Capitol View Commentary: Friday, November 9, 2018

Posted at 2:47 PM, Nov 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-09 15:47:32-05


By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company

November 9, 2018



Number One Takeaway overall.

# Tennessee is a deep red Republican state. The 2018 mid term elections put the whipped cream and cherries on top. No blue wave here, really, not even a ripple.

# Republicans Governor-elect Bill Lee and Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn made history.

# Blackburn is the first women elected to the U.S. Senate by Tennessee voters. If pre-election polls are accurate, it was the strong support of men who put her in office more than women.

#Lee is the first Republican to ever succeed a Republican governor in office in the Volunteer State. Lee’s election also saw the end of a 52-year streak in state government (dating back to 1967). During that time period, one party followed the other in holding the governor’s office (26 years each), with a change in parties and governors occurring every time an incumbent was term limited.

# Blackburn’s election continues the streak of Republicans winning every U.S. Senate race in Tennessee since 1990 (when Al Gore was last elected). That streak will be 30 years long when Tennessee’s other Senate seat (held by Lamar Alexander) is up for a vote in 2020. Who do the Democrats have to take on the three-term incumbent? No Democratic challenger seems apparent. If the Democrat’s dream candidate, former governor Phil Bredesen couldn’t win, who can? Bredesen remains the last Democrat to win a statewide race back in 2002 and 2006.

#Will Senator Alexander seek a fourth term in 2020? Or, if he retires, will out- going Governor Bill Haslam seek to go to Washington? Or will newly elected GOP Congressman Dr. Mark Greene seek to move to the upper chamber after just one term in the House? Will Greene run even if Alexander does seek re-election?

# While the Congress nationally went Democratic, Tennessee’s delegation stays strongly Republican. While the new House of Representatives will see more diversity in terms of women, persons of color, and sexual identity and preference, Tennessee’s 9-member delegation will be all white males. The two previous female members of our congressional delegation left to seek other positions. Blackburn won. Diane Black lost her bid to be governor in the August Republican primary. Three of the state’s Republican congressmen are new and all easily won their first terms. In fact, all our congressmen won their races handily, including the two Democrats who represent Nashville and Memphis.

# The vote in Tennessee on November 6 resembled in size a presidential year, not a mid-term election. The large vote in Nashville (Davidson County) and Memphis (Shelby County) gave Democrats Phil Bredesen (gubernatorial candidate) and Karl Dean (gubernatorial candidate) huge majorities.

# Bredesen got 70% of the Nashville vote and a combined boost out of both Davidson and Shelby of close to 200,000 votes. Dean got a smaller but similar margin out of the two counties. But Dean and Bredesen could only carry one other county out of the 95 in Tennessee (Haywood County in West Tennessee).

# Those extra Democratic ballots were swamped by the rest of the larger Tennessee vote which came from the supporters of President Donald Trump. They helped him carry this state by a whopping margin in 2016, and they came out again to defeat Bredesen and Dean.

# Blackburn won 40 counties with more than 70% of the vote. Wayne County gave her the largest percentage at almost 80%! Bill Lee fared even better. He carried 53 counties with 70% or more of the vote. He carried 8 counties with more than 80% of the ballots (numbers courtesy of THE USA NETWORK- Tennessee).

# President Trump may not be popular nationwide. But before this election, polls reported in the media found him with job approval ratings in Tennessee as high as 56%.

# Three trips from President Trump to campaign in Tennessee, along with other similar visits by Vice President Mike Pence, were no doubt a big help for Blackburn and Bill Lee, who also got Trump’s endorsement. The ability of the GOP and the White House to nationalize the Tennessee and other Senate races was clearly a critical element to turn the contest here in the Republican’s favor.

# The move to Marsha seemed to begin with the Kavanaugh nomination fight and was followed by the Caravan and immigration controversy. Both brought Republican voters home and activated the GOP/ Trump base.

# The onslaught of dark money from both sides made this the most expensive and combative race in Tennessee history. I think many voters are glad the election is over, just because the flood of negative ads has finally stopped.

