Tennessee Primary Preview

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After a July lull that saw two primary runoffs, we get back into the primaries with that of Tennessee on August 2nd.  There are nine House seats, a Governor’s race and an open Senate seat up for grabs.

Republicans occupy seven of the nine House seats in Tennessee and nothing should change, other than some names, in any of the districts even though three Republican seats are open races.  The Knoxville-based Second District has not elected a Democrat since 1855.  With the retirement of Jim Duncan, the GOP incumbent, that should not change.  Seven Republicans and three Democrats will fight it out in their respective districts.  Cook rates this district +20 Republican.

Diane Black leaves the largely rural Sixth District (Cook +21 GOP) to make a run for Governor.  Here, five Republicans and four Democrats are in the primaries.  Finally, in the Seventh District which connects the Nashville and Memphis suburbs, Marsha Blackburn is running for the Senate.  Mark Green has no competition in the Republican primary while two Democrats are in their primary.  Again, this is a safe seat rated +18 GOP by Cook.

In the Governor’s race, Republican incumbent Bill Haslam is term-limited.  Seven Republicans have entered the primary with Diane Black being the most well-known.  However, this may not be a runaway victory as ex-state official Randy Boyd has been registering in the polls.  In seven polls since January, Black leads in four and is tied in another with Boyd winning in two polls.  The victory may be decided by how many votes a third candidate- businessman Bill Lee- takes from either Black or Boyd.

There are three Democrats in their primary with former Nashville mayor Karl Dean the likely winner.  Scant general election polling shows any Republican winning this race over any Democrat, including Dean.

In the Senate race, Republican incumbent Bob Corker is set to retire.  On the GOP side, the race is between Marsha Blackburn and Aaron Pettigrew with Blackburn the likely candidate.  Three Democrats are in their primary with former Governor Phil Bredesen the most likely to emerge the winner.  Blackburn has earned the endorsement of Trump, Pence, Corker, and Lamar Alexander while Joe Biden has stepped in and endorsed Bredesen.

Since January, there have been nine polls of a Blackburn-Bredesen match up in the fall.  Bredesen leads in seven of the nine, but only by an average of two points.  A more recent Middle Tennessee State University poll gave the Democrat a 10 point lead on Blackburn.  That poll showed that 20% of Republican voters were willing to cross party lines and vote for Bredesen whereas only 5% of Democrats were willing to cross party lines and vote for Blackburn.

Regardless, some of this might be due to Bredesen’s greater name recognition in the state.  This may be a sleeper race come November and one likely to be quite expensive.  Thus far, according to FEC filings, Blackburn has raised $5 million to Bredesen’s $3 million, but she has considerably more cash on hand.  This is a state that voted for Trump with 60% of the vote and he maintains high approval ratings (55%) in Tennessee.  Expect a campaign stop from Trump if this looks like a close race as November nears.

UP NEXT:  Tuesday, August 7th primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

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