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DON BLANKENSHIP TRIES 3RD-PARTY RUN FOR WEST VIRGINIA SEAT

Don Blankenship

Two weeks after coming in a distant third in a GOP primary, Blankenship, a former coal baron who went to prison for his role in a deadly 2010 mine disaster, has accepted the Constitution Party’s nomination for the seat, a move that could harm Republican prospects for ousting incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. However, Blankenship will need to get past the state’s “sour grapes” law that prevents losing primary candidates from running under the banner of a third party. (Posted May 21)

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RICK SCOTT WILL CHALLENGE BILL NELSON FOR FLORIDA SEAT

Rick Scott

Criticizing “career politicians” who have left Washington “dysfunctional,” Scott, Florida’s Republican governor, made official what was widely expected — he will take on Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson in what is likely to be a hugely expensive battle for Nelson’s seat, with control of the chamber in the balance. At his April 9 announcement, Scott touted his record of job creation and tax cuts during his two terms as governor and called on Floridians to “stop sending talkers to Washington. Let’s send doers.” Nelson is seeking his fourth term. (Posted April 9)

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CINDY HYDE-SMITH PICKED FOR MISSISSIPPI U.S. SENATE SEAT

Hyde-Smith accepts Senate appointment (From WJTV)

Hyde-Smith, the state’s agriculture commissioner, was picked by Governor Phil Bryant to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Republican U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, becoming the first women to ever represent Mississippi in Congress. But the question now is whether Hyde-Smith, a former Democratic state legislator who switched parties in 2010, can keep the seat permanently in a November special election that is likely to be a bruising battle for conservative votes against State Senator Chris McDaniel. McDaniel accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of orchestrating Hyde-Smith’s selection, a charge dismissed by Bryant, who said the decision was “mine and mine alone.” In the special election, Hyde-Smith and McDaniel will face Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman who served as federal agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration. (Posted March 21)

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U.S. SENATOR BOB CORKER STICKS WITH RETIREMENT

Corker

After reconsidering his decision to retire from the U.S. Senate, Corker has now ruled out seeking another term this year, setting up a general election match-up between U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen that could determine control of the Senate. In an interview with Politico, Corker’s chief of staff said the senator decided to stick with his decision last September not to seek a third term, despite being urged by other Republicans to reconsider amid fears that Blackburn could have trouble keeping the seat in GOP hands. (Posted February 27)

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RAND PAUL’S NEIGHBOR FACES FEDERAL ASSAULT CHARGE

Rene Boucher

Rene Boucher, 58, has agreed to plead guilty to assaulting a member of Congress resulting in personal injury and could face up to 10 years in prison, according to the federal prosecutor handling the case. No sentencing date has been set. Boucher tackled Paul outside his home near Bowling Green, Kentucky last November in an apparent dispute over yard trimmings, breaking multiple ribs, according to the prosecutor. Boucher has denied any political motivation for the attack. (Posted January 20)

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ALABAMA DEMOCRAT DOUG JONES SWORN IN AS SENATOR

U.S. Senator Doug Jones is sworn in. (Courtesy C-SPAN)

Jones was officially sworn in as a U.S. senator on January 3, capping the remarkable and improbable political feat of capturing a Senate seat in one of the nation’s most Republican states. Flanked by former Vice President Joe Biden, Jones took the oath of office from Vice President Mike Pence, alongside Democrat Tina Smith, who assumed the Senate seat from Minnesota vacated by Al Franken. Jones now holds the seat once held by his mentor and former boss, the late U.S. Senator Howell Heflin, who was the last Democrat to represent the Yellowhammer State when he retired in 1997. With Jones in the Senate, Republicans will hold a scant 51-49 advantage. (Posted January 3)

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STEWART VOWS “VICIOUS, RUTHLESS” RUN FOR VIRGINIA SEAT

Stewart

Just a month after narrowly losing a Republican primary for Virginia governor, President Trump’s one-time state chairman, Corey Stewart, is vowing to run “the most vicious, ruthless” campaign to unseat U.S. Senator Tim Kaine in 2018, accusing Hillary Clinton’s running mate of having “blind hatred” for Trump and trying to stop the president’s agenda. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, lost June’s GOP gubernatorial primary by just 4,500 votes to former Bush White House aide Ed Gillespie. (Posted July 13)

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JENKINS CHALLENGING MANCHIN FOR WEST VIRGINIA SEAT

Jenkins

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins announced that he will try to defeat U.S. Senator Joe Manchin in 2018, in what is expected to be one of the South’s hottest Senate races. Although Manchin, a former governor, styles himself as a moderate, Jenkins put out a blistering campaign video accusing Machin of straying from the values he was elected to represent by supporting Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Jenkins also tied himself firmly to Donald Trump, who won the Mountaineer State by a staggering 41 points in 2016. (Posted May 8)

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SOUTHERN SENATORS SPLIT OVER HIGH COURT FILIBUSTERS

Gorsuch

With the support of all 24 Southern Republicans, the U.S. Senate changed its rules to eliminate filibusters for Supreme Court nominations, clearing the way for confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to a lifetime seat on the high court. Three of the four Southern Democratic senators — Bill Nelson of Florida and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia — supported a filibuster to block Gorsuch, prompting Republicans to end the practice. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who did,’t join the filibuster but voted against changing the rules, criticized both sides for “hypocrisy,” saying the filibuster flap shows “precisely what is wrong with Washington.”(Posted April 6)

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O’ROURKE KICKS OFF CAMPAIGN TO UNSEAT CRUZ IN TEXAS

O’Rourke kicks off campaign in El Paso.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is giving up his safe House seat in order to make a long-shot bid to unseat U.S. Senator Ted Cruz,  kicked off his campaign March 31 with a rally in his hometown of El Paso, which he represents in Congress, followed by a weekend of stops in major cities around the Lone Star State. Without mentioning Cruz by name, O’Rourke accused him of putting political ambition above his job as a senator, saying that to meet the challenges of the future, Texans will need “a senator who’s working full time for Texas, a senator who’s not using this position of responsibility and power to serve his own interests, to run for president, to shut down the government.” O’Rourke is also positioning himself as aDonald Trump critic, saying the new administration is “focused on the wrong things instead of the right things that (are) going to get us ahead.” (Posted April 1)

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KAINE RULES OUT ANY RUN FOR 2020 DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION

Kaine

Kaine

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia says he is through with presidential-level politics and will not run for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Kaine made those remarks in a November 17 interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, his first in-depth interview since he and Hillary Clinton went down to defeat on November 8. “I want to run and serve in the Senate for a long time,” Kaine said. “I think the Catholic in me likes to go to the place where there is the most work to be done.” Kaine is up for re-election in Virginia in 2018. (Posted November 18)

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