By Steve Hunley

The recent midterm election in Tennessee was historic.  I double checked my facts and Bill Lee is the first Republican governor-elect to take over from a member of his own party since 1869.

Since 1970’s election of Republican Winfield Dunn, Tennesseans have gone back and forth between electing Republican and Democrat governors.  A Republican administration would be followed by that of a Democrat.  Bill Lee is even reminiscent of Winfield Dunn, a man of great personal charm who had virtually no real political experience when he was first elected in 1970, nor had Dunn ever been elected to any office prior to being elected governor.

Bill Lee faced two better-known and better-financed candidates in Congresswoman Diane Black and businessman Randy Boyd, who had the tacit support of the Haslam administration.  Lee began to rise in the polls after Black and Boyd began dumping negative political ads on one another.  Lee’s message was compelling, a mixture of looking to the future with hope and an unrelenting positive message.  Bill Lee stressed the fact he was a political outsider who had never held elective office.  Lee also acknowledged his strong religious faith on the campaign trail.  Boyd had attempted to portray himself as a political outsider and successful businessman with no experience in elective office.  It was a better fit for Bill Lee who won the primary handily and Karl Dean, the former mayor of Nashville, never seemed to resonate with Tennesseans.  Lee easily prevailed in the general election.

For much of the Senate campaign, Democrats were hopeful that former governor Phil Bredesen could win the general election.  On paper at least, that did not seem to be out of the realm of possibility.  Bredesen had won all ninety-five of Tennessee’s counties in his 2006 reelection campaign.  Bredesen tried to establish his own credentials as willing to work across the aisle and with President Trump.  Phil Bredesen also began the campaign better known than Marsha Blackburn, a middle Tennessee congresswoman.

Blackburn campaigned hard as a supporter of President Trump and it simply proved too much for Bredesen.  The former governor ran well in Tennessee’s urban areas, winning Davidson and Shelby counties and only narrowly losing in Knox and Hamilton counties.  Blackburn won the Senate race handily by winning the suburban and rural counties by good margins.  Marsha Blackburn’s victory is historic, as she becomes the first woman ever elected to represent Tennessee in the United States Senate.

Tennessee also elected three new congressmen, all Republicans: Tim Burchett will succeed Jimmy Duncan in Congress, while Dr. Mark Green will succeed Diane Black and John Rose will take Blackburn’s place in the House of Representatives.

The Tennessee General Assembly remains solidly Republican and governor-elect Bill Lee is well poised to carry out his agenda.  Tennessee voters can congratulate themselves on making history.