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25 new Southern U.S. House members, 2 senators sworn in Sunday

Freshmen group includes youngest member in nearly 60 years, wave of Republican women

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Members of the new 117th Congress will be sworn into office on Sunday, including 25 new Southern U.S. House members and two new Southern senators.

The Southern House freshmen include seven Republican women, part of a wave elected in November that more the doubled the number of GOP women in the chamber, and 25-year-old Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, who is the youngest member of the House sworn in since 1965.

Also among the new Southern House members is former White House doctor Ronny Jackson, whom President Donald Trump tried unsuccessfully to elevate to Veterans Affairs secretary in 2018. He will represent now represent the Texas Panhandle.

Republican Stephanie Bice from Oklahoma City is making history as the first Iranian-American to serve in Congress. Her father emigrated from Iran in the 1970s.

Byron Donalds, the new member representing Southwest Florida, will be one of just two African American Republicans in the House and three in Congress overall.

Full list of new Southern House members at bottom of story

Clockwise from top left: Cawthorn, Bice, Donalds, Tuberville, Sessions, Greene

In the Senate, Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, and Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee, will join a Southern contingent that now includes 25 Republicans and just three Democrats, after Tuberville defeated Doug Jones in November.

Lawmakers were sworn in during a rare Sunday session because the Constitution prescribes January 3 as the date for opening a new Congress.

Sunday’s House session is scheduled to include a moment of silence for Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana, who died from COVID-19 days before he was set to be sworn in.

While both the House and Senate were observing coronavirus precautions, including masks and social distancing, one new member from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, was spotted on the floor without a mask, prompting admonishment by House staff.

During orientation for new members, she had dismissed masks — which are required on the House floor — as “oppressive.”

Among the new members sworn in Sunday was one very familiar face — Republican Pete Sessions of Texas, who served 11 terms in the House before being defeated in 2018, then claiming a seat from a different district in November.

Sessions and Jackson are part of a group of seven new members from Texas, marking a turnover in nearly a fifth of the Lone Star State’s delegation amid a wave of retirements. All are Republicans.

Florida has five new members; Georgia, four; North Carolina, three; and Alabama, two. Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia each have one new member. Delegations from Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia were unchanged.

Eleven of the 25 new Southern members are women (seven Republicans and four Democrats), part of the largest group of women (121) ever sworn into a single Congress. The new Congress will also feature a record number of Republican women at 29, up from 13 in the last Congress.

The service of one Southern House member in the 117th Congress will be brief — Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat who will leave to become a senior aide to President-elect Joe Biden once he is sworn in on January 20.

Special elections will be held in Louisiana for Richmond and Letlow’s seats in March; neither are expected to change hands between parties.

The Constitution requires members of the House to be at least 25 years of age, a threshold Cawthorn met in August after winning the Republican primary in his Western North Carolina district. He will be the youngest House member since Jed Johnson Jr., a Democrat who represented Oklahoma for a single term between 1965 and 1967.

Sessions represented a Dallas-area seat during his first stint in the House, which he lost in 2018 to Collin Allred. Rather than try to reclaim it in 2020, he ran in a vacant seat in a district that includes Waco, where he grew up.

Of the 25 new Southern members, 21 were Republicans and just four were Democrats. Overall, Republicans hold 99 Southern seats and Democrats 52, with Letlow’s seat vacant.

Four Southern states — Arkansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia — have no Democrats in their House delegations, while five others — Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina — have just one.

In only one Southern state do Democrats hold a majority of seats, Virginia, which is sending seven Democrats and only four Republicans to Washington.

Here is a list of new Southern House members, by state:

Alabama
Jerry Carl, R, 1st District (Mobile, South Alabama)
Barry Moore, R, 2nd District (Montgomery, southwest Alabama)

Florida
Kat Kammack, R, 3rd District (Gainesville, North-Central Florida)
Scott Franklin, R, 15 District (Lakeland, eastern Tampa suburbs)
Byron Donalds, R, 19th District (Fort Myers, Southwest Florida)
Carlos Giménez, R, 26th District (south Miami-Dade, Florida Keys)
Maria Elvira Salazar, R, 27th District (Miami-Dade)

