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Matt Bevin holds on to win Kentucky GOP governor’s primary

Failed U.S. Senate candidate defeats State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by just 83 votes

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE (CFP) — Just a year after being crushed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a GOP Senate primary, Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin has held on to a razor-thin 83-vote lead to win Kentucky’s GOP gubernatorial primary.

Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin

Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who narrowly trailed Bevin in the May 19 vote, had asked for a recanvas. But after the recanvas didn’t change the outcome, Comer conceded on May 29, opting not to ask for a recount.

Bevin will now face the Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Jack Conway, in November.

Bevin and Comer both took 33 percent of the vote to 27 percent for  former Louisville Councilman Hal Heiner and 7 percent former Supreme Court Justice Will Scott.

Kentucky abolished its primary runoff in 2008, which means Bevin comes out of the primary with just a third of the vote.

Near the end of the race, Comer’s campaign was rocked by abuse allegations from a former college girlfriend, which he denied. Heiner apologized after the blogger who publicized the allegations acknowledged that he had spoken about them with the husband of Heiner’s running mate for lieutenant governor.

The election result was a political comeback for Bevin, 48, who jumped into the governor’s race just hours before the filing deadline.

Bevin, 48, challenged McConnell in 2014 the backing of outside Republican groups critical of the senator’s leadership, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks. But in the end, McConnell won easily with more than 60 percent of the vote and went on to win a sixth term in November.

Despite the bitterness of that race, McConnell stayed out of Bevin’s primary fight.

Although Kentucky has become a reliably Republican state at the federal level, the party has only won the governorship once in the last 44 years. The current governor, Democrat Steve Beshear, is term limited.

Kentucky and Mississippi are the only two states that have off-year elections for state constitutional offices in 2015.

Chris McDaniel raises money for suit to overturn Mississippi GOP U.S. Senate runoff

McDaniel says his June 24 runoff loss to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran was a “sham” with “illegal voting” by Democrats

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

mississippi mugJACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — In the clearest sign yet that State Senator Chris McDaniel isn’t going quietly into the political sunset, he has sent an email to supporters asking for money to pay for a lawsuit to overturn the results of Mississippi’s June 24 GOP runoff for U.S. Senate.

State Senator Chris McDaniel

State Senator Chris McDaniel

“Thanks to illegal voting from liberal Democrats, my opponent stole last week’s runoff election, but I’m not going down without a fight,” McDaniel said.

“We’ve already found thousands of irregularities in the voting process. According to Mississippi state law, Democrats who voted in the Democratic primary cannot vote in the Republican runoff, and that is exactly what happened.”

McDaniel asked supporters to contribute at least $50 for what he described as a “long fight” to overturn the runoff.

After narrowly beating U.S. Senator Thad Cochran in the first found of primary voting on June 3, McDaniel lost to the veteran incumbent by about 6,700 votes in the runoff.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Cochran’s campaign made direct appeals to Democratic and independent voters to support him in the runoff, which they were free to do if they hadn’t already voted in the Democratic primary.

The results of the second round of voting showed how well that strategy worked. About 67,000 more people voted in the runoff than in the primary, and in Hinds County — which includes the predominantly black city of Jackson — Cochran’s margin of victory was 11,000 votes, nearly double what it was in the first round.

The race in Mississippi pitted Cochran and the state’s Republican establishment against Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups — such as the Senate Conservatives FundFreedomWorks and the Club for Growth — that strongly backed McDaniel.

Outside groups on both sides poured millions in advertising into the Magnolia State, clogging its relatively inexpensive airwaves.

McDaniel and his conservative Tea Party supporters cried foul over Cochran’s cross-party strategy, and he has refused to concede defeat. A conservative watchdog group, True the Vote, has already filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the election.

In another bizarre twist in this bitter race, Mark Mayfield, a McDaniel supporter who was arrested during the campaign for his alleged role in videotaping Cochran’s invalid wife in her nursing home, committed suicide after McDaniel’s runoff loss.

Cochran is one of five sitting Southern GOP senators targeted for defeat by Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups. So far, Cochran and three other incumbents have survived, with one contest still to come in August in Tennessee.

If his runoff win holds up, Cochran will face Democratic former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers in the fall.

Mississippi GOP U.S. Senate primary headed for round two

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran and State Senator Chris McDaniel finished neck-and-neck, but neither won the majority needed to avoid a runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

mississippi mugJACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — Mississippi’s contentious and personal Republican U.S. Senate primary race will carry on for three more weeks, as neither U.S. Senator Thad Cochran nor State Senator Chris McDaniel won the majority needed to avoid a June 24 runoff.

McDaniel took 49.5  percent of the vote in the June 3 primary, compared to 49 percent for Cochran, with less than 1,400 votes separating them out of nearly 313,000 cast. A third candidate, Thomas Carey, took just 1.6 percent — enough to thrown the race into a runoff.

Whoever survives the runoff will former Democratic U.S. Rep. Travis Childers in November’s general election.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

McDaniel drew support from Tea Party activists and outside anti-establishment groups such as the Senate Conservatives FundFreedomWorks and the Club for Growth, in his challenge to Cochran, 76, the second-longest serving Republican in the Senate.

Cochran is one of five sitting Southern GOP senators targeted for defeat by outside conservative groups, who were 0-for-2 headed into Mississippi. Incumbents easily survived primaries in Texas and Kentucky, with contests still to come in South Carolina and Tennessee.

The GOP primary result is good news for Democrats, who are rooting for a McDaniel victory to have an outside shot at capturing a Senate seat in deeply Republican Mississippi. Childers got into the race when it became apparent Cochran might lose, which would give Democrats an opening against the more conservative candidate running statewide for the first time.

