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Georgia Primary: Jon Ossoff avoids runoff, wins Democratic U.S. Senate race

Republican Karen Handel gets her rematch in 6th U.S. House district; Democratic U.S. Rep David Scott barely escapes getting forced into a runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

ATLANTA (CFP) — Three years after coming up on the short end in the most expensive House race in U.S. history, Democrat Jon Ossoff revived his political fortunes by winning Georgia’s U.S. Senate primary and earning the right to challenge Republican to U.S. Senator David Perdue in the fall.

Offoss took 51 percent over the vote, defeating Teresa Tomlinson, the former mayor of Columbus, who came in second with 15.2 percent, and Sarah Riggs Amico, a Marietta businesswoman who was the party’s unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018, at 12.6 percent.

Jon Ossoff

On election night, Ossoff had been under the 50 percent threshold he needed to avoid a runoff but moved into a majority as tens of thousands of absentee ballots were counted.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the state had mailed absentee ballot applications to every voter in the state to increase mail-in voting. Tuesday’s vote in the Peach State was still marred by long lines and technical issues with the state’s new touch screen voting machines, which forced poll times to be extended up to three hours in parts of metro Atlanta.

Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, rose to national prominence in 2017 in a special election for the 6th District seat in Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, in which he turned Democratic anger at President Donald Trump’s election into a $30 million fundraising haul but was edged out for the seat by Karen Handel.

Handel, who subsequently lost the seat in 2018 to Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, will get a rematch after she easily cleared the Republican primary Tuesday. McBath was unopposed in the Democratic primary

The 6th District race is at the top of the Republican target list, with McBath’s support of Trump’s impeachment likely to be front and center in the fall. Trump carried the district by just 1.5 points in 2016.

The breakout performance in Georgia Tuesday came from political newcomer Rich McCormick, an emergency room doctor and former Marine Corps helicopter pilot won the GOP nomination in the 7th U.S. House District in Atlanta’s northeast suburbs without a runoff.

He won 55 percent and defeated six other candidates, including State Senator Renee Unterman, a former mayor who has spent two decades in the legislature, who finished in second with 17 percent.

Democrats in the 7th District nominated Carolyn Bourdeaux, who came within 400 votes of winning the seat in 2018 against Republican Rob Woodall, who decided not to run again. She carried 53 percent of the vote, ahead of State Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero and Nabilah Islam, a political consultant, both at 12 percent.

Veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott, running for his 10th term, survived a scare after he was nearly forced into a runoff against former State Rep. Keisha Waites for his seat in Atlanta’s southern and western suburbs. On election night, Scott only stood at 48 percent, but he went over the 50 percent threshold on Thursday, after the remaining absentee ballots were counted.

Republicans also filled runoff slots for two of their safest Georgia U.S. House seats — the 9th District in the north Georgia mountains, which U.S. Rep. Doug Collins is giving up to run for the state’s other Senate seat, and the 14th District in northwest Georgia, where Tom Graves is retiring.

In the 9th District, the GOP runoff will pit State Rep. Matt Gurtler of Tiger, who came in on top with 22 percent, against Andrew Clyde, a retired Navy officer and firearms instructor from Jackson County, who finished in second at 19 percent. Former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, who represented a neighboring district from 2007 until 2015, came in fourth.

In the 14th District, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Milton businesswoman, will face John Cowan, a neurosurgeon from Rome, in the Republican runoff. Greene, who had originally filed to run in the 6th District but switched to the 14th when Graves retired, took 41 percent to 20 percent for Cowan.

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 will be held until November in which Loeffler will run against candidates from all parties, including Collins, who has launched an intra-party fight to push Loeffler out of the seat.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell turns back Tea Party primary challenge

In Georgia, David Perdue and Jack Kingston advance to July 22 Republican primary runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE (CFP) — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell easily turned back a Tea Party-inspired challenge Tuesday to win the GOP nomination for a sixth term representing Kentucky.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, St. Simons businessman David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah won spots in a July 22 runoff for the Republican nomination for the Peach State’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

McConnell took 60 percent of the May 20 vote, compared to 36 percent for Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who had the backing of outside Republican groups critical of McConnell’s leadership, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks.

