News Analysis: Tuke probably shouldn’t get too excited

Monday, August 11, 2008 at 3:18am

Nashville attorney and former Tennessee Democratic Party chair Bob Tuke might be flush with victory after Thursday night’s win in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. However, if he and his team had a bit too much to drink on election night they might want to dig further into election data because the numbers are sobering.

Tuke beat out former Knox County Clerk Mike Padgett for the opportunity to face incumbent Republican Senator Lamar Alexander in November. That was no real surprise.

The real shock of the evening was that political unknown Gary G. Davis came in second.

Davis spent no money on his campaign yet picked up 38,971 votes, roughly 21 percent of all the votes cast. While Tuke beat Davis by about 20,000 votes, and the statewide result was an embarrassment to Padgett, the numbers being put out by the Tennessee Division of Elections show that Tuke’s effort to “take the hill” will need some grappling hooks.

According to the Tennessee Division of Elections data, Alexander received more votes than all Democrat challengers combined. Alexander pulled in 243,056 votes compared to the 182,724 votes cast on the Democratic side. That is a margin of 60,332 for Alexander in a largely uneventful primary season.

What this also means is that Alexander received 57 percent of total partisan ballots cast in the combined Democrat/Republican U.S. Senate Primary. Tuke’s 58,946 represented 13.8 percent.

What is most interesting in reviewing the state's election data is that Davis, the virtually unknown candidate, won more counties than Tuke — 39 to 34 (Tuke tied with Clayton in one county).

Tuke did win Shelby County and Middle Tennessee, where he had bought media and where he will have to dominate should he hope to knock off Alexander in November. However, Davis won almost every county where there was another well-known “Davis” on the ballot. Tennessee’s 1st and 4th Congressional Districts are represented by Congressmen David Davis and Lincoln Davis, respectively.

David Davis, a Republican, lost his primary yesterday and obviously wasn’t on the Democratic primary ballot. But Gary Davis’ winning every county completely in the 1st Congressional District does make one stop and wonder if voters in that district just picked a familiar sounding name.

Again, by looking at the 4th Congressional District represented by Democrat Lincoln Davis, Gary Davis won almost every county in a seat that touches Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia.

There is much speculation being kicked around now as to how Davis did so much with so little, and frankly there are no answers one can really sink their teeth into at this time.

For a Democrat to win a statewide contest, the formula has been a simple one: Hold your own in East Tennessee, catch up in Middle, and then win in the West. It is the same formula utilized by the last two Democratic governors — Phil Bredesen and Ned McWherter.

If Tuke uses this formula, there is significant work to be done. He placed fourth or fifth in 26 counties that he won't need to win but will have to perform respectively in.

Tuke placed fourth in Blount, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Fentress, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, Jefferson, Loudon, Marion, McMinn, Morgan, Rhea, Roane, Sequatchie, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, and Washington counties. He placed fifth in Hancock, Johnson, Meigs, Monroe, and Polk counties.

Anything can happen in an election and major upsets can occur. Former Republican U.S. Senator Bill Brock was seen as a lock for re-election in 1976 when he, like Alexander, headed into a General Election against a former state Democratic Party chairman, Jim Sasser.

Sasser won that race and served almost 20 years in Washington, before being defeated by Bill Frist in 1995. Interestingly, Sasser’s son Gray is now serving as the current state Democratic Party chairman.

Odds are good that Gray and Bob are sharing some old notes right now.

Filed under: City News
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By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 7:00

The 'Man from Plaid' has this one locked up.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Tennesseans are not bright enough to replace Lamar Alexander with Bob Tuke. We will have another six years of increasingly ineffectual representation.

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 7:00

more blah blah blah from Doonesbury readers and people that think that their ineffectual party leaders can actually do better. I love Mondays. Hey did you notice that oil was going down in price and that the sun came up this morning?

By: roger717 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

they say that John Edwards political career is over because he had an affair and lied about it. why hasn't any reporter asked Bob Tuke if he has been faithful to his wife and given him a chance to tell the truth.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Roger, name a politician who HASN'T had an affair.Yes, Jeff, oil is cheaper. Did you notice that the price per barrel has descended more than the price per gallon of gasoline?By the way, Jeff, seven year ago, gasoline was less than $1.00/gallon. The Bush-dick years have a marvelous legacy of lining the pockets of the wealthy on the backs of the working people, and that adulterer, John McCain, wants to continue the legacy.

By: ai4jy on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Lamar Alexander has a strong record of representation, and Bob Tuke will be trying, unsuccessfully, to pretend as if he has the same record. Good luck on that one.