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Democrats will pick a U.S. Senate nominee in Georgia and a gubernatorial candidate in West Virginia
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Voters in three Southern states — Georgia, West Virginia and South Carolina — will vote Tuesday in primaries that were rescheduled from earlier in the year due to the coronavirus crisis.
In Georgia, Democrats will be picking a nominee to oppose Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue in November, while Republicans will begin sorting out their nominees for two open U.S. House seats in safely Republican districts that have both drawn a gaggle of candidates.
In West Virginia, Democrats will pick an opponent to face Republican Governor Jim Justice — who won four years ago as a Democrat before switching parties and embracing President Donald Trump — and will also decide on a nominee to face U.S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito.
In South Carolina, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham faces three little-known challengers in his primary, while his expected Democratic opponent in the fall, Jaime Harrison, is running unopposed.
Republicans in the Lowcountry will also pick a candidate to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, who is one of the GOP’s top 2020 targets.
Due to the coronavirus crisis, mail and early voting has been expanded for the primaries, with a smaller portion expected to vote in person on primary day with reduced numbers of polling stations.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Georgia and South Carolina and from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in West Virginia.
In Georgia, the marquee race is the Democratic contest for U.S. Senate. The polling leader in the race has been Jon Ossoff, who benefits from the statewide name recognition he built in 2017 by spending $30 million in a special election for the 6th District House seat, a race he narrowly lost.
Ossoff’s primary challengers include Teresa Tomlinson, the former mayor of Columbus, and Sarah Riggs Amico, a Marietta businesswoman who was the party’s unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018.
Polls have given Ossoff a large lead but short of the majority he would need to win the nomination outright and earn a spot against Perdue in November. If he does not clear that threshold, he’ll face an August runoff against Tomlinson or Amico.
Georgia’s other Senate seat, held by Republican Kelly Loeffler, is also up for election in 2020; however, because that contest is to fill the remainder of a term, a special election won’t be held until November, in which Loeffler will run against candidates from all parties, including Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who has launched an intra-party fight to push Loeffler out of the seat.
Peach State Republicans will also start the process for picking nominees for two of their safest U.S. House seats — the 9th District in the north Georgia mountains, which Collins is giving up to run for the Senate, and the 14th District in northwest Georgia, where Tom Graves is retiring. Nine Republicans have entered the primary for both of those seats, making runoffs a near certainty.
In the 7th District in Atlanta’s northeast suburbs, seven Republicans and six Democrats are running in their respective primaries for the seat Republican Rob Woodall kept by a scant 413 votes in 2018. He decided to retire rather than to contest the seat again.
Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democrat whom Woodall barely beat two years ago, is back, but she faces a primary battle against five challengers including State Senator Zahra Karinshak, a lawyer and former Air Force officer; State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, the first Latina to serve in the Georgia legislature; and John Eaves, the former chairman of the Fulton County Commission and former Atlantan who decamped for the suburbs in a bid to get to Congress.
On the Republican side, State Senator Renee Unterman, a former mayor who has served 22 years in the legislature, is facing off against six competitors, including Lynne Homrich, a former Home Depot executive, and Rich McCormick, an emergency room doctor and former Marine Corps helicopter pilot.
The only House incumbent in either party facing a significant primary challenge in Georgia is Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott, who is being challenged in the 13th District in the southern and western Atlanta suburbs by Jannquelle Peters, the former mayor of East Point; former State Rep. Keisha Waites; and Michael Owens, the former chair of the Cobb County Democratic Party who challenged Scott unsuccessfully in 2014.
Scott, 74, is seeking his 10th term in the House and has held elected office continuously for 46 years. The majority black 13th District is strongly Democratic, which means whoever emerges from the primary will likely win the seat in November.
In West Virginia, Democrats are itching for a grudge match against Justice, who infuriated them by jumping to the GOP just seven months after taking office — and adding insult to injury by announcing the switch on stage with the president at a Trump rally.
Five Democrats are running for the nomination to oppose the governor, led by Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, who has the backing of a slew of labor and teachers unions. He was also endorsed by Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who had flirted with running against Justice himself before deciding to take a pass.
Also running are State Senator Ron Stollings from Madison; Jody Parker, a former journalist from Madison; and Stephen Smith, a community organizer and former executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, who is running what he describes as a grassroots, progressive campaign.
