Around the South for Apr. 20: SC, TX & VA

South Carolina: Kudos for Haley. “With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” US Ambassador to the United Nations replied after White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow implied her announcement of strong new sanctions on Russia resulted from confusion. Haley drew fast praise for her stance. The Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne led off his prime-space column yesterday praising her, noting that her comments “earned cheers from people who called it an example of resolve from a strong female leader,” as well as criticism from some Trump loyalists. Dionne referred to Haley as “widely seen as a present and future GOP star.” ……. Texas: Bad news for Cruz. Democratic US Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke is fast approaching parity with US Sen. Ted Cruz (R), once thought to be safe during this contentious election year. The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Cruz with 47%, O’Rourke with 44%. Stay tuned ……. Virginia: Legislature doesn’t override Northam veto. A bill that would have banned “sanctuary cities” in Virginia was vetoed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and his veto was upheld when the legislature, with only narrow Republican majorities, couldn’t even come close to the two-thirds needed to override his veto... read more

Around the South for Apr. 19: FL, GA & FEC

  Florida: Crist looks safe. US Rep. Charlie Crist (D), who won the 2016 election 52% to 48% against incumbent David Jolly, announced that he raised $450,000 in the 1st Quarter, leaving him with $2.1 million cash-on-hand. So far, only two little known Republicans, businessmen George Buck, an Army and Air Force veteran, and Brad Sostack, a Navy veteran, are running against him. Jolly declined a rerun, tweeting, [W]atching Pennsylvania, this is not the year to reenter politics.” ……. Georgia: Isakson’s opioid concerns are personal. In a third in a series on members of Congress who have felt the impact of the opioid crisis, The Hill interviewed US Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), whose grandson, Charley Joyner, died of a drug overdose in late 2016. Joyner was set to graduate from the University of Georgia summa cum laude with a major in math. He had struggled with addiction previously but had recovered. Then “[O]ne slip up, that one night before graduation, cost him his life.” Isakson said of Joyner, “He was just all those things that everybody would hope their kid would be. He just got mixed up with drugs.” ……. Federal Election Commission: The Hill newspaper, in an article on fundraising of US Senators up for reelection this year, included two Southern contests where Democrats outraised their Republican foes. In Tennessee, Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn (R) raised $2 million in the 1st quarter while former governor Phil Bredesen (D) raised $3.4 million. And in Texas, US Sen. Ted Cruz (R) raised $3.2 million in the 1st quarter, while his opponent, US Rep. Beto O’Rourke, brought in a whopping $6.7... read more

Around the South for Apr. 18: TN, FL & NC

  Tennessee: Gubernatorial fundraising off to good start. In the 1st Quarter, among Republican candidates for governor, former Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd raised the most money from contributions with $606,000; businessman Bill Lee raised $317,000 and presumed-frontrunner US Rep. Diane Black raised $294,000. In big additions, Boyd gave his campaign $2 million; Lee loaned his war chest $3 million; and Black donated $3 million to her effort, reports The Tennessee Journal ……. Florida: Trump courts Latinos. In the latest in a series of events to promote his tax cut package, President Trump addressed a crowd of South Floridians on Monday. The audience, reports the Washington Post, was “filled with dozens of the Americans of Cuban and Venezuelan decent.” The stage reflected the audience, with US Sen. Marco Rubio (R), US Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R), US Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and several prominent local Latino business leaders. Trump said, “For Hispanics, we have the lowest level [of unemployment] ever recorded. I’m really proud of it.” ……. North Carolina: Cooper boosts craft beer. Gov. Roy Cooper (D), mindful that the Tar Heel State’s breweries employ some 10,000 people in 250 locations, has declared April “North Carolina Beer Month,” reports WNCT – TV9. “Small is where new growth begins and not every industry pans out,” said Greenville Brewmaster Benjamin Self. “But I think it’s clear that craft beer is going to be a strong player.”... read more

