In what has become one of the most attention-grabbing elections in recent Tennessee memory, phase one of the 2018 election season has come to a close as the unofficial election results from the August 2 primary have been reported. Republicans and Democrats have chosen their candidates for the November general election, and there were some surprises.
With 95 days left until the general election, the 2018 gubernatorial race has already become the most expensive race in state history. The race for governor was the most closely watched race of the primaries, particularly on the Republican side. The four Republican contenders were U.S. Representative and former state Senator Diane Black, Knoxville businessman and former Tennessee commissioner of economic and community development Randy Boyd, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and Franklin businessman and outsider Bill Lee. Black and Boyd were considered the early favorites and began throwing punches in negative ads with weeks left before the primary. Lee’s messaging stayed positive, and he weathered the attacks well as recent polling showed him surging. As results rolled in on election night, it became apparent that Lee would be the winner. What was a surprise was his margin of victory as Lee took nearly 37% of the vote.
Lee will take on Democrat Karl Deal in the November general election. The former Nashville mayor won in a landslide victory against House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. While Lee will most certainly play up the fact that he is an outsider much like President Trump, Dean will likely tout his experience as mayor of Tennessee’s boomtown. While Dean tries to show he is a moderate, Lee will be riding the endorsement of President Trump.
With the retirement of Senator Bob Corker, Tennessee will elect a new U.S. Senator in November. The primary results officially confirmed that come November, Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R), the eight-term U.S. Representative, and Phil Bredesen (D), the popular former Tennessee governor, will face-off. Expect this race to get both national attention and national money.
U.S. House of Representatives
Three out of the ten congressional seats in Tennessee will be occupied by new faces in 2019.
Second Congressional Seat being vacated by Congressman John Duncan.
In the race to replace retiring Congressman John Duncan in the Second Congressional District, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett won the Republican primary against state Representative Jimmy Matlock. It is expected that Burchett will now go on to win the general election in November.
Sixth Congressional Seat being vacated by Congressman Diane Black.
John Rose, the former commissioner of agriculture, won the Republican nomination in the Sixth Congressional District. Rose beat Judge Bob Corlew and is now the heavy favorite to win the seat being vacated by Diane Black.
Seventh Congressional Seat being vacated by Congressman Marsha Blackburn.
Mark Green (R), the one-time President Trump nominee for Army Secretary and state Senator, won his uncontested primary election. Green will face Justin Kanew (D), a film writer and former reality television star, in the November general election to replace Marsha Blackburn. Green is the favorite.
With the loss of an incumbent and the retirement of other members, the state Senate will look a lot different when they reconvene in January 2019. Below is a list of notable victories and losses from the primary election:
- Art Swann (R-Maryville) won his primary in District 2 with 55% of the votes. Swann was appointed to replace former state Senator Doug Overbey when Overbey was appointed by President Trump to serve as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
- In the race to replace state Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) in District 12, state Representative Dawn White handily defeated Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess with 58% of the votes. White will be the favorite in the general election against Democrat Kelly Northcutt.
- Senator Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) long held the seat in District 19 but chose to retire after 2018. Although Harper endorsed Howard Jones, state Representative Brenda Gilmore won the Democratic Primary with 64% of the votes. No candidate qualified to run in the Republican primary.
- In what many thought would a tight race, incumbent Senator Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) easily defeated his opponent in the District 27 Republican primary with 70% of the votes.
- In the seat left vacant by Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D-Memphis), state Representative Raumesh Akbari won the Democratic primary with 58% of the votes. Akbari will be the heavy favorite for the general election in the heavily Democratic District 29.
- Incumbent Senator Reggie Tate (D-Memphis) of District 33 overwhelming lost to his opponent Katrina Robinson. Robinson won with 68% of the votes. This primary in the heavily Democratic district became heated as colleagues of Tate in the Senate endorsed Robinson.
Tennessee House of Representatives
The most changes in the General Assembly will come to the House. There will be more than 20 new members of the House when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2019. Below is a list of notable victories and losses in the primaries:
- In the race to replace the retiring Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) in District 19, Dave Wright won the Republican primary with 63% of the votes. He will be the favorite in the heavily Republican district in the general election.
- Lowell Russell won the Republican nomination in the District 21 race to replace outgoing Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City).
- McMinn County GOP Chair Mark Cochran defeated his opponent with 58% of the vote. He is now the favorite in the race to replace John Forgety (R-Athens) in District 23.
- Bradley County Commissioner Mark Hall won the Republican primary to replace Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland) in District 24. Brooks won his bid to become Cleveland city mayor.
- Robin Smith won the uncontested Republican primary in District 26. Smith will face Democrat Jean-Marie Lawrence in the race to replace Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga). McCormick’s retirement came as a surprise as he was expected to run for Speaker of the House.
- Esther Helton defeated Jonathan Mason by less than 200 votes in the Republican primary in the race to replace Marc Gravitt (R-East Ridge) in District 30.
- Iris Rudder narrowly won in the Republican primary of the District 39 election to replace David Alexander (R-Winchester).
- Johnny Garrett won the Republican primary in the race to replace Courtney Rogers (R-Goodlettsville) in District 45.
- Rush Bricken defeated Ronnie Holden in the Republican primary in the race to replace Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) in District 47.
- Dr. Brent Moody won the Republican primary in District 56. Moody will face Democrat Bob Freeman in the general election race to replace House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville).
- The Republicans in District 61 elected Brandon Ogles in the race to replace Charles Sargent (R-Franklin).
- Former Maury County GOP Chairman Scott Cepicky won the Republican primary in District 64. Cepicky will be the favorite in the general election to replace Shelia Butt (R-Columbia).
- In District 70, incumbent Barry Doss (R-Leoma) was defeated by Clay Doggett. Doss was beat-up by Dogget for his support of Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE Act (the gas tax).
- Former NBA player Kirk Haston won the Republican primary to replace Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads) in District 72.
- Chris Todd beat former Madison County GOP Chair Jay Bush in the Republican primary in District 73. Todd will be the favorite to replace Jimmy Eldridge (R-Jackson).
- Incumbent Tim Wirgau (R-Buchanan) was defeated by Bruce Griffey in District 75. Wirgau was rumored to be running for Speaker of the House.
- Justin Lafferty won the Republican primary in District 89. Lafferty will be the favorite to replace Roger Kane (R-Knoxville) in the general election. Former state Senator Stacey Campfield was one of Lafferty’s opponents.
- London Lamar won with 47% of the votes in the Democratic primary in the race to fill the seat left vacant by Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) in District 91.
Bass, Berry & Sims partner, Dale Grimes, will serve as the new City Commissioner of Oak Hill. While Dale ran against three opponents, he won with 41% of the vote. Congratulations, Dale!
As always, the Bass, Berry & Sims’ Government Advocacy Group stands ready to assist you in matters where business and government intersect. Contact Erica Bell Vick for more information.