U.S. Senate campaign

Gov. Bill Haslam to give Senate bid ‘serious consideration’

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Ernst & Young will add 600 jobs in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam tells Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he was caught off guard by Sen. Lamar Alexander’s decision not to seek another term, and that he will give “serious consideration” about running for the seat.

“That’s obviously new news to me as well,” the Republican governor told the Times Free Press. “I will give it serious consideration and will have a better answer to your question in coming days. But for now this is a great time to honor Lamar.”

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke was coy when the paper asked the Democrat about whether he will run for the open Senate seat.

“There are many issues important to me that affect not just Chattanoogans, but Tennesseans as a whole. I am always looking for opportunities to focus on the issues that will help improve the quality of life in Tennessee,” he said.

Other potential candidates include U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin), who came in third in the Republican gubernatorial primary earlier this year; U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Ashland City); U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis); and Bill Hagerty, president Donald Trump’s ambassador to Japan and a former state economic development commissioner.

Sen. Lamar Alexander won’t run again in 2020

Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former governor and two-time presidential candidate, won’t seek re-election in 2020.

The decision will likely set off a mad scramble among Republicans seeking to succeed him in the Senate. Alexander’s planned departure follows a decision by Tennessee junior senator Bob Corker not to run again this year.

Corker released the following statement about Alexander’s decision:

One of the highlights of my time in the Senate has been working with Lamar Alexander. I often tell him he is the legislator of the decade because of the effective way he has worked across the aisle to pass legislation that directly affects the lives of so many throughout our state and around the country. As one of the finest statesmen our state has ever seen, Lamar will leave behind a remarkable legacy. I know he will press through the next two years with great vigor, and I look forward to all he will accomplish on behalf of Tennesseans as he completes his service in Washington.

Here’s what Gov. Bill Haslam had to say:

It is almost impossible to measure the impact of Lamar Alexander’s commitment to Tennessee.  His time as governor paved the way for the economic position we enjoy today as a leading state for business, and his educational reforms were ahead of his time.  As a senator, he has distinguished himself as a national leader, while always reminding everyone that our founders designed our government for most of the power to be delegated to the states.  No one has served our state longer as a governor and senator, and few, if any, have served it better than Lamar.

 

Internal poll finds Alexander with 65% approval rating among Republicans

As U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander mulls whether to run for another term, his pollster has found that the incumbent is “in a strong position” to win the Republican nomination if he runs again. According to the internal poll memo obtained by The Tennessee Journal, Alexander has a favorability rating of 65% among Republican primary voters, compared with just 22% who view him unfavorably.

Alexander’s job performance was rated at 64%-27% among “very conservative” Republicans in the poll, while it was 73%-18% among somewhat and moderate Republicans.

Alexander has said he will decide before the end of the year whether to run again.

The survey of 600 likely Republican voters was conducted Nov. 26 through Nov. 29. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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Chattanooga-area woman writes about why she disrupted Blackburn rally

A Chattanooga-area woman writes in The Tennessean about why she decided to disrupt a moment of silence during a Marsha Blackburn rally in Nashville in the waning days of the Senate race.

Yes, I interrupted during her moment of silence, saying that ‘Marsha Blackburn is a white supremacist.’

I interrupted because as a registered nurse, mom of five, wife of one of those first responders who must see, process and live with the incidents of violence that she and extremists like her are inciting.

I can’t stay silent any longer.

Read the the rest here.

O’Hara: Bredesen carried 10 biggest counties by cumulative 10 points. It didn’t matter.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican Senate nominee in Tennessee, speaks at a Farm Bureau event in Franklin on Aug. 9, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A guest column by former reporter Jim O’Hara:

Crow is always best eaten warm.

So, why didn’t Phil Bredesen’s performance in Tennessee’s top 10 counties with the most registered voters translate into a closer contest for the U.S. Senate?

The short and simple answer is that Marsha Blackburn swamped the Democrat by a 69-31 margin in the other 85 counties.  If Bredesen had managed even a 60-40 split, he would still have lost the election.

But the Associated Press wouldn’t have called it as early as 9:06 p.m. Central.

The top 10 counties – in terms of registered voters – are Blount, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Montgomery, Rutherford, Shelby, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson.

On Tuesday, they voted at the levels typical in recent elections and provided slightly more than 1.2 million votes, or 56% of the 2.2 million votes cast in the Senate race. Bredesen won the cumulative vote in those 10 counties by a margin of 677,226 to 559,898, or 55% to 45%.

He got 71% of the Davidson County vote and 66% in Shelby; he essentially ran even with Blackburn in Knox and Hamilton counties with 48% and 49% of the vote respectively.

Blackburn’s biggest margins in those top 10 counties came in Blount (64%), Sumner (63%), Williamson (59%), and Wilson (62%).

But of the 970,866 votes cast for the Senate race in the other 85 counties, she won going away with her 69% to 31% margin.

Was there an enthusiasm gap?  In Davidson County, about 59% of the registered voters came to the polls; in Shelby it was 51%.

In Blount County, about 57% of the voters went to the polls, and in Williamson it was close to 70%.

On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally posted on Facebook a Tennessee map, proclaiming the state a “Red Wall,” with only Davidson and Shelby blue.  And a Democratic Facebook friend of mine bemoaned the lack of a Beto O’Rourke in Tennessee

Maybe, there is no longer a center to contest in Tennessee, but the voting tea leaves seem more complicated then either would admit.  Can Republicans keep running up 70-30 margins?  How long before even those margins aren’t sufficient as the top 10 counties grow?

___

O’Hara covered politics for the The Tennessean in the 1980s.

AP calls Senate race for Blackburn

Republican Marsha Blackburn has won the Tennessee Senate race against Democrat Phil Bredesen, according to The Associated Press.

 

Early numbers look good for Blackburn, but Nashville and Memphis still to report any results

Repubilcan Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn speaks at a rally in Franklin on Oct. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn has a big lead in early returns, but there have yet to be any results reported from the Democratic strongholds of Memphis or Nashville.

With 5% of precincts reporting, here’s how it looks:

Marsha Blackburn Republican 338,013 61%
Phil Bredesen Democrat 209,583 38%

Two interesting results from East Tennessee: Bredesen was up by 5 points in Hamilton County and behind by just 4 points in Knox County.

County Blackburn Bredesen
Knox
58,323
54,026
Hamilton
31,935
35,261

 

 

What does early voting in Williamson County tell us?

The Tennessean’s Elaina Sauber has the early voting results from Williamson County, home to both Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn and GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee. Both Republicans came out of early voting with big leads, but Blackburn’s 18-point lead over Democrat Phil Bredesen was much smaller than Lee’s 29-point advantage over Democrat Karl Dean.

Will that fall-off for Blackburn portend a closer race with Bredesen? We’ll see as more votes come in.

Group spends $3.5M to promote black turnout

Tennessee is one of the Black Progressive Action Coalition’s top investments this election season as it has worked to get African-American voters to the polls in the state’s four largest cities, the Associated Press’ Jonathan Mattise reports.

The related Black Progressive Action Coalition and BlackPAC have spent more than $3.5 million on direct mail, radio ads, door knocking, and phone calls targeting Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.

One of the radio spots tells voters that its within their power to keep “Trump’s biased and extreme agenda in check.”

See a full-page flyer after the jump.

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Watch Blackburn’s comments at Trump rally in Chattanooga

Here are Republican Senate candidate Marsh Blackburn’s comments at a Chattanooga rally featuring President Donald Trump on Sunday evening: