AP news guide: Nov. 6 general election in Tennessee

October 25, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Early voting is underway for the Nov. 6 general election in Tennessee, with contested, open races for governor and U.S. Senate at the top of the ballot.

The two statewide contests have brought a surge in midterm turnout so far, with 720,600 early and absentee ballots cast through Wednesday.

Voters will also make their picks for the U.S. House and the Republican-led General Assembly.

Here is a look at major contests:


Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen are locked in a tough, expensive fight to replace Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who is retiring.

The campaign spending is speeding past Tennessee records, as Bredesen argues he would be an independent voice in Washington, and Blackburn counters by tying him to national Democrats. Blackburn has closely aligned herself with the White House, having drawn visits to Tennessee from President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other prominent Republicans.

Bredesen’s campaign has spent $11.7 million through September, while outside groups have spent about $15 million so far to help him. Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s campaign, meanwhile, has shelled out about $9 million through September, and outside groups some $21 million for her bid so far.

Blackburn, from Brentwood, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2002. She calls herself a “hardcore, card-carrying Tennessee conservative” who will fight for Trump’s agenda.

Bredesen was Tennessee’s governor from 2003 to 2011, and served as Nashville’s mayor before that. He says he will work with Trump when his ideas make sense for Tennessee and oppose the president when they don’t.


Democrat Karl Dean, Nashville’s former mayor, faces Republican businessman Bill Lee in the contest to replace term-limited Republican Bill Haslam.

The battle for governor has played second fiddle to the Senate race, as Lee has maintained a comfortable lead with Dean refusing to stray too far from positive messaging.

Dean has increasingly criticized Lee’s vague policy answers. In a rare, hard-hitting television ad, Dean warned Lee would be “an extreme governor” due to his support for private school vouchers and arming teachers.

But the Democrat’s most prominent issue has centered on Medicaid expansion. Dean supports the proposal, while pointing out that Republicans have not offered a detailed plan to help Tennesseans who lack health care coverage.

Meanwhile, Lee vows to lobby the Republican-dominant legislature to vote against such proposals and instead says Tennessee’s soaring health care costs and access challenges may take up to 20 years to fix.

Lee, a political newcomer, touts his faith and used the success of his business — Lee Company, a $225 million mechanical contracting, facilities and home services firm with more than 1,200 employees — to argue that he’s ready to lead the state.


Six of Tennessee’s nine U.S. House races include incumbents who are expected to hold on to their seats, barring a major upset. Republicans currently hold seven of the state’s congressional seats. Three GOP-held seats are open.

District 2 in East Tennessee will be vacated due to the retirement of Republican John Duncan Jr. Former GOP Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett faces Democrat Renee Hoyos, executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, in the race to replace Duncan.

Republican Diane Black’s failed gubernatorial run makes room for a new face in District 6 in the northern part of the state. Republican farmer John Rose and Democratic physician Marty Olsen will face off for Black’s seat.

Republican Marsha Blackburn’s run for U.S. Senate leaves District 7 open as well. That race pits GOP state Sen. Mark Green against Democrat Justin Kanew, a film producer and former “Amazing Race” contestant.


All 99 seats in the state House and 18 of the 33 state Senate seats are being contested. Republicans are expected to maintain supermajorities in the General Assembly.

Plenty of lawmakers won’t be returning. Eighteen Republican and seven Democratic incumbents in the House are not seeking re-election, and two Republicans lost in the primary.

They include Republican Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and Democratic Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley, who both unsuccessfully ran for governor.

In the Senate, Democratic Sens. Lee Harris and Thelma Harper, and Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro did not seek re-election. Democratic Sen. Reginald Tate lost a primary contest.

Thirteen seats in the Senate and 73 in the House feature a contested race with a Democrat and Republican.