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Last GOP debate of gubernatorial primary canceled

Tennessee gubernatorial candidates talk education during SCORE event at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, January 23, 2018. (Photo credit: Belmont University)

The final televised debate of the Republican gubernatorial primary has been canceled after a spate of candidates dropped out.

First, Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd declared that he had a scheduling conflict would prevent him from attending. Then state House Speaker Beth Harwell said she wouldn’t attend if Boyd didn’t. Then U.S. Rep. Diane Black said she wasn’t going. Franklin businessman Bill Lee said he’d go to the Knoxville debate site no matter its fate, and now plans to hold a town hall nearby on Sunday.

 

Poll has Bredesen with edge on Blackburn, Black over Boyd

House Speaker Beth Harwell attends a gubernatorial forum in Nashville on Feb. 27, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A new automated poll by Emerson College finds Democrat Phil Bredesen with 43% support in the Senate race, compared with 37% for Blackburn. In the Republican gubernatorial primary, 27% said they preferred Diane Black, while 22% supported Boyd, 19% for Lee, and 14% for Harwell.

The survey has a margin of error of a plus or minus 4.1 percentage points in the Senate race and 6.4 points in the governor’s race, so everything is pretty much a statistical tie.

On the Democratic side, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean revived the support of 44% of those polled, compared with 14% for House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. The margin of error on that race was plus or minus 7.3 points).

In a hypothetical general election matchup, Dean had 39% versus 35% for Black, with 27% undecided. In a matchup with Boyd, Dean had an even slimmer edge: 36%-34, with 30% undecided.

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Wamp endorses Lee for governor

Former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp speaks about his endorsement of Bill Lee in the Republican gubernatorial primary in Chattanooga on July 16, 2018. (Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp is endorsing Franklin businessman Bill Lee’s bid for governor.

Wamp unsuccessfully sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010. So did then-Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, who is a co-chairman of U.S. Rep Diane Black’s bid. Gov. Bill Haslam, the winner of the 2010 contest is remaining neutral in this year’s primary.

“While I originally intended to not take a public stand in this primary race, I have watched closely the tactics, tone and campaign activity of the four GOP candidates,” Wamp said in a release. “Without question, the most positive vision, organization and campaign has come from Bill Lee. No wonder so many in the Gospel and Country music industry are supporting Bill Lee.”

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Bredesen raises $2.4M, loans Senate bid another $2M

Democrat Phil Bredesen raised $2.43 million for his Senate bid the second quarter, while the former governor also donated another $2 million to his campaign.

That places Bredesen’s total collections at $8.2 million since joining the race (including loans from the candidate, which the campaign said are aimed at TV ads and digital efforts).

Republican Marsha Blackburn’s campaign announced that it brought in $2.6 million in the quarter and had $7.3 million on hand moving forward.

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Blackburn raises $2.6M for Senate bid in second quarter

Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn raised $2.6 million for her Senate bid in the second quarter, the Chattanooga Time Free Press‘ Andy Sher reports.

The quarterly haul includes $2.2 million in direct contributions plus nearly $400,000 in transfers from joint fundraising committees. That leaves Blackburn with $7.3 million on hand as the campaign heads toward the general election phase.

“Tennesseans across the state have generously donated to our campaign as I work to take our shared values to the United States Senate,” Blackburn said. “I am so grateful for their support, because these resources are vital as we work to keep Tennessee red and defeat Hillary Clinton’s ally Phil Bredesen in November.”

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Black hits Lee for giving to pro-choice candidate, but her husband did same

U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s latest attack ad on Republican gubernatorial rival Bill Lee criticizes him for giving a $1,750 to three Democrats: Phil Bredesen, Karl Dean, and former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, whom the ad labels an abortion supporter. Unmentioned is that Black’s husband, David, once gave $2,000 to a self-described pro-choice candidate.

David Black gave two $1,000 donations to former state Sen. Rosalind Kurita (D-Clarksville), who played a key role in then-Sen. Ron Ramsey’s 2007 election as the the state’s first Republican Senate speaker since Reconstruction.

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Boyd drops out of final televised gubernatorial debate

Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd won’t participate in the final Republican gubernatorial debate before the Aug. 2 primary.

Republican Randy Boyd addresses the audience during the Gubernatorial Forum on Education at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (George Walker IV /The Tennessean, Pool)

WATE-TV reports that the Boyd campaign is citing a “scheduling conflict” for sitting out the July 22 debate to be held at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville.

Most of the debates and candidate forums so far have been largely staid affairs, thought the atmosphere might have been different this time following the influx of negative TV ads, and because candidates desperate to gain traction might be more willing to take shots at each other.

The Pellissippi State debate is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Eastern between Democrats Karl Dean and Craig Fitzugh, followed by the GOP debate between Beth Harwell, Bill Lee, and Diane Black at 9 p.m.

Tennessee state employees PAC finds 29% undecided in gov’s race

Polling conducted on behalf of Tennessee State Employees Association’s political action committee in “selected GOP legislative districts” found 29% of voters remain undecided in the governor’s race.

The poll surveyed 2,381 registered Republican voters in nine state House districts. But take any statewide extrapolation with a substantial grain of salt: None of the districts are in West Tennessee and only one Knoxville-area district was polled (while five were in Middle Tennessee).

“A third of voters polling undecided a week before early voting means the race for the GOP nomination is still wide open,” said TSEA Executive Director Randy Stamps. “And the candidate results reflect a race that has very much become a four-way race.”

The PAC has endorsed Harwell in the Republican primary.

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2nd District candidate calls out ‘bunch of yahoos’

Republican congressional candidate Ashley Nickloes may not be the best known Republican vying for retiring Rep. Jimmy Duncan’s seat, but she’s got one of the more polished ads running in that campaign that also includes Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, and businessman Jason Emert.

Transcript: “A lot of career politicians are a bunch of yahoos. Me, I fly missions across the globe as a combat aviator. I do my job so our nation’s heroes can make it home safely. My next mission: Serving you and your family in Congress. Career politicians have failed us time and time again without consequences. I’ll work with President Trump and put America first just like I always have. I’m Ashley Nickloes and I approve this message. It’s time for American grit, not Washington wimps.”

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Fitzhugh, Lee land endorsements from Times Free Press

Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Craig Fitzhugh have landed gubernatorial primary endorsements from the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Tennessee gubernatorial candidates talk education during SCORE event at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, January 23, 2018. (Photo credit: Belmont University)

On the conservative side of the opinion pages, Clint Cooper writes that “Tennessee Republicans can feel fortunate they have an embarrassment of riches in their gubernatorial primary to replace term-limited Republican Bill Haslam.” But he says Lee’s outside perspective along with his business and farming experience make him the best choice. He also lauds Lee for trying to remain above the fray amid the negative advertising by his rivals.

On the left-leaning Times side, Pam Sohn writes that Fitzhugh is “dedicated to the expansion of Medicaid, approving medical marijuana, common-sense gun regulation and education — especially early childhood education.”

On the Republican side, the Times opinion page would choose Beth Harwell.