One week from tomorrow is Election Day and the fate of many a political career will be decided. Some campaigns will end with the candidate becoming a footnote to history while others will launch long and illustrious careers.
While there are no surprises expected and no real excitement has been generated at the statewide level, the old saying that “all politics is local” holds true this year as the balance of power in the Tennessee General Assembly is at stake.
All across Tennessee political turf wars are in full battle mode as Democrats and Republicans wind down the process to see who represents places like Maynardville and Somerville in Nashville.
As the economy has begun to dominate the national dialogue in the presidential race, both party leaders in Tennessee are making the case heading into election day that their candidates can help fix the financial problems facing the state.
"As Tennesseans, like all Americans continue to focus on the economy, they recognize that Democrats like Randy Camp and Becky Ruppe are uniquely positioned to work with Governor Phil Bredesen to bring more jobs to Tennessee,” Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Gray Sasser said “Our Democratic message of jobs and expanding economic opportunity is resonating with voters, while the Republicans are mired in the tired Karl Rovian politics of division."
“Tennessee Democrats are treating this election as a national election, ignoring the reality that the next state legislative session will deal with a budget crisis that can only be solved by reducing spending or raising taxes,” Robin Smith, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party answered. “While Democrats at the national level propose a trillion dollars in new spending, to be paid for by raising taxes and expanding the deficit, Republicans running for the state legislature are more committed than ever in these tough economic times to protecting Tennessee families’ budgets from any attempt to raise their taxes.”
State Senate Races
Much of the attention is focused on what happens in the Tennessee State Senate races. The results there could determine if Republican Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey can breathe a little easier with an outright majority or if he will have to play like his predecessor, the retiring State Senator and former Lieutenant Governor John Wilder.
On election night, leaders from both the Republican and Democratic caucuses will be huddled in rooms watching the returns and looking at maps to see if they have the numbers they need to gain an outright majority.
After consulting with insiders from both parties, and The City Paper’s own election analysis, here are the State Senate races that we all will be watching:
SD 26 Randy Camp-D, Dolores Gresham-R
This is the race to replace Wilder and it has been a heated one. Camp is a former aide to Wilder who has fought not only Gresham this election, but former family members who widely circulated copies of his divorce papers that showed he had admitted to adulterous relationships when he was married.
Gresham hasn’t had it any easier since she was hit for accepting state taxpayer-funded farm grants.
This race could go either way.
SD 12 Becky Ruppe-D, Ken Yager-R
SD 18 Jim Hawkins-D, Diane Black-R
These two seats are crucial to Republican hopes of keeping Ramsey in the Lieutenant Governor’s office. Black’s seat is safer than many Democrats had hoped so far, but the only reason that it falls into this category is the amount of effort the Dems have thrown into the race.
The Ruppe-Yager race is to replace the retiring State Senator Tommy Kilby, a Democrat. A win here would be a definite gain for the Republicans in what has also been a hotly contested battle.
SD 14 Eric Stewart-D, Mike Niederhauser-R
SD 22 Tim Barnes-D, Rosalind Kurita-I
Democrats will have to hold these two seats for them to have a shot at a majority.
The Stewart/Niederhauser race is to replace Democrat Steve Roller who lost his primary campaign. Roller had been appointed to the seat when Democrat Jerry Cooper resigned from office.
In the Barnes/Kurita battle, we are listing Kurita as an independent for a couple of reasons. First, barring any court decisions to give her back the Democratic nomination that was stripped from her, she will have to win as a write-in candidate. Accomplishing that would be a major event.
The second reason that she is listed as an independent here is that should she return to office her vote in the Lieutenant Governor’s race would almost certainly be for a Republican.
SD 4 Mike Williams-I, Mike Faulk-R
While Williams is an independent, the Democratic machine has been assisting the former Republican in his re-election efforts, which throws him in the Democratic column. A victory for Williams would give Democrats another vote for Senate leadership, although Williams does not caucus with his newfound friends.
At the beginning of this election cycle Faulk’s chances of unseating Williams looked good, until revelation of an affair and the subsequent handling of the matter seriously compromised a once promising campaign.
SD 16 Jean Ann Rogers-D, Jim Tracy-R
The incumbent in this contest is Tracy. If he loses, Tennessee Republican’s would have much larger problems than any of us can see right now.
State House Races
Less talked about this cycle are the contests for the Tennessee House of Representatives.
As things stand now, Democrats have the majority and look like they will maintain it. Republican’s keep whittling away at that number and are looking to get within striking distance.
After talking to sources with GOP and Democratic ties however, and our own analysis, we do know where party leaders will be focusing their attention on election day.
With each election cycle, a number of elected officials from both parties opt to call it a career or try for some other office. What that does is level the playing field a bit as both parties work to install a new member to their ranks.
There are four key retirements this year that have both parties salivating at their chances to take a seat. Two of the seats were held by Republicans, William Baird of Jacksboro and Chris Crider of Milan, and two by Democrats, John Hood of Murfreesboro and Philip Pinion of Union City.
Here are the names you should be watching for when the polls close
HD 36 Roger Byrge-D, Chad Faulkner-R (Baird’s seat)
HD 79 Jim Ryal-D, Curtis Halford-R (Crider’s seat)
HD 48 Tim Tipps-D, Joe Carr-R (Hood’s seat)
HD 77 Judy Barker-D, Bill Sanderson-R (Pinion’s seat)
Other races to watch
Finally there are races where there is an incumbent, but the opposing party is mounting a serious challenge, some more serious than others, to knock someone out of office.
Efforts like those are well underway in Middle Tennessee, although there are no serious challenge races for the State House in Davidson County. Here are the Middle Tennessee races you should be keeping an eye on next Tuesday night.
HD 34 Rishi Saxena-D, Donna Rowland-R (incumbent)
HD 45 Andy Allman-D, Debra Maggart-R (incumbent)
HD 46 Stratton Bone-D (incumbent), Albert McCall-R
HD 47 John Greeter-D, Judd Matheny-R (incumbent)
HD 64 Ty Cobb-D, Tom Dubois-R (incumbent)