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U.S. Senate: Republicans hold on to all 8 of their Southern seats

Rubio and Burr beat back challenges in Florida, North Carolina; Kennedy and Campbell will contest runoff in Louisiana

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

election-central-16(CFP) — Republicans held on to all eight of their Southern U.S. Senate seats, with Marco Rubio in Florida and Richard Burr in North Carolina turning back strong Democratic challengers.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana’s all-party “jungle” primary, State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell will advance to a December 10 runoff for the open seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter.

Kennedy led with 25 percent, with Campbell at 18 percent, edging out Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany at 15 percent.

Because Republicans already secured their 51-seat Senate majority, the Louisiana runoff will not affect the balance of power.

In addition to Rubio and Burr, Republican incumbents also won re-election in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

With the wins on November 8, Republicans will hold 23 of the 28 Southern Senate seats, with Louisiana still to be decided.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

In Florida, Rubio had initially decided to give up his Senate seat to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. But after losing the White House contest, he changed course and filed to run for a second term, improving the GOP ‘s prospects for keeping the seat.

Rubio took 52 percent, defeating Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who took 44 percent.

Alluding to his withdrawal from the presidential race in March, he told election night supporters in Miami, “This is a lot better than the last time I did one of these.”

Rubio, who had been a critic of Trump before reluctantly endorsing him, did not mention his party’s  victorious presidential standard-bearer in his speech, but he did make a plea for civility in politics.

“While we can disagree on issues, we cannot share a country where people hate each other because of their political affiliations,” Rubio said.

U.S. Senator Richard Burr

U.S. Senator Richard Burr

In North Carolina, Burr, seeking a third term, took 51 percent of the vote, defeating Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor, who took 45 percent.

“I am truly humbled by the support I’ve received from people across this state,” Burr said at a victory celebration in Winston-Salem. “This is a victory for all of those who have believed in me.”

In a state notorious for exchanging Senate seats between parties, Burr becomes the first senator to win three consecutive terms since Jesse Helms in 1984.

Here are the other Southern Senate results:



Alabama: Republican U.S. Senator Richard Shelby won a seventh term by defeating Democrat Ron Crumpton, a marijuana rights activist. by a margin of 64-36 percent. At the end of his new term, Shelby will be 88 and will have served in Congress for 44 years.



Arkansas: Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman won a second term by taking 60-36 percent for Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville. Boozman suffered an aortic aneurysm in 2014 that kept him away from Washington for two months.



Georgia: Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson won a third term in the Senate by defeating Democrat Jim Barkdale, a wealthy Atlanta businessman, by a 55-41 percent margin. Isakson ran for re-election to a third term despite announcing in 2015 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

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Kentucky: Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul defeated Lexington Mayor Jim Gray by a margin of 57-43 percent. Paul had pursued re-election simultaneously with a presidential campaign until he dropped out of the White House race in February.



Oklahoma: Republican U.S. Senator James Lankford easily won his first full six-year term by defeating Democrat Mike Workman, a Tulsa political consultant, by a margin of 68-25 percent. In 2014, Lankford was elected to finish out the final two years of Tom Coburn’s term after he resigned.



South Carolina: Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, easily won a full six-year term by defeating Democrat Thomas Dixon, a Charleston pastor, by a margin of 61-36 percent. In 2014, Scott was elected to serve out the remaining two years of Jim DeMint’s term, after he resigned.

GOP U.S. Rep. David Jolly, facing a newly drawn district, switches to U.S. Senate race

Decision comes after the Florida Supreme Court orders changes likely to make Jolly’s district more Democratic

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CFP) — In the wake of a Florida Supreme Court decision ordering changes in the state’s U.S. House map, Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly has decided to jump into the open U.S. Senate seat in 2016, rather than face re-election in what will likely be a more Democratic district.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly

U.S. Rep. David Jolly

In a statement announcing his campaign July 20, Jolly, 42, who won his House seat in a special election in 2014, said he would run “on an unwavering platform that will reject the politics of division and class warfare that have defined the current administration.”

Lolly also called for creating “a new economy founded on the principle that individuals and families, not government bureaucrats, create success.”

Jolly’s entry into the Senate race adds to a crowded Republican field that already includes U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera.

Jolly currently represents Florida’s 13th District seat in Pinellas County, in the Tampa Bay area. He succeeded the late GOP U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, who held the seat for more than 42 years before his death in 2013.

Jolly’s win frustrated Democratic hopes of picking up one of only three Republican-held seats in the South that President Obama carried in  2012. He went on to re-election in the 2014 general election and was expected to run again in 2016.

But the Florida Supreme Court threw a monkey wrench into those plans July 9, ruling that the Republican-controlled state legislature unconstitutionally gerrymandered the map to help the GOP’s electoral prospects. The high court ordered the state legislature to redraw eight districts, including Jolly’s.

The Supreme Court objected to the legislature’s decision to shift African-American voters in St. Petersburg into the neighboring 14th District, across the bay in Tampa, to make the 13th more Republican-friendly, which justices said violated a requirement that districts be geographically compact wherever possible.

Shifting those voters back would have made Jolly’s swing district harder to retain.

The Supreme Court’s ruling might also force another U.S. House member into the Senate race on the Democratic side.

The court ruled that the 5th District — an oddly shaped district that snakes through northeast and central Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando to pick up black voters and is at one point the width of a highway — must be redrawn in an east-west configuration from Jacksonville towards the Panhandle.

