Woman, a PAC that supports election of female Republican candidates, spent $900,000 in the race on Perry’s behalf. The Susan B. Anthony List, which supports pro-life women, added another $350,000.

Currently,  the number of Republican women serving in the House, 13, is dwarfed by the number of Democrats, 89.

Perry was trying to join the tiny club of four Southern Republican women who serve in the House — Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Martha Roby of Alabama, Kay Granger of Texas, and Carol Miller of West Virginia, the lone GOP female newcomer elected in 2018.

In addition to the race in the 3rd District, voters in the state’s 9th District will also vote September 10 to fill a seat that has been vacant since the State Board of Elections ordered a redo of last November’s election amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud.

In that district, which runs from the Charlotte suburbs east along the South Carolina line toward Fayetteville, Republican State Senator Dan Bishop will face Democrat Dan McCready, who narrowly lost in the district in November.

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8 Southerners named to panel to hash out deal on border security

Conference committee will have until February 15 to reach agreement to avoid another shutdown

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Congressional leaders have named eight Southerners to a 17-member conference committee that will try to come up with a border security compromise to avoid another government shutdown on February 15.

Six Republicans and two Democrats from the South were named to the joint House-Senate panel, which was set up to hash out an agreement after legislation to reopen the government passed on January 26.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby

The list of Senate conferees includes Richard Shelby of Alabama and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, both Republicans. None of the four Southern Democrats who serve in the Senate were selected.

On the House side, all four of the GOP conferees are from the South — Kay Granger of Texas, Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, Tom Graves of Georgia, and Steve Palazzo of Mississippi.

Two Southern Democrats are among the six Democrats picked for the panel by House Speaker Nancy PelosiDavid Price of North Carolina and Henry Cuellar of Texas.

The conference committee has seven members from the Senate (four Republicans and three Democrats) and 10 members from the House (six Democrats and four Republicans.)

All of the Southern members on the conference committee serve on either the House or Senate appropriations committee, which controls federal spending.

Shelby is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Granger is the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, which is controlled by Democrats.

President Donald Trump and congressional leaders agreed to reopen the government until February 15 in order to come up with a compromise on funding for border security.

Trump has asked for $5.7 billion to build a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, an idea which Democratic leaders oppose.

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Change in party control of U.S. House diminishes Southern clout

Just five House committees in new Congress will have Southerners at the helm

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — When it comes to Southern clout in the U.S. House, what a difference an election makes.

In the recently departed Congress, with Republicans in control, 13 of the 22 committee chairs hailed from the 14 Southern states; in the newly installed Congress, with Democrats in charge, that number will fall to just five.

Five Southern Republican chairs retired, and one, Pete Sessions of Texas, went down to defeat in November. Those who stayed find themselves in the minority for the first time in eight years.

The switch in control has shifted power from the GOP, in which Southerners made up nearly half of the caucus, to the Democrats, where Southerners only make up a fifth. And that has led to reduced numbers of Southerners among committee chairs.

All five of the committees that will be chaired by Southern Democrats in the new Congress were chaired by Southern Republicans in the last Congress, so there will be no loss of influence on those panels.

Also, the outgoing majority whip, Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana, will be replaced by the incoming majority whip, Democrat Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Both men remain the only Southern members in their party’s top leadership.

But eight other committees that had GOP chairmen will now be headed by lawmakers from outside the region. And that list contains a number of the most powerful and high-profile chairmanships in Washington, including Judiciary, Rules, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform.

The five Southern Democratic committee chairmen are John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Budget; Ted Deutch of Florida, Ethics; Bobby Scott of Virginia, Education and Labor; Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Homeland Security; and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, Science, Space and Technology.

Unlike Republicans, who select committee chairs by voting within the caucus, Democrats use seniority. All five of the Southern Democrats ascending to chairmanships had been the ranking Democratic member when Democrats were in the minority.

Scott, Thompson and Johnson, all members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are among eight new chairs who are African American or Latino. In the departing Republican Congress, all of the chairs were white, and 20 were men.

Southerners will make up a slight majority within the Republican caucus in the new Congress, which is reflected in the GOP’s new committee leadership. On 14 of the 22 House committees, the ranking Republican in the new Congress will be from the South.

Among the notable newcomers to that group are Kay Granger of Texas, who will be ranking member on Appropriations, and Doug Collins of Georgia, on Judiciary–the committee that would handle any impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Michael McCaul of Texas, who had been chairman of Homeland Security, has shifted to become the new ranking member of Foreign Affairs.

Six Southern Republicans who had been chairs of their committees will continue as ranking members in the new Congress–Mike Conaway of Texas, Agriculture; Mac Thornberry of Texas, Armed Services; Steve Womack of Arkansas, Budget; Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Education and Labor; Phil Roe of Tennessee, Veterans’ Affairs; and Kevin Brady of Texas, Ways and Means.

In addition to Granger and Collins, five other Southern Republicans were also newly named as ranking members–Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, Financial Services; Kenny Marchant of Texas, Ethics; Mike Rogers of Alabama, Homeland Security; Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Rules; and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Science, Space and Technology.

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