Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
Today, the series looks at two Southern states- Georgia and Virginia.
Tim Kaine, the Democratic incumbent and Hillary’s losing running mate, is up against Corey Stewart for the GOP. Stewart defeated state delegate Nick Freitas in a close primary by about 5,500 votes of over 304,000 votes cast. Perhaps, Stewart may have not have been the best choice given his alleged ties to, at best, alt-right figures or, at worst, white supremacists. This writer has previously covered Stewart (see here). Regardless, the chance of any Republican unseating Kaine would have been a long shot. Kaine supports a 45% approval rating in Virginia which is usually enough to get an incumbent reelected. Further, Virginia’s trend towards at least purple if not blue status is well-documented and centers around the DC suburbs. As one moves west and south, the state becomes more conservative, although there are some urban blips of blue in a sea of red. The problem is that most of the population resides in those suburban DC areas that tend to be liberal and vote Democratic. Polling puts Kaine up by about 15 points which sounds about right. The fact neither party is really engaged in this race indicates the GOP has basically written it off as a loss.
Instead, if there is to be any partisan change in Virginia, it will occur at the Congressional level. The current delegation favors the GOP 7-4. In the Second District, represented by Republican Scott Taylor, Democrats have been hammering away over an alleged voter “fraud scandal” perpetrated by Taylor. In order to split the ticket and weaken Democrat Elaine Luria’s chances, his campaign allegedly obtained illegal signatures on a petition to get independent Shaun Brown on the ballot. This is the Virginia Beach area and is nominally Republican (+2 GOP by Cook). Given a federal prosecution against Brown, Democrats today call her a sleaze. Two years ago, she was their candidate here. Regardless, a state court ordered her name removed from the ballot. This will be a close race and some polling shows a narrow Taylor loss, although he is either tied or in the lead in the two most recent polls.
Republican Tom Garrett is vacating the Charlottesville-based Fifth District where Denver Riggelman is expected to keep the seat in GOP control. He has been attacking his Democratic opponent, Leslie Cockburn, over the fact she dined with Middle Eastern dictators while a reporter. Republican Bob Goodlatte retires from Roanoke-based Sixth District and a GOP retention is expected here also.
Democrats have targeted Dave Brat in the 7th District which covers most of central Virginia. In 2016, the district backed Trump by seven points. Democratic opponent Abigail Spanberger is crying foul over a conservative group attempting to link her to terrorists based on an allegedly ill-gotten security clearance from the Postal Service. Spanberger applied to be a postal inspector around the same time she sought employment at the CIA, where she eventually landed. However, the group argues the clearance was part of a FOIA request. The postal service is investigating. This is fairly safe GOP territory.
That leaves the DC suburban Tenth District where Repuublican Barbara Comstock faces a serious challenge from Democrat Jennifer Wexton. Nominally considered Republican (+2 by GOP), this district broke for Clinton in 2016 by ten points. Fairly reliable polling likewise indicates a GOP loss here in 2018. However, the NRCC is pumping almost $5 million into the race. Several liberal outside groups, including gun control groups, are also spending heavily.
This writer expects the GOP to lose at least one seat out of Virginia- most likely the 10th- and would not be greatly surprised if they lose two (the 2nd being the next likely candidate), but at this point is expecting taylor to hold on by a thread.
The current delegation in Congress favors the GOP 10-4 and despite Democratic claims of making gains here, they are barking up the wrong tree. What got their hopes is the relatively close special election in Atlanta suburban Sixth District when Republican Karen Handel emerged victorious despite a record amount of party and special interest money flowing into the race. Handel faces gun control Lucy McBath and other than Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun PAC, spending is down considerably. Perhaps, that is because the Democrats realize taking this seat is unattainable. The only available poll is back in August showing a 2 point Handel lead. Given the lack of attention this race has received, one believes the race will not be that close come November. Handel has done nothing to upset her constituents and is scandal-free. Another suburban seat- the 7th- is held by Republican Bob Woodall with one poll hsowing him down by 2 points (that, also, was in August). But like the Sixth, don’t expect an Election Day surprise here.
Instead, most of the action n Georgia will be at the gubernatorial level where GOP incumbent Nathan Deal is term-limited. It took a runoff for state secretary of state Brian Kemp to oust current Lt. Governor Casey Cagle for the GOP nod. The lead up to the runoff was a firefight between the two Republicans. Meanwhile, the Democrats will field former state house minority Stacey Abrams who they are touting as potentially the first black female Governor ever.
Cagle was, admittedly, a bland establishment Republican with some bona fide conservative credentials. Kemp, on the other hand, is the self-described “politically incorrect conservative.” In the primary, he was described as bombastic and “Trumpesque.” Thus far, he and the RGA are attacking that while a member of the state house, Abrams was weak on child safety. They also note that she failed to pay $54,000 in taxes despite having the ability to loan her campaign $50,000 despite the fact she’s made over $1 million of the past five years. This caused Abrams to respond in a commercial explaining why she was delinquent on her taxes (taking care of sick parents segue to single payer healthcare support) and paying off student loans (cue the call for affordable college education for all).
Conversely, Kemp is being attacked for failing to pay up on a $500,000 business investment loan he received. They have also attacked him over his role as secretary of state claiming he purged the voter rolls of over 1.5 million people, closed some polling places and potentially exposed the private information of over 6 million voters in Georgia (cue the accusation that Kemp is behind voter suppression, especially if it means suppressing the black vote). Democrats are great at calling out alleged racial dog whistles, but can’t see it when they do it.
Perhaps the weirdest accusation against Kemp involves a massage therapist who was allegedly groping and sexually assaulting female customers. What does this have to do with Kemp? It seems the state secretary of state in Georgia oversees massage therapists. Democrats will try anything in this #MeToo atmosphere.
Before October, Abrams led in polling by about 1.5 points, but post-September Kemp leads by two points indicating that voters, as Election Day nears, are breaking for the GOP. BUT- there is one major consideration. For statewide offices (such as Governor), Georgia law dictates that the winner must receive 50% of the vote. If not, they then endure a runoff on December 4th. With Libertarian candidate Ted Metz and independent Larry Odom on the ballot, that is a possibility. Recent polling shows them taking anywhere from 3-8% of the vote.
Normally, that would hurt the GOP as it could allow Abrams to sneak across IF Democratic turnout is particularly high. Whether she could get to 50% is a close call in even that scenario. Instead, it is the Democrats who are worried by these polls and this law since Democrats do not fare so well in partisan runoffs and voter enthusiasm drops into low turnout affairs. This race bears watching, but at this point this writer is putting it in the “R” column.
As of the end of this entry:
US Senate 32-26 Republican; US House 86-64 Republican, and; Governors 19-10 Republican.