We present the third of our four election preview installments that will review all 50 states. This edition looks at the country’s southern region.
Gov. Kay Ivey (R) and Katie Britt* (R), the former president & CEO of the Business Council of Alabama organization and a former chief of staff to retiring six-term Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), are poised for landslide election victories on Tuesday night.
All seven members of the congressional delegation are seeking re-election, and each will win comfortably. The US Supreme Court hearing the Alabama racial gerrymandering case may lead to a landmark ruling. Therefore, a significant chance exists that this state and many others will be forced to re-configure their redistricting map before the 2024 election in order to become compliant with the eventual ruling.
Sen. John Boozman* (R) is heavily favored to win a third term in this election. The Senator successfully maneuvering through an early Republican primary made him the prohibitive favorite in this month’s vote. To replace term-limited Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), former White House Communications Director Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the clear favorite to become the state’s new chief executive. All four US House members are set to cruise through another re-election.
Florida voters are navigating through a very busy ballot that the Governor’s race headlines. Incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appears likely to earn a comfortable, low double-digit victory over former Governor and resigned Congressman Charlie Crist (D). The late-cycle polling, early voting matrix, and turnout model looks to favor Republicans, which will allow Sen. Marco Rubio* (R) to turn back a strong challenge from US Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando).
The Florida congressional redistricting map looks to be the Republicans’ strongest in the country, and they expect to see a net gain of four seats coming from this delegation.
In order to achieve that number, Rep. Neal Dunn* (R-Panama City) must first defeat fellow Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee). The two were paired under the redistricting map that eliminated a majority minority north Florida district that the Supreme Court decision in the Alabama case will likely affect. The new 2nd District is decidedly Republican, which makes Rep. Dunn the favorite to prevail on Tuesday night.
Republican businessman and Iraq/Afghanistan War veteran Cory Mills looks like a lock to secure the open 7th District from which three-term Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) is retiring. The new open 15th District is the state’s new seat that was earned in national reapportionment. Former Secretary of State Laurel Lee convincingly won a competitive Republican primary and is favored on Tuesday. Her opponent is former television news anchorman Alan Cohn (D).
The other potential open seat conversion is the state’s 13th District between 2020 GOP nominee Anna Paulina Luna and Democratic former Defense Department official Eric Lynn. This is the seat from which Charlie Crist resigned to concentrate on his statewide campaign. The race appears close, but the new draw gives the Republican nominee a strong advantage.
South Florida Republican freshman incumbents Maria Elvira Salazar* (R-Miami) and Carlos Gimenez* (R-Miami) both face significant Democratic competition. Rep. Salazar has the tougher battle of the two, but both are looked upon as favorites to win again. All other incumbents in both parties seeking re-election are positioned for strong victories.
The Peach State features one of the top US Senate races, and one of only four Republican major conversion targets. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), who won the special election runoff in 2021, is now running for a full six-year term. His opponent is former University of Georgia and professional football star Herschel Walker (R), and the two will continue to battle until the last vote is counted. Georgia has a majority vote rule, so if neither Sen. Warnock nor Mr. Walker reaches 50%, the two will advance to a post-election runoff on December 6th.
The Governor’s race is also intense, which features a re-match between now-Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D). Polling suggests that Gov. Kemp will win re-election with a larger vote than the small margin he garnered in 2018, which resulted in his claiming the Governorship through a one-point plus win. Though polling is generally looking good for the Republicans here, Democrats are so far exceeding their 2020 early vote performance.
Most of the House races are virtually decided through some key primary challenges in May. The GOP is set to convert the open 6th District in the person of Dr. Rich McCormick*, since redistricting made this former Democratic seat safely Republican. Veteran Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany) faces serious competition in his southwestern Georgia CD, but he is again expected to prevail.
Sen. Rand Paul* (R) is well positioned to win a third term, while Gov. Andy Beshear (D) does not face the voters until next year. State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) is set to replace retiring Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Louisville). The five Republican congressional incumbents are all slated for easy wins.
Sen. John Kennedy (R) is likely to win outright on Tuesday night, which is technically the Louisiana primary. In a jungle format, all of the candidates are on the same ballot and anyone receiving majority support is elected outright. If no one reaches the majority plateau, a runoff on December 10th will be conducted for the top two finishers.
