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.”
US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, armed with President Trump’s endorsement, officially announced his US Senate candidacy in hopes of succeeding retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R). So far, most of the notable Republican players are yielding to Mr. Hagerty, though he does face physician Manny Sethi in the GOP primary. The Democrats look to be coalescing behind Iraq War veteran James Mackler. At this point, Mr. Hagerty is opening as a heavy favorite in the Republican primary and for the general election.
It appears that Tennessee Republicans are beginning to seriously coalesce behind Ambassador Bill Hagerty to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R). Yesterday two-term Rep. David Kustoff (R-Germantown) said he would not enter the statewide race and will presumably seek re-election to the House. The only serious Republican candidate other than Mr. Hagerty, who has yet to formally announce, is Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi. For the Democrats, attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler has the early field all to himself.
This race is slow to develop, but Tennessee features a long primary season. The candidate filing deadline is April 2nd with an August 6th partisan primary date.
Democrats are in the House majority, and they are also seeing a wide lead in primary challenges to their current incumbents. Another announcement was made yesterday that likely takes the Democratic primary number to 28 as compared to the Republicans’ three. The 28 races feature candidates of some prominence are challenging the incumbent Congressman.
Yesterday, former Shelby County Democratic Party chairman and US Navy Reserve officer Corey Strong says he will challenge Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis). The Congressman has been an anomaly in this district. A 61% African American district, Mr. Cohen, who is white, won the seat in 2006 when the African Americans split their votes among too many candidates. That pattern continued in subsequent elections until Mr. Cohen solidified his support. Now, however, he has drawn an African American opponent, and if the challenger can solidify the black vote behind him, this could become a serious campaign. The Tennessee primary isn’t until August 6th, so this contest has much time to develop.
Now that former two-term Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and freshman Rep. Mark Green (R-Clarksville) will not pursue US Senate campaigns, speculation is building as to who might. Now expected to join the Republican Senate field is US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty. The strongest GOP candidate in the race so far appears to be surgeon Manny Sethi. The top Democrat is attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) is retiring after three terms.
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