Governor: Bill Haslam R v. Mike McWherter (OPEN)
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam is going to absolutely crush Jackson businessman Mike McWherter on November 2nd. The son of Ned Ray McWherter was mistakenly allowed a free pass in the Democratic Primary, after which he proved himself to be completely inept and unqualified to be running for Governor, with only his father’s legacy and last name to recommend him. Haslam in contrast proved himself to an adept campaigner and by far the most qualified candidate in both the primary and general elections. While McWherter has run arguably the worst campaign of any credible candidate in Tennessee history, while Haslam has run perhaps the best organized and executed in the state’s history. On Election Day the most qualified and deserving candidate will be elected Governor of Tennessee, and in this instance it will be a Republican.
Tennessee Congressional Delegation
TN-3: Chuck Fleischmann R v. John Wolfe (OPEN)
Fleischmann is going to easily win this Republican leaning district by a 2-1 margin over the under-funded Democrat, John Wolfe. No analysis needed.
TN-4: Scott DesJarlais R v. Lincoln Davis D (i)
A month ago I would have argued that Davis would be favored over a Republican who would be second-tier in most any other cycle, but recent polling in the district and prevailing national trends have moved this race into tossup territory. If I had to wager I would still bet on Davis as the incumbent, but DesJarlais has about made the odds 50/50 that he will be going to Washington.
TN-5: David Hall R v. Jim Cooper D (i)
Cooper is favored to win his district, despite Republican hopes to the contrary, by a less than comfortable margin over Republican David Hall. It probably won’t be a win as large as Cooper is used to racking up, but he has done the minimal amount of work necessarily to probably avoid some fluke upset in even the largest of Republican waves. While Hall winning cannot be completely discounted, Cooper is clearly favored as a incumbent in a Democratic leaning district.
TN-6: Diane Black R v. Brett Carter D (OPEN)
Diane Black will likely win this district by a roughly 2-1 margin. No Democrat seriously had a shot at holding this seat this cycle except for Bart Gordon.
TN-8: Stephen Fincher R v. Roy Herron D (OPEN)
Roy Herron was never the best Democrat to run for this seat. He hails from a safe State Senate district where he had never faced serious challenges during his long political career (House or Senate), and his political abilities were severely overrated – as I have mentioned in previous posts. Fincher on the other hand won a hard fought campaign and proved his mettle in the most expensive primary in the nation. The 8th has become extremely hostile to the Democratic brand since the election of President Obama, and it would have taken an older ultra-conservative Democrat like former House Transportation Chairman Phillip Pinion (Union City) or a geographically advantaged and youthful conservative Democrat like Lowe Finney (Jackson) to beat the weakest and most generic of Republicans this cycle. So despite serious questions over Fincher’s campaign finance disclosures and a questionable campaign loan from a local bank, Fincher has ridden out the General Election refusing to answer these serious questions or debate with little detrimental effect. A majority of the electorate is just not inclined this year to send another conservative Democrat to Washington, and Stephen Fincher as flawed and unqualified candidate as he is, appears almost certain to go to Washington as the 8th District’s next Congressman.
Best Case Scenario: 6R-3D (-2 D)
Worst Case Scenario: 7R-2D (-3D)
TN-2: Tony Shipley R (i) v. Nathan Vaughn D
In this 2008 rematch Democrat Nathan Vaughn is trying to regain his House seat from Republican Tony Shipley. This district bucked the Republican inclination of East Tennessee in 2002 by not only electing a Democrat, but an conservative African-American Democrat. Shipley ran a really nasty campaign and upset Vaughn in a race that he took for granted. Shipley has to be favored in this environment, but Vaughn can’t be wrote off out of hand as he is a known quantity and Shipley has a habit of making crazy statements.
