Politics

Tennessee Poised to Return to All-Male House Delegation in 2019

Tim Burchett, John Rose win contested GOP primaries; David Kustoff survives challenge

Tennessee Republican John Rose won the GOP nod in the 6th District on Thursday night. (Courtesy John Rose)

Tennessee appears poised to switch to an all-male House delegation next Congress after the only woman in a contested open-seat Republican primary lost Thursday night. 

The two women in the state’s current House delegation opted not to run for re-election. 6th District Rep. Diane Black lost her GOP primary for governor Thursday night, while 7th District Rep. Marsha Blackburn easily secured the Republican nod for Senate. There has been at least one woman in the Volunteer State’s House delegation since Blackburn was first elected in 2002. 

Meanwhile, GOP Rep. David Kustoff won a rematch against a big-spending perennial candidate in the West Tennessee-based 8th District. 

2nd District

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett won the GOP nomination for Tennessee’s open 2nd District on Thursday night, likely becoming the next member of Congress from the safe Republican seat.

With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Burchett had 49 percent of the vote in the seven-way primary, according to The Associated Press, with state Rep. Jimmy Matlock and Tennessee Air National Guard Lt. Col. Ashley Nickloes trailing with 35 and 11 percent, respectively.

For the first time in more than fifty years, the Knoxville-area district will not be represented by someone with the last name Duncan. Current GOP Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (whose father held the seat before him) is retiring.

The defeat of Nickloes, who was the only female candidate in the GOP primary, also means that Tennessee is unlikely to have any women in its House delegation next year.

Burchett was first elected to the state House in 1994, and has never lost a race since. He’s well-known in the area for headline-grabbing moves, such as introducing a “road kill bill” in the state Senate that would allow motorists to eat the carcasses they killed and later for bringing the Animal Planet show “Finding Bigfoot” to Knox County. He’s also faced negative headlines for ethical problems. Citing anonymous sources, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported in December that Burchett may have been the subject of an FBI investigation into possible tax evasion or bribery, which he has denied.

Matlock had Duncan’s endorsement. He also received financial support from North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. 

Nickloes had the support of  Winning for Women, which spent $27,000 on digital ads for her. Defending Main Street made a more significant investment, spending $100,000 on TV ads in the Knoxville market.

Burchett will face Democrat Renee Hoyos, a former environmental nonprofit executive, in the general election. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican. President Donald Trump carried the 2nd District by 35 points in 2016. 

6th District

Former Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner John Rose won the GOP nomination Thursday night for Black’s open 6th District seat, and is also highly favored to win in the fall in this safe Republican seat. 

With 89 percent of precincts reporting, Rose led a five-way primary field with 42 percent of the vote, according to the AP. Former Judge Bob Corlew was second place with 32 percent.

Rose has deep ties to the state’s farming community, having chaired the Tennessee State Fair Association and the Tennessee Future Farmers of America Foundation. He also owns a software and technology company that trains IT professionals.

The primary for the Middle Tennessee-based seat was mostly about who was most loyal to Trump, who carried the district by nearly 50 points in 2016. Rose featured images of him with the president prominently in his advertising, while Corlew argued that he was the president’s strongest ally by pointing to attacks against him from an anti-Trump group called American Future Fund. The group spent millions of dollars against Trump in 2016.

Both candidates were well-funded and kicked significant personal resources into their campaigns, Corlew much more so than Rose.

The Freedom Caucus’ choice in this race, state Rep. Judd Matheny, was in third place. He also had the backing of the National Rifle Association and GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein.

Rose will face physician Dawn Barlow in November after she comfortably won the Democratic nomination. Inside Elections rates the 6th District race Solid Republican

7th District

State Sen. Mark Green ran uncontested for the GOP nomination in the 7th District to replace Blackburn. He will face film producer and two-time “The Amazing Race” contestant Justin Kanew in the general election. Kanew, who was endorsed by grass-roots progressive group Indivisible, beat back a challenge from Matt Reel, an Army Green Beret who had to pause campaigning while on active-duty service.

Inside Elections rates the race for the Middle Tennessee-based seat Solid Republican. Trump carried the 7th District by 39 points in 2016. 

8th District

Kustoff survived a primary challenge from perennial candidate and self-funder George Flinn on Thursday night. 

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the freshman congressman led Flinn 56 percent to 40 percent, according to the AP, as he sought a second term representing the West Tennessee seat anchored in suburban Memphis.

Flinn had been outspending Kustoff by more than 2-to-1 and had been hammering him on the airwaves for weeks. Trump last week endorsed Kustoff, one of two Jewish Republicans in the House. Kustoff immediately used the endorsement in his advertising. He also had the backing of the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life.

This is Flinn’s fifth loss in a federal race in as many election cycles. He lost previous bids for the seat in 2010 and 2016. He lost a race for the Memphis-based 9th District in 2012. He unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Lamar Alexander in a GOP primary in 2014, and later lost a race for a state Senate seat that year. 

The Democratic race in the 8th District was still too close to call with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Erika Stotts Pearson held a razor-thin edge over progressive favorite John Boatner. But Kustoff will be heavily favored against either candidate in a seat Trump carried by 36 points in 2016. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican

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