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Tennessee - 8th District

Incumbent -- John Tanner (D) ; Will retire at end of current term (announced Dec. 1, 2009)

Likely Republican
Race Ratings Key

Updated Oct. 14, 2010

For a race that features a professional gospel singer and an ex-minister, the battle for the 8th district has gotten pretty nasty.

Republican Stephen Fincher, a farmer who also tours with his family singing group, emerged from one of the most expensive primaries this cycle in the rural western Tennessee district that Tanner has held for more than two decades.

Fincher is a first-time candidate who quickly became a darling of national Republican recruiters, who think he's the right kind of candidate for this cycle's "outsider" environment.

But immediately after the August primary, the Democratic nominee, state Sen. Roy Herron, revived a line of attack that was used against Fincher in the GOP race. Herron released a commercial that accused Fincher of violating election law by not disclosing some of his family's assets and liabilities on his personal disclosure form. Herron has repeatedly called Fincher "unworthy of our trust."

Fincher has taken the attacks personally. He has accused Herron's camp of twisting the truth and has refused to debate Herron unless he takes down his commercials and apologizes for them. Democrats say Fincher's refusal to debate is evidence that he's hiding something, and they've dragged the issue out for more than five weeks. Tanner has gotten involved and has called on Fincher to "come clean" on the source of one of his loans.

Republicans are trying to change the storyline of the race and talk about how Herron would empower Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) if he gets to Washington, D.C.

Several conservative third-party groups have also gotten involved in the race on Fincher's behalf. But the well-funded Herron has done a good job of staying on offense in a conservative seat that will be a tough one for Democrats to hold in such a Republican-friendly year.


District Information

District Profile from Politics in America

The mighty Mississippi to the west and the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers to the east frame the rolling hills and flat farmland that make up the predominately rural 8th. As residents move in to Memphis' northern suburbs and Nashville's western outposts, this once Democratic-leaning district has increasingly strong Republican ties.

The 8th is poor, but stable manufacturing in the Jackson area protects the economy from further decline. A Pringles potato chip facility in Jackson employs many district residents. Tire, auto parts and chicken processing plants dot less-populous areas. Mechanization hurt factory employment, but it improved productivity on the district's many small cotton and soybean farms.

Two state prisons provide much-needed government jobs, and a naval air station supports a significant portion of the workforce. In the north, Clarksville hosts Austin Peay State University and continues to experience population growth.

The Tennessee River feeds into Kentucky Lake in the northeast, where conservationists journey each summer. The waterways of the Tennessee Valley Authority dams and power plants attract many avid hunters and fishermen to the district. Thousands of birdwatchers flock to Reelfoot Lake in the northwest each winter to view bald eagle migration.

Major Industry

Manufacturing, agriculture, government

Military Bases

Naval Support Activity Mid-South, 929 military, 1,493 civilian (2009)


Jackson, 65,211; Memphis (pt.), 49,409; Clarksville (pt.), 21,165; Dyersburg, 17,145


Paris hosts a 60-foot tall replica Eiffel Tower.




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