Congressional primaries: Green wins one open seat nod; Kustoff only seriously challenged incumbent (?)

Multi-millionaire perennial candidate George Flinn, who finished second to David Kustoff in a 13-candidate primary for the 2016 Republican nomination in the 8th Congressional District after about $3 million in self-financing, will have a more direct confrontation with Kustoff in a 2018 rematch.

Only one other candidate, Colleen Owens of Jackson, qualified along with Flinn and incumbent Kustoff for this year’s 8th District GOP contest, according to the state Division of Elections website. Last time around (following former Rep. Stephen Fincher’s decision not to seek reelection), Kustoff’s opponents included political veterans such as state Sen. Brian Kelsey, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Shelby County Register of Deeds Tom Leatherwood.

The candidacy of Flinn, a radiologist who made his fortune through a chain of medical imagining clinics and ownership of radio stations, appears to make Kustoff the only incumbent Tennessee congressman with a serious challenge in the August primaries – at least insofar as campaign financing competition goes. (Note: A Flinn Facebook video on his candidacy, featuring general anti-incumbent rhetoric but no specific reference to Kustoff, is HERE. Official results of the 2016 primary are HERE.)

In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent Republican Rep. Phil Roe has five GOP opponents; in the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Republican Chuck Fleishman has four; in the 4th Congressional District incumbent Republican Scott DesJarlais has just one. But in all cases, the challengers appear to be folks with little name recognition and/or financial base.

In one of the three open congressional seats – the 7th District, vacated by Republican Marsha Blackburn to run for the U.S. Senate instead – there effectively is no primary. State Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) had no opponent qualifying as a candidate for the GOP nomination. (There are two political newcomer Democrats, Justin Kanew and Matt Reel, seeking the party nomination in what appears to be a potentially competitive primary in the staunchly Republican district.)

The most crowded primary field is in the 2nd Congressional District, where incumbent Republican Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. is retiring. Eight Republicans and three Democrats qualified with no late surprises. As widely reported previously, most attention is focused on the competition between Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and state Rep. Jimmy Matlock for the GOP nod in a district that hasn’t voted for a Democratic congressman in a century or so.

In the 6th District, where Rep. Diane Black is leaving to run for governor, six Republicans and four Democrats qualified. Again, no surprises, with most attention focused on businessman/farmer John Rose, a clear financial frontrunner, with state Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma and Bob Corlew as rivals for the Republican nomination.

As for the state’s two Democratic congressman, Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville has no primary opponent while Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis has three – none with substantial name recognition or a financial base.

Note: A list of candidates qualifying in all nine congressional districts is posted on the state Division of Elections website HERE. (It’s below the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate listings.)

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