2012 Elections preview: Tennessee voters take to the polls

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August 1, 2012

By Ballotpedia's Congressional and State legislative teams

The primary season is picking up again, with elections in Tennessee.

Here is what to look for in Tennessee, where the polls will be open from 7am to 7pm:

Contested Primaries in Tennessee -- August 2, 2012
U.S. House
(9 seats)
State Legislature
(115 seats)
Total Democratic Contested Primaries 3 (33.3%) 18 (15%)
Total Republican Contested Primaries 7 (77.8%) 46 (40%)

U.S. House

United States House of Representatives elections in Tennessee, 2012

Tennessee has a total of nine seats on the ballot in 2012. A total of 49 candidates have filed to run, made up of 24 Republicans, 12 Democrats, and 13 Independents. All nine incumbents are running for re-election. But of those, only two are running without a primary challenge. Republican Reps. Phil Roe in Tennessee's 1st congressional district and Marsha Blackburn of Tennesee's 7th congressional district are lucky enough to face Thursday's election without a primary challenge.

The most crowded primary race is the Republican field in Tennessee's 5th congresional district. There, five GOP candidates are vying for the chance to take on Democratic incumbent Rep. Jim Cooper in November. Coooper is one of the few moderate Blue Dog Democrats remaining in Congress. Since being elected to Congress for a second time in 2002, Cooper has easily won his re-election bids and 2012 likely won't be any different. Though the Republican field is crowded, Cooper's district wasn't affected much by the redistricting process. meaning he's facing the same voters this year who have sent him back to Congress for a decade. According to Larry Sabato's "Crystal Ball," the 5th district is rated safely Democratic for 2012.[1]

In Tennessee's 3rd congressional district, Republican incumbent Charles J. Fleischmann is facing a particularly tough primary challenge from three fellow GOPers: Weston Wamp, Charles Mayfield, and Ron Bhalla. All told, more than $1 million has been spent to defeat Fleischmann, who was just elected in 2010. In the beginning, the primary race between Fleischmann's three challengers was was cordial and respectful. Over time, however, it has descended into a race dominated by attacks and negative ads as the candidates seek to distinguish themselves. Wamp began by attacking Fleischmann for voting too much with the GOP House leadership. Even Mayfield descended into negativity and began attacking the incumbent.[2]

Another incumbent facing a particularly tough primary challenge is Republican Rep. Diane Black in Tennessee's 6th congressional district. Tennessee millionaire Andy Miller is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat Black and support Tea Party candidate Lou Ann Zelenik. Miller is a strong advocate of an anit-Islamist agenda, and faults Black for not taking the threat of radical Islam seriously enough. Zelenik, on the other hand, is a strong voice against Islam. But Black has still spent about a million dollars on her re-election is likely to win the primary.[3]

State legislature

Tennessee State Senate elections, 2012 and Tennessee House of Representatives elections, 2012

There are 115 total legislative seats with elections in 2012 -- 16 Senate seats and 99 House seats.

There are 18 (15%) contested Democratic primaries and 46 (40%) contested Republican primaries. Thus, there will be 64 races tomorrow with at least two candidates on the ballot. The 64 major party primaries represents 28% of possible primaries tomorrow. This figure is slightly higher the current national contested average of 24.18% for states that have had filing deadlines.


In the Senate, there are a total of 5 incumbents facing a primary challenge. These are some of the important races:

Republican Party District 2: Incumbent Doug Overbey is running against Scott Hughes.
Republican Party District 14: Incumbent Jim Tracy faces Matt Randolph.
Republican Party District 30: Incumbent Jim Kyle is challenged by incumbent Beverly Marrero.


In the House, there are a total of 32 incumbents facing a primary challenge - 10 Democrats and 22 Republicans. These are some of the races to watch:

Republican Party District 2: Republican incumbent Tony Shipley is challenged by Ben Mallicote.
Republican Party District 11: Incumbent Jeremy Faison (R) is running against Phil Morgan Jr..
Republican Party District 20: Bob Ramsey is challenged by Tona Monroe.
Democratic Party District 28: Incumbent Tommie F. Brown (D) is challenged by district 29 incumbent JoAnne Favors.

Tennessee State Senate
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 13 7
     Republican Party 20 26
Total 33 33

Tennessee House of Representatives
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 34 27
     Republican Party 64 71
     Independent 0 1
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 99 99

See also

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