Crowded Governor's Race Leaves Candidates With Work To Do

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It will be a year and half before Tennesseans head to the polls to choose their next governor, but researchers at Vanderbilt University have found those vying to hold the state's highest office have some work to do when it comes to name and face recognition among potential voters. 

The candidates are: 

  • House Speaker Beth Harwell - 56th District (R)
  • Randy Boyd, Former Economic and Community Development Commissioner (R)
  • Karl Dean, Former Nashville Mayor (D)
  • Bill Lee, Owner of Lee Company (R)
  • State Senator Mae Beavers - District 17 (R)

Of the five candidates who have announced they are running, House Speaker Beth Harwell and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean were the most recognizable among registered voters, according to a poll recently conducted by Vanderbilt University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.

Business owner Bill Lee, State Senator Mae Beavers and former Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd all rated considerably lower when it comes to how recognizable they are with voters.

All of the candidates though had work to do in regions of the state where they aren't currently from, the poll found.

"One of the things about name recognition is that you can become pretty famous pretty quickly. Getting your name known isn’t the problem, it’s getting known for something big and favorable. That’s the bigger risk," said researcher John Geer who oversaw the poll.

Most interesting to Geer in the data he collected, healthcare was as important to Tennesseans as the economy and job growth. For candidates vying for the governor's office, he said outreach will be critical. 

"You have to be successful fundraising so you can get your message out. Right now the average citizen at the grocery store, they’re not paying attention to the governor's race yet. But the elites are because they want to see who they could endorse," he added.

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