Tag Archives: Tennessee

Hagerty Wins; Harshbarger Takes 1st

By Jim Ellis

Former US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty won the Tennessee Senate Republican nomination.

Aug. 10, 2020 — Former US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty won the Tennessee Senate Republican nomination last Thursday night with a 51-39 percent victory margin over his chief opponent, Dr. Manny Sethi, a Nashville surgeon, in the nation’s only Thursday primary.

Now as the official Republican nominee, Hagerty becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election against businesswoman and environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw, who was an upset winner in the Democratic primary despite spending virtually no money on her campaign.

The last three publicly released Republican primary polls, from JMC Analytics, the Trafalgar Group, and Victory Phones, all forecast a 3-4 point edge, far below Hagerty’s actual percentage spread. The Tarrance Group, which polled at the end of June, was much closer to the final result, predicting a 46-29 percent split in Hagerty’s favor. The surveys, however, were completed through July 19, so it is possible that his late message blitz was responsible for Hagerty gaining strong momentum in the campaign’s final stage that led to a strong victory.

The Democratic side actually became more curious. Attorney James Mackler, who raised and spent more than $2 million and was viewed as a heavy pre-election favorite for Thursday night’s vote, not only lost to Bradshaw, but placed a poor third. In between Bradshaw and Mackler was attorney and Unitarian minister Robin Kimbrough. Together, she and Bradshaw are reporting spending only $17,000 on their combined political effort through the July 17 pre-primary financial disclosure period.

The Republican primary turned into a hard-fought battle between Hagerty, who spent over $9 million, and Dr. Sethi, who was making his first venture into elective politics. Sethi raised and spent well over $4 million. The contest was personal at the end, with both candidates trying to get to the right of the other and launching negative attacks. Hagerty had President Trump and Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s (R) combined endorsement, signaling that he had the conservative credentials necessary to win a Tennessee Republican primary.

East Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) is retiring after serving what will be six complete terms and his successor will be pharmacist and political activist Diana Harshbarger.

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Longshot Candidate Close
In Open Tennessee Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

July 23, 2020 — The open Tennessee Senate race has not gotten much national attention, but we now seem to have a close race brewing in the final days leading up to the state’s Aug. 6 primary. The Volunteer State is the only one to host a Thursday primary.

Dr. Manny Sethi, original long-shot candidate and noted Nashville orthopedic surgeon, has become a viable contender in the Tennessee Senate Republican Primary race.

Once most of the state’s well-known politicos took their names out of consideration after three-term incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) announced his retirement at the end of 2018, former US ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty looked to be the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination. These days in Tennessee, becoming the GOP standard bearer is virtually tantamount to winning a general election.

As the candidates make a dash for the political finish line, original long-shot candidate Manny Sethi, a noted Nashville orthopedic surgeon, has become a viable contender. Three separate polls released last week all found the two candidates within two to four points of each other, with Hagerty, armed with President Trump’s endorsement, clinging to a dwindling lead.

Late Tuesday, JMC Analytics & Polling released their new independent Tennessee survey (July 18-19; 600 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters), which projects Hagerty to be holding a 36-32 percent edge over Dr. Sethi. Last week, both the Trafalgar Group (July 6-8; 1,062 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters) and Victory Phones, the latter for the Sethi campaign (June 30-July 1; 800 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters), released survey results.

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Super Tuesday Has Arrived

Super Tuesday 2020 States & Territories

By Jim Ellis

March 3, 2020 — The election landscape has changed since Saturday with former mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and billionaire Tom Steyer all exiting the race. Sen. Klobuchar endorsed former vice president Joe Biden as did Buttigieg in an announcement last night.

How do these developments and an obvious Joe Biden resurgence affect today’s vote? Maybe not as much as meets the eye. With the early voting processes well underway, and even completed in some states, the late-breaking political news and happenings will influence far fewer voters.

In fact, the three largest states with primaries today, California (415 first-ballot delegates), Texas (228), and North Carolina (110), all have extensive early voting options and large percentages of their voters have already cast their ballots meaning Biden’s sudden upswing in momentum after his South Carolina victory on Saturday night won’t sway them.

