On the 2018 governor’s race in West Tennessee

The 2018 gubernatorial race could involve $50 million in campaign spending with about half flowing into the Memphis media market, according to a Commercial Appeal article devoted to discussion of West Tennessee’s importance in electing the state’s next chief executive. The estimate comes from Democratic strategist Matt Kuhn, a founder of Memphis-based New Blue Strategies.

“I think the average voter in West Tennessee is going to be bombarded by candidates advertising next year,” Kuhn said.

Home to the largest blocs of Republican and Democratic votes, West Tennessee is now “ground zero” for an election sure to be flooded with money from self-financed millionaire candidates and their supporting super political action committees (PACs), said political consultant Steven Reid of Sutton Reid Advertising in Memphis.

Shelby County could account for about 9 percent of the total vote in the Republican primary election, Reid said. Add in Tipton and Fayette counties, and the Greater Memphis area could account for closer to 12-14 percent of the total vote. The 8th Congressional District is the most Republican of any congressional district in the state, said Boyd’s campaign CEO and longtime GOP activist Chip Saltsman.

In a state as wide as Tennessee, with eight media markets (including the markets based in Huntsville, Alabama; and Paducah, Kentucky), focusing on West Tennessee makes sense, Reid said — especially if no candidate has the home-court advantage.

“We’re the fertile ground in the race, that no one is from,” he said.

(State Senate Majority Leader Mark) Norris’ exit from consideration has already influenced one voter: Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell on Wednesday endorsed (Randy) Boyd, playing up Boyd’s family’s connection to Fruitvale, a tiny city northwest of Jackson.

History note: Once upon a time, there were complaints (especially in East Tennessee) that a “West Tennessee  mafia” held a disproportionate amount of power statewide – say in the years of Democratic dominance when West Tennesseans held the governor’s office (Ned McWherter), the House speaker position (Jimmy Naifeh) and the Senate speaker’s position (John Wilder). Nowadays, with GOP rule, West Tennesseans are more prone to complain of lack of influence. Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Randy McNally are East Tennesseans – so are both of the state’s U.S. senators – and House speaker Beth Harwell is from Nashville.

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