National News

Tennessee Primaries: What to Watch For

Posted August 2, 2018 6:44 a.m. EDT

Tennessee primary voters on Thursday will choose which candidates to send to the general election. Democrats hope that the governorship and a Senate seat may be up for grabs, and the state, which President Donald Trump won by 26 points in 2016, also has three open House seats.

Polls close at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and 7 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

— Tennessee could move closer to electing its first female governor.

Tennessee Republicans are wrapping up a bitter, expensive campaign for governor, with four leading candidates vying to replace Gov. Bill Haslam: U.S. Rep. Diane Black; Beth Harwell, speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives; Randy Boyd, a former state economic development commissioner; and Bill Lee, a businessman. Haslam cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

Each candidate has been heaping praise on Trump and attacking the others as insufficiently loyal to the president. The Associated Press estimated last week that roughly $45.7 million had been spent in the race.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence endorsed Black, who could become the state’s first female governor if she wins in November.

The two-way race on the Democratic side between former Mayor Karl Dean of Nashville and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh has been placid in comparison; Dean is favored to win.

The Tennessean, a local newspaper, estimated that Dean had raised 15 times as much as Fitzhugh, and spent four times as much.

— For now, the race to replace Sen. Bob Corker should bring few surprises.

The retirement of Corker created an open seat that will be heavily contested in November, but there are few surprises expected in Thursday’s primary because each party has a clear front-runner heading into the fall.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn will face off against Aaron L. Pettigrew, a truck driver with no political experience, for the Republican nomination. Blackburn has cast herself as a committed ally of Trump, who has endorsed her on Twitter and at a rally in Tennessee. Pettigrew is a long-shot candidate.

On the Democratic side, Phil Bredesen, a popular former governor, is seen as the front-runner in the contest that includes John Wolfe, a lawyer from Chattanooga, and perennial candidate Gary Davis.

— Three House districts have open seats currently held by Republicans.

For the House, keep an eye on the 2nd, 6th and 7th districts, all of which have open seats that are currently held by Republicans.

In the 2nd District, the leading Republican contenders are Mayor Tim Burchett of Knox County, state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, Air Force Lt. Col. Ashley Nickloes and Jason Emert, a businessman.

There are three Democratic candidates: Renee Hoyos, executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network; Joshua Williams, a businessman and hospital administrator; and Joseph Schenkenfelder.

In the largely rural 6th District, the three leading Republican candidates are Bob Corlew, a retired chancery court judge; Judd Matheny, a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives; and John Rose, a farmer and small business owner.

Democratic candidates include Dr. Dawn Barlow, a physician, and the Rev. Merrilee Wineinger, a United Methodist minister.

In the 7th District, Justin Kanew, a film producer and former contestant on “The Amazing Race,” is running against Matt Reel, a Special Forces Green Beret, for the Democratic nomination.

The only candidate in the district’s Republican primary is state Sen. Mark E. Green, who withdrew as Trump’s nominee to be secretary of the Army last year amid criticism of his opposition to federal efforts to bar discrimination against gay and transgender people.