house races

New TNJ edition alert: Ogles rolls in 5th

The latest edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Ogles cruises to 11-point victory in Republican primary for redrawn 5th District seat.

— Martin appears to edge Smiley for Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

— State Reps. Ramsey, Weaver defeated in GOP primaries, but Sherrell and Warner hold on.

— State Senate Republican leader Jack Johnson narrowly turns back primary challenge from conservative activist Gary Humble.

— Local race roundup: Democrat topples GOP prosecutor in Shelby County, the Wamps roll in Hamilton County, and former GOP lawmakers (mostly) prevail in mayor’s races.

— Obituary: ‘Hang ’Em High’ Joe Casey, a former law-and-order police chief in Nashville.

Also: The majority female state Supreme Court will choose among six male candidates for attorney general, Mark Green and Marsha Blackburn praise Pelosi trip to Taiwan, Biden nominates U.S. attorneys for three districts, and we suggest an acronym for Hagerty’s new state PAC.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Larry Arnn’s ‘dumbest’ teachers remark gets weaponized in state House race

The Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, is sending out mailers in a key state House primary featuring the likeness of Larry Arnn, the Hillsdale College president who recently said some unkind things about teachers and the colleges that educate them.

Arnn, whose school has designed a charter school curriculum backed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, said at recent event in Franklin that teachers “are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.” Lee, who sat alongside Arnn at the closed-door meeting, didn’t say anything about the comments at the time. Lee has since insisted he supports public school teachers but refused to repudiate Arnn’s remarks.

The mailer is in support of Bob Ravener, a retired Navy submarine officers who is running against trial lawyer — and school choice supporter — Gino Bulso in the Republican primary in District 61 in northern Williamson County. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin) who famously declared during his first election campaign in 2018 that he was opposed to school vouchers only to vote for a bill creating the private school tuition subsidies the following year.

Here’s the other side of the TEA mailer backing Ravener:

Your comprehensive guide to contested primaries for the Tennessee General Assembly

Lawmakers await Gov. Bill Lee arrival for his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Today is primary election day in Tennessee. If you’ve been reading The Tennessee Journal and this blog, you know who’s duking out at the top of the ticket in U.S. Senate and House races. But some of the toughest fights are occurring among candidates seeking their respective party nominations for legislative seats around the state.

Here’s your comprehensive guide for contested primaries for the state House and Senate. Incumbents are listed in italics. Open seats are  in bold.

District Party Name City
Senate 6 D Sam Brown Knoxville
D Jane George Knoxville
Senate 20 D Kimi Abernathy Nashville
D Heidi Campbell Nashville
Senate 22 R Doug Englen Clarksville
R Bill Powers Clarksville
Senate 24 R Casey L Hood Obion
R John D. Stevens Huntingdon
Senate 26 R Jai Templeton Stantonville
R Page Walley Bolivar
Senate 30 D Marion Latroy A-Williams Jr. Memphis
D Sara P. Kyle Memphis
Senate 32 R Paul W. Rose Covington
R Scott Throckmorton Collierville
House 3 R Scotty Campbell Mountain City
R Neal Kerney Mountain City
House 4 R Robert (Bob) Acuff Elizabethton
R John B. Holsclaw Jr Johnson City
R Tim Lingerfelt Erwin
House 6 R Tim Hicks Gray
R Micah Van Huss Gray
House 7 R Rebecca Keefauver Alexander Jonesborough
R Matthew Hill Jonesborough
House 15 D Sam McKenzie Knoxville
D Matthew Park Knoxville
D Rick Staples Knoxville
House 16 R Patti Lou Bounds Knoxville
R Michele Carringer Knoxville
House 18 R Eddie Mannis Knoxville
R Gina Oster Knoxville
House 20 R Bob Ramsey Maryville
R Bryan Richey Maryville
House 32 R Kent Calfee Kingston
R Mike Hooks Kingston
 House 42 R Dennis C Bynum Cookeville
R Ryan Williams Cookeville
House 43 R Jerry Lowery Sparta
R Bobby Robinson Sparta
R Paul Sherrell Sparta
House 47 R Rush Bricken Tullahoma
R Ronnie E. Holden Tullahoma
House 52 D Mike Stewart Nashville
D James C. Turner II Antioch
House 54 D Terry Clayton Nashville
D Vincent Dixie Nashville
House 60 D Darren Jernigan Old Hickory
D Grant Thomas Medeiros Nashville
House 71 R David “Coach” Byrd Waynesboro
R Austin Carroll Hohenwald
R Garry Welch Savannah
House 72 R Kirk Haston Lobelville
R Gordon Wildridge Lexington
House 76 R Tandy Darby Greenfield
R Dennis J. Doster Dresden
R David Hawks Martin
R John McMahan Union City
R Keith Priestley McKenzie
House 78 R James Ebb Gupton Jr. Ashland City
R Mary Littleton Dickson
House 79 R Curtis Halford Dyer
R Christine Warrington Humboldt
House 84 D Dominique Primer Memphis
D Joe Towns Jr. Memphis
House 85 D Jesse Chism Memphis
D Alvin Crook Memphis
House 86 D Barbara Cooper Memphis
D Austin A. Crowder Memphis
D Dominique Frost Memphis
D JoAnn Wooten-Lewis Cordova
House 88 D Larry J. Miller Memphis
D Orrden W. Williams Jr. Memphis
House 90* D Torrey C. Harris Memphis
D Anya Parker Memphis
D Catrina Smith Memphis
House 92 R Vincent A. Cuevas Lewisburg
R Rick Tillis Lewisburg
R Todd Warner Cornersburg
House 97 R John Gillespie Memphis
R Brandon S. Weise Memphis
D Allan Creasy Memphis
D Ruby Powell-Dennis Cordova
D Gabby Salinas Memphis
D Clifford Stockton III Cordova
House 98 D Antonio Parkinson Memphis
D Charles A. Thompson Memphis
House 99 R Tom Leatherwood Arlington
R Lee Mills Arlington

