NASHVILLE, TN –Former mayor Karl Dean lost to Bill Lee in the Tennessee Governor’s race yesterday and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn beat Phil Bredesen for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Bob Corker. Tennessee’s congressional delegation remains unchanged, seven of Tennessee’s nine U.S. Congressmen are Republicans, two are Democrats.
Nationally, Democrats picked up 26 House seats in Tuesday’s election. Republicans picked up two Senate seats. Democrats gained 7 governorships. Here are the numbers so far: in the House, 222 Democrats, 199 Republicans; in the Senate, 51 Republicans, 45 Democrats; in Governors’ mansions, 25 Republicans, 22 Democrats.
“I applied for the job but got a rejection letter,” Bredesen told supporters at the Nashville Hilton Tuesday night. He thanked his campaign volunteers and told millennials not to be discouraged or give up on politics. He said he ran for office four times before he won his first race.
Midterm elections usually favor the opposition and, as expected, the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives last night. But Republicans added two Senate seats and now have a three-seat majority. So the midterm election was a split decision, neither a blue wave nor a red tide.
The President was not a candidate anywhere but Trumpism was on the ballot in every state, according to UCLA Political Scientist John Zaller. While the President’s prestige has suffered a bit, he and his party have not been humiliated. They won key races in Missouri, Florida, Texas, and Tennessee. Democrats scored big in Nevada and California.
“It will just go on the way it’s been with a lot of noise and not much happening as far as Congress is concerned,” Zaller said. Major new policy is unusual in the second half of a term anyway, according to Zaller.
Because the Democrats did not win both houses of Congress, Trump’s standing within his own party will not diminish. The Republican Party was Trump’s party and it still is. Zaller says more candidates will run as Trump candidates in 2020 and he will face fewer challengers from within the party if he runs for a second term.
“I think Trump is going to remain Trump and he is going to attack the media, make outrageous tweets, and try to play to group tensions in the country. That’s just not going to change,” he said. Most Republican politicians will continue to be afraid to distance themselves from the President and he won’t worry about offending party leaders.
“He will continue of act outside the normal rules of American politics and get away with it,” Zaller said.
Dirty tricks by Republicans kept votes from being counted in several states. (see https://tntribune.com/community/local/memphis/sec-of-state-raises-false-alarm-republicans-playing-dirty-tricks/) Voter suppression tactics in Georgia, Florida, and Texas shaved off just enough percentage points to keep Democrats from winning some key races. The news media has been doing some heavy post mortem election analysis but nobody has mentioned that it’s hard to win elections when the other side cheats. Hanging chads and a ruling by Florida’s then Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Republican, sank Al Gore’s bid for the White House in 2000.
Now in 2018, Stacey Abrams has fallen 1 percent behind Brian Kemp in the Georgia governor’s race. She has not conceded the race with thousands of provisional and absentee ballots still to be counted. There could be a runoff if Kemp doesn’t get more than 50 percent of the total vote.
In Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson has called for a recount in the Senate race with Governor Rick Scott. Scott polled 50.2 percent and Nelson got 49.8 percent. State law requires a recount if the difference is .5 percent or less. If those numbers hold, Scott will be declared the winner. In the Florida Governor’s race, Republican Ron DeSantis outpolled Democrat Andrew Gillum by one point.
In Texas, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz beat Democrat Beto O’Rourke by less than 3 points. O’Rourke conceded Tuesday night. Some small comfort in the Governor’s race in Kansas where the architect of voter roll purges, Kris Kobach, was beaten by Laura Kelly, 47.8 to 43.3 percent.
Heavy turnout by Democrats flipped state houses in six states.
In local elections, Brenda Gilmore, Vincent Dixon, and Bob Freeman won their races. Gilmore will replace Thelma Harper in the Senate 19th District. Vincent Dixie will replace Gilmore in the 54th House District, and in District 56, Freeman will replace Beth Harwell, the former Republican House Speaker.
Three Democratic incumbents were re-elected to the Tennessee State Senate: Sen. Jeff Yarbro (21st District), Sen. Raumesh Akbari (District 29), and Sen. Katrina Robinson (District 33). Twenty-five Democrats were elected to the House. That chamber remains the same with 25 Democrats and 74 Republicans.
Much speculation is going on about whether the Democrats will demand to see the President’s tax returns or retool federal policies Trump has set in Washington. There has been no realignment in Tennessee politics and it remains the same as it was before the midterms except that Marsha Blackburn is much more of a Trump supporter than outgoing Sen. Bob Corker ever was.