Winner: Eddie Mannis, who battled through efforts by the county Republican Party to throw him off the ballot or beat him at the ballot box. The House Majority Leader contributed to his opponent. He won by 99 votes in a race that shouldn’t have been close.
Loser: Randy Pace, chair of the Knox Republican Party. It was bad enough to have him meddling in a primary, against all tradition and fairness. But then he got up before a crowd on election night and blasted the Republican nominee, picked by the voters, to retain the seat for the Republicans in the fall. A seat the Democrats came within three percentage points of winning last election.
Perhaps House Majority Leader William Lamberth has enough of a majority that he can afford to lose a seat. When Eddie Mannis gets to Nashville, he won’t owe Lamberth anything, but he will have an R by his name and will thus be voting for House officers.
Winner: Sam McKenzie, who won the House seat occupied by Rick Staples, who was plagued by financial misdeeds with campaign contributions.
Loser: Black voters. McKenzie won by 23 votes over a white candidate. If the downtown continues to grow with white progressives will we soon see the day when there are no Black House members in the Knox delegation? Staples in the race divided the vote, but having two Black candidates and one white candidate elected Steve Cohen to Congress in Memphis and has kept him there, a white Congressman in a Black city and no Black Tennesseans in Congress. What happens when McKenzie gets a Black opponent and a downtown progressive in the next election?
Winner: Bill Hagerty, the Republican establishment, Mitt Romney. The race some thought was very close shifted when Dr. Manny Sethi’s campaign was carpet-bombed the last three weeks and didn’t have the money to respond. Romney will now have someone who will eat lunch with him in the Senate dining room.
Loser: Dr. Manny, Susan Richardson Williams, Ted Cruz. Dr. Manny had his reputation trashed by deception and distortion. Williams has likely angered the Good Old Boys Club by her unstinting support of Sethi. The campaigning endorsers included Cruz up against Tom Cotton. Texas Sens. Cruz and Cotton will be battling in the conservative lane in the 2024 Republican primaries. Cotton campaigned for Hagerty.
Winner: Bill Dunn. The retiring Dunn finally passed a school voucher bill, one of his long-term goals, before he left. School board member and former teacher Patti Bounds would be a vote against vouchers if it comes up again. Bounds lost to county commissioner Michele Carringer.
Loser: The Tennessee Education Association had a chance to flip that seat from pro-voucher to anti-voucher.
Winner: U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw won the Democratic Primary and will face Bill Hagerty in November.
Loser: Once again the Democratic candidates for statewide office were so little known and underfunded that the primary went to the first name on the ballot. War veteran James Mackler, endorsed by Phil Bredesen, who appeared to be the best chance in a statewide race, lost.
Winner: State Rep. David “Coach” Byrd, who was reelected with 60 percent of the vote. Byrd has long been accused of sexual harassment of girls basketball players years ago and has been the subject of frequent protests in the halls of the state capitol. He was about to face an ouster vote last year but told colleagues he would retire instead. He changed his mind and ran for reelection. Let me repeat – reelected with 60 percent of the vote.
Loser: The MeToo movement, feminists, protesters and women in general.
Winner: Diana Harshbarger, who spent close to $2 million of her own money to buy the 1st District Congressional seat with 19 percent of the vote.
Loser: The people of the 1st District who will be represented by Diane Harshbarger.
Winner: The people of Tennessee. The legislature is now free of the Hill Billies and Micah Van Huss. State Rep. Timothy Hill ran for Congress and lost to Harshbarger. His brother, state Rep. Matthew Hill, who had run in the past as a supporter of public education and against vouchers only to change his vote to kiss up to House Speaker Glen Casada and get a committee chair, got 36 percent of the vote in his primary compared to Rebecca Keefauver Alexander who got 63 percent. Van Huss is the fellow who wanted a constitutional amendment so that the Tennessee constitution would admit that it did not protect our rights because all our rights come from Almighty God.
Winner: Dirty campaign consultants. I thought the last gubernatorial race in which two mud-slinging candidates lost to third candidate, Bill Lee, might have made them rethink the strategy of lies, distortions and deception. But without a viable third candidate in this race it was no holds barred.
Loser: Columnist Frank Cagle who saw that Manny Sethi would win Knox County and was popular in some adjoining counties and extrapolated that statewide. A mistake from what is now obvious. Sethi didn’t have a Susan Williams in Middle and West Tennessee. And the columnist’s faith that rural counties would vote for “the Indian guy” may have been sadly misplaced.
Frank Cagle is a veteran newspaper editor and columnist.