South Races

By Lamar Robinson, PPN

Alabama
In Alabama there is a Senate race that exactly no one thinks is competitive. Republican incumbent Richard Shelby is expected to cruise to reelection against Democrat attorney William Barnes. Shelby has been in the Senate since 1987. Alabama also has a governor’s race to settle this year. The GOP incumbent is term-limited. This race will pit Democrat Ron Sparks against Republican Robert Bentley. Polling has the race going for Bentley, which is not entirely unexpected given the location. The real interest is in several House seats: the 2nd and 5th congressional districts. The 2nd is home to Democrat Bobby Bright, a blue dog. The National Journal actually rated Bright as the most conservative Democrat in 2009. Progressives and liberals all over the nation probably wouldn’t be too disappointed if Bright lost. Besides being the most conservative Democrat, he recently commented about the possibility that Nancy Pelosi could “get sick and die” before the next Congress. In addition, he has announced that he will not be supporting Pelosi for Speaker if Democrats retain their majority. I certainly won’t be weeping if he loses in November. The next interesting congressional district is the 5th, currently held by Democrat-turned-Republican Parker Griffith. Griffith switched his party allegiance in December of last year. He probably thought it would save him his seat. Much to his chagrin I’m sure, he actually lost the GOP primary to Mo Brooks. Brooks’ opponent is Democrat Steve Raby.

Arkansas
I am particularly interested in the state of Arkansas considering I’m from the state. The race that is on everybody’s mind is for the Senate seat currently held by embattled Democrat Blanche Lincoln. Lincoln is facing GOP Congressman John Boozman. The Democrat was forced into a primary battle by Lt. Governor Bill Halter and labor groups abandoned Lincoln and instead supported Halter. They dumped some $10 million into the race to defeat Lincoln. Lincoln led on election night but was below an outright majority, so she was forced into a runoff. Full disclosure: I supported Halter is the primary; I even gave money. Polls had shown that Halter looked like the much more electable Democrat, but he lost to Lincoln in the runoff. Labor has continued their pledge not to support Lincoln. No Republican has held this particular Senate seat since 1879. That is about to change in November. Moving on.

Arkansas has a non-competitive governor’s race. Democratic Governor Mike Beebe is expected to be reelected. Three out of four of Arkansas’s congressional districts are open seats. Democrats Vic Snyder and Marion Berry decided to retire, and Republican John Boozman is running for the Senate seat. A Democrat is expected to win the other congressional district. In the 2nd Congressional District, which houses the largest county and city in the state, and, also, where I live, Democrat Joyce Elliott is pitted against Republican Tim Griffin. Elliott had a particularly damaging primary in which she had to run to the left to gain support. While that may be acceptable in the Democratic primary, in a state like Arkansas, it can be dangerous in the general election. The race is likely leaning heavily Republican, though there hasn’t been any polling in a while. Let’s jump on over to the 1st Congressional district where Chad Causey is facing Rick Crawford. Causey is a former staff member for the incumbent Democrat, Marion Berry. The last polling from September showed Causey leading by only two points, so this race is a toss up. The 3rd Congressional District is located in the northwest of the state and is a Republican stronghold.

Florida
Florida has a very interesting Senate and Governor’s race. It has 25 Congressional districts, so I’m not going to go through those individually. There are two congressional districts with open seats, the 12th and the 17th. The seats will likely stay with the party that originally held the seat. The Senate race is a three-way race consisting of Republican teabagger Marco Rubio, Republican-turned-independent and also the incumbent governor, Charlie Crist, and Democrat (and long shot) Kendrick Meek. Crist first ran as a Republican in the primary against Rubio, but once the radical right took over the party, moderate Crist was no longer welcome and became an independent. Crist has been running to the left of the Democrat, and both candidates have been splitting that vote. All the while, the Republican has been leading. The only way for Charlie Crist to win is if the Democrat drops out, which isn’t a terrible idea since he has consistently run third. Obviously, we would hope that Crist as an independent decides to caucus with the Democrats, but either way he would be better than Rubio.

The Governor’s race, between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican teabagger Rick Scott, is interesting as well. Sink pretty much cruised to the Democratic nomination, but Scott fought Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Republican primary. McCollum is one of the state Attorneys General that is suing the federal government because of the health care bill. However, that was unable to win him the primary. That last poll from Mason-Dixon had the race at 40-44 Sink, but polls have been all over the place depending on the pollster.

Georgia
In Georgia, we have a non-competitive Senate race, but a competitive Governor’s race. Incumbent Senator Johnny Isakson is expected to be reelected, but incumbent Republican Governor Sonny Perdue is term-limited. Republican Nathan Deal and former Democratic governor Roy Barnes are running to replace Perdue. Barnes easily won his primary, but Deal actually came in second to Karen Handel on primary day. Georgia law dictates that if a candidate is under 50% a runoff must occur. Deal narrowly won the runoff. The most recent polls show Deal leading by high single digits. Georgia has 13 congressional districts, but no open seat races.