U.S. House nominee Gwen Graham

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

That change is likely to shift the Panhandle-based 2nd District , held by U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Tallahassee, to the south, which would make it more Republican and more difficult for her to carry. That prompted Democratic strategists to talk up a possible Graham Senate bid, although the congresswoman herself has remained non-committal.

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist has announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for Jolly’s seat if the legislature, as expected, draws his St. Petersburg home into the district.

The Republican-turned-indepenent-turned-Democrat lost statewide races for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and for governor in 2014.

Poll: Floridians want U.S. Senator Marco Rubio to seek re-election, not White House

A new Mason-Dixon poll finds the Sunshine State evenly divided on a Jeb Bush presidential bid

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugJACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CFP) — A majority of Floridians want U.S. Senator Marco Rubio to seek a second term in 2016 rather than running for the Republican presidential nomination, a new poll finds.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

A Mason-Dixon poll of 625 Florida registered voters found just 15 percent want Rubio to run for president, compared to 57 percent who want him to stay in the Senate and 28 percent undecided.

Among Republicans, the sentiment for Rubio to run for re-election was even higher, at 68 percent. Among Latinos, 30 percent want Rubio to run for president, compared to 56 percent who want him to stay in the Senate.

If elected in 2016, Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, would be the nation’s first Latino president.

Rubio, first elected to the Senate in 2010, has said he will give up his seat in 2016 if he decides to run for president, which would present Democrats with a pick-up opportunity.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

However, the poll found substantially more support for a White House bid by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, with 42 percent saying Bush should run for president and 43 percent saying he shouldn’t, with just 15 percent undecided.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Bush and Rubio are part of a group of nine Southerners — eight Republicans and one Democrat — considering a White House bid in 2016.

Among the potential Southern GOP candidates are former governors Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rick Perry of Texas; U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has already launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas.

Marco Rubio says he’ll leave Senate if he runs for president

Florida Republican, whose seat is up in 2016, says he won’t look for an “exit strategy”

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio says that if he runs for president in 2016, he won’t try to simultaneously run for re-election to his Senate seat, which would put him on the political sidelines should his White House bid fall short.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

“I think, by and large, when you choose to do something as big as that, you’ve really got to be focused on that and not have an exit strategy,” the Florida Republican told radio host Hugh Hewitt. He says he won’t make a final decision on which office to seek until next spring.

Florida law currently does not allow a candidate to pursue two offices at once. However, Republicans control the state legislature — where Rubio once served — and the governorship, opening the possibility of changing the law to accommodate the senator.

The most famous case of running for two offices at once came in 1960, when Lyndon Johnson ran for the vice presidency and his Senate seat in Texas. He resigned the seat after winning the vice presidency.

Most recently, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan ran for re-election to his House seat in 2012 while he was also the GOP’s vice presidential nominee. That kept him in Congress after the Romney-Ryan ticket lost.

Another possible 2016 White House hopeful, U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, is also up for re-election in 2016. Republicans in the Bluegrass State have been considering changing state law to allow Paul to pursue both offices.

Kentucky currently has a Democratic governor who could stand in the way, although the governorship will be up for election next year.

Paul’s father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, ran for re-election to his House seat in 2008 after ending his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination. However, when he ran again in 2012, he opted not to run for his House seat.




Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul organizes class-action suit over NSA surveillance

Paul is taking names of potential plaintiffs on his Web site — names that could be the foundation of a 2016 White House bid

♦By Rich Shumate,

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is organizing a class-action lawsuit against the National Security Agency over its surveillance programs — a novel political gambit that could lay the groundwork for a 2016 White House bid.

Paul is soliciting potential plaintiffs for the suit on two political Web sites he operates — Rand Paul 2016 and RAND PAC. His stated goal is to get 10 million Americans to sign up for the class-action suit.

However, an unnamed senior Paul advisor told Politico that any names collected may also be added a database for Paul’s future political campaigns.

That would give him access to a ready pool of voters upset by NSA surveillance — voters who would be inclined to support Paul. He’s also asking them for donations.

Paul, 51, is in his first term in the Senate. He is up for re-election in Kentucky in 2016, but he is also being mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential candidate.

A champion of the GOP’s libertarian wing, Paul has been a harsh critic of NSA programs that sweep up phone records of millions of Americans for use in terrorism investigations.

Last week, President Barack Obama announced changes to the program to provide more judicial oversight — changes Paul insisted do not go far enough to protect Americans’ constitutional liberties.

In his solicitation for plaintiffs, Paul said he was “outraged” by the surveillance and “that’s why I’m going to do everything I can to stop this madness.”

“So please sign below and join my class-action lawsuit and help stop the government’s outrageous spying program on the American people,” Paul said.

“After you sign up, please make a generous donation to help rally up to ten million Americans to support my lawsuit to stop Big Brother from infringing on our Fourth Amendment freedoms.”

People who sign up will have their name, email address and ZIP code put in Paul’s political database. All of those fields are required.

A Paul adviser told Politico that more than 300,000 have signed on as possible plaintiffs.

If Paul does seek the White House in 2016, his presidential ambitions may be complicated by a Kentucky law that prohibits him from running simultaneously for Senate and president.

State Republicans currently aren’t in a position to change that law because Democrats control the state House.

The law would only apply if Paul was successful in getting the Republican nomination. If he ran in the presidential primaries and didn’t win, he would be free to run for re-election to the Senate, as his father, Ron Paul, did in his U.S. House seat in Texas after he sought the White House in 2008.

Paul’s camp maintains the Kentucky law is unconstitutional because of a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that a state can’t impose its own restrictions in races for federal offices.

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