In a historic night, Tennessee elected its first female U.S. Senator and the first Republican governor to follow a fellow Republican governor since 1869. In the state house, there will be many new faces come January; however, the makeup of the General Assembly will remain mostly unchanged as the Republicans have kept their supermajorities. In the House, the Democrats picked up one seat to make the Republican advantage 73-26. In the Senate, the Democrats did not win a single new seat, leaving the Republican advantage 28-5.
Bill Lee was elected as the next governor of Tennessee. While the primary election was a heated contest, the general race against Karl Dean was somewhat muted. Lee ended up winning by nearly 20 percentage points.
Lee is a true outsider and has no experience in the public sector. In the coming weeks, political insiders will be anxiously awaiting to see who Lee surrounds himself with in the Capitol. Lee has, however, given a glimpse of how he might govern. Some of his policy positions include: not expanding Medicaid, increasing vocational training in the state, opposing medical marijuana, supporting school vouchers, supporting more restrictive abortion measures and opposing the legalization of sports betting. Lee will now have the task of building his administration, legislative agenda, and state budget proposal for 2019.
Marsha Blackburn has won the most expensive U.S. Senate race in Tennessee history. While many expected her race with Phil Bredesen to be a close one, Blackburn easily defeated the former governor by around 10 percentage points. The eight-term Congressman will return to Washington in her new role as an advocate for President Trump in the Senate.
U.S. House of Representatives
The three Congressional seats that were up for grabs will remain in the stronghold of the Republicans. Former Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) was elected in the Second Congressional District to replace Congressman Jimmy Duncan. John Rose (R- Cookeville), the former commissioner of agriculture, won the seat being vacated by Diane Black in the Sixth Congressional District. Former state senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville) will succeed Marsha Blackburn in representing the Seventh Congressional District.
The state Senate will have six new members in 2019. While Democrats had hoped to gain at least one seat, the Republicans hold their supermajority with a 28-5 advantage. Below are key updates from the election:
- District 12: State Representative Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro) was easily elected to represent District 12. She will fill the seat vacated by now Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron (R- Murfreesboro).
- District 19: State Representative Brenda Gilmore (D-Goodlettsville) won the election to fill the seat held by longtime senator Thelma Harper (D-Nashville), who retired.
- District 22: A special election will be held to replace State Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville) as Green was successful in his bid for Congress. The date of the special election has not been announced.
- District 29: State Representative Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) won the election to replace Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D-Memphis), who is now the Mayor of Shelby County.
- District 33: Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) will be the new senator representing District 33. Robinson defeated incumbent Senator Reggie Tate (D-Memphis) in the primary.
- District 31: Incumbent and Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) was able to hold on to his seat in District 31. Kelsey defeated Democrat Gabby Salinas in a close race.
- District 32: A special election will be held to replace State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) as Norris was confirmed for a federal judgeship. Norris has not yet vacated his seat, and the date of the special election has not yet been announced.
While it is likely that Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) will remain speaker, other leadership positions in the Senate will change. With the appointment of Senator Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to the federal bench, Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) are running to succeed him. Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) are running for the vacant Republican caucus chair position. With the exception of Senator Massey, the senators running for new leadership positions are committee chairmen. With current chairmen seeking new leadership positions, it can be expected that committee dynamics will significantly change. The Republicans will meet in December to elect their new leaders.
As for the Senate Democrats, the mostly new caucus will elect a new minority leader and caucus chair. The date of their caucus meeting has not been announced.
Tennessee House of Representatives
While the Republicans held their supermajority in the House, there will be many changes when the House reconvenes in January as there will be more than 25 new members. Below is list of notable victories and losses in the election:
- District 10: Rick Eldridge (R-Morristown) won the election to replace the retiring Tilman Goins (R-Morristown).
- District 13: Former state representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) defeated incumbent Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville).
- District 19: Dave Wright (R-Corryton) won the election to replace the retiring Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) in District 19.
- District 21: Lowell Russell (R-Vonore) won the election to replace outgoing Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City). Matlock was unsuccessful in his bid for Congress.
- District 23: McMinn County GOP Chair Mark Cochran (R-Englewood) won the election to replace the retiring John Forgety (R-Athens).
