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.

  • House District 18. Incumbent Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville) vs. Democrat Greg Mackay. Daniel was first elected in 2014 after beating incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Hall in the primary. In 2016, Daniel won the primary again despite shoving Hall during a live radio appearance.
  • House District 33. Incumbent Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) vs. Democrat Richard Dawson. While not initially on many political observers’ lists as an endangered seat, the money has suddenly been flowing to Ragan in an effort to prop him up. Ragan’s brash style fits right in among the the conservative wing of the GOP in Nashville, but may be less of a selling point among scientifically-inclined Oak Ridge crowd.
  • House District 56. The open race to fill the seat of retiring House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) features Republican Brent Moody and Democrat Bob Freeman. It’s considered the Democrats’ best chance to pick up a seat because Trump lost the district to Hillary Clinton in 2016. But a Democratic independent expenditure group has been pouring money into the contest late in the race, suggesting that it’s anything but a done deal.
  • House District 67. The open race to succeed Rep. Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) features Republican Tommy Vallejos and Democrat Jason Hodges. Pitts is challenging Kim McMillan, the former state House majority leader, for Clarksville mayor.
  • House District 82.  The open race to succeed state House Minority Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) features Republican Chris Hurt and Democrat Andrea Bond-Johnson. Republicans have long targeted the seat on the outskirts of the Memphis suburbs.
  • House District 96. Incumbent Rep. Dwayne Thompson (D-Cordova) faces Republican Scott McCormick. Thompson was the surprise winner of a challenge to incumbent Rep. Steve McManus in 2016, and Republicans are eager to wrest the seat back into their column.

Here’s a few more races to keep an eye on come Tuesday.

  • House District 97. Incumbent Rep. Jim Coley (R-Barlett) faces a challenge from Democrat Allan Creasy. Just as the GOP is trying to turn back Democrats’s suburban gains in the neighboring 96th district, Democrats are hoping to grow their sphere of influence around Memphis.
  • House District 41. Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston) has driven Republicans crazy by holding on to his rural Cumberland Plateau district even as fellow Democrats have largely gone extinct outside of the state’s urban areas. Republican Ed Butler is running against Windle this year.
  • House District 75. Bruce Griffey of Paris knocked off incumbent Rep. Tim Wirgau of Camden in this year’s Republican primary. He faces Democrat Richard Carl in the general.
  • House District 71. Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) faces a challenge from Democrat Frankie Floied of Hohenwald. Byrd rejected calls for him to resign after sexual misconduct allegations were made against him when he was their 28-year-old high school basketball coach.  An outside group called the Enough is Enough PAC spent more than $87,000 in advertising against Byrd in October.
  • Senate District 7. Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) faces Democrat Jamie Ballinger in the district that includes the University of Tennessee. Briggs is a far cry from the firebrand he defeated four years ago (then-Sen. Stacey Campfield), which he hopes will blunt the challenge from Ballinger.
  • Senate District 17. Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) narrowly survived his special election against Democrat Mary Alice Carfi in December, prevailing by only 307 votes. But that was in a low-turnout special election, and the traditionally Republican district should come through for Pody this time. Unless his camp is asleep at the wheel again.
  • Clarksville-Montgomery Consolidation. An effort to merge the governments of Clarksville and Montgomery County will be decided by voters inside and outside the city. The latter area is where previous efforts have fallen short.
  • Charter amendments. Memphis will vote on whether to loosen term limits for council members and repeal rid of instant runoff voting. Nashville is voting on whether to create a community oversight board for the police.

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