State: Incumbents Maggart and Pruitt bested, while Black easily defeats Zelenik

Friday, August 3, 2012 at 1:56am
By Steven Hale and Jonathan Meador

Amid hoops, hollers and whistles, a triumphant Courtney Rogers took the stage as the newly minted Republican standard-bearer for Tennessee’s 45th House District.

“Thank you very much. Honestly, this process was too big for me alone,” said Rogers in what was a brief victory speech interrupted by a prayer held on the dais with her family.

Rogers bested incumbent House GOP Caucus chair Debra Maggart 4,643 to 3,444, maintaining a double-digit lead as returns from the Sumner County district trickled in.

The veritable blowout capped a contentious primary battle in which Rogers, a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force and a tea party member, successfully unseated Maggart in what has been largely characterized by political observers as a proxy battle for national Second Amendment interests.

“She heeded the call, and she went about the business of [figuring out] how to do what others were asking her to do,” said Roger’s campaign manager, Jeff Hartline. “We had a million-dollar candidate, and they didn’t.”

The success of Roger’s dark horse candidacy cements a narrative that the NRA is winning a war against state lawmakers who don’t tow the group’s increasingly zealous hard-line pro-gun orthodoxy in recent years. A handful of states including Tennessee had rejected a slew of NRA-sponsored bills in the past year, prompting action and ire from the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action.

The ILA targeted Maggart when she joined with moderate House Republicans in their refusal to support the powerful gun lobby’s controversial “guns in parking lots bill” during the last legislative session. As of late June, the NRA-ILA spent more than $75,000 on ads both denouncing Maggart and supporting her opponent, including billboards that inaccurately compared her track record on gun rights with President Barack Obama — a total equal to more than half of Maggart’s war chest at the time.

John Harris, president of the Tennessee Firearms Association, was on hand for the festivities. A vocal critic of Maggart, Harris said that the money poured into the race by the NRA was “specifically intended to be an example” of what happens when politicians take gun-owners — and their lobbies — for granted.

“The Second Amendment is the best litmus test of what a true conservative is,” Harris told The City Paper. “If you won’t stand up and support the Second Amendment, you’re not really a constitutional conservative on other issues.”

A spokesman for the Maggart campaign told The City Paper the representative had called Rogers to concede the race. Maggart was not available for comment.

Rogers will face Democrat Jeanette Jackson in the general election this November.

In the night’s other marquee race, Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black fended off repeat challenger Lou Ann Zelenik in the state’s 6th Congressional District primary. What was a razor-thin race in 2010, when Black edged out Zelenik by just 283 votes, ended up as a landslide victory for the incumbent this year who won by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

In the final weeks of the increasingly nasty personal grudge match, Black faced attack ads from two super-PACs funded entirely by Nashville-based venture capitalist and former Zelenik staffer Andrew Miller. A message left for Miller, who was also among the hosts of a fundraiser for Rogers, was not immediately returned. Despite Black’s conservative record, Miller’s PACs and the Zelenik campaign hit the incumbent repeatedly with the specious claim that she had voted to fund Obamacare.

“Our overwhelming victory in this race is a lesson that you can prevail when you work hard, tell the truth and stay true to your principles, even in the face of lies and vicious personal attacks,” said Black, in a campaign release trumpeting her victory. “Let us keep that in mind as we move into the general election season.”

Owing to the bitterly personal years-old feud between the two, Zelenik announced her concession on television but apparently did not call Black, who was later informed of the news on air.

The primary victory sends Black back to congress, as she will run unopposed in November’s general election.

In Davidson County, Democratic incumbent Rep. Mary Pruitt finally fell in House District 58 after facing a series of challenges from within her own party in past years. In a race that wasn’t decided until the last batch of returns, Pruitt lost to Harold Love Jr. by just 41 votes.

The son of civil rights leader and longtime state Rep. Harold Love Sr., Love credited a “combination of new school and old school campaigning” for his victory. His team utilized Facebook, he said, as well as events called “Conversations with Love” held with constituents at local barbershops.

Pruitt had not yet heard the final results when reached by The City Paper but offered best wishes to Love.

“The people have had the opportunity to make their choice and the majority votes win, so that’s about all I can say,” she said. “I’m pretty sure he’ll do a good job.”

An official at the Davidson County Election Commission told The City Paper there were not enough provisional ballots to change the outcome of the race.

There are no Republicans running in the district.

