martin daniel

Tennessee GOP to decide whether to overturn result of Knoxville House primary

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Republican’s Party’s state executive committee is scheduled to hold a conference call Wednesday evening to decide a challenge of businessman Eddie Mannis’ 99-vote win over real estate agent Gina Oster in the GOP primary for an open state House seat in Knoxville.

Oster, who had the backing of conservative activists, claims Democratic crossover voting made he difference for Mannis. Of course, there’s no way to say from whom voters cast their secret ballots and a counter-argument is that they might have been voting for Oster to give Democratic nominee Virginia Couch an easier path toward victory in November.

Local party activists had sought to keep Mannis off the ballot entirely because of moderate positions and his vote in the Democratic presidential primary in March. But Party Chairman Scott Golden turned back that challenge after Mannis was vouched for by Republican luminaries such as Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, and state Sen. Richard Briggs.

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe has been keeping a close eye on proceedings, and reports in his column that Knox County executive committee members Jane Chedester and Michele Carringer (herself the GOP nominee to succeed retiring Knoxville Rep. Bill Dunn) have indicated they support retaining Mannis’ nomination. So has incumbent Rep. Martin Daniel, who isn’t seeking re-election.

Here’s Ashe’s take:

Defeated GOP legislative candidate Gina Oster keeps trying to snatch a win from Eddie Mannis…. It is hard to believe that a committee in Nashville would discard the valid election result. Oster previously lost a school board contest to Doug Harris. If Oster is handed a nomination she did not win fair and square at the ballot box, the Democratic nominee, Virginia Couch, would become the odds-on favorite to win in November.

As The Tennessee Journal reported recently, the district is no longer a lock for Republicans. Daniel won just 51.5% of the vote in 2018, slightly underperforming the 53% received by Bill Lee in the governor’s race and by Burchett in his bid for Congress. And fellow Republican Marsha Blackburn got just 46% of the district’s vote in the U.S. Senate race against former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen two years ago. While 57% voted for Trump in 2016, the president’s numbers are expected to be far weaker this year.

Given the increasingly swing characteristics of District 18, the GOP attacks on Mannis are all the more perplexing. As a well-respected businessman and founder of a nonprofit organization flying veterans to visit war memorials in Washington, Mannis’ more moderate leanings appear to make him a stronger candidate in the general election. But he clearly wasn’t the choice of hardliners who contributed to Oster during the primary. They included House Majority Leader William Lamberth, and Reps. Daniel, Clay Doggett, Rick Eldridge, Johnny Garrett, Bruce Griffey, and Chris Todd.

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.


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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