todd gardenhire

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.

One comes out, one goes in: Gardenhire misses fundraiser featuring Gov. Lee due to quarantine

Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) attends a floor session to adjust the course of the legislative session in response to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican state Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) has missed a fundraiser for his re-election campaign because he was exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. The event was headlined by Gov. Bill Lee, who only emerged from his own two-week quarantine after a member of his security detail came down with the coronavirus.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports it’s the fifth time Gardenhire has gone into isolation over a potential exposure to the virus. The senator watched the fundraiser via a videostream provided by fellow Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson).

“I wear a mask all the time. All it takes is a split second and Bam, you got it,” Gardenhire said in a Facebook post. “Very GRATEFUL for all my friends and supporters. Thank you. Going to get tested Monday.”

Gardenhire is being challenged by Democrat Glenn Scruggs, an assistant police chief in Chattanooga.

Never assume? Lee loses key Chattanooga Republican on voucher bill

Legislative leaders kick off the joint convention to inaugurate Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. From left at podium are House Majority Leader William Lamberth, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, and House Speaker Glen Casada. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration needs six votes to get its school voucher bill out of the Senate Finance Committee. Until recently, outspoken Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) was believed to be among those expected to vote to advance the measure. Not so, reports Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“I’d carried every voucher bill for the past six years,” Gardenhire told the paper. “But this was one I could not go along with.”

(Full disclosure: The print edition of The Tennessee Journal was among those buying into the assumption that Gardenhire would be among the bill’s supporters.)

Gardenhire has long fought to make in-state tuition rates available to children brought to the country illegally. A provision of the voucher bill aimed to screen the immigration status of K-12 students is a major reason for Gardenhire’s opposition.

“As you know, I’ve been a big proponent of making sure they get an education they’re supposed to get,” said Gardenhire. “And [Lee] and I have a fundamental disagreement on that.”

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