- District 24: Bradley County Commissioner Mark Hall (R-Cleveland) won the election to replace Cleveland City Mayor Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland).
- District 26: Robin Smith (R-Hixson), former state party chair, won the election to replace Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga).
- District 28: Yusuf A. Hakeem (D-Chattanooga) won the election to replace the retiring JoAnne Favors (D-Chattanooga).
- District 30: Esther Helton (R-East Ridge) won the race to replace the retiring Marc Gravitt (R-East Ridge).
- District 37: Charlie Baum (R-Murfreesboro) won the election to replace the seat vacated by Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro).
- District 39: Iris Rudder (R-Winchester) won the election to replace Franklin County Mayor David Alexander (R-Winchester).
- District 45: Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville) won the election to replace the retiring Courtney Rogers (R-Goodlettsville).
- District 47: Rush Bricken (R-Tullahoma) won the election in the race to replace Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma). Matheny was unsuccessful in his bid for Congress.
- District 54: Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville) won the election to replace Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville).
- District 56: Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) defeated Dr. Brent Moody (R-Nashville) in the hotly contested race to replace Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville). Speaker Harwell had an unsuccessful bid for governor.
- District 59: Jason Potts (D-Nashville) won the election to replace Sherry Jones (D-Nashville). Jones lost a race for juvenile county clerk.
- District 61: Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin) won the election to replace longtime state representative and Finance Chair Charles Sargent (R-Franklin).
- District 64: Former Maury County GOP Chairman Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) was elected to replace the retiring Shelia Butt (R-Columbia).
- District 67: Jason Hodges (D-Clarksville) will replace Representative Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville). Pitts defeated incumbent Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan.
- District 70: Clay Doggett (R-Pulaski) won the general election after defeating incumbent Barry Doss (R-Leoma) in the primary.
- District 72: Former NBA player Kirk Haston (R-Lobelville) won the election to replace longtime representative Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads).
- District 73: Chris Todd (R-Humboldt) won the election to replace Jimmy Eldridge (R-Jackson). Eldridge is running for mayor of Jackson in 2019.
- District 75: Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) won the general election after defeating incumbent Tim Wirgau (R-Buchanan) in the primary election.
- District 82: Chris Hurt (R-Halls) won the bid to replace retiring Representative Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley). Hurt was able to flip the longtime representative’s district red.
- District 85: Jesse Chism (D-Memphis) won the election to replace the retiring Representative Johnnie Turner (D-Memphis).
- District 89: Justin Lafferty (R-Knoxville) won the election to replace Representative Roger Kane (R-Knoxville). Kane had a failed bid Knox County clerk.
- District 91: London Lamar (D-Memphis), president of the Tennessee Young Democrats, won the election to replace Representative Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), who was elected to the Senate.
- District 99: Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington), the former Shelby County Register of Deeds, was elected to fill the seat left vacant by the unexpected death of Representative Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett).
In addition to all of the freshmen members, the House Republicans and Democrats will be electing all new leadership. Notably, there will be a new speaker that will select new committee chairs. Below is a summary of the leadership races:
- House Republican Leadership Races: The House Republicans will caucus on November 20 to elect new leaders. The leadership races are as follows:
- Speaker: Glen Casada (Thompson’s Station), David Hawk (Greenville), Curtis Johnson (Clarksville)
- Majority Leader: William Lamberth (Portland), Ryan Williams (Cookeville)
- Assistant Leader: Ron Gant (Rossville), Jay Reedy (Erin)
- Caucus Chairman: Cameron Sexton (Crossville), Jason Zachary (Knoxville)
- Speaker Pro temp: Bill Dunn (Knoxville), Kelly Keisling (Byrdstown), Dennis Powers (Jacksboro)
- Caucus Whip: Tim Rudd (Murfreesboro), Rick Tillis (Lewisburg)
- House Democrat Leadership Races: The House Democrats have not announced the date of their caucus elections. Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s departure means that the Democrats will be electing a new leader.
The 111th General Assembly convenes January 8, 2019. Upon their return, each chamber will formally elect a speaker. The speakers will appoint committee chairs and make committee assignments shortly after their election.