# One is the loneliest number says the song. Maybe so. It offered about the only small glimmer of hope Tennessee Democrats had from Tuesday’s election. One is the net number of seats the party picked up over the Republicans in the races for the State House and State Senate. The Republican Super Majority in the House goes from 74-25 to 73-26. The Senate stays the same with its GOP Super Majority at 28-5.

# Democrats did claim the seat of retiring GOP House Speaker Beth Harwell. Businessman Bob Freeman beat Dr. Brent Moody. It means the Nashville House delegation is all Democrats. Senator Steve Dickerson remains the only GOP member in Nashville’s full state legislative delegation. Will the victory by Bob Freeman will renew speculation about whether his father, Bill (now owner of THE NASHVILLE SCENE and NASHVILLE POST) will run for Mayor of Nashville again next year? 

# Back in the General Assembly, the Democrats retook a seat in Knoxville where former House member Gloria Johnson beat GOP incumbent Eddie Smith in a third matchup of the two. Republicans rebounded by capturing the seat of former Democratic Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh who left to run unsuccessfully for governor, as did Speaker Harwell. The loss of Fitzhugh means the end of any conservative West Tennessee Democrats in the lower chamber. It’s a group that used to dominant the leadership of the General Assembly. Now those seats are all gone to Republicans. Still Democratic State Party Chair Mary Mancini tried to put the best spin she could on the Democrat’s slightly improved legislative numbers. “Now, for the first time in over two decades, there are more Democrats in the state legislature today than there were yesterday.” Well, yes, one more. But I guess after two decades (including the election cycles when Democrats first began losing their majorities on the Hill), it’s a start. Barely.

# Based on the money raised and spent (a half million dollars by opponents), you would have thought Amendment Number 1 to the Metro Charter to set up a police community oversight board would have failed. It passed handily by close to 40,000 votes. Countywide, it appears the proponents carried many of the 35 Metro Council districts except for some in the west and southwest parts of the county. THE TENNESSEAN has an interesting story on how the proponents won the day.

# It appears to me Nashville voters, having seen the controversies over recent officer-involved shootings here, and other similar incidents across the nation, feel more oversight is a good idea. The TV spot the FOP ran repeatedly may also have backfired as voters may have felt claims that the oversight board would cause a $10 million property tax hike was overblown

# Mayor David Briley said he would have preferred the oversight board be done by executive order. He is however pledging his support to implement it. He has already begun working with Council members, department heads and the Metro Police to quickly implement the provisions of the amendment. There isn’t much choice really. The approved amendment has language that requires the 11-member board be appointed and confirmed, with staff hired and budget in place (up to $1.5 million annually) by January 31, 2019. It’s going to be a busy holiday season at the Metro Courthouse to get that done.

# After leading the opposition, leaders of the Fraternal Order of Police sounded conciliatory election night, but they are not dropping their lawsuit which claims the vote was unlawful because city election officials did not properly count the voter petitions that triggered the election. The FOP has lost its case in the lower court, but the matter remains active on appeal with the Tennessee Court of Appeals and perhaps before the state Supreme Court if it decides to take the case.

# There were five other Metro Charter amendments on the ballot. They appeared largely housekeeping in nature. All were approved except one. The rejected amendment was to allow the loosening of term limits for Metro Council members from two four-year terms to three. Voters had rejected similar charter changes twice before and did so again.

# Rejected as well for the third time in recent years, was consolidating the governments of the City of Clarksville and Montgomery County. As has happened before, the proposal passed in the city, but voters in the county again said: “What part of no don’t you understand.” While the consolidated government of Nashville and Davidson County, adopted 56 years ago, is acclaimed as a major plus for the capitol city, the only counties that have followed suit across the state have been Hartsville/ Trousdale County and Lynchburg/ Moore County. It’s been rejected multiple times in Knoxville and Memphis over the years.


The voters have spoken.

The 2018 mid-term elections are over in Tennessee and across the nation.

What did we learn from what the voters said and what happens now?

We have two of our best political analysts joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS to discuss what happened Tuesday, Democrat Larry Woods and Republican Bill Phillips.

Remember, the election may be over, but politics never ends!

Watch us!

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