DemDaily: Tennessee Takeaways

August 6, 2018

After a brief break in the primary season, last Thursday's Tennessee primary kicked off the first of 25 between now and September 13th.

Tennessee is traditionally a red state, having voted Republican in the last five presidential elections.  Both US Senate seats have been held by Republicans for almost three decades, with Lamar Alexander currently in his third term, and Bob Corker now retiring after his second.

Image: NYT

The GOP has a seven-two majority among the state's Congressional delegation, and controls the State Senate and House.

Tennessee voters, however, are not conservative ideologues, but have a proven history of electing more pragmatic, business-centrist politicians. Although the current Governor is Republican, a single party has not been able to hold on to the governor's mansion for more than two terms since 1869.

That foundation, and the results of last Thursday's primary, give Democrats hope for Governor and US Senate, both on the national radar.


Seats Up: US Senate, US House (7R/2D), Governor, State Senate (28R/5D) & House (74R/25D), Local Judges, Municipal, Local Ballot Measures.


Two-term incumbent Republican Governor Bill Haslam is term-limited, which set the stage for a competitive, $45+ million, six-way Republican primary that ended with a surprising victory for Nashville business executive Bill Lee.

Going into the election Congresswoman Diane Black, who had the endorsement of Vice President Mike Pence and outspent Lee 2-to-1, was the favorite.

In the end, however, Lee won with 36.7%, over Knoxville's Randy Boyd @24.3%, Black @23%, State Speaker Beth Harwell @15.3%, and two others.

In the Democratic primary, victory went to former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean with 75.1% over State House Minority Leader and progressive favorite Craig Fitzhugh (@19.4%), and Mezianne Payne with 5.4%.

While the general election is a long shot for Dean, the fact that Pence's endorsement of Black carried no water, and that Lee, the least vocal Trump advocate, came out on top, may signal an opening for the Democrat.

Although Tennessee delivered a 26-point victory to Donald Trump in 2016, his current approval rating among the state's voters is just 56%.

Democratic Senate Nominee Phil Bredesen

With the retirement of Senator Bob Corker (R), the open Senate seat has become a top target for Democrats' hopes of flipping one toward the net two seats they need to take control of the United States Senate.

As anticipated, eight-term Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, a conservative firebrand who represents the southwest part of the state, handily beat trucker Aaron Pettigrew 84.5% to 15.5%.

Blackburn, however, received 60,000+ fewer votes in the Senate contest than those cast in the GOP gubernatorial primary -- an indication that many Republicans are expected crossover to vote for her Democratic opponent, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen.

Bredesen served as Mayor of the state's second largest city, Nashville (1991-1999), before being elected to the Governor's mansion in 2002, and again in 2006 with 68% - winning all 95 counties.

Bredesen is the founder of the HealthAmerica Corporation, which he sold in 1986, and since 2011, has been Chair of a firm that develops and operates solar power stations.

A moderate southern Democrat, Bredesen was touted among the long list of potential 2008 presidential candidates, and was later vetted under Obama for the position of HHS Secretary.

Tennessee is called the "Volunteer State" becauseof the prominent role played by its volunteer soldiers in the War of 1812 and in the Mexican-American War of 1846

Bredesen swept his primary with 91.5%, to Gary Davis @5.3% and John Wolfe @3.2%.

A July 11-14 Emerson Poll, prior to the primary, showed Bredesen leading Blackburn 43% to 37%.

Three of the "Volunteer State's" seven Republican seats are open -- Black's (6th) and Blackburn's (7th), and the 2nd CD, where Congressman Jimmy Duncan is retiring.  All are considered, at this point, as likely to stay in Republican hands.

The two Democratic Members, Jim Cooper (5th CD) and Steve Cohen (9th CD), are all considered pretty safe for re-election.


Next Up!
August 7th Primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington State, and a special election for Ohio's 12th Congressional District.

State-by-State Primary Calendar: DemList: Pumping the Primaries 5/8/18


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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Vox, Ballotpedia, The Tennessean, NewYorkTimes, CBSNews
DemList will not be publishing on Fridays during the August Congressional recess

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