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Voters heading to polls as election day finally arrives across the South
Democrats poised to possibly have their best result in a generation
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Amid unprecedented levels of early voting, a deadly pandemic, racial unrest, and partisan political turmoil, voters across the South will give their final verdict Tuesday, as in-person voting brings the 2020 election to a conclusion.
The most watched story line will be whether Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden can flip some Southern states into his column and whether Republican incumbents in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House can hang on amid the severe disruption to the nation’s political climate caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Four Southern states carried by President Donald Trump in 2016 are in play, including the traditional battlegrounds of North Carolina and Florida, joined by previously safe states Georgia and Texas. A Democrat hasn’t carried Texas in 44 years; Georgia, hasn’t gone for a Democrat in 28 years.
As many as six U.S. Senate seats could also change hands, five of which are held by Republicans. And Democrats are hoping to build on their gains made in the U.S. House in 2018, particularly in Texas, where as many as seven seats could be in play.
Democrats are also trying to flip state legislative chambers in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, which would increase their influence of the reapportionment process after this year’s census.
In Alabama, Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones is trying to keep his seat in a contest with the Republican nominee, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. Given the Yellowhammer State’s ruby red political leanings, Jones’s seat is seen as the GOP’s best opportunity nationally for a pick-up.
In North Carolina, Republican U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is trying to beat back a challenge from Democrat Cal Cunningham, who has led in the polls throughout the race. Cunningham is facing headwinds after admitting to an extramarital affair, although the revelations have not seemed to dent his poll numbers.
In South Carolina, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is facing a spirited challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison, who has raised more money for this race than any Senate candidate in history. Graham’s transformation from being a critic of Trump to one of his biggest defenders has brought national attention to the contest.
In Georgia, both U.S. Senate seats are up this year. Republican U.S Senator David Perdue is being challenged by Democrat Jon Ossoff in one race; the second is an all-party special election with 20 candidates, which has narrowed down to a chase for runoff spots between Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, appointed to the seat last year; Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who decided to challenge Loeffler after he was overlooked for the appointment, and Democrat Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, who making his political debut.
Because of a quirk in Georgia law, both of these races will head to a runoff in January if none of the candidates get a majority on Tuesday. Ossoff and Perdue have been neck-and-neck in the polls; Warnock leads the special election race but will likely fall short of avoiding the runoff.
In Texas, Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn is facing Democrat MJ Hegar. This race has tightened as Biden’s numbers have gone up in the Lone Star State, although Cornyn still has an edge.
Two other Southern states have Senate races that have been competitive but appear unlikely to flip: Kentucky, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing Democrat Amy McGrath, and Mississippi, where Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is facing Democrat Mike Espy.
Six Democrats who flipped Southern House seats in 2018 are in battles to keep their seats:
- Virginia 2 (metro Norfolk): Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria is facing a rematch against the man she ousted in 2018, Republican Scott Taylor,.
- Virginia 7 (Richmond suburbs, central Virginia): Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger faces Republican State Delegate Nick Freitas.
- Georgia 6 (Northwest Atlanta suburbs): Democratic incumbent Lucy McBath is also facing a rematch against her 2018 opponent, Republican Karen Handel.
- Oklahoma 5 (Metro Oklahoma City): Democrat Kendra Horn’s win here in 2018 was among the biggest shocks of the election. She is facing Republican State Senator Stephanie Bice.
- South Carolina 1 (Lowcountry and Charleston): Incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham faces Republican State Rep. Nancy Mace.
- Florida 26 (South Miami-Dade and Florida Keys): Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is facing Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Republicans are trying to hang on to four open seats that are in danger of flipping:
- Georgia 7 (Northeast Atlanta suburbs): Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, is facing Republican Rich McCormick.
- Virginia 5 (Central Virginia around Lynchburg): Republican Bob Good is facing Democrat Cameron Webb.
- Texas 22 (Southwestern Houston suburbs): Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls is trying to keep the seat for Republicans against Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni
- Texas 24 (Metro Dallas-Fort Worth): The Republican nominee, former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, is facing Democrat Candace Valenzuela.
A number of Republican incumbents are trying to keep their seats against strong Democratic challenges:
- Arkansas 2 (Metro Little Rock): Republican French Hill vs. Democratic State Senator Joyce Elliott.
- Florida 16 (Sarasota and Bradenton): Republican Vern Buchanan vs. Democratic State Rep. Margaret Good.
- Florida 18 (Treasure Coast): Republican Brian Mast vs. Democrat Pam Keith
- North Carolina 8 (Piedmont between Fayetteville and Charlotte): Republican Richard Hudson vs. Democrat Pat Timmons-Goodson.
- North Carolina 9 (Charlotte suburbs east toward Fayetteville): Republican Dan Bishop vs. Democrat Cynthia Wallace.
- Texas 2 (Houston): Republican Dan Crenshaw vs. Democrat Sima Ladjevardian.
- Texas 3 (Northern Dallas suburbs): Republican Van Taylor vs. Democrat Lulu Seikaly.
- Texas 6 (Arlington, Waxahatchie, Corsicana): Republican Ron Wright vs. Democrat Stephen Daniel.
- Texas 10 (North Austin suburbs, northwest Houston suburbs, areas between): Republican Mike McCaul vs. Democrat Mike Siegel.
- Texas 21 (Austin and Hill Country/San Antonio suburbs): Republican Chip Roy, vs. former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis.
- Texas 25 (Suburban Austin, central Texas): Republican Roger Williams vs. Democrat Julie Oliver.
- Texas 31 (North Austin suburbs, Temple): Republican John Carter vs. Democrat Donna Imam.