elections

Map shows stark divisions in Knoxville mayor’s race

Check out this map of election results in Knoxville’s mayoral runoff. It illustrates the stark partisan divisions within the city, with Democrat Indya Kincannon taking most of the core of the city, and Republican Eddie Mannis capturing most in outlying areas.

Election night results in Tennessee

Former school board member Indya Kincannon defeated businessman Eddie Mannis in Knoxville’s mayoral runoff. While it was technically a nonpartisan race, Kincannon is a Democrat and Mannis is a Republican.

Kincannon was elected mayor with 52% of the vote, while Mannis received 48%. Of the 25,460 votes cast in the election, 47% came in the form of early or absentee ballots.

Rusty Grills won the Republican nomination in the special election to succeed former state Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) in state House District 77. Grills received 56%, compared with 25% for his nearest rival, Casey Hood. The Obion County Commission had appointed Hood as Sanderson’s interim successor.

Michael Smith was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

 

Former state Sen. Reginald Tate has died

Former state Sen. Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) has died, state Rep. Antonio Parkinson announced on Twitter on Monday.

Tate, 65, was defeated in last year’s Democratic primary by Katrina Robinson, a business owner and nurse. A hot mic incident in which Tate vented to a Republican colleague about his frustration with Democrats questioning his party loyalty was a major flashpoint of the campaign.

“I don’t like the lies. But I won’t take time out to respond to it. But I will tell you guys, there is not one time I sold anyone else out,” Tate told his supporters during the race. “I work for $20,000 a year. It won’t pay my car note. I can’t take nothing under the table or on top of the table. I’m too tall to hide.”

Tate said he’d worked both sides of the aisle to get results for his home district. He represented the district for 12 years.

Strickland re-elected mayor of Memphis, voters OK sales tax hike

Incumbent Jim Strickland was re-elected mayor Memphis and voters in the city approved a proposal to hike the city’s local option sales tax from 2.25% to 2.75% to restore benefits that had been cut for for police and firefighters in 2015.

“Politics can be pretty toxic… Today’s vote shows that it doesn’t have to be,” the Commercial Appeal quoted Strickland as telling supporters after the vote. “We can disagree without being divisive. That is the campaign I have run. That is the way that I lead. I have been and will continue to be everybody’s mayor.”

Strickland took 62% of the vote. Willie Herenton, a former 18-year mayor, received 29%. County Commissioner Tami Sawyer got 7%. None of the other eight candidates (including the eternal Prince Mongo) received more than 0.5%.

The sales tax referendum passed on a 52%-48% vote. Officials were quick to point out that voters can’t dictate how sales tax money is spent, but that they will follow the will of the electorate in dedicating the money toward police and firefighters.

Rep. Jim Coley won’t run again in 2020

Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett) says he won’t run for another two-year term in the Tennessee House next year, the Daily Memphian reports.

Coley suffered from serious health problems two years ago, but returned to finish his term and win re-election last year. He  decided not to seek another term after being diagnosed with early stages of dementia.

“It has been an incredible honor to serve the men, women and families of our community during my time in the House chamber, and I am proud of the progress we have made protecting our children from exploitation and abuse,” Coley said in a statement.

Coley was first elected to the House in 2006. He won the House District 97 race over Democrat Allan Creasy on a 55%-45% vote last year.

“Jim Coley has been a fierce advocate for our children and their families during his time in our General Assembly. I appreciate his service to his constituents and to our state, and I know he will be greatly missed by our members,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville.

“The passion with which he performs his duties is unrivaled. We all wish him well on his retirement following the 2020 legislative session,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland).

Voters to elect Green successor in state Senate

Tuesday is special election day in state Senate District 22. Voters in Montgomery, Houston, and Stewart counties will decide who will fill the last 18 months of former state Sen. Mark Green’s term in the General Assembly following the Ashland City Republican’s election to Congress.

Update:

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Bill to close Tennessee primaries advancing in House

Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden), left, is the sponsor of a bill seeking to close primary elections in Tennessee.

A bill seeking to require party registration in order to vote in Tennessee primaries is advancing the House. The bill sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) advanced on a voice vote in the Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday morning.

When Democrats sought to close primaries after soaring to new heights in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal of the mid-1970s, Republicans cried foul and the measure was defeated. This time, the roles are reversed, though the fate of this year’s measure remains uncertain.