Georgia
Nikema Williams, D, 5th District (Atlanta)
Carolyn Bourdeaux, D, 7th District (northeast Atlanta suburbs)
Andrew Clyde, R, 9th District (Gainesville, Northeast Georgia)
Marjorie Taylor Greene, R, 14th District (Rome, Northwest Georgia)

North Carolina
Deborah Ross, D, 2nd District (Raleigh)
Kathy Manning, D, 6th District (Greensboro)
Madison Cawthorn, R, 11th District (Western North Carolina)

Oklahoma
Stephanie Bice, R, 5th District (metro Oklahoma City)

South Carolina
Nancy Mace, R, 1st District (Charleston, Low Country)

Tennessee
Diana Harshbarger, R, 1st District (Tri-Cities, East Tennessee)

Texas
Pat Fallon, R, 4th District (Northeast Texas)
August Pfluger, R, 11th District (Midland, San Angelo, west-central Texas)
Ronny Jackson, R, 13th District (Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Panhandle)
Pete Sessions, R, 17th District (Waco, central-east Texas)
Troy Nehls, R, 22nd District (western Houston suburbs)
Tony Gonzales, R, 23rd District (West Texas)
Beth Van Duyne, R, 24th District (metro Dallas-Forth Worth)

Virginia
Bob Good, R, 5th District (Charlottesville, central Virginia)

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MJ Hegar wins Texas Democratic U.S. Senate runoff, will take on John Cornyn

Donald Trump’s former White House doctor Ronny Jackson wins U.S. House runoff in Panhandle; Pete Sessions makes a comeback

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — Former Air Force combat pilot MJ Hegar has won the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn for a seat that Democrats have hopes of flipping in November.

Hegar, who had the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, defeated State Senator Royce West of Dallas by a margin of 52% to 48% in Tuesday’s runoff and now faces the task of pulling off something no Democrat has done in 32 years — win a Senate race in the Lone Star State.

Texas Democratic U.S. Senate nominee MJ Hegar

In a victory statement, Hegar vowed to run “a Texas-sized winning campaign that will take down Sen. Cornyn and deliver real results on health care, racial justice, economic opportunity, climate change, immigration and gun violence.”

The Cornyn campaign responded with a statement calling her “Hollywood Hegar,” because of her out-of-state support, and noting that she barely beat West even though she and her allies outspent him on advertising by a margin of 100 to 1.

“Senator Cornyn is prepared to face whatever comes his way,” his campaign said.

In other Texas runoff races, Ronny Jackson — the former White House doctor whom President Trump tried and failed to install as Veterans’ Affairs secretary in 2018 — won a Republican runoff for a U.S. House seat in the Panhandle, making him the favorite to win in November in the Republican leaning 13th District.

Jackson now faces the winner of the Democratic runoff, Gus Trujillo, who works for a Latino business group in Amarillo.

In the Waco-based 17th DistrictPete Sessions, a former House Republican leader who lost his Dallas-area seat in 2018, made a comeback by winning a runoff in a new district. He will face Rick Kennedy, a software developer from Round Rock, in November; the Republican lean of this district will also make Sessions the favorite.

In other Texas U.S. House runoffs Tuesday:

In the 10th District (East Texas between Austin and Houston), Mike Siegel won the Democratic runoff for the right to face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul in a race that Democrats have targeted as a pickup opportunity.

In the 22nd District (Southern Houston suburbs), Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls won the Republican runoff and will face Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni in a race that Democrats have also targeted. The winner will replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Olson.

In the 23rd District (West Texas between San Antonio and El Paso), the Republican runoff may be headed into overtime after Tony Gonzales ended election night with a scant seven vote lead over Raul Reyes in a race fill the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.

The runoff pitted U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who endorsed Reyes, against Trump, who endorsed Gonzales. In the closing days of the race, Trump’s campaign sent Reyes a cease-and-desist order over a mailer that implied he had the president’s endorsement.

The winner will face Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who nearly defeated Hurd in 2018 in the state’s most competitive House district.

In the 24th District (Metro Dallas-Ft. Worth), Candace Valenzuela, a school board member in Carrollton-Farmers Branch, won the Democratic nomination and will face the Republican nominee, former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, in the race to succeed incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, which Democrats are also targeting.

In the 31st District (Northern Austin suburbs), Donna Imam, an Austin computer engineer, won the Democratic runoff to face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Carter, who is also on the Democrats’ target list.