Childers was elected to the U.S. House from Mississippi in 2008 but lost his seat in the Republican wave of 2010.

The GOP primary became nasty and personal and took a bizarre turn when Clayton Kelly, a conservative blogger and McDaniel supporter, was arrested for sneaking into a Madison nursing home to film Cochran’s bedridden wife, Rose, for a political video.

Three other people have been arrested on conspiracy charges in connection with the incident, including Mark Mayfield, the vice chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party.

McDaniel denounced Kelly’s behavior and denied any knowledge of the scheme. But that didn’t stop Cochran’s campaign from using Kelly’s photograph in a TV ad, identifying him as a McDaniel supporter charged with a felony and demanding that the challenger eschew “dirty politics.”

McDaniel called the Cochran ad “shameful.” But the Cochran campaign pointed to inconsistent statements given by McDaniel and his campaign about when they first became aware of the video of Cochran’s wife.

State Senator Chris McDaniel

State Senator Chris McDaniel

McDaniel, 41, from Ellisville, is serving his second term in the Mississippi Senate. He portrayed Cochran as a creature of the Washington establishment and attacked his conservative credentials, particularly his vote for last year’s compromise that reopened the federal government and funded Obamacare.

Cochran and groups allied with him, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hit McDaniel’s work as a personal injury lawyer. They have also criticized statements he made that some of the money that flowed into Mississippi after Hurrtcane Katrina was wasted.

Cochran, the former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, touted his seniority and his ability to get federal funds for Mississippi, particularly after Katrina devastated the state’s Gulf Coast in 2005.

Outside groups poured more than $8 million into attack ads in the Magnolia State, where media is relatively inexpensive. Those outside ads will likely continue through the runoff.

Senate Conservatives Fund backs T.W. Shannon in Oklahoma Senate race

Conservative group is now backing GOP primary candidates in five Southern states

♦By Rich Shumate,

oklahoma mugOKLAHOMA CITY (CFP) — Former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon has picked up an endorsement from the Senate Conservatives Fund in his Republican U.S. Senate primary battle with U.S. Rep. James Lankford.

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon

Former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon

Matt Hoskins, the SCF’s executive director, says his group is backing Shannon because he “is a constitutional conservative who will fight to stop the massive spending and debt that are bankrupting our country.”

“Shannon believes in the principles of freedom that make this country great and will stand up to the big spenders in both parties to balance the budget and stop Obamacare,” Hoskins says.

Shannon, 35, from Lawton, is an African-American and also an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation. A one-time aide to former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, Shannon rocketed to prominence in state politics, becoming speaker just six years after being elected in 2006.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

Lankford, 45, represents much of metro Oklahoma City in the House, In just his second term in Congress, he was elected head of the House Republican Policy Committee, the fifth highest position in the House GOP leadership.

That insider resume has drawn fire from some Tea Party and conservative groups who have been rallying around Shannon as a challenger.

However, Shannon will have competition for the Tea Party vote from former State Senator Randy Brogdon, who jumped out of Oklahoma’s governor’s race and into the Senate race after U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn announced he would resign at the end of the year.

Brogdon has announced that if elected, he will vote to topple Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The SCF is backing McConnell’s primary challenger in Kentucky, Matt Bevin.

In addition to Oklahoma and Kentucky, the SCF is backing candidates in Republican Senate primaries in Mississippi and Louisiana.

There are four other Republican’s in the race for Coburn’s seat: Kevin Crow, Eric McCray, Evelyn Rogers and Jason Weger.

Given the Sooner State’s strong Republican tilt, the GOP nominee will be the prohibitive favorite in November. The lone Democrat is the race is former State Senator Kenneth Corn, his party’s unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010.

Democrat Travis Childers jumps into Mississippi U.S. Senate race

Childers, a former congressman, hopes to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

♦By Rich Shumate,

mississippi mugTUPELO, Mississippi (CFP) — U.S. Senator Thad Cochran’s quest for a seventh term faces a new complication with a potentially formidable Democrat, Travis Childers, entering the race even as Cochran is dealing with a primary challenge.

Former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers

Former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers

Childers, who represented northern Mississippi in the U.S. House from 2008 to 2011, said he’s running because Washington is “more partisan and dysfunctional than ever.”

“What I know is that the old ways of Washington aren’t working, and a new breed of partisanship isn’t the answer,” Childers, 55, said in statement announcing his candidacy on February 28.

“Mississippians know that I have a solid record of being an independent guy who will work across party lines and stand up to the powers that be when needed.”

When he ran for re-election to his U.S. House seat in 2010, Childers, who styles himself a Blue Dog Democrat, had the backing of the National Right to Life Committee and the National Rifle Association. But he still lost in the GOP wave to U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnalee.

Despite the Magnolia State’s pronounced Republican tilt, Childers gives the Democrats at least a fighting chance in the general election, particularly if Cochran doesn’t survive a primary challenge from State Senator Chris  McDaniel, a Tea Party favorite who is getting backing from national conservative groups.

McDaniel, 41, has been endorsed by both the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, which have been critical of Cochran for being, in their view, insufficiently conservative. Chief among Cochran’s sins: His vote in favor of the compromise legislation that restarted the government.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Cochran, 75, is the most senior Republican in the Senate and was a former chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. Since winning election in 1978, he hasn’t faced serious opposition, winning re-election four times with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Cochran is one of five Southern Republican senators facing a Tea Party-inspired prmary challenges this year. Those other races are in Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucy.

Party leaders have expressed concerns that if any of those Republicans fall, it could open those seats to Democrats and imperil GOP hopes of taking back the Senate this year.

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