AP News Guide: A look at Tennessee’s Aug. 6 primary races
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The heated race to become the Republican nominee for an open U.S. Senate seat topped Tennessee’s primary election Thursday, as well as contested challenges in a handful of U.S. House and legislative seats. Here is a summary of those offices on the ballot:
Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty endorsed by President Donald Trump, won a contested Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee. The Nashville businessman emerged from a tough challenge from trauma surgeon Manny Sethi to clinch his party’s nomination for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. Trump threw his support behind Hagerty, who contended that Sethi wasn’t a good enough advocate for Trump during the 2016 election. Sethi countered by describing himself as a conservative “outsider” and criticizing Hagerty as a part of the “political establishment.”
Memphis environmentalist, Black activist and single mom Marquita Bradshaw won the Democratic primary to face Hagerty in November. Bradshaw defeated Nashville attorney and former Army helicopter pilot James Mackler, who had been endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and others. Bradshaw is expected to face a challenge, considering Republicans have held both of Tennessee’s Senate seats since 1994.
1st Congressional District
Kingsport pharmacist Diana Harshbarger, running for political office for the first time, emerged from a field of 16 GOP hopefuls seeking to succeed U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, who announced earlier this year he would retire. Among the candidates she defeated were longtime state Sen. Rusty Crowe, state Reps. Timothy Hill and David Hawk, former Kingsport Mayor John Clark and former Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden.
Blair Walsingham was the only active candidate campaigning for the seat in the primary and won the Democratic nomination Thursday. Walsingham is a U.S. Air Force veteran who has been endorsed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
2nd Congressional District
Renee Hoyos won the Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District and will face incumbent Republican Tim Burchett in the fall.
4th Congressional District
Incumbent Scott DesJarlais won the Republican primary in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District against two opponents. DesJarlais is seeking a sixth term in Congress and will face Democratic nominee Christopher Hale in November.
DesJarlais, a physician from Jasper, has survived cancer and a series of revelations that included affairs with patients. DesJarlais also urged a mistress to seek an abortion and once held a gun in his mouth for hours outside his ex-wife’s room. He has since said he opposes abortion rights.
5th Congressional District
No active Republicans ran for this seat.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a white lawmaker with a reputation as a moderate Democrat, defeated Keeda Haynes, a Black public defender, in the primary for just one of two Democratic-held congressional seats in Tennessee. Haynes argued that the Middle Tennessee district should be represented by someone more progressive, while Cooper countered that he has voted overwhelmingly with Democrats during his long political tenure. Cooper has held his Nashville-area House seat since 2003. Before that, he served in the House representing the 4th Congressional District from 1983 to 1995. Joshua Rawlings also ran in the Democratic primary but raised the least amount of money of the three.
8th Congressional District
Two-term incumbent David Kustoff ran unopposed in the GOP primary.
Erika Stotts Pearson won the four-person Democratic primary in the Republican-leaning district.
9th Congressional District
A vocal critic of President Donald Trump, seven-term incumbent Rep. Steve Cohen defeated former Shelby County Democratic Party chair Corey Strong in the primary in the 9th District, which includes majority-Black Memphis. Cohen, who is white, has won his past six general elections by 74% of the vote or more. Strong, who is Black, is a U.S. Navy veteran who was vying for an upset.
Charlotte Bergmann ran unopposed on the Republican side. She has lost three previous general elections to Cohen in the 9th district.
In the GOP supermajority General Assembly, all 99 state House seats and about half of the 33 Senate seats were on the ballot.
Three Republican House members were ousted by challengers: Reps. Micah Van Huss, Matthew Hill and Rick Tillis.
Republican Sens. John Stevens, Paul Rose and Bill Powers, and Democrat Sen. Sara Kyle each survived primary contests.
In a Nashville-centered Senate seat, Kimi Abernathy, who has an educational counseling practice, appeared poised to win before a batch of absentee votes was counted overnight, but Oak Hill Mayor Heidi Campbell took a close lead in the Democratic primary to face moderate Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson in November.
Page Walley, who headed the Department of Children’s Services, won the battle of former state commissioners in the GOP primary over ex-Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton in the race for retiring GOP Sen. Dolores Gresham’s seat. One Democrat was unopposed.
In the state House, candidates battled it out in GOP primaries for the seats of Republican Reps. Timothy Hill, Bill Dunn, Martin Daniel, Jim Coley and Andy Holt, who are all leaving at the end of the term. Coley’s seat also featured a Democratic contest. Additionally, there was a contested Democratic primary for the seat of Rep. John DeBerry, who was kicked off the Democratic ballot but has indicated he wants to run as an independent.
The House also included more than a dozen contested primaries for sitting Republican lawmakers and nine for Democratic incumbents. One is Republican Rep. David Byrd, who has faced allegations by three women of sexual misconduct that stem from three decades ago when he was a high school teacher and their basketball coach. He defeated two Republican challengers Thursday.
Byrd cruised to reelection in 2018 after the sexual misconduct allegations were made public earlier that year in his conservative-tilted district.
Byrd has not outright denied the allegations, though he has said he’s sorry if he hurt or emotionally upset any of his students. He was never charged.