Tennessee has just held its primary. Here is a summary of the best competitions.


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Tennessee’s primary elections were held on Thursday to determine the party’s nominees for governor, congress and state legislature seats.

A handful of ballot initiatives and district attorney races were also on the ballot in some counties, as well as retaining the Supreme Court for all justices.

In 14 days of early voting, turnout was down 23.8% from that point in the August 2018 election, when there was an open race for governor with Republican and Democratic primaries. disputed. Compared to the same point in 2014, participation decreased by 15.4%.

Here’s a look at some of the best contests:


Democrat Jason Martin, a Nashville doctor who has criticized Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, won his first race to challenge Lee in the fall. Martin beat Memphis board member JB Smiley Jr. by a narrow margin, and Memphis community attorney Carnita Atwater finished third. Lee ran unopposed in the GOP primary as he sought a second term, marking the first time in about three decades that a sitting governor had no primary opponent.

Tennessee has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 2006.


Earlier this year, the GOP-dominated Tennessee General Assembly split left-leaning Nashville into three congressional districts in a bid to move one seat from Democrat to Republican. Longtime Democratic U.S. Representative Jim Cooper announced he would not seek re-election because he felt there was no way he could win.

On Thursday, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles of Columbia emerged as the GOP nominee among nine candidates from the 5th District. Among those he defeated were former State House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and retired Tennessee National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, of Franklin.

State Senator Heidi Campbell of Nashville was the only candidate to run in the Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, five of Tennessee’s nine congressmen ran unopposed in the primary: U.S. House Representatives Diana Harshbarger, Tim Burchett, Scott DesJarlais, John Rose and Mark Green.


Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Memphis and Republican Representatives David Kustoff and Chuck Fleischmann faced underfunded challengers in their primaries. In the 9th District, Cohen defeated Mr. Latroy Alexandria-Williams, with Charlotte Bergmann winning the Republican sign against Leo AwGoWhat and Brown Dudley. Kustoff defeated three primary opponents in the 8th District, Danny Ray Bridger Jr., Gary Dean Clouse and Bob Hendry, with Democrat Lynnette Williams defeating Tim McDonald for their party’s nomination. In the 3rd District, Fleischmann won her race against Sandy Casey and will face Democrat Meg Gorman in the fall.

In the 6th District Democratic Primary, Randal Cooper defeated Clay Faircloth to advance to face Rose. And in the 4th District, Wayne Steele defeated Arnold White in the Democratic primary to challenge DesJarlais.

Republicans currently hold seven of Tennessee’s congressional seats, while Democrats hold two.

Dr. Jason Martin listens to a question during an interview in Nashville, Tennessee. Martin, an intensive care physician from Nashville, is one of three Democratic candidates for Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)


In the Republican-majority Legislature, all 99 seats in the Tennessee State House are up for election this year. There are currently 15 open seats, the majority of them held by Republicans. Twenty-one seats included contested Republican primaries and nine contested Democratic primaries.

Some sitting lawmakers have lost their primary races.

Republican Representative Bob Ramsey of Maryville did not survive a right-wing challenge against Bryan Richey, a Maryville insurance agent.

Republican Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, a Lancaster gospel singer and songwriter known for her statehouse serenades, lost to Smithville funeral home owner and farmer Michael Hale.

Openings include the seat of disgraced former House Speaker Glen Casada, who was ousted from the top position in 2019 after a series of scandals. Former GOP Rep. Robin Smith resigned earlier this year after facing federal charges that she ran a political consulting kickback program with Casada and his former chief of staff, whose none have been charged to date.


Justin Jones, a black activist known for leading protests on Capitol Hill, was elected Thursday to a House seat for a Nashville district. Jones, 26, has already been temporarily banned from the Capitol after being arrested for throwing a cup of cash at Casada. This ban has since been lifted.

In the Senate, 17 of 33 seats are on the ballot, four with contested GOP primaries and two with contested Democratic races.

Supreme Court

All five justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court were retained. Jeff Bivins, Sarah Campbell, Holly Kirby, Sharon Lee and Roger Page were up for an eight-year holdover election, meaning voters simply decided to let them keep their seats. Rejections are extremely rare.

Other Key Races

Tennessee’s most populous county, Shelby, featured some key races.

County Mayor Lee Harris was challenged by Memphis City Councilman Worth Morgan. Harris, a black Democrat, was seeking his second four-year term. Morgan, a white Republican, has served on the board since 2016.

Outgoing and longtime Republican Shelby County prosecutor Amy Weirich, who has held the position since 2011, faced off against Democratic civil rights attorney, law professor and former county commissioner Steve Mulroy.


With all precincts in the county reporting results Friday, Mulroy beat Weirich in the district attorney race, and Harris outlasted Morgan in the contest for mayor.

Mulroy and Weirich clashed in the proceedings, and the issue of abortion lawsuits under the state’s pending “trigger law” became an issue. The law would essentially ban all abortions statewide and make it a crime to perform the procedure.

Mulroy said he would make prosecuting those who perform abortions an “extremely low” priority. Weirich did not say outright whether or not she would prosecute doctors who perform abortions, instead saying it would violate Tennessee’s code prohibiting prosecutors from issuing “a broad and hypothetical statement without an actual charge or case.”


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