In other races:

  • In the House District 53, Jason Powell won the Democratic primary easily over Metro Councilman Jason Potts, with 67 percent of the vote. On the Republican side Ben Claybaker beat Tonya Miller by an even larger margin, claiming 73 percent.
  • Charles Williamson bested D.J. Farris by 103 votes to claim the Republican nomination in House District 50. In the general election, he will face Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
  • Setting up for what looks to be one of the premier races in November, both parties fielded candidates in Senate District 20. The traditionally Democratic seat, held for nearly three decades by Sen. Joe Haynes, was dramatically altered when Republicans redrew the state’s political map last year. It is now generally seen as a toss-up. In the Republican primary, Nashville doctor Steve Dickerson won a relatively high-turnout three-way contest, with just shy of 50 percent of the vote. He beat out Nashville businessman Rob Mortensen, and former GOP congressional candidate Dave Hall. Dickerson’s victory earned him a visit and a public congratulations from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. Phillip North, a Nashville attorney, ran essentially unopposed in the Democratic race. Although he technically had an opponent in James Baxter, North has long had the public support of the state party and won with 74 percent of the vote.

Click here or a complete list of results from state races.

12 Comments on this post:

By: njmccune on 8/3/12 at 5:13

So gla that Harold Love won... Pruit was well past her prime and we needed new blood.. District 58 has many challenges and I am counting on him to bring new ideas, new energy and new hope to our district.

By: Bellecat on 8/3/12 at 6:09

"Harris said that the money poured into the race by the NRA was “specifically intended to be an example” of what happens when politicians take gun-owners — and their lobbies — for granted."

It is a shame that the average citizen does not have a "lobby" so that politicians will not take them for granted. Seems the only way to have a say in our government is to buy it.

By: Rocket99 on 8/3/12 at 6:31

Just hope Harold Love shows up at the state house. There are other committies and groups he's been involved in where he rarely, if ever, showed up.

Also hope he can use his ministerial ways to bring the wingnuts up there back to more realistic thinking.

By: njmccune on 8/3/12 at 7:01

It really doesn't matter as Ms. Pruitt been there in body only! As those of us who have tried to get her to do anything She has been totally ineffective...

By: Trumpet on 8/3/12 at 7:07

Joe/The Collection:

Just remember, Harold Love is not his Daddy! Remember the Song (Title): "That Was Then and This Is Now" 1985-86 by Richard "Kush" Griffith. Submitted in support of the "Generation Rap" Movie/Album concept MTM Music Group/Davis-Dotson-Byrd&Associates Nashville Tn.

You could be a legend in your own time...In your Mind!!...Please remember...

Joe/The Collection....Hello, Bernie Walters...still relevant,,,after all this time...

By: njmccune on 8/3/12 at 10:49

Well I did not know his Daddy since I have only been in Nashville 5 years. I do know that I sent him a FaceBook message this morning and he has already answered me.

By: Trumpet on 8/3/12 at 12:31

Joe/The Collection:

Still, I caution you: But I am curious too...."What did he say (on Facebook)?" TEST-1-2!!! Avon this microphone working?


By: njmccune on 8/3/12 at 2:48

I wrote him about an election violation that I reported to the election commission. In my district Mary Pruitt was allowed to violate the boundry sign. And her campaign workers were permitted to used the bathroom inside the facility. She herself came into the building with her campaign shirt on and when I protested and she leaned toward me and hissed,"Shut your f**king mouth". Of course the campaign worker swore that she didn't but that woman was not close enough to hear. The precinct captain did not correct this and in fact another poll worker was absolutely vile toward my husband and I.

Pruitt is well known in this pricinct and is treated like royalty. I have attempted to work with her and gotten no where as she seemed not to even understand what we were trying to get done. She has not filed a bill in about 10 years. If she were a man I would call her an empty suit.

Mr. Love returned my message promptly. Appologized for how we were treated at the poll and agreed that the poll workers at this precinct must be replaced. There were several other problems that I do not have time nor space to discuss here. He and I are meeting to see what can be done to fix this issue befor major fraud is committed at this precinct.

The election commission was horrified at what was going on and put a monitor there for the rest of the day.

So of course I think that anything is better than what we have and I will keep an open mind and keep a close eye on the progress.

By: Trumpet on 8/3/12 at 3:12

Joe/The Collection:

Thank you njmccune. Thanks for your reply. In this day & time one's response is a forgotten 20th.Century courtesy, often neglected or withheld..


By: pswindle on 8/6/12 at 9:33

The GOP goes from Bad to Worse.

By: Jughead on 8/6/12 at 10:08

pswindle goes from dumb to dumber.

By: pswindle on 8/7/12 at 5:12

Maggart lost for more than one reason, the damage that she did to the unions was also a payback. The Diane Black election was a joke. At one time, we were represented by poeple that you were proud of, now look at what we have. It would not have made much difference if it were Black nor Lou Ann. Is this the best that we have.