Erik Schelzig

Editor, The Tennessee Journal

AP calls governor’s race for Bill Lee

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee speaks at a rally in Franklin on Oct. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The AP has called the Tennessee governor’s race for Republican Bill Lee.

 

Early numbers look good for Blackburn, but Nashville and Memphis still to report any numbers

Repubilcan Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn speaks at a rally in Franklin on Oct. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn has a big lead in early returns, but there have yet to be any results reported from the Democratic strongholds of Memphis or Nashville.

With 5% of precincts reporting, here’s how it looks:

Marsha Blackburn Republican 338,013 61%
Phil Bredesen Democrat 209,583 38%

Two interesting results from East Tennessee: Bredesen was up by 5 points in Hamilton County and behind by just 4 points in Knox County.

County Blackburn Bredesen
Knox
58,323
54,026
Hamilton
31,935
35,261

 

 

What does early voting in Williamson County tell us?

The Tennessean’s Elaina Sauber has the early voting results from Williamson County, home to both Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn and GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee. Both Republicans came out of early voting with big leads, but Blackburn’s 18-point lead over Democrat Phil Bredesen was much smaller than Lee’s 29-point advantage over Democrat Karl Dean.

Will that fall-off for Blackburn portend a closer race with Bredesen? We’ll see as more votes come in.

Lee says he didn’t authorize mailer for Rep. David Byrd

Republican gubernatorial candidate appears in a state GOP mailer supporting controversial Rep. David Byrd of Waynesboro. Only problem is that Lee says he didn’t authorize it.

Lee was asked about the mailer in Williamson County on Tuesday, and said he did not know whether the photo was taken before or after sexual misconduct allegations were made public about Byrd. Two women said Byrd touched them inappropriately when he was their 28-year-old basketball coach, and a third said he tried to.

“I haven’t seen that picture, so I don’t know, and we didn’t authorize the use of that,” Lee said.

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) called for Byrd’s resignation, but he is seeking re-election this year.

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Group spends $3.5M to promote black turnout

Tennessee is one of the Black Progressive Action Coalition’s top investments this election season as it has worked to get African-American voters to the polls in the state’s four largest cities, the Associated Press’ Jonathan Mattise reports.

The related Black Progressive Action Coalition and BlackPAC have spent more than $3.5 million on direct mail, radio ads, door knocking, and phone calls targeting Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.

One of the radio spots tells voters that its within their power to keep “Trump’s biased and extreme agenda in check.”

See a full-page flyer after the jump.

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Races to watch on Tuesday

The Tennessean’s crack political crew has come up with 11 races to watch on Tuesday. Two are obvious (the Senate and governor’s races), but there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening down ticket a well.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

  • 7th Congressional District. Republican Mark Green vs. Democrat Justin Kanew are running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Marsha Blackburn. It seems unlikely that a Democrat would manage to pry this one loose, but it will be a good one to watch anyway as Green tries to work his way back up the political ladder after having to withdraw as President Donald Trump’s nominee as Army secretary. Green hasn’t been shy about talking up his prospects as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2020 — even if incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) runs again.
  • State Senate District 31. Incumbent Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) vs. Democrat Gabby Salinas. This is the race that has made Senate Republicans the most nervous this election. They’ve dumped in $300,000 to try to ensure the seat stays in Republican hands.
  • House District 13. Incumbent Rep. Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) vs. former Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). Yes, again. Smith beat Johnson by about 300 voters two years ago, and it could be just as close this year.

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Watch Blackburn’s comments at Trump rally in Chattanooga

Here are Republican Senate candidate Marsh Blackburn’s comments at a Chattanooga rally featuring President Donald Trump on Sunday evening:

Bredesen speaks in Chattanooga, hours before Trump rally

Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen speaks at a fundraiser in Nashville on Aug. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democratic Senate candidate Phi Bredesen held a rally on Sunday in Chattanooga just hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to  come to the city to headline an event for Republican rival Marsha Blackburn.

“If the previous two visits are any guide, he’ll have plenty of derogatory things to say about me,” Bredesen said in his prepared remarks.

“That’s OK — politics today is a blood sport — but I’ve come here to show that there are other ways to campaign and to present your case to the people of Tennessee,” Bredesen said. “We should vote people in and out, not shout them in and out.”

Bredesen praised retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga), who “is understandably not here with us” — but was also not attending the Blackburn rally because of an unspecified prior engagement.

“I want everyone to know that I admire the job he did as Chattanooga’s mayor, and I respect enormously how he has carried himself in his two terms in the United States Senate,” Bredesen said. “As you all know, I’m seeking to follow him in that seat, and it would be a privilege to do so.”

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Haslam predicts Blackburn will win by at least 5 points

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at a press conference at the state Capitol in Nashville on March 1, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Haslam predicted on  NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd on Sunday that Republican Marsha Blackburn will comfortably win the Senate race against Democrat Phil Bredesen because voters in Tennessee care more about the partisan makeup of the chamber than about the individual promises made by candidates.

The governor said the furor surrounding the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh shifted the race in Tennessee by 5 or 6 percentage points in Blackburn’s favor, adding that he thinks “Marsha will win by at least that much.”

“Tennessee is one of those states where the Kavanaugh hearings did change things,” Haslam said. “People realized well it really doesn’t matter, kind of, what you’re saying. The color of the jersey you’re wearing up there is really important.”

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O’Hara: The hill might no longer be quite as steep for Bredesen

Democratic candidate and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, left, speaks during the 2018 Tennessee U.S. Senate Debate with Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn at The University of Tennessee Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, Pool)

A guest column from former reporter Jim O’Hara:

“Follow the money” is still a pretty good political maxim. Republican and Democratic PACs continued to spend heavily in the Phil Bredesen-Marsha Blackburn U.S. Senate race  despite recent polls showing a Blackburn lead (totals this week alone: $5.9 million for her, $7.9 million for him).

Reviewing the recently completed statewide early voting, in fact, suggests a race to the finish. An earlier column argued for the outsized role in Tennessee of the 10 counties with the highest numbers of registered voters. In the 2014 mid-terms, those 10 counties provided 54% of the total vote. One can also assume President Trump didn’t pick Chattanooga for a Sunday rally for Blackburn just because it has spillover potential in the Georgia governor’s race.

The counties are: Blount, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Montgomery, Rutherford, Shelby, Sullivan, Williamson, and Wilson.

In the early voting that ended Thursday, those 10 counties were the top 10 counties of early voters. They cast 814,001 votes, or 59% of the total early vote of 1,378,840.

And Davidson and Shelby accounted for 350,924 votes, or 43% of the votes cast in those 10 counties.

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