A fifth candidate who filed to run, Doug Hughes, later announced on Facebook that he was pulling out and endorsing Smith.
In the Senate race, former State Senator Richard Ojeda — an outspoken retired Army officer who lost a race for Congress in 2018 and then launched a quixotic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination that failed to gain traction — is the best-known of the three candidates vying to take on Capito, whose seat is not currently considered to be jeopardy.
West Virginia does not have primary runoffs, which means that the leading vote-getter in both the governor’s and Senate races will be the nominee.
In South Carolina, the marquee race is the U.S. House contest in the 1st District, where Republicans have their sights set on Cunningham, who flipped the seat in 2018.
The race for the GOP nomination includes State Rep. Nancy Mace from Daniel Island, a real estate agent and businesswoman who was the first female graduate of The Citadel; Kathy Landing, a businesswoman who serves on the town council in Mount Pleasant; Chris Cox, a chainsaw artist who was one of the founders of the Bikers for Trump group; and Brad Mole, a housing administrator from Bluffton.
Mace and Landing have led the race in fundraising and advertising, with Mace raking in more than $1.3 million for the race to $630,000 for Landing, according to the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. The question will be whether either woman will be able to clear the majority needed to avoid a runoff with Cox and Mole also in the race.
Mace has gotten the backing of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the conservative business groups Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth. But Landing has her own conservative backers, including the House Freedom Fund, a campaign group associated with House Freedom Caucus, as well as conservative stalwart and former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint.
In the U.S. Senate race, Republican primary voters will decide whether to reward Graham for his enthusiastic embrace of Trump.
Six years ago, he faced a slew of candidates who ran at him from the right and criticized him as inauthentically conservative. But this time around, Graham faces only token opposition from three little-known candidates, none of whom has raised enough money to compete with his $26 million war chest.
Harrison, who hopes to be the first Democrat to win a Senate race in South Carolina since 1998, faces no opposition on the Democratic side of the ballot. He has so far raised $19 million, according to the latest FEC filings.
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Former state Democratic Party chair hits Graham for his about-face on Donald Trump
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Former South Carolina Democratic chair Jaime Harrison has entered the state’s 2020 U.S. Senate race with a pledge to bring “the spirit of helping” back to politics — and withering criticism of incumbent Lindsey Graham for his about-face embrace of Donald Trump.
Harrison, 43, a Columbia lawyer who serves as associate chair of the Democratic National Committee, unveiled his bid May 28 on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” where he called Graham “a political windsock” who over the last two years has gone from Trump critic to Trump booster.
“I used to think that this was a guy who was a statesman, a guy who could stand above the fray and help solve the issues,” Harrison said. “He’s a chameleon who has changed his colors.”
Although South Carolina hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998, Harrison said he believes the party “is on the verge of a renaissance in the South,” pointing to recent gubernatorial races in Georgia and Florida, in which African American Democrats narrowly lost, and the party’s pickup of a U.S. House seat in the Palmetto State in 2018.
Harrison, a former aide to House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn, was the first African American elected to chair the state party in 2013. After four years in that role, he ran unsuccessfully for national DNC chair and was appointed as an associate chairman after Tom Perez won the position.
In an announcement video posted to his campaign website, Harrison contrasts Graham’s assessment of Trump during the 2016 campaign as a “kook,” “crazy” and a “race baiting, xenophobic religious bigot” with later comments that Graham is “all in” with Trump and the president “deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and then some.”
In the video, Harrison calls Graham “a guy who will say anything to stay in office.”
“Lindsey Graham can’t lead us in any direction because he has traded his moral compass for petty political gain,” Harrison said.
The Graham campaign didn’t immediately fire back. But the state GOP chair, Drew McKissick accused Democrats in a statement of “attacking Senator Graham for standing up for conservative values and refusing to give in to the liberal smear campaign against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”
He said Harrison and the other Democrat in the race, Gloria Tinubu, “hope to extract revenge by rallying liberals across America to their cause, but they are going to learn the hard way that South Carolinians appreciate the leadership that Lindsey Graham has brought to the issues they care about.”
Tinubu, an economics professor and former state legislator in Georgia, announced her candidacy in April.
Graham, 63, is seeking a fourth term in 2020. He has posted double-digit wins in all three of his previous campaigns.
