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.

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

  • Avatar
    Henry Walker says:

    Ambassador Ashe nailed it.

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      If Democrats take the seat in the 18th will that get them to double digits in the House? In any case, as Hilleary so aptly coined it, “WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE”! One more or less Democrat when they are such an uninteresting small group is nowhere near as important as preventing centrist/tepid conservatives like Eddie Mannis from holding office.

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        Daniel Lewis says:

        Bottom line is that Eddie Mannis won – fair and square. How ridiculous would it be if the SEC overturned an election outcome? If I remember correctly, Republicans lambasted the TNDP for doing this very thing to Kurita. The TNGOP itself at the time said that this is not how elections should be decided.

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    steve cates says:

    I hope this means, however it is decided, that the DEM will win!!!

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    Jeff says:

    I hate to watch Republicans eat their own

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    Phil Lassiter says:

    The state party and legislature asked for all this by keeping the primaries open. Dems have no one to vote for that can be elected as a dem, so obviously the more moderate ‘republicans’ are elected. This will continue till Tennessee has fully transitioned to a left leaning entity governed constantly by the Lees, Hagerty’s, Alexander’s and Coopers, etc. truth. Sorry to send it your way

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Actually in its last vote on closing the primary the Republican State Executive Committee voted 45 to 14 in favor but the Toadying Ten Republicans on the House Local Government Committee voted it down. Lest we forget the ten toadies were Calfee, Carr, Crawford, Faison, Helton, Moon, Ramsey, Tillis (who was just voted out), Travis, and Wright.

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    Stuart I. Anderson says:

    To use Erik’s dispassionate description (isn’t it great how after reading this informative blog for many years as well as the Tenn. Journal I can’t even hazard a guess how Erik leans politically) I am one of the “hardliners” who made a substantial contribution to Gina Oster’s Primary campaign too! Mannis is exactly the type of centrist/tepid conservative Republican that we don’t want holding any office other than in the few liberal ghettos in this state of which Dist. 18 in not yet a part (though it is apparently headed in that direction).
    __________________

    Has Steve Cohen ever been referred to as a liberal “hardliner”? Just wondering.

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    Donna Locke says:

    Close the primaries and allow in independents with a long history of voting R or D in the respective primaries. This is the solution. You just have to set up the process so you can quickly verify.

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Sorry Donna, on this one I couldn’t disagree more. Our political parties are amorphous groups so that anyone can decide whether they lean to the right or the left and register as a Republican or Democrat respectively. It’s not that big of a deal! Registration has no meaning other than for voting in primaries. If you are a low information voter or for some bizarre reason can’t decide then you shouldn’t vote in any primary just wait for the general election and vote then.

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    Perry Aubric says:

    The time to challenge someone voting in the wrong primary is at the polls. There is a process for that, and it is actually against Tennessee law to vote in a primary if you are not a member of that party. But it is easy to circumvent.

    I know nothing of the candidates involved. From the description, there is a right wing nut and a really right wing nut. Big difference…not!

    Looks like a loser is trying to steal an election after the fact. This is exactly what the Democrats did to Rosalind Kurita years ago.

    We need party registration. I have believed this my whole life. Only Republicans should choose Republican nominees and the same goes for Democrats. Independents like Donna can just stay out of a party function.

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Perry, I’m disappointed. If you read through the responses to this article you will have learned that I sent a substantial contribution to Gina Oster so you needn’t have any doubt as to which candidate is REALLY the right wing nut.

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      Donna Locke says:

      Perry, no Republican and no Democrat in this country can get elected without the votes of independents. There are more independents/unaffiliated than there are members of either party. Many independents are actually what the parties claim to be but are not, and that is why we have so many independents. Also, most people are a mix of views.

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        Perry Aubric says:

        And they vote in general elections, Donna. But if you aren’t a member of a political party, you ought not be interfering in their nomination process.