Around the South for Apr. 17: AL, AR & KY

Alabama: Ivey hits debate critics. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) rebuked her opponents in the June 5 primary for criticizing her non-appearance at a debate. At a groundbreaking ceremony for a plant expansion in Huntsville, the home of one of her foes, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle (R), Ivey said, “This race is not going to be about stunts anybody is trying to pull to get media attention. It’s about our individual records.” Ivey has declined to appear at another debate, citing schedule conflicts ……. Arkansas: Hutchinson tours tornado damage. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) toured Mountainburg Sunday morning to observe the damage of a tornado with 120 miles per hour winds. “Y’all have done a great job in responding,” said Hutchinson, “and I’m here primarily to thank you for the community pulling together so well,” reported Arkansas Online. He added, “[W]e’re very blessed that only four people were injured.” ……. Kentucky: Bevin apologizes for remarks about teachers’ strike. After contending that a lot of children were sexually abused or even ingested poison while their teachers were out on strike, Gov. Matt Bevin (R) issued a public apology. “The words that people say can have unintended consequences,” he said in a video, reported the Courier-Journal. “I apologize for those who have been hurt by the things that were said… It was not my intent.”... read more

Around the South for Apr. 16: NC, TN & FL

North Carolina: Tillis would protect Mueller. US Sen. Thom Tillis (R) published an op/ed in the Washington Post last week explaining why he and US Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Christopher Coons (D-DE) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have introduced the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. The bipartisan bill “is about protecting the rule of law and producing an outcome that is good for our country. It’s not about producing an outcome for one political party.” ……. Tennessee: Corker regrets tax reform vote. After the Congressional Budget Office said the tax reform act that passed would cost $1.8 trillion over the next decade, US Sen. Bob Corker (R), one of the Senate GOP’s go-to guys on financial policy, told a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee, “If this is accurate, obviously it’s a terrible vote.” ……. Tennessee: Ros-Lehtinen feted at gala. What were Caitlyn Jenner, Richard Gere, US Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Treasurer Rosa Gumataotao Rios and “enough House members to constitute a quorum of some kind,” as the Washington Post put it, doing at the annual dinner of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute last Wednesday? Why, along with US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R) family, they were paying tribute to the Florida congresswoman who is, as the Post put it, “one of the too-rare lawmakers beloved by her colleagues” and is retiring at the end of her current term... read more

Around the South for Apr. 13: LA, TN & TX

  Louisiana: Scalise bows out of Speaker race. “I’ve never run against Kevin [McCarthy], and wouldn’t run against Kevin,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said on Fox News yesterday. Scalise clears the way for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to succeed Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who had announced he will not seek reelection. Ryan said he was “encouraged” by Scalise’s announcement, because it suggests unity in the House GOP, reports Roll Call ……. Tennessee: Corker to support Pompeo. US Sen. Bob Corker (R), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced yesterday that he will “avidly” support former CIA Director Mike Pompeo to become Secretary of State. At a committee hearing on the nomination, Corker said to Pompeo, “You have the personal characteristics to lead the State Department in a way that generates the kind of culture and levers that we need around the world for active diplomacy.” ……. Texas: Stockman convicted. Former US Rep. Steve Stockman (R), once a player in the Reagan Administration’s economic policy and more recently a far-right member of Congress, was convicted by a federal jury in Houston of 23 of the 24 counts in his indictment. The case involved a scheme to disguise campaign donations as charitable donations, which Stockman used for personal expenses and to pay campaign debts, reports the Houston Chronicle... read more

Around the South for Apr. 12: KY, FL & AL

  Kentucky: McConnell thinks Mueller stays put. “I haven’t seen a clear indication yet that we need to pass something to keep [special counsel Robert Mueller] from being removed because I don’t think that’s going to happen, and that remains my view,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) told The Hill yesterday. “It’s still my view that Mueller should be allowed to finish his job. I think that’s the view of most people in Congress.” ……. Florida: Ross retiring. US Rep. Dennis Ross (R), the four-term lawmaker from the 15th District (Lakeland, etc.), announced yesterday that he will step down at the end of his current term. Ross won by 8 points in 2010 and has been reelected since, including having no opposition in 2012. No prominent Democrat has indicated an interest in the seat, though that may change. Donald Trump carried the district by 10 points ……. Alabama: Moore countersues. Leigh Corfman claimed US Senate candidate Roy Moore touched her sexually when she was 14 and he was 32, a claim Moore denied. Then Corfman filed a defamation lawsuit against Moore. Now Moore has filed a defamation countersuit against Corfman. When will it all end?... read more

Around the South for Apr. 11: VA, TN & LA

  Virginia: Brat boosts balanced budget. In response to lots of constituent opposition to deficit spending, expressed to members of Congress during the spring recess, the House of Representatives is set to vote tomorrow on a constitutional amendment requiring the nation to adopt a balanced budget. While the amendment is given very poor prospects of becoming law, US Rep. David Brat (R) told The Hill, “If nothing else, it will at least showcase who is voting which way, even if it doesn’t go through. Its valuable to show the American people who is for fiscal responsibility.” ……. Tennessee: Alexander endorses Blackburn. US Sen. Lamar Alexander (R), long a prominent GOP moderate, last week tweeted his endorsement of hardline conservative US Rep. Marsha Blackburn for the US Senate for the seat to be vacated by another prominent GOP centrist, US Rep. Bob Corker (R). Corker will wait until after the Republican Primary before making an endorsement ……. Louisiana: Scalise, McCarthy maneuver to succeed Ryan. Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) are beginning what The Hill calls a “shadow campaign” to succeed House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) in the event he steps down after the November elections. Much could depend on President Trump’s choice for the job... read more

Around the South for Apr.10: FL, KY & TN

  Florida: Scott makes it official. Proclaiming that “We have turned our state into a model for the rest of the nation,” Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced yesterday that he will run for the US Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson (D). The race is now a toss-up and likely to be one of the costliest contests in the nation. Scott has deep pockets and has shown a willingness to spend big. Nelson will have Democratic donors and PACS coughing up big time to keep the seat in Democratic hands to help them flip the Senate from Red to Blue. Stay tuned! ……. Kentucky: Bevin vetoes tax reform & budget. In a veto announcement yesterday, Gov. Matt Bevin (R) said, “The budget has hundreds of millions of dollars in spending that we really can’t afford …Sure, it feels good. Sure, it quiets people down. But the reality is the money’s not there and we’re kicking the can down the road,” reported the Courier-Journal. Critics (R) called the governor’s comments misguided. The legislature will meet again Friday and Saturday and can vote to override Bevins veto, if it chooses ……. Tennessee: Black, Dean lead in gubernatorial poll. An early March survey by the Save the Children Action Network showed US Rep. Diane Black with 25% in the Republican Primary, followed by businessman Randy Boyd with 20%, Bill Lee with 7% and state House Speaker Beth Harwell with 6%. For the Democrats, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean had 44% to state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s 11%... read more

Around the South for Apr. 9: KY, TX & SC

Kentucky: Bevin ponders tax bill. To sign or veto? That is the question Gov. Matt Bevin (R) must answer by April 13. Last week, the legislature passed a tax bill that provides a flat tax of 5% on both corporations and individuals. Liberals say it helps the rich and hurts the poor. Conservatives say broadening the number of taxpayers and lowering rates is good policy that attracts job-producing businesses, reports the Washington Post ……. Texas: Farenthold resigns. In response to sexual harassment charges, including a congressional pay-out of $84,000 to a former staffer, US Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) had announced he would not seek reelection. On Friday, however, the conservative lawmaker resigned from Congress. Under “murky” Texas law, reports Roll Call, there will be a special election to fill the vacancy either May 5 or Nov. 6 ……. South Carolina: Legislator proposes secession discussion. Not again! Three state legislators (R) have introduced a bill allowing for a discussion of seceding from the Union, inspired by fears that the Second Amendment protecting gun rights might be repealed or gutted by judicial decisions. One of the lawmakers did say, reports the Washington Times, that the bill would not pass. Whew!... read more

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