(*Longtime Rep. John DeBerry has said he plans to run as an independent in House 90 after being ousted from the primary ballot by the state Democratic Party)

Pulled back in? Byrd feared to be running again

Rep. David Byrd takes a photo during at event in Lawrenceburg on June 4, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Guess who (maybe) wants back? State Rep. David Byrd, the Waynesboro Republican who has been accused of sexual misconduct when he was a girls’ high school basketball coach in the 1980s.

Byrd has never explicitly denied the allegations made by one of his former players who recorded a phone call with the lawmaker in which he apologized for unspecified past transgressions.

When outrage over the lawmaker’s continued tenure in the House appeared close to reaching a tipping point in a special legislative session in August, Byrd managed to blunt the momentum of ouster efforts by promising colleagues he wouldn’t seek another term in 2020.

Byrd then dodged reporters’ questions for months before finally confirming in January that he indeed planned not to run again.

But now, with just days remaining before the Thursday candidate filing deadline, word is emanating out from the shuttered statehouse that Byrd is looking to run for another two-year term. It’s a prospect that fills most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle with dread.

Byrd told The Tennessean in January he might change his mind if he gets “harassed and bullied” by activists.  But the steady drumbeat of protests and media coverage had largely dissipated when most assumed he would not return to the General Assembly.

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 County.

UPDATE: The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison reports Byrd has not yet picked up a petition to run again. It takes the signatures of 25 registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

Rep. Andy Holt says he won’t run for re-election

Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden), left, attends a meeting at the state Capitol in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) has announced he won’t seek another term in the state House this year.

Holt tells Thunderbolt Broadcasting he wants to spend more time with his family and on his agritourism business.

State Representative Andy Holt: I Will Not Seek Another Term

House District 76 comprises all of Weakley and parts of Obion and Carroll counties. Holt was first elected to the seat in 2010.

Rep. Daniel won’t seek re-election to Knoxville seat

Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville) listens to a briefing on the House floor on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican state Rep. Martin Daniel has won’t seek a fourth term in the state House this fall. Daniel, who won re-election by just 3 percentage points in 2018, said he made his decision the night of that vote.

“I have determined that I will not be a candidate for re-election in November 2020 as Representative of our State’s 18th District,” Daniel said in a Facebook post. “It has been a privilege to represent West Knoxville over the past 5 ½ years and I am eternally grateful for the responsibility and honor that you have bestowed on me.”

Here is Daniel’s full statement:

Dear Friends:

​This letter is to inform you of a decision that I essentially made on election night November 2018.

