A look back at the Tennessee primary elections

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Voters can start voting Friday in Tennessee’s Aug. 4 primary election as candidates compete for their party’s nomination for gubernatorial, congressional and state Legislative seats. .

Some local counties will also have judicial elections, ballot initiatives and district attorney races.

Here’s a look at some of the best contests:


Republican Governor Bill Lee is running unopposed in the GOP primary as he seeks a second term, marking the first time in nearly 30 years that an incumbent governor has not had a primary opponent. Meanwhile, three Democratic candidates are hoping to win their party’s nomination. These three people are doctor Jason Martin, Memphis council member JB Smiley Jr. and community activist Carnita Atwater.

Although Tennessee hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office in nearly 15 years, these three hope that the current national political landscape and the discontent of some voters in the first term de Lee will create a path for a Democrat to win the first seat.


Earlier this year, the GOP-dominated Tennessee General Assembly split leftist Nashville into three congressional districts in a bid to move the seat from Democrat to Republican. The change prompted longtime U.S. House Democrat Jim Cooper to announce he would not be seeking re-election because he felt there was no way he could win. .

After a few jockeys to find out who qualifies for the ballot, nine candidates are in the running. That includes Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, former State House Speaker Beth Harwell, of Nashville, and retired Tennessee National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, of Franklin.

State Sen. Heidi Campbell of Nashville is the lone candidate in the Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, five of Tennessee’s nine congressmen run unopposed in the primary: United States House Representatives Diana Harshbarger, Tim Burchett, Scott DesJarlais, John Rose, and Mark Green all run unopposed.

Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis and Republican Congressmen David Kustoff and Chuck Fleischmann battle opponents in the primary.


In the Republican-dominated Legislature, all of Tennessee’s 99 State House seats are up for election this year. There are currently 15 vacant seats, the majority of them held by Republicans. Twenty-one seats feature contested Republican primaries and nine include contested Democratic primaries.

Some of the openings include disgraced former House Speaker Glen Casada, who was ousted from the top position in 2019 due to a series of scandals. Former GOP Rep. Robin Smith resigned earlier this year after facing federal wire charges alleging she ran a political consultation kickback program with Casada and his former chief executive. cabinet, none of whom have been charged to date.

Representative David Byrd will also not be seeking re-election. The Republican faced allegations from three women of sexual misconduct three decades ago when he was a high school teacher and their basketball coach. He was never charged, but two of the women accused Byrd of touching them inappropriately; the third said Byrd had tried.

Byrd initially announced he would retire in 2020, but reversed course, arguing that having an experienced lawmaker was important during the coronavirus pandemic.

Notably, longtime state Rep. John Mark Windle filed as an independent after serving as a registered Democrat for nearly three decades.

In the Senate, 17 of 33 seats are on the ballot, four with contested GOP primaries and two with contested Democratic races. Three incumbent senators leave seats vacant: Republicans Brian Kelsey and Mike Bell, and Democrat Brenda Gilmore. Kelsey faces a federal indictment for violating federal campaign finance laws during his failed congressional campaign in 2016.

Also up for election is a Shelby County seat that Democratic Senator London Lamar of Memphis was nominated to fill after the former senator. Katrina Robinson was expelled from the Senate. Robinson, a Memphis Democrat, was found guilty of using about $3,400 in federal grants for wedding expenses instead of her nursing school. She was deported before her sentence, which did not include jail time. Lamar faces two Democrats in the primary.


Tennessee’s five Supreme Court seats are up for an eight-year retention election in the August primary. They are Jeff Bivins, Sarah Campbell, Sharon Lee, Holly Kirby and Roger Page. They are expected to erase the vote.


Tennessee’s most populous county, Shelby, features some key races and a notable referendum.

County Mayor Lee Harris is challenged by Memphis City Councilman Worth Morgan. Harris, a black Democrat, is seeking his second four-year term. Morgan, a white Republican, has served on the board since 2016.

Outgoing and longtime Republican Shelby County prosecutor Amy Weirich, who has held the position since 2011, faces Democratic civil rights attorney and former county commissioner Steve Mulroy.

The two men clashed in debates, and the issue of abortion lawsuits under the state’s pending “trigger law” became an issue. The law would essentially ban all abortions statewide. It would also make performing an abortion a crime and expose doctors to up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Mulroy said he would make prosecuting those who perform abortions an “extremely low” priority. Weirich has not said categorically whether or not she will sue doctors who perform abortions. Weirich said it would be a violation of Tennessee code for his office “to release a broad, hypothetical statement without an actual charge or case.”

Voters will also decide whether term limits for the Memphis mayor and city council should be expanded from two to three. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he would seek a third term if the referendum passes.