Tennessee Government Update: An Overview of the Primary Election Night Results

August 5, 2022
Firm Publication

The landscape of legislative races experienced significant change as a result of legally-contentious redistricting efforts that occurred earlier this year. We wanted to take a moment to highlight outcomes of some of the more prominent races. Note that results are unofficial before the certification process concludes in the coming days.

5th Congressional District – Republican Primary

The revamped 5th Congressional District, consisting of part of Davidson, Wilson, and Williamson counties and all of Maury, Perry, and Lewis counties, saw a three-way Republican race between Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, former Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Beth Harwell, and retired Brigadier General Kurt Winstead. What was considered by many to be a neck-and-neck race ultimately turned into a nearly 11-point margin in favor of Ogles over closest challenger Harwell. While all counties are a factor, an over-performance of far right candidates up and down the ballot in Williamson County presented an insurmountable Ogles lead that a Harwell-favored Davidson County could not overcome. Ogles will face Democratic state Senator Heidi Campbell in the November general election.

Senate District 27 – Republican Primary

The District 27 Senate race saw Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson – who represents all of Williamson County – face Gary Humble, a relative political newcomer who founded Tennessee Stands, a vocal, right-wing grassroots group that prioritizes medical freedom. While conventional wisdom highly favors the incumbent, the race has nonetheless been the center of Senate leadership PAC attention and spending efforts. Many suspected that the longtime incumbent, armed with more campaign funds and a first-rate campaign team, would easily walk to a convincing victory; but in a highly inordinate procedure, the election-day turnout figures began being released prior to the early voting totals, and Johnson quickly found himself trailing by a startling margin. However, after the early voting totals were released and remaining precincts tallied, Johnson regained the lead and bested the challenger by three and a half percentage points. Johnson will be unopposed on the November ballot.

Senate District 7 – Republican Primary

In the Senate race in District 7, Senator Richard Briggs – who represents a portion of Knox County and also chairs the State & Local Committee with jurisdiction over election procedure, utilities, and least of not which alcohol – drew a Republican primary challenge from Kent Morrell, who operates an aquarium services company. Instead of challenge from the right, Briggs faced one from his left. Morrell’s platform was largely based on healthcare reform, highlighted by an ambitious pro-cannabis stance. Effectively a single-issue candidate, it proved difficult for Morrell to find traction, and Briggs won two-thirds of the vote total. Briggs will meet Democrat Bryan Lagan in the general election.

House District 52 – Democratic Primary

The retirement of Nashville Democratic Representative Mike Stewart in House District 52 caused a polarized race for the party nomination between Metro Council member Delishia Porterfield and Justin Jones, a well-known political activist, who is perhaps most famous for organizing various capitol protest efforts and tossing a partially-filled cup of coffee at former House Speaker Glen Casada. Jones’s time spent as an activist translated well as he transitioned into becoming a motivated candidate, and he was rewarded with the nomination by gaining a majority of the vote, over 53%. No candidate qualified for the Republican nomination.

House District 92 – Republican Primary

In House District 92, Republican Representative Todd Warner, who represents Marshall and southeastern Williamson counties, faced former Williamson County commissioner Jeff Ford, and Spring Hill alderman Matt Fitterer. Warner was among several members of the General Assembly subjected to an FBI raid in January 2021 in connection with various campaign finance activities. However, despite the obvious campaign fodder, Warner easily withstood both challengers and even managed to gain a resounding 68% of the vote. A significant general election struggle is not expected.

Low Voter Turnout and Incumbent Loss Summary

Early voting projections started low and ended there. Compared to the 2018 mid-term cycle, early voting turnout for the 2022 cycle fell nearly 24%. Comprehensive election day figures are not yet available.

Overall, of the eight incumbent U.S. House members, three faced primary challenges and none were in danger of being unseated. Governor Lee ran unopposed. In the 99 member House, only 17 of the 74 Republican leaning seats featured primary challengers, and six of the 24 Democratic house seat nominations were contested. Only two incumbents lost their primary bid, both Republicans.

In the 33 member state Senate, only half are up for reelection this cycle. There were only four contested primaries involving incumbents, six including open seats. All incumbents were victorious.

Early voting for general election will begin on October 19, 2022 and ends November 3. The general election will be held on November 8, 2022. A complete list of state Senate primary candidates may be found here and House candidates here. Comprehensive and official election results may be found on the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website.

If you have any questions about the primary election results, please contact the speakers.