elections

Byrd confirms he won’t run for another term in House

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on Jan. 14, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Embattled state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) has confirmed to The Tennessean he won’t seek re-election this fall.

“At this point I’m still not running,” said Byrd, who pledged in a closed door caucus meeting in August he won’t run again.

Byrd has been under fire since former high school basketball players made sexual misconduct allegations against Byrd dating back to when he was their coach in the 1980s.

Byrd was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2018 despite the allegations. He has been the subject of regular protests. The lawmaker suggested that the demonstrators might get him to change his mind.

“If I get harassed and bullied, then I’ll definitely rethink my position about running.

Former Savannah City Manager Garry Welch announced earlier this month  he will seek the GOP nomination for the House District 71 seat currently held by Byrd. The district covers all of Hardin, Lewis, and Wayne counties and part of Lawrence.

Byrd to have GOP primary challenger if he runs again

Embattled Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Education Committee meting in Nashville on March 28, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) will have a Republican primary opponent if he reneges on his previous pledge not to seek another term representing House District 71.

Garry Welch, a former city manager of Savannah, announced he will run for the GOP nomination for the seat representing all of Hardin, Lewis, and Wayne counties and part of Lawrence County.

“I’m excited to pursue the opportunity, and I am running for the office to serve all the citizens of the district,” Welch said in a statement to The Courier of Savannah. “As city manager, I was in Nashville quite a bit. I understand the process and think I am well qualified to represent the district.”

Welch retired in 2018 after serving as city manager for 12 years.

Byrd told colleagues before a recent special session that he wouldn’t run again amid moves to oust him over allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was their high school basketball coach in the 1980s.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) and House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) told The Tennessean it will be up to the House GOP’s seven-member campaign committee to decide whether to support Byrd if he runs again.

“Personally, Jeremy Faison will not be a part of that race,” Faison told the paper. “I will stay out of the race and leave it up to his constituents if he runs.”

The Knoxville mayor’s election and state House races

(Credit: Don Johnson)

We were fascinated by a map detailing the sharp geographical divide in this month’s mayoral runoff in Knoxville. So much so, that we asked talented mapmaker to superimpose state House districts onto the map to see what it would tell us about potential matchups next year.

For reference, here are the incumbents:

  • District 13: Democrat Gloria Johnson, who beat Republican incumbent Republican Eddie Smith by 12 percentage points.
  • District 14: Republican Jason Zachary, who beat Democrat Justin Davis by 31 points.
  • District 15: Democrat Rick Staples, who was unopposed.
  • District 16: Republican Bill Dunn, who beat Democrat Kate Trudell by 40 points. Dunn has announced he will retire next year.
  • District 18: Republican Martin Daniel, who beat Democrat Greg Mackay by 3 points.
  • District 19: Republican Dave Wright, who beat Democrat Edward Nelson by 48 points.
  • District 89: Republican Justin Lafferty, who beat Democrat Coleen Martinez by 28 points.

So what do the results tell us? Mostly that the status quo is probably fairly relieved.

Indya Kincannon, the Democratic winner of the mayor’s race didn’t carry any GOP House districts, while Republican Eddie Mannis didn’t win in Democratic ones. Kincannon did carry precincts in Republican freshman Rep. Dave Wright’s district, but most of his terrority lies outside the city limits and he won his 2018 race by a massive 48 points.

Rep. Daniel, who suffered a close call in last year’s election, saw Mannis carry 55% of his district. But Daniel has positioned himself more to the right than Mannis, so it remains to be seen whether Democrats can mount another credible challenge.

Johnson’s 12-point win over incumbent Smith last year was an outlier after their previous two contests had been decided in tight races. But Kincannon’s 10-point margin over Mannis in the district shows Johnson’s big win probably wasn’t a fluke.

Many thanks again to Don Johnson for his fine mapmaking work!

 

 

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.