Around the South for February 7th: GA, VA, & SC

Georgia: Abrams praised for SOTU response.  Stacey Abrams may have fallen short in her bid to win the Georgia governorship in 2018, but she remains a rising star in the Democratic Party.  Her nationally televised response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Tuesday was met with generally favorable reviews, mixing in personal anecdotes with a more general Dem platform, and avoiding the gaffes that have plagued many previous responders.  Allies are hoping to push her to run against Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in 2020.    Virginia: State leaders plagued by scandal.  Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and AG Mark R. Herring, all Democrats, have found themselves embroiled in potentially career-ending scandal.  Northam and Herring were found to have dressed in blackface in college during parties, while Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault.  While many have called for Northam to resign now state Dems are in a tight spot – if all three are forced to step down the governorship would go over to a Republican, House Speaker Kirk Cox.  South Carolina: Presidential hopefuls gear up.  Democratic candidates for president in 2020 are gearing up their campaigns in South Carolina, an important early battleground state.  Kamala Harris, Joe Biden and Cory Booker, among others, are jostling to hire key political operatives in the state, knowing that a win would show the ability to galvanize the black and southern vote which would give them a leg up in a very crowded primary... read more

Around the South for January 24th: VA, KY, & TN

Virginia: General Assembly ponders casinos.  Legislation that would allow 5 Virginia cities to vote on constructing a casino passed out of a Senate committee this week, moving one step closer to legalizing gambling in the state.  State officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam, have said they’d prefer to hold off on passing such legislation until they can study the issue further.  Kentucky: Grimes won’t run for gov.  Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced Monday that she will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor, pointing to the fact that she had her first child in December.  So far four Democrats, including Attorney General Andy Beshear and House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins have announced their campaigns in the race to unseat Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who has said he will run for re-election.  Tennessee: Lee issues executive order on rural development.  Newly sworn in Gov. Bill Lee issued his first executive order this week, aimed at aiding economically distressed rural counties.  Helping rural areas was a key part of Lee’s platform for governor, and his executive order would require all state executive departments to provide recommendations for how they can better serve rural Tennessee.  Rural broadband, vocational training, and increased access to healthcare are all potential avenues for improvement in the... read more

Around the South for January 17th: FL, SC, & AL

Florida: Hastings reveals he has cancer.  U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) announced this week that he has pancreatic cancer, but that he plans to remain in office during his treatment.  The 82 year old congressman, who has been in office in Florida’s 20th Congressional District since 1990, says he feels “hopeful” about his treatment as well as in his ability to continue to serve his constituents.  South Carolina: Officials ponder paper ballots.  State elections officials are pushing to replace voting machines with paper ballots ahead of the 2020 elections, requesting $60 million from the state legislature to implement a new system that would leave a paper trail.  One problem – the new budget proposal from Gov. Henry McMaster includes just $5 million for voting machines.  Alabama: Ivey starts on a high note.  She hasn’t been in office for a week, but already Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is among the most popular governors in the nation.  A quarterly approval poll from The Morning Consult marks her approval rating at 63%, behind only Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Maryland Gov. Larry... read more

Around the South for January 10th: FL, TX, & VA

Florida: DeSantis makes first state Supreme Court pick.  New Governor Ron DeSantis has selected Miami Judge Barbara Lagoa as his first of three state Supreme Court appointees.  The “rule of law” conservative is the first Hispanic woman in history to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.  She takes over for retiring Justice Fred Lewis.  Texas: GOP moves past ‘bathroom bill.’  State Republican leaders are looking past the bathroom bill issue that has grabbed headlines across the country in recent years, promising instead to focus on “real issues” such as school finance and property taxes.  In 2017 a GOP backed bathroom bill was defeated following staunch opposition from the state’s business community.  Virginia: Supreme Court denies request.  The U.S. Supreme Court this week denied a request from a state Republican to delay the implementation of a new House of Delegates map for the 2019 elections.  The ruling means that state maps will be redrawn, a result of a suit filed that alleged state lawmakers used improper racial targets during the 2011 redistricting process to draw African-American voters into majority-minority districts.  The new maps are expected to lead to a more Democrat-friendly landscape in 2019 and... read more

Around the South for December 27th: LA, NC, & GA

Louisiana: Kennedy upset, Edwards pleased with justice reform.  Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) was among the small group of vocal opposition to President Donald Trump’s First Step Act, the criminal justice reform bill that passed earlier this month.  Democratic Governor Bill Edwards, who helped pass similar legislation in Louisiana, told reporters “I think Sen. Kennedy got it wrong” on the issue.  North Carolina: GOP stands by Harris.  The local arm of the Republican Party is standing behind Mark Harris, the congressman-elect whose legitimacy has come under fire after it was found one of his campaign workers is under criminal investigation for past election fraud.  The GOP argues that Harris’ November win should be certified on account of there not being any evidence that the 2018 election was interfered with.  That may not be true though, as the state elections board does not have to release the findings of its investigation into the race until later in January.  Former gubernatorial candidate indicted.  State Sen. and former gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams (R-Cumming) has been indicted for making a false report that computer servers were stolen from his campaign office earlier this year.  The candidate, whose aggressive and controversial campaign tactics drew national attention, is alleged to have committed insurance fraud, making a false statement and false report of a... read more

Around the South for December 20th: NC, AL, & TX

North Carolina: Extra congressional seat expected.  North Carolina’s growth rate has slowed from its peak, but the state is still expected to pick up another seat in Congress following the 2020 census.  The state’s population increased 1.1 percent in the past year, outpacing the national growth rate of 0.6 percent.  Alabama: Sheriff pleads guilty on tax charge.  Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin has agreed to plead guilty on charges of willful failure to file a tax return, with prosecutors saying they are leaving it up to the judge whether Franklin should serve prison time or be allowed to serve her sentence on house arrest or probation.  Franklin faces up to a year in prison and a fine up to $100,000.  Her term ends this January.  Texas: GOP donor threatens Abbott.  Dallas businessman and GOP donor Christopher Ekstrom has threatened to take action against state officials who support the removal of Confederate monuments on state property, saying he and his group will make more than 100,000 robocalls telling voters to contact their elected officials and voice their opposition to the move.  Republican Governor Greg Abbott publicly opposed the removal of a Confederate plaque in the Capitol in November, which many have taken offense to because it contains the “Children of the Confederacy creed,” stating that slavery was not the underlying cause behind the Civil... read more

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

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