After much consideration before then and since, I have determined that I will not be a candidate for re-election in November 2020 as Representative of our State’s 18th District. It has been a privilege to represent West Knoxville over the past 5 ½ years and I am eternally grateful for the responsibility and honor that you have bestowed on me.

​In 2014, I was motivated to represent West Knoxville because of my love for our great state, for West Knoxville, and for freedom and liberty. Since you sent me to Nashville, among other things, I have consistently worked for a smaller, more efficient government, to foster freedom, and to thereby enable all Tennesseans to pursue happiness to their heart’s content with minimal government interference. I hope that I have played a small part in making Tennessee a better place now and for those who will come after us.

​With recent Republican leadership, Tennessee has enjoyed a great period of prosperity. I believe, however, that its greatest moments lie ahead of it. I hope to continue to be involved in politics and government in other ways, but very soon, I look forward to spending more time with my children – Sophie and Matthew – and tending to my business, both of which have been neglected in the past few years.

Please know that I am here to serve you until November of this year, and I will be gladly taking care of the duties for which you elected me.


Casada to run for state House seat again in 2020

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) greets colleagues during a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on Jan. 14, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) the center of a scandal that brought down his House speakership last year, plans to run for his legislative seat again later this year.

Here’s what Casada said on his Facebook page:

After much prayer and consultation with family and friends, I have decided to run for re-election to the Tennessee House of Representatives. I am honored to serve as your voice in Nashville and remain committed to the conservative principles that make Tennessee the absolute best state in the nation. My promise is to continue fighting to help businesses grow and prosper, to be a proponent for lower taxes and less government, to ensure our constitutional rights are protected, and to always work to support the unborn. I humbly ask for your confidence, your support, and your vote in 2020.

Casada was at the helm of the House for all of 133 days before announcing he would resign amid a revolt among Republican colleagues over a text messaging scandal and his heavy-handed approach. He was the first House speaker to prematurely step down from the chamber’s top leadership post in 126 years.

Casada started the year with a combined $549,000 on hand in his campaign and political action committee  accounts— a daunting prospect for anyone who might seek to challenge him in the Republican. But Casada still has an audit pending by the Registry of Election Finance. The probe is expected to be completed next month and presented during the panel’s following meeting on March 11.

Roe announces plan to retire from Congress, setting off mad scramble

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) announced Friday he won’t seek a seventh term in Congress, a decision likely to set off a mad scramble among potential successors. State lawmakers expected to consider bids include House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison of Cosby and fellow GOP Reps. David Hawk of Greeneville, Timothy Hill of Blountville, and maybe even Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough. Jon Lundberg of Bristol is the only sitting  state Senate member believed to be mulling it over. Add to that a laundry list of current and former mayors from northeast Tennessee district. It’s likely to be a wild ride.

For an in-depth look at previous races and potential candidates in the 1st District, see the Dec. 6 print edition of The Tennessee Journal.

Here’s Roe’s full statement:

Serving East Tennesseans these past 11 years has been the honor of my life, and I will be forever grateful for the trust my friends and neighbors put in me to represent them. As someone who practiced medicine for over 30 years, I said I would serve five or six terms because I never intended this job to be a second career. After prayerful consideration, I have decided to retire at the end of the 116th Congress.

First and foremost, I want to thank my family. No one could do this job without a loving a supportive family, and I look forward to spending more time at home with my wife Clarinda, my adult children and my grandchildren.

As a veteran, I was honored to be selected to chair the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in 2017. I had one, three and six-year legislative goals for the committee: to increase access to care, improve the electronic health records system, review VA assets to ensure an effective use of resources, and bring true accountability to the department. I never could have imagined that we would accomplish all that in my first term leading the committee – in large part because of the leadership of President Trump. In particular, I was proud to author the MISSION Act – a transformative piece of legislation to ensure veterans have the ability to receive the best possible care now, and in the future – and the Forever GI Bill – to ensure veterans never lose access to the education benefits they have earned. I’ll leave Congress at the end of the year knowing that our nation’s heroes are better served today because of our work. I am still hopeful that, before the 116th Congress adjourns, we will pass important reforms that improve outreach to veterans in crisis to address the suicide epidemic.

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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!




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