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Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Carolina for 2020 campaign kickoff
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
GREENVILLE, South Carolina (CFP) — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has become one of President Donald Trump’s most vigorous and unlikely defenders in the Senate. And now, he’s reaping the rewards.
Graham officially launched his 2020 re-election bid on March 30 with Vice President Mike Pence by his side at stops in Myrtle Beach and Greenville. And Pence brought greetings from the commander-in-chief.
“South Carolina and America need Lindsey Graham in the United States Senate, and I’m not the only one who thinks that where I work,” Pence told a rally in Greenville. “We’re standing next to this man because of the way he stood next to us.”
Graham also put his relationship with Trump front-and-center in his re-election campaign.
“Purpose No. 1 is to help President Trump in his second term, to be an ally of this president who has kept his word, who is making America great again and will continue to do so,” Graham said. “I want to help him because I believe in what he’s doing.”
It was not always thus. During the 2016 campaign, when he was running against Trump for president, Graham called him a “kook” who was “unfit for office.” In the general election, he voted for third-party candidate Evan McMullin, rather than embracing his party’s nominee — and openly admitted his apostasy to the press.
Graham had long been a champion of comprehensive immigration reform, the polar opposite of Trump’s stance on immigration policy. And his closest friend in the Senate was the late John McCain, Trump’s most persistent Senate critic.
But over the last year, Graham and Trump have warmed to each other, frequently playing golf together, and his previous criticism has been replaced with praise. And he has sided with the president in some very visible fights, most notably his defense of Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who faced allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I’ve come to find common ground with him,” Graham said of Trump in Greenville. “I like him, and he likes him, and that seems to be working for both of us.”
“Every day with President Trump is like Christmas. You don’t know what’s under the tree, but you know there’s something under it,” Graham said. “Some days it’s a good shotgun you’ve been wanting, and other days it’s a sweater. But it all works.”
Graham, 63, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is seeking his fourth term in the Senate in 2020. In his last two campaigns in 2008 and 2014, he faced primary challenges from opponents on the right who criticized him for being insufficiently conservative, particularly on the immigration issue.
Graham won both of those primaries, but in 2014 was held to 56 percent of the vote, not the strongest of showings for an incumbent senator.
If Graham needed a lesson in the perils of getting sideways with the president’s followers, it came last summer when then-U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, a Trump critic who represented the Lowcountry in Congress, was bounced in a Republican primary in which the president endorsed his opponent.
Having Trump on side in 2020 will make it much more difficult for successful challenge to Graham from within the party.
Graham has already drawn three Republican challengers, but none of them are well known and are unlikely to be a threat.
In his three previous Senate elections, Graham won the general election easily in a state where Republicans are dominant. But he could face a Democratic challenge in 2020 from Jamie Harrison, a Columbia attorney and former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, who has formed an exploratory committee for the 2020 race.
Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in the Palmetto State since 1998.
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Democrats in 5th U.S. House District will decide fate of Archie Parnell after spouse abuse revelations
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
CHARLESTON (CFP) — Governor Henry McMaster and two of his GOP opponents will jockey for runoff spots in South Carolina’s Republican primary Tuesday, while U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford will try to hang on to his seat against a Republican primary challenger who has made his critical comments about President Donald Trump an issue in the race.
Republicans in the 4th U.S. House District will also cull down a staggering field of 12 candidates vying for the party’s nomination for an open seat, while in the 5th District, Democrat Archie Parnell will find out if his own party will abandon him over revelations about spousal abuse from four decades ago.
Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In the governor’s race, recent polling shows McMaster — who inherited the office last year when Nikki Haley became UN ambassador — appears likely to snag one of the top two runoff spots but fall short of the outright majority he needs to avoid a runoff.
The chase for the second spot is between Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney who served in two state executive positions under Haley, and John Warren, a Greenville businessman and Iraq war veteran making his first run for political office.
McMaster and Templeton have both been competing for the imprimatur of the popular Haley, who appointed Templeton to head both the state health and labor departments and served for two years with McMaster as lieutenant governor before leaving for New York.
Haley, who is barred by federal law from getting involved in partisan political campaigns while serving in the executive branch, has remained neutral. But on her campaign website, Templeton features a quote from Haley calling Templeton a “great professional who hasn’t just been good at anything, she’s been great at everything.”