However, the commonwealth’s other senator, Rand Paul, bucked his Tea Party supporters to back McConnell.

McConnell will now face Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in November.

U.S. Senate hopeful David Perdue

U.S. Senate hopeful David Perdue

In Georgia, Perdue and Kingston sat atop a seven-candidate field, with Perdue at 31 percent and Kingston at 26. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel of Roswel came in third at 22 percent.

Two other sitting U.S. House members, Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, trailed the three front-runners. Some establishment figures in the GOP had expressed concern that a victory by either Gingery or Broun would turn the Georgia seat into a Democratic target in November.

Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, easily won the Democratic Senate nomination for the seat current held by U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor and Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton both won their Senate primaries and will face off in November.

Georgia U.S. Senate opening leads to House candidate scramble

Open Senate race in 2014 triggers three openings in Peach State’s House delegation.

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

georgia mugATLANTA (CFP) — When the electoral smoke clears in November 2014, Georgia’s congressional delegation will look a whole lot different than it does now, thanks to an open Senate race that has triggered a flurry of House departures.

Three sitting Republican House members – Jack Kingston of Savannah, Phil Gingrey of Marietta and Paul Broun of Athens – have all announced bids for the Senate seat, which opened up with Republican Saxby Chambliss decided to retire.

This has left three of the state’s 14 districts with open races. However, none of those districts are likely pickups for Democrats.

Kingston’s 1st District is along the state’s Atlantic coast. Gingrey’s 11th District includes Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, and Broun’s 10th District cuts across largely rural areas in the eastern part of the state. All of those areas are heavily Republican. Mitt Romney took 67 percent in Gingrey’s district, 63 percent in Broun’s, and 56 percent in Kingston’s.

Karen Handel

Handel running for Senate after taking on Planned Parenthood

In addition to Kingston, Gingrey and Broun, the GOP Senate race has also drawn former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who has deep roots in heavily Republican North Fulton County and is a protégé of former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Handel got into a runoff for the GOP nomination for governor in 2010, shooting to a surprise first-place finish in the first round of the primary after a last-minute endorsement from Sarah Palin. But she could not hold off the runoff charge of then-Rep. Nathan Deal, who went on to win the governorship.

She then became vice president of the Susan B. Komen Foundation and became mired in controversy after the breast cancer-awareness group pulled its grants to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Handel eventually resigned, but the flap could help her with pro-life groups in her fight for the GOP Senate nomination.

Kingston and Gingrey are both veteran members of the state’s GOP House delegation. Gingrey is from the Atlanta suburbs, which is where GOP races are usually won or lost. However, Kingston’s base on the coast is also a heavily Republican area that could provide enough votes to get him into a runoff in a four-way race.

Paul Broun

Broun: Evolution from “pit of hell”

Broun, a medical doctor by trade, is the most controversial figure in the race. A widely circulated YouTube video showed him giving a speech to a fundamentalist Christian group in which he said evolution, embryology and the Big Bang Theory were “lies from the pit of hell.” He has also charged that President Obama is a “socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies.”

No doubt those views will appeal to some elements of the Georgia electorate. The question for Broun, though, is whether those kinds of statements will have much appeal among more mainstream conservative voters in the Atlanta suburbs.

On the Democratic side, Rep. John Barrow opted not to leave his House seat to make a run for the Senate. That has left Democrats to line up behind Michelle Nunn, a political newcomer and the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn.

In the 1st District, five Republicans are so far seeking the House nomination, including State Sen. Buddy Carter and former Kingston staffer David Schwarz, along with former State Sen. Jeff Chapman, businessman Darwin Carter and Bob Johnson, a surgeon and former Army ranger.

In the 10th District, the crowded field so far includes Republican candidates Jody Hice, Brian Slowinski, Mike Collins, Stephen Simpson and State Rep. Donna Sheldon.

In the 11th District, former Republican Rep. Bob Barr, who defected to the Libertarian Party to become its presidential candidate in 2008, has returned to the GOP fold and is making a bid for the seat, joined by State Rep. Edward Lindsey and State Sen. Barry Loudermilk.

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