The House members look secure for outright wins, though Rep. Clay Higgins (R-Lafayette) faces the possibility of being forced into a double-Republican runoff likely against attorney Hogan Hoggatt, if the Congressman fails to reach the 50% mark from a relatively crowded field.
With no Senate or Governor’s race on the ballot this year, the four US House races are the main attraction. The only change in the delegation will come in the state’s southeastern gulf coast 4th District. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell*, who unseated six-term Rep. Steven Palazzo* (R-Biloxi) in this year’s Republican primary, is the clear favorite to capture the seat in the general election.
The Senate race tops the Tar Heel State ballot this year, and we see another typically tight North Carolina race concluding. US Rep. Ted Budd* (R-Advance) looks to have a slight edge over former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D). Early voting is about even between the two parties in terms of past performance, so this is another race that comes down to the wire.
The state Supreme Court rejecting the legislature’s map and replacing it with their own, which will be highlighted when the Supreme Court hears the state’s partisan gerrymandering case, has led to less competition in the House delegation. Under the legislature’s map, the Republicans looked positioned to gain three seats. Using the court map, it’s possible the Democrats could gain.
Most of the congressional action is centered in the very tight new 13th District that contains the south Raleigh suburbs, Fayetteville in Cumberland County, and Republican Johnston County. GOP nominee Bo Hines and state Senator Wiley Nickel (D-Raleigh) are fighting for the seat, and this is another contest that is too close to call.
Other activity lies in the open 1st District where state Sen. Don Davis (D-Snow Hill) is favored over 2020 GOP nominee Sandy Smith. In the 11th CD, state Sen. Chuck Edwards* (R-Hendersonville) is favored to hold the seat for the Republicans after he unseated freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville) in the May GOP primary. In the state’s new 14th District earned in national reapportionment, state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), who was originally in the Senate race, is the heavy favorite to claim the seat on Tuesday.
Sen. Tim Scott* (R) and Gov. Henry McMaster (R) are both in strong political shape and expected to win large re-election victories. The House delegation is looking to have one new member. State Rep. Russell Fry* (R-Surfside Beach), who unseated Trump pro-impeachment Rep. Tom Rice* (R-Myrtle Beach) in the June Republican runoff, is the clear favorite to win the seat on Tuesday. The remaining four Republicans and one Democrat will all easily win re-election.
Gov. Bill Lee (R) is a lock for a second term in what has basically been a non-competitive re-election campaign. Tennessee has no Senate election this year, and all of the House seats are politically secure. Redistricting has made the safe Democratic Nashville anchored seat from which Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) is retiring, favorable for the GOP. Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles won the crowded Republican primary in August, and he will become the district’s new Congressman.
Polling suggests a relatively close race between Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and former Congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke (D). Texas Republicans typically are under-counted in polling, so it is likely that Gov. Abbott will score a stronger victory than currently projected.
Most of the House competition lies in South Texas. There, Republican Monica de la Cruz looks to be favored to convert the seat that Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) vacated to run in the adjoining 34th District.
The new and decidedly more Democratic 34th now features an incumbent pairing between Rep. Gonzalez and freshman Rep. Mayra Flores (R-McAllen), who won a special election after Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) resigned to accept a position in the private sector. A Democrat should win the seat, but Rep. Flores and the Republicans are going all out to score an upset win. In the adjacent 28th CD, Rep. Henry Cuellar* (D-Laredo), who barely survived a tough Democratic primary, is in a battle against former congressional aide Cassy Garcia (R), and this race, too, is highly competitive.
Virginia: With no Senate or Governor’s race, the US House leads the Virginia ticket. Three races are in play, all currently held Democratic seats, and the most vulnerable is Tidewater Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Norfolk) who now faces a much more Republican post-redistricting 2nd CD electorate. She and state Sen. Jen Kiggans* (R-Virginia Beach) are locked in a tight battle.
In northern Virginia, Reps. Abigail Spanberger* (D-Glen Allen) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Leesburg) face well-funded Republican challenges, but each are, at the very least, slight favorites to hold their seats on Tuesday.
* denotes the candidate has received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2021-2022 election cycle.
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