Warren has become the dark horse in the race, putting in more than $3 million of his own money to be financially competitive with McMaster and Templeton.
The Democratic governor’s race also appears headed to a runoff, with three candidates bunched together in pre-election polls. The field includes State Rep. James Smith from Columbia, Phil Noble, a Charleston business consultant who was an adviser to former President Barack Obama, and Marguerite Willis, a Florence lawyer and wife of former longtime Florence Mayor Frank Willis.
The two two finishers in both races will compete in June 26 runoffs. Also for the first time this year, candidates for governor have selected running mates for lieutenant governor, rather than having the office elected independently.
In the 1st U.S. House District, which includes Charleston and the Lowcountry along the Atlantic Coast, Sanford is facing a strong primary challenge from Republican State Rep. Katie Arrington, who has made Sanford’s previous comments about Trump an issue.
Sanford has been one of the few Republicans in Congress to speak out against the president, 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 an era in which anti-establishment outsiders often have the upper hand, Sanford is also a consummate insider, having served 14 years in the House and two terms as governor.
However, Sanford has also proven himself a political survivor, battling his way back to Congress in 2012 after his second term as governor spiraled down in scandal amid public revelations about an extramarital affair with an Argentinian lover.
In one of her ads, Arrington directly alluded to the scandal: “Bless his heart, but it’s time for Mark Sanford to take a hike — for real this time,” a reference to a lie Sanford told to the media that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was actually out of the country with his paramour.
The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democrat Joe Cunningham, a Charleston attorney who has raised more than $500,000 in a bid to flip the 1st District seat.
In the 5th District, which stretches from the Columbia suburbs north toward Charlotte, Parnell is now trying to a survive a Democratic primary that had once looked like a sure thing, after divorce records came to light three weeks ago revealing that he physically abused his first wife in the 1970s.
Democratic leaders have urged Parnell to quit, but he refused. He faces three little-known candidates — one of whom is a professional circus clown — which should insure Parnell at least a place in a runoff if he can’t win the nomination outright.
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 Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, in a district Trump carried by 19 points in 2016.
Based on the closeness of the special election, Parnell raised more than $3.6 million for the rematch, putting him in the top 20 nationally among House candidates. But the abuse allegations probably extinguished any hopes 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, 12 Republicans are running for the seat being given up by the retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, virtually ensuring a runoff.
Among the competitors are former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in a GOP primary in 2014; State Senator William Timmons from Greenville; Josh Kimbrell, a Christian radio host from Spartanburg; and State Rep. Dan Hamilton from Greenville.
On the Democratic side of the ballot, five candidates are competing for runoff spots including Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville; J.T. Davis, a Simpsonville businessman; Eric Graben, a Greenville attorney; Will Morin from Greenville, a former trainer for the U.S. Olympic luge team; and Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant.
Graham’s decision opens up political space for the February 20 South Carolina primary
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Mired in single digits in the polls and relegated to the undercard in the Republican debates, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has ended his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
But Graham, who made national security and the battle against ISIS the centerpiece of his White House run, said his campaign has changed the conversation within the Republican field on those issues, pushing the party toward a more hawkish stance.
“I got into this race to put forward a plan to win a war we cannot afford to lose and to turn back the tide of isolationism that was rising in our party,” he said in a YouTube video posted December 22 announcing his departure. “I believe we made enormous progress in this effort.”
Graham said most the Republican candidates have come around to his thinking on one issue in particular–the need to use American ground forces to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Graham’s departure allows him to take his name off the ballot for the South Carolina primary, avoiding what could have been an embarrassing defeat in his home state.
South Carolina will hold its pivotal presidential primary on February 20, less than two weeks after the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. The vote in the Palmetto State will be the first test of strength in the South.
After his withdrawal announcement, Graham told CNN that he has no plans to endorse any of the other candidates in the field. However, his departure could free up Graham supporters in South Carolina to sign on with other candidates.
During the campaign, Graham has been a strong critic of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, which could give him a strong incentive to back another candidate who could defeat the real-estate magnate.
Graham, 60, won his third term in the Senate in 2014. He is one of the Senate’s strongest hawks on military and national security issues, but he has also run afoul of some conservatives in his party for supporting immigration reform and crossing the aisle to make bi-partisan deals with Democrats.
The remaining Southern GOP candidates are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia.