In a series of apparent upsets, three Davidson County Democrats narrowly fought off Republicans in traditionally blue state House seats, bucking a GOP trend that saw the party construct supermajorities in the state Capitol.
Tuesday’s election turned the Tennessee House of Representatives overwhelmingly Republican, giving the chamber a 70-28 majority with one Independent and the GOP power to legislate without Democrats.
“Tennessee voters affirmed tonight that our state is heading in the right direction,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney in a statement late Tuesday. “Republicans are once again honored that voters have put their trust in our party to lead our state to a better future.”
But it appears Democrats have retained some shades of blue in the legislature in taking back a Davidson County seat it lost two years ago and holding on to two open seats. Vote totals are still unofficial and absentee ballots have yet to be counted, according to Davidson County election officials.
The race was still close in the northwest edge of Davidson County where Democrat Bo Mitchell led Republican Charles Williamson in District 50 by less than 150 votes.
This isn’t the first time Williamson has been in a close race. He lost to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner by less than 5 percentage points two years ago prior to this year’s legislative redistricting. It’s unclear whether Williamson will challenge Tuesday’s election results.
If Mitchell wins the seat, it will keep the district in the minority party’s hands following the retirement of Democrat Rep. Gary Moore.
In District 60, Metro Councilman Darren Jernigan, a Democrat, edged past GOP Rep. Jim Gotto, a former member of the council, by 160 votes, according to unofficial returns from the Davidson County Election Commission. Gotto conceded to Jernigan, according to a House Republican spokesman.
The minority party also retained the district left open by long-time Democrat Rep. Janis Sontany with Jason Powell’s win. The county’s former representative on the Democratic Executive Committee beat out Republican Ben Claybaker by less than 10 percentage points in District 53.
Several Nashville incumbents in contested races easily won their seats back, including Democrats Rep. Sherry Jones, Gary Odom, and Mike Stewart.
Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, the House’s chief Democrat, also fended off attempts by the majority party to oust him. The West Tennessee Democrat defeated rival Johnny Edwards by 20 percentage points.
Republicans had been itching for a supermajority all election season, a feat that only took picking up two additional Republican seats in each chamber. The House picked up six.
A supermajority, or two thirds of each chamber, gives Republicans the power to conduct business without the help, or even attendance, of Democrats. It also will make it easier for the majority party to ignore efforts by Democrats to slow down legislation.
The last time the Capitol’s lower chamber was home to a supermajority was 1977, according to state officials.
If the unofficial election results stick, House Speaker Beth Harwell will be the only Republican House member from Nashville.