Around the South for December 18th: AR, SC, & KY

Arkansas: Cotton takes heat over justice reform stance.  U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is taking heat from fellow Republicans over his hard-line stance on criminal justice reform, the hot button issue that the White House is trying to push through the Senate before the year is out.  Cotton has become the face of opposition to the bipartisan bill, saying that it is “soft on crime” and would release violent criminals onto the streets.  South Carolina: Mulvaney named acting Chief of Staff.  Former South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney has been named acting Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump, moving up from his current position of White House budget director.  Mulvaney has said he doesn’t plan to stay in the position for long, and only wants to serve until a more permanent replacement can be found.  Trump has had trouble filling the position, vacated by General John Kelly, after being turned down by his first choice, Georgian Nick Ayers.  Kentucky: Bevin slams pension ruling.  Governor Matt Bevin is furious after the state’s Supreme Court struck down a bill that would have would have reformed the state’s pension plan.  Teachers were furious with the bill, a 291 page piece of legislation that was tacked onto what was originally a sewer bill and rushed through the Republican-majority General Assembly earlier in 2018.  The Supreme Court said that it violated a provision within the Kentucky Constitution intended to assure that lawmakers have the “fair opportunity” to consider a bill before voting on it.  Democrats applauded the decision, while Bevin slammed it, pointing to the “broken” pension system that continues to rack up... read more

Around the South for December 13th: TX, FL, & GA

Texas: Castro eyes 2020 run.  Former San Antonio mayor and housing secretary under the Obama administration Julian Castro has formed a presidential exploratory committee, making him one of the first to semi-officially throw his hat in the ring for the 2020 Democratic primary.  Over two dozen potential candidates have been floated for the race, which has no clear frontrunners at the moment, including Castro’s fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke.  Florida: Goodbye Rays?  MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays may be headed out of the state, after St. Petersburg officials have been unable to drum up enough support to find money for a new stadium.  While many local leaders want the team to stay, public opinion doesn’t appear to be on their side, and the team, which plays in a dump of a stadium and draws some of the worst attendance in baseball, may see its days numbered.  Georgia: Atlanta scores Fortune 500 company.  Transportation giant Norfolk Southern announced this week that it will be moving its corporate HQ to Atlanta, bringing over 800 top level employees and spending more than half a billion dollars on a new office building in Midtown.  Governor Nathan Deal and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms spoke glowingly of the decision, praising their economic development teams for landing yet another major company that was looking to... read more

Around the South for December 6th: GA, SC, & TN

Georgia: GOP completes statewide sweep.  The ‘blue wave’ never quite crashed down on Georgia, as the party completed a clean sweep of statewide offices this week.  Former State Rep. Brad Raffensperger won the runoff for Secretary of State over former Congressman John Barrow, while Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton defended his seat against Democrat challenger Lindy Miller.  South Carolina: Haley sells SC home.  Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has no plans to return to the Palmetto State in the near future, selling her Lexington County home and choosing to remain in New York for the time being.  Haley’s next move has been much speculated, as she remains popular and has no shortage of options following her stint in Washington D.C.  Tennessee: Lee names new Ag Commissioner.  Governor-elect Bill Lee (R) this week named state veterinarian Charlie Hatcher as the state’s next agriculture commissioner.  A 10th generation farmer, Hatcher becomes the fourth commissioner appointed by Lee as he prepares to take office in... read more

Around the South for November 29th: MS, FL, & GA

Mississippi: Hyde-Smith wins runoff.  Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Demcoratic opponent Mike Espy on Tuesday by an 8 point margin.  The race, which was often nasty and tainted by allegations of racism from the black Espy to the white Hyde-Smith, will give the GOP a 53-47 majority in the Senate next year.  Hyde-Smith is becomes the first woman elected to the Senate in the state, (she was appointed last year in place of the retiring Thad Cochran).  Florida: Dems eye 15th District.  The 2018 midterms are barely finished, yet Democrats are already taking aim at one particular Florida Congressional seat for 2020.  Republican Ross Spano beat Democrat Kristen Carlson by 6 points to win the seat, but Dems think the seat is vulnerable following questions surrounding potential campaign finance violations made by Spano during the race.  Georgia: Yates has no plans to run for office.  Despite pleas from state Democrats, former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates has said she has no plans to run for office in the state.  Yates became a Democratic darling in 2017 when she refused to enforce President Donald Trump’s travel ban and was subsequently fired.  Now practicing law in Atlanta, she has been seen as a potential rising star should she choose to run for Senate in 2020 or for Congress, though she has repeatedly denied having interest in doing... read more

Around the South for November 27th: TN, TX, & AL

Tennessee: State House elects first Black minority leader.  State Democrats in Tennessee made history Monday, selecting state Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) as the first African American minority leader in state history.  Camper replaces Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), who did not run for re-election.  Republicans hold a 73-26 supermajority in the House.  Texas: O’Rourke calls for Confederate plaque removal.  Outgoing U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) may have lose his bid for the U.S. Senate, but he’s not going away quietly.  The Democratic darling is now calling for the removal of a Confederate plaque at the Texas State Capitol that claims that slavery was not the main underlying cause for the Civil War.  He lends weight to a brewing controversy that will have to be settled in the Republican-majority state legislature.  Alabama: Byrne weighs Senate run.  U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) is considering running for Senate against incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D) in 2020, and isn’t being shy about it.  He met with former Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week to ask for advice, and possibly to gauge whether Sessions may be planning a campaign of his own in two... read more

