Democrats have fielded candidates in almost all state House and Senate races

Democrats have filed as candidates for almost all seats in a Tennessee General Assembly that is now controlled by a Republican Supermajority and party leaders say that sets up more contested partisan legislative races than they can remember from recent history.

By the party’s initial count, there were Democratic candidates running in 97 of the 99 state House seats and 15 of the 17 Senate seats that are on the November, 2018,  general election ballot. But a final review of qualifying petitions indicates there are three Republicans each in the Senate and House with no Democrat qualifying to oppose them.

The three House seats with no Democrat running are District 1, held by Rep. John Crawford of Kingsport; District 22, held by Rep. Dan Howell of Georgetown, and District 4, held by Rep. John Holsclaw of Johnson City . (UPDATE/Note: The original version of this post did not include Holsclaw. As the Elizabethton Star reports, two Democrats filed petitions to run against him but both were disqualified because of paperwork problems.)

The Division of Elections website – which has a tentative list of legislative candidates filing qualifying petitions HERE – indicates there are three Senate districts with no Democrat on the ballot. They are District 1, now held by Sen. Steve Southerland of Morristown; District 2, now held by Sen. Art Swann of Maryville; and District 3, now held by Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City.

In contrast, a review of the list indicates there are three Senate seats and 16 House seats where no Republican is running.

The three Senate seats are those presently held by Democratic Sens. Thelma Harper (District 19) and Jeff Yarbro (21), both of Nashville, and Reginald Tate of Memphis (33).

The House seats are those currently held by Democratic Reps. Rick Staples of Knoxville (15) and Johnny Shaw of Bolivar (80); Nashville Reps. Bill Beck (51), Mike Stewart (52), Brenda Gilmore (54), John Ray Clemmons (55), Harold Love Jr. (58), Darren Jernigan (60); and Memphis Reps. Joe Towns (84), Johnnie Turner (85), Barbara Cooper (86), Karen Camper (87), Larry Miller (88), John DeBerry 90), G.A. Hardaway (93), and Antonio Parkinson (98).

Statement from Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini in a press release (which includes a link to watch a Friday press conference on the subject):

“We’re proud, motivated, and excited to have the largest class of Tennessee Democrats stepping up to run for office in recent memory,” Mancini said. “Tennesseans want a government that works for them, and with current leadership, that’s just not happening. These Democratic candidates are running to put our values into action. They want to stop more rural hospitals from closing, so parents are able to take their child to the hospital if they break an arm. They want everyone to be able to receive an education that fits their vision for the future; they want everyone to be able to find a good-paying job and retire in dignity and security. Now more than ever, we look forward to electing more Democrats who will work to make our state a place where all Tennesseans have the opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their families.”

Excerpt from a report by The Tennessean’s Jordan Blue, who covered the news conference:

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini, House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, and House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, on Friday touted the flurry of Democratic candidates running for office.

… “We have Democratic candidates who have stepped up to run for office in every part of Tennessee from Mountain City to Memphis,” Mancini said. “We have Democratic candidates who have stepped up to run for every office from county commission all the way up to U.S. Senate.”

… The Democrats called the turnout of candidates “unprecedented,” at least in recent history, and also said the candidates running are among the strongest that have represented the party.

“These are highly successful lawyers, doctors, a sergeant major, business people,” Stewart said. “These are people who are prominent people in their communities already, and they have chosen to step up across the state.”

..Yarbro said they’ll focus on pointing to issues where the current Republican-led legislature hasn’t moved forward.

“For too long, too many of the legislators who work in this building have gotten a free pass” he said. “They have not been held accountable. For too long, too many of the districts across the state have not had a meaningful choice on Election Day. But in a 111 of 117 legislative districts, they going to have a choice this November.”

… Republicans, who have preached to their members the importance of the midterm elections since the start of the legislative session, say they welcome the competition and remain confident.

“Republicans welcome the opportunity to tell the Tennessee success story in each and every district of this great state,” Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said Friday. (Note: McNally has a Democratic opponent.)

“The Republican record of success is one of low taxes, AAA credit ratings and balanced budgets,” he said. “It is a record that includes the fastest improving students in the nation and the lowest unemployment rate in history. Republicans in Tennessee have done what other leaders only dream of doing.”

“We feel good about our chances and relish the occasion to make our case to the people of Tennessee,” McNally said.

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