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          Donna Locke says:

          If independents have consistently helped party candidates get elected by vote, these independents have a place at the table. One can’t just ignore the horse one rode in on. If independents have no say in a closed or an open primary, they will feel less attached to the outcome. This has been one of the worries about closing primaries and shutting out independents. So, the solution, for Republicans, at least, is to allow in verifiedly loyal independents. The Democrats can do what they want. I usually vote Republican, and this is my opinion. I have never been a member of a political party.

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    Leeann C says:

    The voters have spoken. Let it alone. As to the battle of open/closed primaries, just knave that alone too. I have many friends that are not engaged with either the Democrat or Republican parties. True independents, they typically vote for Republican candidates. If you close the primaries, they might stay home because they’re totally disgusted with both parties and refuse to be identified with either one. I don’t really think the crossover voting in primaries is that significant of an issue. It’s pretty tough to prove. Some Dems are leaving their party.

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Leeann I’m afraid you couldn’t be more wrong and out of step with the position the vast majority of conservatives have on this issue. Centrist/tepid conservatives in the Republican Party use appeals to Democrats to vote in the Republican primaries as part of their strategy to beat conservative Republicans which I understand is exactly what Mannis did in this election. Why do you think it’s been so difficult for conservatives to succeed in closing the primaries despite their best efforts over the years? It’s simply because the Republican Establishment LOVES open primaries and their ability to use Democrats to vote for their centrist/tepid conservative Chamber of Commerce shills.

      For activist Democrats the attraction of voting for the most liberal Republican in the primaries is almost irresistible when there is a stalwart conservative opposing him because the Democratic primary is often meaningless either because the Democrats don’t have a chance to be elected so there is usually only one sacrificial lamb running or choosing between two or more sacrificial lambs is nowhere near as much fun as depriving a conservative of the chance to be elected. I am surprised Leeann that as a conservative you don’t see how essential it is for conservatives to gain control of the Republican Party and given the relatively meaninglessness Democratic Party primaries in Tennessee how open primaries stand in our way of achieving that control.

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        Herbert Mark Rogers says:

        Closed primaries will not be the end. If that doesn’t result in enough extremist ideologues who don’t care about facts or the welfare of anyone except their base, the Stuarts of the world (and worse) will demand primary candidates sign (no doubt in blood) pledges on key issues in the hope of ensuring an even more intolerant party.

        Republicans took over the state thanks in part to open primaries. They helped ensure a big tent party that could appeal to a diverse collection of voters and elect Republicans. As the state sees a growing influx of new residents, our hope for the future is to keep a party that can attract a broad base of support and deal with new issues. Closed primaries and theft of legitimate election victories send a ‘go away’ message to such voters.

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          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          ABSOLUTELY MARK, I AGREE!!! And that’s exactly what I want to do! The only way we stalwart conservatives can gain office is through the Republican Party a goal that will be thwarted if the party is inundated by centrists. The fact that Democrats are moving relentlessly left will cause center-right or even a few center-left voters to vote Republican as the only alternative to the madness of the Democrats even with the “Stuarts of the world” in firm control. The fact that the Democrats are so rapidly vacating the center allows Republicans to have electoral success even after adoptive a definitively conservative posture. No more “big tent” Chamber of Commerce shills or at least not so many as to control the party. A Republican Party that resolutely paints its policy in the vivid colors of small government federalism at home and nationalism abroad rather than the pale pastels of caring only for things that effect the bottom line of members of the Chamber that’s what we need.

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            Herbert Mark Rogers says:

            A party dominated by ideologues cannot govern. Other than laws related to witch burning and harassing gays and the like, I don’t see much getting done. And you are delusional to think that Democrats in Tennessee won’t take advantage by moderating their message.

            I note that Tennessee’s greatest economic progress has been made under moderate governors like Alexander and Bredesen and Haslam. And you want to go backward? No thanks.