Around the South for November 15th: SC, TX, & AL

South Carolina: State considers switch to paper ballots.  In the light of controversy surrounding elections security both in South Carolina as well as in neighboring states such as Georgia, state officials are considering making a switch to paper ballots in 2019.  Currently SC voting machines do not have a paper audit, putting them at risk for hacking or other interference.  Texas: Nine freshmen head to Washington.  A whopping nine new U.S. Reps. from Texas are in Washington D.C. for orientation this week following their midterm wins.  The class has four Democrats and five Republicans, including its first two Latinas in Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, both Dems.  Alabama: Jones to run in 2020.  Democratic Senator Doug Jones, who scored a shocking victory over Republican Roy Moore in last year’s special election, has announced he intends to run for re-election in 2020.  He will once again be seen as a long shot in the dark-red state, where his victory has been considered something of a fluke considering it came after Moore, the former Supreme Court Chief Justice in the state, was accused of having improper contact with teenage girls in the 1970s while he was in his 30’s.  Rumored opponents include Rep. Bradley Byrne(R-Fairhope) and Jeff Sessions, the former U.S. Senator for the seat and U.S. Attorney General who stepped down this... read more

Around the South for November 13th: TX, TN, & MS

Texas: Beto 2020?  U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke may have lost his high-profile Senate race to Sen. Ted Cruz, but could he now have an even higher goal?  Rumors are already swirling that with his massive fundraising network, name recognition, and appeal to millenials, O’Rourke could be set up for a presidential run in 2020.  Tennessee: Lee pledges increased transparency.  Republican Governor-elect Bill Lee has promised “complete overhaul” of the state’s open records act to expand access to public documents and meetings as he prepares to enter office.  Lee defeated Democrat Karl Dean last week.  Mississippi: Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, currently in a runoff to retain her seat against former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary Mike Espy, a black Democrat, is under fire for comments made at a campaign event earlier this month.  In a recently surfaced video, Hyde-Smith is seen saying about a supporter, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”  Democrats quickly jumped on Hyde-Smith for being insensitive and reinforcing negative stereotypes about the state and its history.  Between 1882 and 1968 Mississippi had more lynchings than any other state in the... read more

Around the South for November 8th: GA, TN, & FL

Georgia: Election results questioned.  Republican Brian Kemp looks to have won the race for governor over Dem Stacey Abrams, but she isn’t going quietly.  There are still absentee and provisional ballots outstanding, and Abrams claims there are enough to drag Kemp, who leads by just 70,000 votes, down under 50% and into a runoff.  Tennessee: So much for the ‘Taylor’ bump.  Following pop-star Taylor Swift’s endorsement of Phil Bredesen in the Tennessee Senate race, many thought he had a shot at pulling an upset against Republican Marsha Blackburn.  That notion was quickly quelled Tuesday, as the Republican won convincingly by more than 10 points.  Swift’s endorsement may have led to a bump in voter registration, but Tennessee Republicans reminded everyone that their state is far from purple.  Florida: Crushing night for Dems.  Most prognosticators expected a blue wave in Florida, with both gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Senate candidate Bill Nelson up in the polls headed into Tuesday.  Both candidates were knocked off by their Republican opponents though in typically tight Florida fashion, with Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott scoring narrow victories as the Florida GOP flexed its muscle with a pair of huge... read more

Around the South for November 5th, 2018: GA, FL, & WV

Georgia: Gov’s race in a dead heat.  In Georgia, new polling shows the governor’s race between Brian Kemp, and Stacey Abrams is in a statistical tie. Depending on how much support Libertarian candidate Ted Metz receives, most analysts are now talking about a possible December runoff, something that has never happened before in a general election for governor in Georgia.  Florida: Scott extends lead.  Republican Governor Rick Scott has pulled out to a 5 point lead in the latest polls over Senator Bill Nelson in the Florida US Senate race. Scott has a 48-43 percent lead, with 5% still undecided. Respondents overwhelmingly approved of Scott’s handling of Hurricane Michael, while a lot of people also approved more so than disapproved of Senator Nelson’s vote against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.  West Virginia: Manchin’s lead slips.  Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has seen his lead in the polls drop to 5% over Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. The poll indicated that more liberal leaning voters are going towards the libertarian candidate Rusty Hollen after Manchin’s vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh. While no libertarian candidate has ever received 10% of the vote in a statewide race, over 13% of respondents who identify as liberal prefer Hollen over... read more

Around the South for November 2nd: AL, TN, & TX

Alabama: Pence campaigns in Birmingham.  Vice President Mike Pence landed at Birmingham’s Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base this week to headline a fundraiser for the National Republican Senatorial Committee – the campaign arm of Senate Republicans.  He also spent time meeting with Gov. Kay Ivey, who is heavily favored in her re-election campaign against Democrat Walt Maddox next Tuesday.  Tennessee: Blackburn opens up lead.  Just days ahead of the midterm elections, Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn appears to be opening up her lead over Democratic former Governor Phil Bresdesen in the race for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.  The latest poll, from Fox News, shows Blackburn up 9 points, up from the previous set that had her up 5-6%.  Texas: O’Rourke sucks air out of the room.  U.S. Senate contender Beto O’Rourke, this cycle’s Democratic darling, has raised a stunning amount of money in his bid against Sen. Ted Cruz.  However his popularity may actually be hurting some of his party’s other candidates, many of whom are posting meager fundraising totals ahead of Tuesday’s elections.  O’Rourke’s $70 million is the most in the nation, (and in history for a senate race) but none of the other top Dems running are close to their Republican counterparts in the money department, with some of those gaps (especially for governor and lt. governor) so massive that the candidates are funneling campaign cash to down-ballot... read more

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