2018 Tennessee Primary Election Update
Written by: Alex Curtis | Posted Aug 5, 2018

Election Update by Baylor Bone Swindell

This past Thursday, Tennessee held its primary elections and there was a lot at stake. Here’s a quick synopsis of what went down.

Quick Reminder: Are you registered to vote in the November general election? If not, the time is now – REGISTER HERE!



Bill Lee is now the official Republican candidate for governor of Tennessee due to a surge in the final weeks of the Republican primary campaign. Lee was an underdog winner. While most insiders felt he had enough to get across the finish line in the end, he was not expected to win by a wide margin. In the Democratic primary, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean defeated Tennessee House Democratic Leader Rep. Craig Fitzhugh.


Bill Lee – 37%
Randy Boyd – 24%
Diane Black – 23%
Beth Harwell – 15%

Karl Dean – 75%
Craig Fitzhugh – 19%

Tennessee General Assembly


DID YOU KNOW? – One-third of the Tennessee legislature will be new next year!

After Thursday night’s vote count, add three new members to that list after three incumbents were defeated.

Of note, by Tennessee Region:

West TN

  • Incumbent Sen. Reggie Tate (D) was defeated by Katrina Robinson 68%-32%. Generally, Democrats disapproved of Tate’s votes with Republican colleagues and actively worked against him.
  • Current Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D) defeated Justin Ford to fill the open Senate seat left by Lee Harris who is running to be Shelby County Mayor (see below).
  • Republican moderate Rep. Mark White (R) won his primary race.
  • 89 year old Rep. Barbara Cooper (D) easily defeated her primary opposition.

Middle TN

  • Senate – Rep. Dawn White (R) defeated Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess.
  • Two Republican incumbents and House Committee Chairs were surprisingly defeated: House Transportation Chair Barry Doss (R) of Lawrence County
    was defeated by Clay Doggett. Doss sponsored the Improve Act (Gas Tax) legislation.
    Additionally, House Local Government Chair Tim Wirgau (R) of Henry County was defeated by Bruce Griffey.
  • Rep. Mike Sparks (R) of Smyrna held off the more moderate opposition of challenger Tim Morrell by less than 100 votes.
  • In Wilson County, Rep. Susan Lynn (R) and Rep. Clark Boyd (R) both easily cruised to victory. Rep. Boyd was appointed in January by the Wilson County Commission after Mark Pody moved on to the Senate in an election to replace Mae Beavers.
  • In Lewisburg, incumbent Republican Rep. Rick Tillis (R) was challenged by former Rep. Billy Spivey. Spivey formerly held the seat and retired in 2016. Tillis held on to the seat.
  • Former House Speaker and Gubernatorial Candidate Beth Harwell’s seat was a hard fought and expensive battle in Nashville. Dr. Brent Moody for Tennessee (R) emerged as the Republican nominee. He will face a credible well-funded Democratic candidate in Bob Freeman in November.

East TN

  • In Knoxville, former Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield placed third in the primary to fill Roger Kane’s open seat. Justin Lafferty (R) won the primary.
  • In Cocke County, medical marijuana champion Rep. Jeremy Faison (R) was thought to have credible opposition but won easily.
  • Rep. Jerry Sexton (R) had serious opposition in Mike Williams. Williams was a state Representative and Senator for many years and later Union County Mayor. Rep. Sexton hangs on to the seat by a nice margin.

Tennessee Mayoral Races


In Tennessee Mayoral races, several former legislators are running for County Mayor, including:

Rutherford County Mayor – Bill Ketron (won)
Wilson County Mayor – Mae Beavers (lost to incumbent Randall Hutto)
Shelby County Mayor – Lee Harris (won)
Franklin County Mayor – David Alexander (won)

Upcoming Vote Reminder


If you’re not yet registered to vote in Tennessee, you have until Oct. 9, but don’t wait! Please take the time to register now. A few reminder deadlines:

October 9, 2018 – Last day to register to vote for the November 6 election.

October 17, 2018 to November 1, 2018 – Early voting period for November 6 election.

October 30, 2018 – Deadline for receiving an application for a by-mail ballot. November

November 6, 2018 – Election Day for federal and state general election.