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            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            Did you manage to look over at the Democratic Primary and see the sacrificial lamb they nominated for the U. S. Senate a few weeks ago? And you hypothesize about the Democrats moderating their message when they obviously are in a frenzy to move left as quickly as possible. I have nightmares about sane center-left refugees from the Democratic Party moving into the Republican Party as the Democrats become a social-democratic party on the European model, but somehow the thought that the Democrats will moderate their message to capture disaffected center-right Republicans never enters my mind.

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        Leeann C says:

        I’m not really concerned about “being in step” with anyone. Just sharing my observations and opinion. Closing the primaries will lose votes for Republicans. As I stated above, I have friends that will NOT register as Republicans. They vote for Republicans, but are alienated by the party. Others are Libertarians that rarely have a candidate in the race. Democrats, that are still Democrats, won’t be bothered by declaring their party affiliation. I just don’t buy the conspiratorial theories of Dems crossing over in significant and coordinated numbers. Those that didn’t want Mr. Mannis to be their candidate should have worked harder, donated more, etc. No one can prove that individuals that voted in the Republican primary are manipulating diddly. Maybe they’ve changed parties since their last recorded primary vote.

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          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Leeann your friends are loons! What do they think “registering Republican” means? There is no one more “alienated by the party” than me. If your friends are so alienated by the party but vote primarily for Republican candidates I suggest they stop being loons and begin conducting themselves rationally by working to change the Republican Party so it is something other than the political arm of the Chamber of Commerce rather than trying to attach great meaning to meaningless things like “registering” with a party in order to vote in a Tennessee primary. Libertarians should vote for the most conservative Republican they can if they want to be effective or seek out the Libertarian candidate among the No Chance Independents if they don’t.

          Of course, if we had closed primaries the most fanatical leftists will keep changing their party registration in order for their vote to have the most clout in making this country and state as unlivable as possible. The vast majority, however, won’t so conservatives who comprise a majority of Republicans in Tennessee will be able to nominate their fellow conservatives in the Republican Primaries.

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            Herbert Mark Rogers says:

            Stuart, the Democrats voted for the first name on the ballot. They did the same thing in 2014. Ideas had nothing to do with it. Despite the national media’s effort to turn Ms. Bradshaw’s accidental win into the latest example of the looney left’s rise, she was unknown but at the top.

            Tennessee Democrats are not as far gone as the national party. And if ee keep moving into the wacko extreme right, moderate voters may decide to try and pull the Democrats to the center.

            I am confused as to how Tennessee government could be more conservative as you would like it. Poll taxes? No public education? Ending worker’s comp? No minimum wage? How about imposing serfdom on most people?

          • Avatar
            Leeann C says:

            I’m not saying that I agree with those you define as loons. I do listen to them. With voter turnout being so dismal, it’s good to listen to people regarding their perspectives. Closing primaries won’t stop cheaters, as you point out. From what I hear from people that are disengaged from party participation, closing primaries might keep them home. Does anyone benefit from even lower voter turnout?

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    Eddie White says:

    How funny to read. Growing up in Tennessee, I remember when it was the Republicans who were voting in the Democratic primary. It was a strategic move to try and elect the weakest Democrat. It was the only chance a Republican had in those days. My how times have changed. Many Tennessee Democrats did not leave their party, their party left them. Al Gore would be president, except he could not carry his home state. I support closed primaries. Common sense tells me Republican and Democrats should be selecting their own candidates.

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    Perry Aubric says:

    The text makes an interesting point. There always seems to be an assumption, even an insistence, that if there were “fraudulent” votes cast in any given election that they were cast for the winner. But it is just as likely that they were cast for the loser, who might have lost by an even larger margin than he did. How can you know for sure?

    In this particular case, of course, there are no “fraudulent” votes. There is just a sore loser.

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I believe one of Gina’s contentions is that Mannis somehow actively campaigned for Democratic crossover votes. That’s a fact question, of course, which she will have the opportunity to prove.

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Have you noticed that anytime a (R) looses in any campaign, it is always a conspiracy that was brewed up by some dastardly Democrats, or perhaps some sneaky Independent, there were surly dirty tricks involved.

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