Aug. 8, 2016 — Volunteer State voters went to the polls in their unique Thursday primary last week to choose congressional and state office nominees. The evening featured two of the most watched congressional races in the state, the GOP primary challenge to three-term Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg) and the crowded open 8th District from which three-term Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump/Jackson) is retiring.
Former Mitt Romney campaign official and attorney Grant Starrett challenged Rep. DesJarlais, who had been plagued for two cycles with the past scandal of engaging in extra-marital affairs with several of his female medical practice patients. Yet, he managed to survive in close contests. Two years ago, the congressman nipped former state Sen. Jim Tracy (R) by a mere 38 votes in winning with less than a majority in a multi-candidate field.
On Thursday, DesJarlais’ percentage was much better, defending himself against Starrett’s attacks from the ideological right and winning 52-43 percent, from a vote pool of just under 47,000 cast ballots. Though Starrett talked a great deal about ethics in his ads and public appearances, he did not reference DesJarlais’ affairs. Starrett had a significant resource advantage, possibly outspending the incumbent by 75 percent or more. We will see the final expenditure totals when the candidates soon file their post-election financial disclosure reports. Starrett will have likely spent in the $1.5 million range. Rep. DesJarlais now looks to be a sure re-election bet in the fall.
Aug. 5, 2016 — The country’s only Thursday primary took place yesterday in the Volunteer State of Tennessee. No US Senate race was on the ballot there this year, but competition existed within the House delegation.
The state featured one open seat, the 8th District of retiring three-term Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump/Jackson), and a total of six primaries in the state’s nine CDs.
The 4th District challenge to Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg/ Murfreesboro) was very serious. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) again drew competition from the legendary political Ford family, but the contest is not attracting much in the way of attention or challenger financial support. Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) drew a former state representative and statewide candidate, but he, too, was not expected to be a major threat.
The remaining challenges, those to Reps. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), were minor. Regarding the latter member, this was the first time since his original election in 2010 that Fleischmann had an easy Republican primary run.
Feb. 4, 2016 — The Iowa delegate count released a day after the first-in-the-nation caucus concluded suggested that declaring a “winner” of the nominating event is a bit of a misnomer.
Though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) finished first in the Republican race, his delegate take appears to be a grand total of eight. Second and third place finishers, Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are awarded seven delegates apiece. Dr. Ben Carson receives three delegates, and all other participants get one apiece. Therefore, Cruz’s Iowa “victory” is netting him a one-delegate margin. He now needs 1,229 delegate votes to win the nomination, while Trump and Rubio both need 1,230, thus putting the Iowa Caucus vote into perspective.
The Democrats have a much more complicated delegate apportionment formula that rewards margin of victory in geographic regions. Therefore, despite Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) pulling into a virtual tie with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton within the state delegate system (701-697), the national delegates break 29-21 in the latter’s favor. This being said, in the face of claims to the contrary, Clinton did actually place first in Iowa because she gained in the all-important national delegate count. Under the Democratic structure a candidate needs 2,383 delegate votes to win the presidential nomination. Continue reading →