2020 Primary Election Update


 Last night’s election was a mixed bag of expected conclusions, surprise upsets and razor thin margins for open seats. Full results can be found here and a summary of some of the more notable races is below.

US Senate

  • In one of the most heated and negative primary campaigns in the country, former Economic and Community Development Commissioner and Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, who was endorsed by President Trump, defeated Dr. Manny Sethi  and 13 other candidates to win the Republican nomination for the open US Senate seat created by Sen. Lamar Alexander’s retirement.  Hagerty won with about 51% of the vote.
  • On the Democratic side, Marquita Bradshaw, an environmentalist and activist from Memphis who raised less than $9,000, defeated James Mackler and three others with about 36% of the vote in a surprising upset.  Mackler, who initially ran against Sen. Blackburn in 2018 but bowed out of the race when former governor Phil Bredesen decided to run, is a Nashville attorney and former Army helicopter pilot who was endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Bredesen and others and reported raising $2.1 million.

1st Congressional District

  • In the Republican primary to replace retiring Congressman Phil Roe in northeast Tennessee, Kingsport pharmacist Diana Harshbarger garnered less than 20% of the vote in defeating 15 other candidates to win the nomination in the heavily Republican district.  The hotly-contested primary included Sen. Rusty Crowe, Rep. Timothy Hill and Rep. David Hawk, who is also running for reelection to his House seat.

TN Senate

  • District 20: In a tight race for the Democratic nomination to face Sen. Steve Dickerson in November, Heidi Campbell defeated Kimi Abernathy by a margin of 51%-49%.  Campbell, the mayor of Nashville satellite city Oak Hill, will face Dickerson, the lone Republican from Nashville in the General Assembly, in what is expected to be a competitive race this fall.
  • District 26:  In the open seat contest to replace retiring Sen. Delores Gresham, former State Representative Paige Walley defeated former Agriculture Commissioner and County Mayor Jai Templeton by a vote of 53%-47%.  Gresham had endorsed Templeton to succeed her.
  • All of the incumbent senators who faced primary opponents defeated their challengers.

TN House
It was a different story for House incumbents, however, where three Republicans and one Democrat fell to primary challengers.  

  • Rep. Matthew Hill (R – Jonesborough), Rep. Micah Van Huss (R – Jonesborough), Rep. Rick Tillis (R – Lewisburg) and Rep. Rick Staples (D – Knoxville) each lost their primary contests.
  • In Knoxville, former mayoral candidate Eddie Mannis narrowly defeated Gina Oster for the Republican nomination for the seat being vacated by Rep. Martin Daniel.  Mannis will face Democrat Virginia Couch in the general.  
  • In the open seat left by Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn’s retirement, former Knox County Commissioner Michele Carringer won a hard-fought Republican primary to face Democrat Elizabeth Rowland.
  • In west Tennessee, Republican John Gillespie and Democratic Gabby Salinas each won their respective contests to face each other for the open seat created by the retirement of Rep. Jim Coley (R – Bartlett).  
  • In the race for the seat of retiring Rep. Andy Holt (R – Dresden), Tandy Darby won a five-way contest for the Republican nomination with 38% of the vote.  With no Democrat in the race, Darby will be the next Representative for District 76.
  • In the Republican primary for Rep. Timothy Hill’s seat, who eschewed a reelection campaign to run for Congress, former representative Scotty Campbell won the nomination with 74% of the vote.  With no Democrat in the race, Campbell will return to the Legislature in January.