Democratic incumbents in Davidson County’s state House delegation held strong in Tuesday’s elections, but statewide was a different story.
Veteran state Rep. Mike Turner will serve a sixth term as District 51 representative, after leading Charles Williamson Tuesday night by approximately 700 votes.
Turner was up 52 percent to 48 percent with 15 of 19 precincts reporting vote totals.
Originally elected in 2000, Turner has now captured six consecutive House wins. This was his most difficult race to date due to a disgruntled electorate, he said.
“I’ve never been through a race like this before,” Turner said via phone while celebrating his victory at John A’s Restaurant in the Opry Mills area.
Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, said he thought a week ago he “was beaten.”
“I took [Williamson] lightly,” he said, adding his campaign “went full bore” the past few days to seal the victory.
District 51 includes suburban eastern Davidson County (including Lakewood, Donelson and Old Hickory) and parts of East Nashville.
A self-described constitutional conservative, Williamson led after early voting. He could not be reached for comment.
Of note, the House honored Turner, a firefighter and EMT specialist, for his rescue efforts (along with those of his fellow firefighters) during May’s flooding. Tennessee Conservation Voters has given the representative its highest rating for his record on environmental issues. Turner also sponsored a bipartisan bill — won with nearly unanimous support in the General Assembly — that streamlines the process of transferring credits from two-year colleges to four-year universities.
And during the most recent budget negotiations, Turner supported funding the state’s infant mortality program, which was left intact in the final budget.
Williamson, an Old Hickory-based businessman and bison rancher, made headlines recently when he criticized the Tennessee Republican Party for sending an unauthorized string of direct mail pieces critical of Turner. State GOP officials later said they did not confer with Williamson before the mailer was sent. Williamson maintained from the early stages of the campaign that he wanted to keep his campaign above board.
Tennessee House Democratic Leader Gary Odom coasted to re-election in District 55, but he'll lead a much less significant majority.
With 163 of 173 precincts reporting countywide Tuesday night, Odom had 57.3 percent of the vote over challenger Tim Lee, who followed a common Republican strategy of casting Odom as tied to the agenda of President Barack Obama.
Odom, however, looks like he will a much smaller contingent of House Democrats to whip in the upcoming session. Early state returns show Republicans extending their majority — with some projections showing 60 of 99 seats in the GOP’s favor. Speaker Kent Williams, who safely won re-election, is the chamber's lone independent.
In District 53, Rep. Janis Baird Sontany, a four-term incumbent, took 60 percent of the vote over Tonya Miller, a tea-party-style Republican challenger.
Incumbent state Rep. Sherry Jones, first elected to the House in 1994, beat back a challenge from Nashville Metro Councilman Duane Dominy to represent Tennessee's 59th State House District.
Dominy, an outspoken Republican who was first elected to the council in 2007, has been one of the leading proponents of keeping the Tennessee State Fairgrounds open.
Meanwhile, it was a disappointing night for the Hall family.
Twenty-three-year-old Republican Dymon “Dave” Hall’s bid to unseat District 50 House state Rep. Gary Moore fell short, with the incumbent winning by 11 percentage points.
With most precincts reported, Moore pulled in 8,539 votes to Hall’s 6,743 votes.
The younger Hall is often confused with his father, David Hall, who lost Tuesday as a challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper.
Joey Garrison, J.R. Lind and William Williams contributed to this story.