legislative races

Dems gain one seat in state Senate, House makeup unchanged

The Senate meets in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

With much of the vote tallied across the state, there were only handful of legislative races still in play.

In state Senate contests, Democratic challenger Heidi Campbell beat incumbent Sen. Steve Dickerson in Nashville, 52% to 48%.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga held on to a 6 point win over Democrat Glenn Scruggs.

In House races, incumbent Memphis Rep. John DeBerry, who was stripped of his ability to run for re-election as a Democrat, lost to the party’s standard-bearer, Torrey Harris, 77% to 23%.

The open race to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett) had Republican John Gillespie bear Democrat Gabby Salinas by 485 votes. In another closely-watched Shelby County race, Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) won by 9 points over Democrat Jerri Green.

With most of the vote counted in Rutherford County, Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna) beat Democrat Brandon Thomas by 9 points.

In Knox County, Republican businessman Eddie Mannis defeated Democrat Virginia Couch by 10 points to keep the seat in the Republican column following the retirement of Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville). Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) turned back a challenge from Republican Elaine Davis by 6 percentage points.

It’s Election Day in Tennessee. Here are the state races we’re following

The House meets in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee voters who weren’t among the record numbers casting early or absentee ballots go to the polls Tuesday to make their choices for president, Congress, and General Assembly.

Much of the attention and outside spending was focused on the Republican Senate primary decided in August. Republican nominee Bill Hagerty, a former U.S. ambassador to Japan, now faces Democrat Marquita Bradshaw, an environmental activist from Memphis.

On the legislative front, here are the races drawing the most attention:

Senate:

District 20, Nashville: Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville is being challenged by former Oak Hill Mayor Heidi Campbell.

District 10, Hamilton and Bradley counties: Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga faces Democrat Glenn Scruggs, an assistant police chief.

House:

District 97 in Shelby County: The open race for the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett) pits Republican John Gillespie against Democrat Gabby Salinas.

District 83 in Shelby County: House Education Chairman Mark White (R-Memphis) faces Democrat Jerri Green, an attorney and school voucher opponent.

District 49 in Rutherford County: Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna) is facing his latest spirited challenge in Rutherford County from Democrat Brandon Thomas, an hourly worker at a Walmart in Smyrna.

District 90 in Shelby County: Running as an independent following his ouster from the Democratic Party this spring, Rep. John DeBerry faces Torrey Harris, a reproductive rights and AIDS advocate.

District 18 in Knox County. In the race to succeed retiring Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville), Republican Businessman Eddie Mannis faces Democrat Virginia Couch, an attorney.

District 67 in Montgomery County: Freshman Rep. Jason Hodges (D-Clarksville) is being challenged by Republican John Dawson, a retired Army helicopter mechanic.

District 37 in Rutherford County: Freshman Rep. Charlie Baum (R-Murfreesboro), an economics professor at Middle Tennessee Tennessee State University, faces Democrat Mariah Phillips, a Murfreesboro teacher and longtime Starbucks employee.

District 82 in Crockett, Haywood, and Lauderdale counties: Freshman Republican Rep. Chris Hurt, a former Halls High School football coach, is being challenged by Democrat Andrea Bond Johnson, a Brownsville insurance agency CE.

District 13 in Knox County: Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville faces Republican challenger Elaine Davis, who has received financial backing from Republicans despite seemingly long odds.

District 96 in Shelby County. Democratic Rep. Dwayne Thompson of Cordova faces Republican de-annexation advocate Patti Possel.

District 63 in Williamson County: Former House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) faces a challenge by Democrat Elizabeth Madeira and independent Brad Fiscus.

Tennessee Equality Project rescinds Dickerson endorsement over Senate speaker’s ad

The Tennessee Equality Project has rescinded its endorsement of Republican state Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville over an ad being run on his behalf by the Senate Speaker Randy McNally’s political action committee.

The ad targets Dickerson’s Democratic challenger, Heidi Campbell, for saying supportive things about Gideon’s Army, which the spot describes as an extremist group calling for “revolutionary changes to our way of life.” Democrats have pushed back against the ad presenting Gideon’s Army as supporting rioting. They point to the group’s efforts to mentor young people and de-escalate violence in predominantly black North Nashville. The organization was also heavily involved in cleanup efforts after a tornado wrought heavy damage in the neighborhood in March. The Tennessee Equality Project denounced the spot as a “disgusting, racist ad.”

“Although he has an exemplary record on LGBTQ rights in the Legislature, elected officials are called to speak out against racism in politics,” TEP executive director Chris Sanders said in a blog post.

Here’s the ad:

The decision to withdraw the Dickerson endorsement means the group is now backing just one Republican candidate for the General Assembly: Knoxville businessman Eddie Mannis, who is running to succeed retiring state Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville).

Winners and losers in the General Assembly’s fundraising sweepstakes

The state Capitol was closed to visitors on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The final fundraising disclosures are in before Thursday’s primary election. We’ve dug through the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance disclosures to aggregate how much each candidate for the House and Senate has raised so far through this election cycle.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) leads the way with $359,200, followed by freshman Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) with $290,700. Sen. Paul Rose (R-Covington) is next on the list with $226,500, though his numbers are a bit inflated by having stood for a special election during the cycle.

On the other end of the spectrum are incumbents who have raised the least. They are Reps. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) with $2,900, Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) with $3,900, and former House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) with $6,450.

These totals are for candidates only, meaning they don’t include any of their political action committees.

A couple caveats about the way the Registry keeps these numbers: They include outside donations and direct contributions from the candidates themselves, but not loans. For example, while Rep. Rick Tillis’ challenger Todd Warner in District 92 is listed as raising $2,950, that figure doesn’t include the eye-popping $127,100 he has loaned himself. The figures also don’t include unitemized contributions, which for some candidates can be substantial.

So with all that being said, the full list follows. Challengers and candidates in open races are listed in italics.

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