Tennessee governor’s race could prove historic

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, July 11, 2018

One would think Donald Trump is running for governor in Tennessee, especially when you look at the TV advertisements of Republican candidates Diane Black and Randy Boyd. Black, who presently serves in Congress, has tried to cash in on her ties with Trump while Boyd is trying to liken himself to Trump when it comes to speaking his mind and acting independently.
Two other Republican candidates, Bill Lee and Beth Harwell, have tried to run more positive campaigns, and are touting their own successes rather than their ties to Trump. Harwell serves as Tennessee Speaker of the House and Lee is a Nashville business man.
Lee touts his image as an outsider — not a politician and his success as a businessman.
Harwell in TV ads promotes her record as House Speaker — the only candidate to lead Tennessee to eight balanced budgets, lower taxes, and lead the state to have the lowest debt of all states.
Black, Harwell, Boyd and Lee are vying to become the first Republican governor elected to take over from a member of their own party since 1869.
The election could be even more historic if either Harwell or Black is elected, making her the state’s first female governor.
On the Democrat side, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and former Tennessee House member Craig Fitzhugh are seeking the nomination for governor in the August Primary.
Dean and Fitzhugh, meanwhile, are hoping to keep a trend alive. Since 1967, Tennessee has not consecutively elected governors from the same party. Dean is widely considered the favorite between the two.
Whoever becomes the Democratic Party’s nominee will inherently benefit from the fact that former Gov. Phil Bredesen — the last Democrat in Tennessee to win a statewide race — also will be on the ballot.
The significance of the governor’s contest in Tennessee extends beyond the state’s borders. A Democrat victory would be welcomed by both the state and national parties and would diminish Trump. Neither Dean nor Phil Bredesen, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator to replace retiring Bob Corker, have bashed Trump. Both have said their main priority is to work for Tennessee.
Both Dean and Bredesen remain that old-fashioned conservative, who talk about their business experience, lowering taxes, less legislation, and being job creators.
Democrats also hope national history remains on their side: In midterm elections, the party in the White House frequently suffers setbacks.
President Trump has campaigned in Tennessee for both Diane Black and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running in the Republican Primary in hopes of replacing Corker in the U.S. Senate.
Thus far, Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican who is term-limited, has avoided weighing into the race beyond a handful of issues.
As the six top-tier gubernatorial candidates have campaigned, they’ve shown differences of opinion on everything from guns, education and the opioid crisis to economic incentives and Medicaid expansion.
Whichever Republican wins the primary, they will undoubtedly look to build upon the successes and accomplishments of Haslam. He implemented a popular free college education program that has become a national model and successfully increased the state’s gas tax for the first time in nearly 30 years to pay for transportation needs.
Democrats, meanwhile, will look to take a different approach, starting with Medicaid expansion while also facing the prospect of having to reach across the aisle and work with Republican supermajorities in the state legislature.
Tennessee’s next governor also will face the prospect of working with major turnover in the state legislature, which is set to see its largest class of freshman lawmakers in more than a decade.
The August primary election in Tennessee should prove interesting.

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