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U.S. Senate runoffs top Tuesday’s primary ballots in Alabama, Texas

Jeff Sessions tries to survive Trump headwinds in Alabama, while Texas Democrats pick a foe for U.S. Senator John Cornyn

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

(CFP) — Voters in Alabama and Texas go to the polls Tuesday to decide two hotly contested U.S. Senate runoffs, including a Republican runoff in Alabama where former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to reclaim his old Senate seat over the fervent opposition of President Donald Trump.

Trump also features in a U.S. House runoff in Texas, where former White House doctor Ronny Jackson — whom the president tried and failed to install as Veterans’ Affairs secretary in 2018 — is competing in a Republican runoff in the Panhandle, with the president’s endorsement.

Also in Texas, Democratic State Senator Royce West from Dallas is competing with former Air Force combat pilot MJ Hegar for the right to take on incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn for a seat that Democrats hope to flip in November.

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, who rose to the Republican leadership during two decades in Congress before losing his Dallas-area seat in 2018, is also trying to make a comeback in a runoff in a different Waco-area district.

Polls are open in both states from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.

Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville

Tuesday’s marquee race is in Alabama, where sessions is competing with former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville for the right to take on Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones, considered the nation’s most endangered incumbent senator as he seeks re-election in deep red Alabama.

In 2017, Sessions gave up the Senate seat he had held for 20 years to become Trump’s attorney general, only to see that relationship sour after Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump fired Sessions in 2018 and has continued to take shots at him, even though Sessions had continued to insist that he fully supports the president and his agenda.

With Trump’s endorsement, Tuberville is considered the favorite in the race, although Sessions may have reclaimed some ground in the closing weeks of the runoff amid headlines about Tuberville’s ties to a hedge fund fraud scheme.

Tuesday’s ballot also features two Republican runoffs for safe U.S. House seats in Alabama, as well runoffs in 11 districts in Texas, including five that Democrats hope to flip.

Those races include:

Alabama 1st District (Mobile and southwest Alabama): In the race to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, who gave up the seat to make a losing U.S. Senate bid, the Republican runoff features Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl and former State Senator Bill Hightower. On the Democratic side of the ballot, James Averhart faces Kiani Gardner. The Republican nominee will be heavily favored in November.

Alabama 2nd District (Montgomery and southeast Alabama): In the race to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, businessman Jeff Coleman faces former State Rep. Barry Moore. The winner will be a heavy favorite in the fall against Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall.

Texas 10th District (East Texas between Austin and Houston): Democrats Pritesh Gandhi and Mike Siegel are competing in Democratic runoff for the right to face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul in a race that Democrats have targeted as a pickup opportunity.

Texas 13th District (Panhandle and part of North Texas): Both parties are holding runoffs in this district, where incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry is retiring. Among Republicans, Jackson faces Josh Winegarner, a former congressional aide. Among Democrats, Greg Sagan will face Gus Trujillo. The Republican runoff winner will be heavily favored in the fall.

Texas 17th District (Waco and parts of Central Texas): Both parties are also holding runoffs in this district, where incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Flores is retiring. Among Republicans, Sessions is facing businesswoman Renee Swann. Among Democrats, David Jaramillo will face Rick Kennedy. The Republican winner will be favored in the fall.

Texas 22nd District (Southern Houston suburbs): In the race to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, Republicans will choose between Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls and businesswoman Kathaleen Wall. The winner will face Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni in a race that Democrats have targeted as a pickup opportunity.

Texas 23rd District (West Texas between San Antonio and El Paso): In a race to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, Iraq War veteran Tony Gonzales will face Raul Reyes, a builder and retired Air Force officer, in the Republican runoff. The winner will face Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who nearly defeated Hurd in 2018.

Texas 24th District (Metro Dallas-Ft. Worth): Democrats Kim Olson, a retired Air Force colonel and former Weatherford school board member, will face Candace Valenzuela, who serves on the school board in Carrollton-Farmers Branch.  The winner will face the Republican nominee, former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, for the race to succeed incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant in a race Democrats have targeted.

Texas 31st District (Northern Austin suburbs): In the Democratic runoff, Donna Imam, an Austin computer engineer, will face Christine Mann, a physician from Williamson County who lost the party’s runoff in this district in 2018. The winner will face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Carter, who is also on the Democrats’ target list.

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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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