In California, more than 2 million people have already voted, which may translate into as much as one-third of the total Democratic presidential primary turnout. In 2016, more than 5.1 million people voted in the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders race in June of that year. Returning to today, more than one million have already voted in Texas, and 800,000-plus have cast their ballots in North Carolina.

Thirty-eight states have some form of early voting, even if it is merely an in-person absentee system like those found in Minnesota and Virginia. For Super Tuesday, of the 14 states with primary elections today, only Alabama and Colorado have no early voting. The latter state fully conducts all-mail balloting but has no pre-election process in which to submit votes.

Looking at the current political map, though the establishment is making moves to coalesce behind Biden, the latest polling suggests that Sen. Sanders leads in nine primaries today and it’s possible, even with the candidate departures, that as many as three contenders in almost all of the states could still qualify for delegate apportionment.

Today will also mark the first time that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s name will be on the ballot and how he fares will be telling. Depending upon how many votes he takes could prevent one of the leading candidates from securing majority support, meaning the race evolving into a contested national convention is still a possibility.

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The Open Primary Effect

Super Tuesday 2020 States and Territories


By Jim Ellis

Feb. 26, 2020 — One factor for the coming March 3 Super Tuesday primary elections that hasn’t received any discussion is whether or not the open voting system will have a major effect upon the final results. Though only 24 states around the country feature open, or semi-open, primaries, all but two of the 15 Super Tuesday states lie in this category.

For purposes of this column, South Carolina, scheduled for this Saturday and the prelude to the mega-state vote, is added to the Super Tuesday roster because of its close proximity. America Samoa, which also holds its nomination election on March 3, is a caucus.

An open primary is one where any voter may choose to participate in the nomination election of his or her choice. In these states, voters typically are not registered by political party and can select either a Democratic or Republican ballot. A semi-closed primary is one where registered party members must stay in their respective party primary, but the unaffiliated, or Independent, voter may choose the primary in which to participate. A closed primary allows only individuals who are registered in a particular political party to vote in their respective nomination election.

Pertaining to Super Tuesday, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia are the open primary states. The semi-opens are Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah.

The two closed presidential primaries for the big day are California and Maine. Despite California featuring the ultimate open primary system in their regular elections, where everyone receives the same ballot and the top two finishers advance to the general election regardless of political party affiliation and percentage attained, only registered party members may vote in their respective presidential primary. Therefore, in the national nomination contest, where the top-two system is not recognized for delegate allocation, the Golden State reverts to the closed procedure.

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Late Senate Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 27, 2020 — Our final installment pertaining to the in-cycle Senate races covers the contests with primaries from mid-August through September:

AUGUST 6

Tennessee: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) is retiring and the Tennessee open Senate seat has generated little in the way of political competition. Republican leaders, including President Trump, have joined together in support of former US Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, and he is a heavy favorite to win the party nomination and the general election. Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi is challenging Hagerty in the Republican primary, but him topping the former ambassador for the party nomination would be a major upset.
Dr. Sethi does have the wherewithal to compete, however. Through September, he loaned his campaign over $1.5 million in addition to raising almost $900,000. For the fourth quarter, Hagerty is going to report over $1.5 million raised with $3 million in the bank.
Democrats have virtually conceded the general election, largely as a response to then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) defeating the person they believed was their best possible Democratic candidate in the last election, the state’s former two-term governor, Phil Bredesen. Blackburn’s strong 55-44 percent victory margin against the best they have has clearly dissuaded potential Democratic candidates who may have considered entering this year’s open contest.
Of the three who look to file on April 2, attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler, who exited the 2018 Senate race at the party leadership’s behest, is now their candidate of choice but he appears to be a sacrificial lamb at this point.

AUGUST 11

Minnesota: Then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) was appointed to the Senate in 2018 when then-Sen. Al Franken (D) resigned in disgrace over a sexual harassment scandal. Smith won the subsequent special election, 53-42 percent, over state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s County). She now stands for a full term and will likely draw former one-term US representative and radio talk show host Jason Lewis (R).
The former congressman is capable of running a credible campaign, and should the presidential race again get close in Minnesota as it did in the last election with Hillary Clinton carrying the state by less than two percentage points, the Senate race could conceivably become close. In any event, Sen. Smith is certainly favored to win again, but the campaign bears watching in case developments begin to break the Republicans’ way.

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