primaries

Winners and losers in Tennessee legislative races

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) speaks to reporters in the House chamber in Nashville on April 17, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Reps. Matthew Hill, Micah Van Huss, and Rick Tillis were ousted in Thursday’s primaries, as was Democratic Rep. Rick Staples.

Here is an update to our comprehensive guide to contested primaries for the state Tennessee General Assembly.

(Winners are in red. 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)

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)

DeBerry sponsored 2010 bill to have courts — not parties — decide primary challenges

State Rep. John DeBerry, a longtime Memphis lawmaker appealing his removal from the Democratic primary ballot, once sponsored legislation aimed at eliminating political parties’ authority to decide primary contests.

The legislation would have sent primary challenges to administrative law judges, not party executive committees. The administrative rulings could have then been appealed to chancery court.

DeBerry’s 2010 bill was filed two years after Democrats declared then-Sen. Rosalind Kurita’s 19-vote primary victory “incurably uncertain” and awarded the nomination to Clarksville Democrat Tim Barnes. Democrats had been furious at Kurita for breaking ranks and voting for the Republican Sen. Ron Ramsey for speaker in 2007.

DeBerry was widely believed to have similarly agreed to vote for Rep. Jason Mumpower, the Republican nominee for House speaker, in 2009. But DeBerry ended up sticking with fellow Democrats to install Republican Rep. Kent Williams as the chamber’s leader. Williams was thrown out of the state GOP for the maneuver.

DeBerry insisted at the time his legislation was “not the Kurita memorial bill.” He said it was instead inspired by “some of the things said to me by some of my own colleagues in Memphis over the years reminding me who owns this office.” His goal, he said, was to enable all members of to be good legislators and party members “without being under undue pressure from any particular group.”

As DeBerry put it at the time, “when the taxpayers pay for an election nd somebody is elected, the election is over unless there is fraud.” Leaders of both parties opposed the bill because it would have weakened control over their own primaries and the bill failed.

Under the proposal, the parties would have retained their power to declare a candidate to be not a “bona fide” member and keep them off the primary ballot — as ended up occuring to DeBerry last week. The state Democratic Party is scheduled to take up his appeal on Wednesday.

Bill to close Tennessee primaries advancing in House

Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden), left, is the sponsor of a bill seeking to close primary elections in Tennessee.

A bill seeking to require party registration in order to vote in Tennessee primaries is advancing the House. The bill sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) advanced on a voice vote in the Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday morning.

When Democrats sought to close primaries after soaring to new heights in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal of the mid-1970s, Republicans cried foul and the measure was defeated. This time, the roles are reversed, though the fate of this year’s measure remains uncertain.

Then-Gov. Ray Blanton and the Democratic State Executive Committee sought to cement their gains by imposing party registration rules for voting in primaries in the 1970s. Closing primaries, the argument went, would give the liberal wing of the party more sway by excluding Republicans and independents from influencing the nomination process.

Those efforts were thwarted by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats from rural West Tennessee led by House Speaker Ned McWherter of Dresden and Senate Speaker John Wilder of Mason.

House Minority Leader Tom Jensen (R-Knoxville), who died last year year, said at the time Tennesseans had “made it clear they don’t want to be shackled with party registration laws.”

But times have changed. The Republican State Executive Committee in December recommended lawmakers enact party registration requirements in Tennessee.

Former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam called closing primaries “a silly proposal, ” arguing that if the change had been made earlier, it would have been much harder for Republicans to get to the position of power they’re in today. Gov. Bill Lee, who won the Republican nomination amid record turnout in last year’s  gubernatorial primary, was similarly dubious about the proposal, telling reporters that “the current system we have is working.”

Republicans today hold an even stronger position in state politics than Democrats did after Watergate. The GOP controls 73 of 99 seats in the state House and 28 of 33 in the state Senate, seven of nine seats in the U.S. House, and both U.S. Senate seats.

Under current state law, anyone can vote in a party primary if they are “a bona fide member of and affiliated with the political party.” The law also permits primary voting if “the voter declares allegiance to the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote and states that the voter intends to affiliate with that party.” The law has been interpreted to mean that seeking a party ballot is a declaration of allegiance.

In practice, many Tennesseans choose to vote in whichever primary is more compelling, meaning their allegiance and affiliation may last for as little as a single election.

Supporters of closed primaries argue that under the current system, crossover voters could help a weaker candidate win the nomination, who would then have a harder time prevailing in the general election. Another refrain is that open primaries give moderate candidates a better chance of winning primaries.

Nine states have closed primary systems, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Another seven have what the organization calls “partially closed” systems in which parties can choose whether to allow independent or voters registered with other parties to participate in primaries on a case-by-case basis.

NCSL counts Tennessee among six states with “partially open” primaries, where affiliation can be changed from election to election. Another 24 states are either fully open or allow independent voters to participate in the primary of their preference.

 

Tennessee GOP wants to require party registration to vote in primaries

Republican members vote during a House GOP caucus meeting in Nashville on Nov. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Republican Party’s state executive committee met over the weekend to re-elect Scott Golden as chairman and to make several policy recommendations to the GOP-controlled General Assembly. They include a call to require party registration in order to vote in primaries. The proposal comes on the heels of 792,888 people voting the Republican gubernatorial primary in August.

Democrats oppose the move.

“No Tennessean should be required to join a political party in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote, including independent voters,” Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said in a statement. “And as the share of independent voters continues to increase in Tennessee, this move would suppress them from making their voices heard in the primary process.”

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