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Tennessee Primary Today; Tight Race Forming in Arizona Senate; Godlewski Drops From Wisconsin Senate Race; Indiana Rep. Walorski, Three Others Killed in Crash

Tennessee Congressional Districts (click on image to see larger)

By Jim Ellis — August 4, 2022

Primary

Tennessee Primary Today: While still waiting for the remaining final numbers from Tuesday’s Arizona, Michigan, and Washington primaries, Volunteer State voters will go to the polls today to choose their nominees in the nation’s only Thursday primary.

There is no Senate race in the state in this election cycle, as Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R) will next be on the ballot in 2024 with Sen. Bill Hagerty (R) presumably running for his second term in 2026. While Gov. Bill Lee (R) is in-cycle this year, he is unopposed in today’s Republican primary.

Three Democrats are tonight vying for their party nomination, which of course will give the winner the right to challenge the governor in November. The only elected official of the group is Memphis City Councilman J.B. Smiley. Challenging him are physician Jason Martin and African American History Museum founder Carnita Atwater. Regardless of tonight’s outcome, Gov. Lee will be rated as a prohibitive favorite in the general election.

In the nine congressional races, five Republican incumbents are all unopposed for re-nomination this evening. Two incumbents — Reps. Charles Fleishmann (R-Chattanooga) and Steve Cohen (D-Memphis), the state’s lone Democratic member on the ballot this year — face only minor opponents. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Germantown) has three opponents tonight, but none look to be serious challengers. Therefore, all of the action lies in the open 5th District.

Retiring Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) has represented the district since the beginning of 2003. However, as a result of redistricting, Tennesseans decided to restructure a new 5th District, which was formerly a Nashville center city seat and wholly contained within Davidson County. As a result, the FiveThirtyEight organization rates the new 5th as R+15, thus upending what was a D+17 domain, which is one of the widest partisan redistricting swings in the nation. The Dave’s Redistricting App partisan lean calculations sees the new 5th as 54.4 – 42.6 percent in the Republicans’ favor. Nine Republicans are on the ballot, and with no runoff law in Tennessee, a plurality winner will be chosen tonight.

TN-5 attracted much attention just after redistricting because the state Republican Party decided to add qualifications for their candidates, such as voting in the most recent three statewide elections. The party requirement, which survived a court challenge, was designed to bounce former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, music producer Robby Starbuck, and businessman Baxter Lee from participating in the election. It was successful. All three had just recently moved to the area.

Once today’s Tennessee primary concludes, 36 states will have completed their nomination process. Two big states will remain, however, Florida, and the New York congressional and state Senate primary, both scheduled for Aug. 23.

Senate

Arizona: New Post-Primary Poll Shows Tight Race Forming — Venture capitalist Blake Masters won the Republican Senate primary on Tuesday night, and a new OnMessage survey already shows him within striking distance of Sen. Mark Kelly (D). The poll (Aug. 1-2; 600 likely Arizona general election voters) finds the senator leading Masters, 49-44 percent.

We can expect the Arizona race to be one of the most heavily polled general election campaigns during the remaining time before the Nov. 8 election. Arizona is a tight political state, and this race will go a long way toward determining which party controls the Senate in the next Congress.

Wisconsin: Dem Race Ends — While it looked as if state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski would have a last-ditch opportunity to deny Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes the Democratic US Senate nomination in a one-on-one race, that will not be the case. After both Milwaukee Bucks basketball club executive Alex Lasry and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson dropped out of the race, some believed Godlewski could become a factor in the closing days before the Aug. 9 primary election.

Late last week, however, Godlewski followed suit and ended her Senate campaign. All three now former candidates have endorsed Lt. Gov. Barnes, meaning a united Democratic Party will head into the general election to oppose Sen. Ron Johnson (R). The Johnson-Barnes campaign will be national in scope and one of the key races to decide the next Senate majority.

House

IN-2: Rep. Walorski, Three Others Killed in Crash — Indiana five-term Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-Elkart) and three others were all tragically killed in a car accident yesterday. The congresswoman and her two aides were returning from an event in the district, and died when another vehicle crossed the median line and struck them head-on. The driver of that car also died.

Walorski, who was 58, is the sixth House member to pass away in this session of Congress. Indiana state law will govern the succession procedure to replace the late representative.

Incumbent Defeats — Tuesday’s defeats of Michigan Reps. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) and Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township) in their respective Republican and Democratic primaries are the ninth and tenth House incumbents to lose their seats in this election cycle. Five come from both parties. Five of the incumbent losses are redistricting related, two because of ethics or personal behavior problems, one for ideological reasons, and a pair on the Republican side, such as Rep. Meijer, for voting to impeach then-President Trump.

The “Sweet” Sixteen House Races

Continuing our sector review of the 16 most competitive political campaigns reflective of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament’s spirit, we today turn to the US House campaigns:

AZ-1: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) won a similar version of this seat in 2008, lost it in 2010, and reacquired it last November when incumbent Paul Gosar (R) decided to seek re-election in District 4. With a 2012 victory percentage of only 49 percent in a district that Mitt Romney carried, Kirkpatrick can again expect stiff competition in 2014.

AZ-2: Rep. Ron Barber (D) who replaced his former boss, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords upon her resignation, had a closer than expected regular election contest against Republican Martha McSally. With Barber only scoring an even 50 percent of the 2012 vote, expect a strong re-match effort from retired Gulf War veteran McSally.

CA-26: When the California Citizens Redistricting Commission crafted this Ventura County district, they did so with the idea of making a marginal 50-50 seat. The goal was achieved, so freshman incumbent Julia Brownley (D) will continue to face strong competition likely for the rest of the decade. Former state senator Tony Strickland lost to Brownley in November and is considering seeking a re-match in 2014. Rep. Buck McKeon (R) deciding to retire in adjacent District 25, however, could attract Strickland to what would be an open seat.

CA-31: Rep. Gary Miller represents the strongest Obama district in the country (57 percent) that elected a Republican congressman. He was fortunate to draw another Republican in the 2012 general election, but will likely face a Democrat in 2014. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D), who failed to qualify for the general election last year, is looking to run again. This will be a top Democratic conversion target.
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