South Carolina Democrats’ once bright prospects have faded

South Carolina Democrats’ once bright prospects have faded

By Hastings Wyman – Things were looking up for South Carolina Democrats. In a 2017 special election in the 5th District, Archie Parnell, a retired Goldman-Sachs executive, ran a surprisingly close race against Republican state Rep. Ralph Norman. Then a 40-year old scandal came to light: Parnell beat his then-wife, dealing a severe blow to his political potential. This year, in the 1st District, freshman state Rep. Katie Arrington (R), a strong Trump supporter, defeated incumbent Mark Sanford (R) in the primary, setting up a possible Democratic upset by Joe Cunningham in that Charleston-based district. But then Arrington was in a serious automobile accident, taking her off the campaign trail for a while, but bringing her plenty of sympathetic publicity. In the governor’s race, Democratic state Rep. James Smith won his primary outright over two opponents, while Republican incumbent Henry McMaster was forced into a runoff with Greenville businessman John Warren, giving Smith a head start in both fundraising and campaigning. But without the extra turnout in the 1st and 5th Districts the congressional elections might have brought, as well as some staffing problems, Smith’s campaign has lost some of its luster. “We can compete in the 1st and the 5th Districts,” says Boyd Brown, the state’s Democratic National Committeeman. “The 1st District is becoming bluer by the day. Young people are moving in. Charleston County is blue now.” As for the 5th, Brown says “Ralph Norman is vulnerable. He’s not a strong candidate, witness his 2017 primary victory” and his narrow (51.1% to 47.9%) victory over Parnell in the special General Election. He also notes that “We just...
Major Governor’s Races in the South

Major Governor’s Races in the South

By Hastings Wyman – Three Southern governor’s races will command national attention in November, in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. In the Sunshine State, can the GOP maintain its hold on the top spot in Tallahassee? In the Peach State, will Deep South voters elect their first African-American and first woman governor? And in the Volunteer State, can Democrats manage to recover the governorship and move the state back toward a more moderate role in national politics? A major question is whether President Trump, who continues to command a strong base in the region, can turn out his loyal supporters to help his party. On the other side of the same coin is whether the backlash against Trump and his iconoclastic style will bring out voters concerned about a number of controversial cultural issues, from abortion to gun control. Here is how these three races look for now, with the latest polling and money numbers. Florida. The Sunshine State doesn’t hold its primaries until August 28 and there are spirited contests in both parties to succeed Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is term-limited and running for the US Senate. On the Republican side, Trump-endorsed US Rep. Ron DeSantis is leading with 39% in the latest Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of recent polls. Early favorite Adam Putnam, the state Commissioner of Agriculture, is second with 28%; four other candidates each have 2% or less. Also relevant, says Dr. Susan MacManus, political science professor Emerita at the University of South Florida, “Trump is very popular” in Florida. As of July 27, Putnam had raised $36.8 million, with $7.3 million cash-on-hand. DeSantis,...
Roundup of Southern US Senate contests

Roundup of Southern US Senate contests

By Hastings Wyman – Today the US Senate has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, including two independents who caucus with the Democrats. With more Democratic seats up for election this year than Republicans, the early betting was for GOP gains that would strengthen that party’s majority in the Senate. However, with the political climate in many states trending against President Trump’s party, the outlook for the partisan divide in the Senate in January is highly uncertain. In the South, President Trump, his Administration and his policies remain popular, especially with Republican voters, who generally prevail in most Southern states. SPR’s quick summary of the six US Senate races on the ballot on Nov. 6 shows Florida a toss-up. Mississippi’s two races look good for the GOP, Solid Republican (US Sen. Roger Wicker’s re-election) and Likely Republican (US Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s seat). Tennessee is somewhere between toss-up and Leans Republican. Texas is Likely Republican. And Virginia is Solid Democratic. Florida One of the highest profile Senate races in the South, and the nation, this year is in Florida, where US Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is receiving a well-honed challenge from Gov. Rick Scott (R). Former US Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), , a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of American politics, especially in the South. In the Florida race, says Davis, “It doesn’t matter what the national trend is. Scott has his own brand.” As for Nelson, “Aside from being an astronaut, what on earth has he done?” Pun intended? In the money chase, according to the FEC’s 2nd Quarter campaign finance reports,...
The money favors the Democrats

The money favors the Democrats

By Hastings Wyman – There are 18 US House seats in the South currently held by Republicans that are potential Democratic pickups this fall. There is only one Democratic seat that the GOP might flip (FL 7). The Democrats need 24 seats to win control of the House. If a sizable number come from the South, usually a Republican stronghold, then the Democrats chances of winning the necessary 24 seats, and a majority in the House, increases significantly. The 18 vulnerable Republican seats include three GOP incumbents who are trailing in funds, either in funds raised or on hand. US Rep. Theodore Budd (R) in NC 13 trails challenger Kathy Manning (D). US Rep. John Culberson (R) in TX 7 has raised less than Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. And US Rep. David Brat (R) in VA 7 hasn’t raised as much as Abigail Spanberger (D), although he has more cash-on-hand. In two districts where Republican incumbents lost primaries to more Trump-friendly contenders, the Democratic nominees are ahead in the money chase. In NC 9, Democrat Daniel McCready has a major lead over Mark Harris (R), who defeated US Rep. Robert Pittenger (R) in the primary. And in SC 1, where Katie Arrington (R) defeated US Rep. Mark Sanford (R) in the primary, her Democratic opponent Joe Cunningham has raised more money and has more cash-on-hand than Arrington. Arrington’s injuries in a car accident may have slowed down her campaign. On the other hand, Sanford has recently given Cunningham a boost by a post-primary attack on Arrington on an offshore drilling issue. In another four districts, Democrats have raised more...
Oklahoma: Cornett, Stitt vie for GOP gubernatorial nod

Oklahoma: Cornett, Stitt vie for GOP gubernatorial nod

By Hastings Wyman – After a hard-fought Republican gubernatorial primary with six candidates, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt will face each other in a runoff on August 28. In the June 26 primary, Cornett led with 29.35%, Stitt was second with 24.41% and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb finished a close third with 23.87%. State Question 788, the initiative to legalize medical marijuana which passed 56% to 43%, “drove most of the turnout. More than in the 2016 Super Tuesday,” said Chad Alexander, former chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party. “Expect a big falloff in the runoff.” “Turnout in the runoff will be shaped by down-ticket races,” says Keith Gaddie, professor of Political Journalism at the University of Oklahoma. There are 29 runoffs for state representative, including ten with Republican incumbents. This should help mitigate the turnout drop that usually occurs in runoffs. The contest is for the open governorship to be vacated by Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who is term-limited. Her early high favorables sank when the state’s services were seriously cut as her tax cuts took effect. However, tax revenues are increasing, which may ease pressure on the incoming governor. Mick Cornett, 59, has been mayor of Oklahoma City for 14 years. He was the first mayor of the city elected to a fourth term. His achievements include a new convention center, street cars and bringing Oklahoma City Thunder, an NBA team, to the city. He served as president of the United States Conference of Mayors. He first gained prominence in the city as a television news anchor. Cornett raised $1,922,000 as of...