Yesterday’s Tennessee primary, the only such election held on a Thursday, yielded former US Ambassador to Japan and ex-Tennessee Economic Development director Bill Hagerty a strong 51-39% Republican nomination victory. The win virtually guarantees Mr. Hagerty’s election in November and the right to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R). Mr. Hagerty defeated Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi in what evolved into a more competitive campaign than originally forecast. Several polls found Dr. Sethi pulling to within small single digits in mid-July, but Mr. Hagerty pulled away in the end largely to a 2:1 campaign spending advantage and the combined endorsements of President Trump and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
In the Fall, Mr. Hagerty will face the surprise Democratic primary winner, businesswoman and environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw who literally spent no money on her campaign. The forecast favorite to win the Democratic nomination, attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler who raised and spent more than $2 million for his race, finished a poor third.
The open 1st District was Thursday night’s most interesting race. There, pharmacist and political activist Diana Harshbarger claimed the open seat Republican nomination with just over 19% of the vote against 13 other GOP candidates. She ran hard to the right and spent the most money on her race, over $1.3 million, most of which was self-funded. In a 77% Trump district, Ms. Harshbarger’s GOP nomination win virtually assures her of election in the Fall. She will succeed Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) who is retiring after serving what will be six terms at the end of this congressional session.
In the 5th District, veteran Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) survived a Democratic primary challenge with a 57-40% victory margin. This primary election win re-elects Mr. Cooper in November because Republicans did not file a candidate. The seven other House incumbents were either unopposed for re-nomination or won with at least 71% of the vote. All nine Tennessee seats will remain with their respective party in the general election.
As we get closer to the August 4th primary that will feature nominees being chosen in the important Kansas and Tennessee Senate GOP nomination contests, incumbent Senators are getting involved.
In Kansas, retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who has been in Congress since the beginning of 1981, endorsed Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) to succeed him. This primary is contentious because Republican institutional money is coming into the state in an attempt to deny losing 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach the party nomination, while Democratic money is trying to pull him over the GOP finish line with ads saying he is “too conservative for Kansas.”
Obviously, the latter ploy has the clear goal of driving the most conservative voters toward Kobach. It is clear that national leaders from both parties believe the Democrats have the opportunity of taking the Kansas race in the general election if Mr. Kobach becomes the GOP nominee.
Turning to Tennessee, incumbent Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) announced her endorsement of former US Ambassador Bill Hagerty, who President Trump is also supporting, against surging candidate Manny Sethi, a Nashville orthopedic surgeon. On the other hand, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) highlights an independent expenditure PAC ad promoting Dr. Sethi. The two are battling to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R).
A third consecutive poll is confirming that the Republican primary race to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) is close. Yesterday, a JMC Analytics & Polling (7/18-19; 600 TN likely Republican primary voters) survey was published showing former US Ambassador Bill Hagerty leading Nashville orthopedic surgeon Manny Sethi, 36-32%, as we approach the August 6th primary. Two other polls, from the Trafalgar Group and Victory Phones beginning at the end of June, found similar spreads in the three point range. Before, Mr. Hagerty enjoyed substantial leads. The GOP winner becomes a big favorite to claim the seat in November.
Last week we reported on two conflicting polls about the August 6th Tennessee US Senate Republican primary race. The Tarrance Group (6/28-30; 651 TN GOP likely voters) found former US Ambassador Bill Hagerty leading Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi, 46-29%, while Victory Phones (6/30-7/1; 800 likely Republican primary voters) saw the Hagerty lead only at 33-31%. Now, the Trafalgar Group (7/6-8; 1,072 TN likely Republican primary voters) released numbers that are much closer to the Victory Phones data. Trafalgar shows Mr. Hagerty holding only a 42-39% lead suggesting this race is much closer than originally projected.
We’re seeing a number of instances where polling conducted in the same relative time frame is producing differing results. Such is the case again in Tennessee. The open Senate race hasn’t attracted much national attention largely because most analysts believe that former US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty will easily win the Republican primary and the seat in November. One poll, from the Tarrance Group (6/28-30; 651 TN GOP likely voters over half of whom have voted in the last four Republican primaries), supports such a conclusion. Tarrance finds Mr. Hagerty holding a 46-29% Republican primary advantage over Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi.
Victory Phones, who gained statewide credibility for conducting Gov. Bill Lee’s polling in 2018, sees a different result, however. Their study (6/30-7/1; 800 likely Republican primary voters) foresees a much closer contest. While projecting Mr. Hagerty into the lead, it is only by two points, 33-31%, over Dr. Sethi. Tennessee is the only state in the country to vote on a Thursday, and the primary election is scheduled for August 6th.
Progressive left voter groups are expanding their moves to file lawsuits in states that they hope will change the election system to one emphasizing mail voting. New suits have been filed to expand absentee voting options and outreach in Alabama, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The goal of the action is to increase mail voting not only for upcoming primary elections, but for the 2020 general election, as well, and probably beyond.
The Tennessee open Senate campaign has not drawn much national attention, but Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategies just released a new statewide survey (1/29-30; 625 TN registered voters) testing the possible successors to retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R). M-D finds former US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, who is favored to win the Republican nomination, topping Iraq War veteran James Mackler (D), 55-33%.
Dr. Manny Sethi (R), a Nashville surgeon challenging Mr. Hagerty to become the party standard bearer, also fares well in the general election pairing, but not to the same degree. If the election were today, Dr. Sethi would outpace Mr. Mackler, who is becoming the consensus Democratic candidate, 46-35%. At this point, the GOP looks to be a sound bet to hold this open seat in a state that continues to evolve into a safer domain for Republican candidates.
Tennessee GOP Congressman Phil Roe (R-Johnson City/Kingsport) announced over the weekend that he will not seek re-election later this year. The move is not surprising in that Mr. Roe pledged to only serve five terms when he was first elected in 2008. He ran again in 2018 because he said he still had unfinished work to complete as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. When the Democrats gained the majority, however, Rep. Roe was obviously relegated to the ranking minority member position.
The 1st District is solidly Republican, as the last Democrat to carry this eastern Tennessee seat was elected in 1878. Upon Rep. Roe’s retirement announcement, former Kingsport Mayor John Clark (R) declared his own congressional candidacy. A crowded Republican primary is expected, the winner from which will claim the seat in November.
Yesterday’s impeachment inquiry vote saw only two members, both Democrats, buck the party line. Four members, however, did not vote, but all had reasons for not attending the session that had nothing to do with President Trump. Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) was absent for health reasons. William Timmons (R-SC) was on military assignment with his Army Reserve unit. Jody Hice (R-GA) was tending to family matters with the passing of his father. It is unclear why Rep. John Rose (R-TN) was not present for the vote. Rep McEachin would have been a yes vote for the inquiry, while the three Republicans were sure “noes.”
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