A Divided Dixie

A Divided Dixie


By Hastings Wyman –


It is no longer the Solid South, for either party. Southern voters kept Republican US Senate seats in GOP hands and, assuming Rick Scott’s (R) lead holds in Florida, defeated a long-time incumbent, US Sen. Bill Nelson (D), though Nelson may seek a recount. The GOP also turned back major gubernatorial challenges, defeating two African-American Democrats for governor in both Florida and – at this writing – Georgia. Moreover, a stronger than usual Democratic effort in Oklahoma by former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson failed to overthrow the Republicans’ hammerlock on the governorship; businessman Walter Stitt (R), a political outsider, prevailed. Other Southern governorships, as expected stayed under Republican control.

But beyond that rosy Republican picture in the South’s statewide races, serious weaknesses in the GOP’s majority status were revealed in yesterday’s returns. In Florida, elections are always close, so the victory of Ron DeSantis (R) over Sam Gillum (D) by one percentage point, while unexpected, was hardly historic. But in Texas, US Sen. Ted Cruz (R), a shoo-in by most pre-election accounts, narrowly kept his seat, defeating the personable Beto O’Rourke (D) by 51% to 48%, suggesting that the Lone Star State is more Purple than Red, and will be more seriously contested by Democrats in the future. Similarly, in Georgia, as this is written. Stacey Abrams (D), an African-American woman, came close to defeating the hard-right campaign of Brian Kemp (R), the kind of result unimaginable in this Deep South state only a few years ago. Democrats can also be expected to stay in the hunt in the Peach State in 2020 and beyond.

Granted that close is no cigar in elections, so even if the GOP’s Senate and gubernatorial victories were by razor-thin margins, they were still important victories. They both contributed to Republican gains nationally in the US Senate and kept the governments of major Southern states available to help President Trump’s reelection bid in 2020.

A significant part of the credit for the GOP’s unexpectedly strong showing in yesterday’s statewide elections goes to Donald Trump. He held rallies in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, motivating his strong base in those states to get out and vote. Moreover, his focus on illegal immigration, especially the caravan of Central Americans headed toward the US border, was a boost to Republicans in many Southern races.

The big victory for the Democrats, however, came in US House races. At this writing, at least ten  congressional districts in the South currently held by Republicans appear to have been won by Democratic candidates. These include three in Virginia, one in Georgia, two in Florida, one in Oklahoma, one in South Carolina and two in Texas. These districts contained suburbs of such major cities as Norfolk, Richmond, Charleston, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas and Houston. These GOP victories occurred mostly in the suburbs, where voters, especially women, voted to express their hostility to the President’s tweet-driven style, his keeping the partisan pot boiling in this divided nation, and his harsh descriptions of Latino immigrants.

Of note: Two African-American candidates won in districts with small black populations In Georgia 6, which is 15% black, Lucy McBath (D), a gun control activist appears to have defeated incumbent Karen Handel (R). And in Texas 32, which is 14% black, Colin Allred, an attorney and former professional football player, defeated incumbent Pete Sessions (R).

In sum, both Republicans and Democrats had something to crow about in the results, and new opportunities for 2020.

Results in selected contests


US Senate


Rick Scott (R) – 50.2%

Bill Nelson (D)* – 49.8%



Cindy Hyde-Smith (R)* – 41.4% – Runoff Nov. 27

Mike Espy (D) – 40.9%

Chris McDaniel (R) – 16.3%


Tennessee – Open

Marsha Blackburn (R) – 55%

Phil Bredesen (D) – 44%



Ted Cruz (R)* – 51%

Beto O’Rourke (D) – 48%



US House

AR 2

French Hill/R* – 52%

Clarke Tucker/D – 46%



Michael Waltz/R – 56%

Nancy Soderberg/D – 44%


FL 7

Stephanie Murphy/D* – 58%

Mike Miller/R – 42%



Ross Spano/R – 53%

Kirsten Carlson/D – 47%


FL 18

Brian Mast/R* – 54%

Lauren Baer/D – 46%


FL 26

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell/D  – 51%

Carlos Curbelo/R* – 49%



Donna Shalala/D – 52%

Maria Salazar/R – 46%


GA 6

Lucy McBath/D – 50.3%

Karen Handel/R* – 49.7%


GA 7

Rob Woodall/R* – 51%

Carolyn Bourdeaux/D – 49%


KY 6

Andy Barr/R* – 51%

Amy McGrath/D – 48%



Mark Harris/R – 49.4%

Daniel McCready/D – 48.8%


NC 13

Theodore Budd/R* – 52%

Kathy Manning/D – 46%


Oklahoma 5

Kendra Horn/D – 51%

Steve Russell/R – 49%



Joe Cunningham/D – 50.7%

Katie Arrington/R – 49.3%


TX 7

Lizzie Pannill Fletcher/D – 52%

John Culberson/R* – 48%


TX 21

Chip Roy/R – 50.3%

Joseph Kopser – 47.5%


TX 23

Will Hurd/R* – 49.1%

Gina Ortiz Jones/D – 48.8%


TX 32

Colin Allred/D – 52%

Pete Sessions/R* – 46%


VA 2

Elaine Luria/D – 51%

Scott Taylor/R* – 49%


VA 5/Open

Denver Riggleman/R – 53%

Leslie Cockburn/D – 47%


VA 7

Abigail Spanberger/D – 50.1%

David Brat/R* – 48.7%


VA 10

Jennifer Wexton/D – 56%

Barbara Comstock/R* – 44%




Florida – Open

Ron DeSantis (R) – 50%

Sam Gillum (D) – 49%


Georgia – Open

Brian Kemp (R) – 51%

Stacey Abrams (D) – 49%


Oklahoma – Open

Kevin Stitt (R) – 54%

Drew Edmondson (D) – 42%