Kentucky
Kentucky, surprisingly, has a very competitive Senate race pitting Republican teabagger Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, against Democrat Attorney General Jack Conway. There is no way that this race should actually be competitive. I mean, this is Kentucky after all, but Rand Paul and his teabagging ways – from implying that eastern Kentucky doesn’t in fact have a drug problem to saying that there should be a $2,000 deductible for Medicare to believing that prohibiting private accommodations in the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional – have been a gold mine for the Democrat. Jack Conway has a real good chance of winning the race, though Paul maintains single-digit leads in the polls. There are no competitive congressional districts.

Louisiana
There is not anything particularly interesting going on in Louisiana. There is a Senate race, but the incumbent Republican David Vitter is in no danger, despite previously being accused of hiring a prostitute. The Democrat in the race is attacking Vitter on the issue, but it’s not likely to change the situation. There is a rare opportunity for a Democratic pickup in the House. The second district is currently represented by Republican Joseph Cao, who was elected after Democrat William Jefferson went to jail in 2009 on corruption charges. The 2nd district is home to New Orleans and the President won 75% of the district, but the race is currently a toss up, according to the Cook Report. There is also an open seat in the 3rd district because the incumbent is the Democrat running for Senate. However, it is almost certainly a Republican pick-up.

Mississippi
Similar to Louisiana, there no interesting races going on in Mississippi. There is no Senate race or Governor’s race. The Houses races are really competitive. Only one district, the 1st, is not considered safe, but it is leaning Democratic. Interestingly enough, Mississippi is actually a bright spot for Democrats. They hold three of the four congressional districts, but don’t seem in jeopardy of losing any of them.

North Carolina
North Carolina has a Senate race that was once thought to be competitive. However, Republican freshman Richard Burr has strengthened his position against Democrat Elaine Marshall in the past few weeks. The state has thirteen congressional districts. There is a competitive House race in the second district. The incumbent Democrat and the Republican are tied.

South Carolina
South Carolina is particularly boring. The Senate race and Governor’s race are both uncompetitive; the Republicans are expected to win both. However, unlike in Louisiana, cheating on your wife has not worked out for the Republican. Everyone should recall the story of Mark Sanford and his Argentine mistress. Sanford will likely be replaced by Nikki Haley, one of Sarah Palin’s momma grizzlies. Out of the six congressional districts, only one is considered competitive and it is held by Democrat John Spratt. Congressional Quarterly rates the race a tossup.

Tennessee
As seems to be the pattern, Tennessee is not particularly interesting. Democratic incumbent governor Phil Bredesen is term-limited and is likely to replaced by Republican Bill Haslem. There’s no Senate race this year. There are two House seats (6th and 6th) being abandoned by Democrats. Being Tennessee, the two districts are leaning Republican.

Texas
The great nation of Texas has an interesting governor’s race with Democrat and former mayor of Houston Bill White battling incumbent governor Rick “We Should Secede” Perry. Rick Perry has a far from dominant lead in the race considering the political climate and the state. He was actually challenged for the GOP nomination by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, but her campaign fizzled and Perry was able to pull off a victory. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a toss up.  The state has 32 congressional districts. With the very controversial 2002 redistricting, Texas essential made its districts uncompetitive. There is a Democratic district in which the incumbent is expected lose, but that is an aberration.

Virginia
Virginia has neither a Senate race nor a Governor’s race. However, of the eleven House races, two of them are currently rated tossups. Democrats hold both: the 2nd and the 5th. In the 2nd district, Republican Scott Rigell is challenging incumbent Democrat Glenn Nye. FiveThirtyEight has the Republican at a 78% chance of winning. The most recent poll shows Rigell up by six percent. The number of undecided voters is slightly less than 20%. Nye would need the overwhelming majority of those voters to win the race. In the 5th district, incumbent Democrat Tom Perriello is facing Republican Robert Hurt. The same poll that showed Nye losing also shows Perriello losing narrowly. FiveThirtyEight has the Republican at a 93% chance of winning. However, this prediction is based heavily on three SurveyUSA polls that had the Republican beating the Democrat by over 20 points. No one else that has polled the race has seen a lead greater than six points for Hurt.

West Virginia
With the unfortunate passing of Robert Byrd, the West Virginia senate race has the potential to jeopardize the Democrats’ hope of retaining the Senate. The very popular incumbent Democratic governor Joe Manchin is facing Republican John Raese. The national political climate is hampering the hopes of the Democrat. Even though he is a popular governor, recent polls have shown him losing to Raese, but not by an insurmountable difference. The race is still considered a tossup given recent revelations about the casting agency for one of Raese’s advertisements putting out a call for actors who could play “hicky.” Let’s be honest, you probably shouldn’t explicitly call your constituents ‘hicks’ when you’re trying to represent them.

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