Then-Gov. Ray Blanton and the Democratic State Executive Committee sought to cement their gains by imposing party registration rules for voting in primaries in the 1970s. Closing primaries, the argument went, would give the liberal wing of the party more sway by excluding Republicans and independents from influencing the nomination process.

Those efforts were thwarted by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats from rural West Tennessee led by House Speaker Ned McWherter of Dresden and Senate Speaker John Wilder of Mason.

House Minority Leader Tom Jensen (R-Knoxville), who died last year year, said at the time Tennesseans had “made it clear they don’t want to be shackled with party registration laws.”

But times have changed. The Republican State Executive Committee in December recommended lawmakers enact party registration requirements in Tennessee.

Former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam called closing primaries “a silly proposal, ” arguing that if the change had been made earlier, it would have been much harder for Republicans to get to the position of power they’re in today. Gov. Bill Lee, who won the Republican nomination amid record turnout in last year’s  gubernatorial primary, was similarly dubious about the proposal, telling reporters that “the current system we have is working.”

Republicans today hold an even stronger position in state politics than Democrats did after Watergate. The GOP controls 73 of 99 seats in the state House and 28 of 33 in the state Senate, seven of nine seats in the U.S. House, and both U.S. Senate seats.

Under current state law, anyone can vote in a party primary if they are “a bona fide member of and affiliated with the political party.” The law also permits primary voting if “the voter declares allegiance to the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote and states that the voter intends to affiliate with that party.” The law has been interpreted to mean that seeking a party ballot is a declaration of allegiance.

In practice, many Tennesseans choose to vote in whichever primary is more compelling, meaning their allegiance and affiliation may last for as little as a single election.

Supporters of closed primaries argue that under the current system, crossover voters could help a weaker candidate win the nomination, who would then have a harder time prevailing in the general election. Another refrain is that open primaries give moderate candidates a better chance of winning primaries.

Nine states have closed primary systems, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Another seven have what the organization calls “partially closed” systems in which parties can choose whether to allow independent or voters registered with other parties to participate in primaries on a case-by-case basis.

NCSL counts Tennessee among six states with “partially open” primaries, where affiliation can be changed from election to election. Another 24 states are either fully open or allow independent voters to participate in the primary of their preference.

 

Legislature reappoints 7 members of State Election Commission

State Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) waits for Gov. Bill Haslam to deliver his final State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A joint convention of the Tennessee General Assembly has reappointed the seven members of the state Election Commission.

The Republican appointees are Donna Barrett of Murfreesboro, Judy Blackburn of Morristown, Jimmy Wallace of Jackson, and Kent Younce of LaFollette. The Democrats are Greg Duckett of Memphis, Mike McDonald of Portland, and Tom Wheeler of Clinton. Barrett, McDonald and Wheeler are former state House members.

Here’s the full release from the Secretary of State’s office:

The State Election Commission is composed of seven members: four from the political party holding a majority of seats in the Tennessee General Assembly and three from the minority party. These individuals are elected for a term of four years. This is the only commission in Tennessee state government which is elected wholly by the Tennessee General Assembly.

The seven members elected by the Tennessee General Assembly on February 14, 2019 to serve a four-year term include Donna Barrett, Murfreesboro; Judy Blackburn, Morristown; Greg Duckett, Memphis; Mike McDonald, Portland; Jimmy Wallace, Jackson; Tom Wheeler, Clinton; and Kent Younce, LaFollette.

To be eligible to serve on the State Election Commission one must be at least 25 years old, a resident of Tennessee for at least seven years, and a resident of the grand division of the state from which one seeks election for at least four years preceding the election. No more than any two members may be from the same grand division of the state.

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Tennessee GOP wants to require party registration to vote in primaries

Republican members vote during a House GOP caucus meeting in Nashville on Nov. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Republican Party’s state executive committee met over the weekend to re-elect Scott Golden as chairman and to make several policy recommendations to the GOP-controlled General Assembly. They include a call to require party registration in order to vote in primaries. The proposal comes on the heels of 792,888 people voting the Republican gubernatorial primary in August.

Democrats oppose the move.

“No Tennessean should be required to join a political party in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote, including independent voters,” Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said in a statement. “And as the share of independent voters continues to increase in Tennessee, this move would suppress them from making their voices heard in the primary process.”

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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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