TN-4: Jerome Cochran R v. Kent Williams I (i)- Speaker of the House
In a 3rd rematch of these two, former Representative Jerome Cochran attempts yet again to knockoff the man, Kent Williams, who beat him in the 2006 and 2008 in Republican Primaries, and went on to become Speaker of the House in league with the House Democrats in 2008. Since then Williams has had to become an Independent, and thus the rematch moves to the General Election setting. Williams is favored, but not out the woods.
TN- 10: Don Miller R v. Larry Mullins D (OPEN)
This seat was opened up after Democrat John Litz decided against running for re-election. This is a district in traditional Republican East Tennessee, based around Morristown/Hamblen County. This district leans Republican, but has some Democratic base to rely on as an old industrial town. In an open seat scenario the seat should lean Republican, but the Democrat is competent and has a fighting shot, so it’s hard to rank it worse than a toss-up.
TN-11: Jeremy Faison R v. Eddie Yokley D (i)
Eddie Yokley has successfully held his seat through two tough re-election challenges since 2004, and in light of that fact he has to be slightly favored to win re-election in this naturally Republican leaning district due to his ability to have won and held the seat in any cycle.
TN-32: Julia Hurley R v. Dennis Ferguson D (i)
TN-33: John Ragan R v. Jim Hackworth D (i)
TN-36: Dennis Powers R v. Keith Clotfelter D (i) (OPEN)
This seat was opened up after Dennis Powers upset a first-term Republican incumbent, and now faces Democrat Keith Clotfelter. The district leans Republican, but some Democratic base exists to work with in the right cycle/environment. However, this district has been represented by a Republican for a long time, so it’s hard to see it swinging to a Democrat due to any lingering divisions from the Republican Primary.
TN-38: Kelly Keisling R v. Leslie Winningham D (i)
TN-39: David Alexander R v. George Fraley D (i)
This traditionally Democratic rural Middle Tennessee district is an area where being a Republican was still an unfeasible political affiliation until recently. George Fraley is a poplar Democrat, problem is that he advancing in age and perhaps should have thought about retiring last cycle. Lingering doubts about Fraley open him up to defeat by his capable Republican opponent, David Alexander. This race will boil down to whether the electorate has faith in Fraley’s ability to serve one more term.
TN-40: Terry Lynn Weaver R (i) v. James Hale D
This rural Middle Tennessee district that was traditionally Democratic until it was opened up by a retirement in 2008. During that cycle the Democrat who emerged from the primary ran an abysmal and lazy campaign where “this has always been Democratic district” mentality cost the Democrats a winnable seat. Weaver as an incumbent in this environment is favored, but the Democrat is capable and has an outside chance to win.
TN-41: Patrick McCurdy R v. John Mark Windle D (i)
TN-42: Ryan Williams R v. Henry Fincher D (i)
Fincher has held this district since 2006, but has never faced a Republican in a general election. So while he is favored, his lack of political testing has to be an area of concern.
TN-44: Matt Wynn R v. Mike McDonald D (i)
TN-46: Mark Pody R v. Stratton Bone D (i)
This district is based around Lebanon and eastern Wilson County, and is part of the Nashville metro that is seeing suburban/exurban growth and trending Republican. In this environment an entrenched Democrat like Stratton Bone could be upset due to changing demographics combined with an awful political environment finally flipping the seat.
TN-48: Joe Carr R (i) v. David B. LaRouche
A traditional Democratic seat in Murfreesboro/Rutherford County, aka metro Nashville, that was won by Republican Joe Carr in an open seat scenario in 2008. This type of district is trending away from its Democratic roots, so it’s hard to see how the Republican can lose it this cycle.
TN-49: Mike Sparks R v. Kent Coleman D (i)
Another Murfreesboro/Rutherford County seat, but here an entrenched Democrat, Kent Coleman, faces a serious race where his votes in Judiciary Committee open him up to attack over all sorts of hot button issues. Rutherford County shifted Republican on the County level in August, and that does not bode well for Coleman.
TN-60: Jim Gotto R v. Sam Coleman D (OPEN)
A Metro Nashville/Davidson County seat long held by a conservative Democrat, Ben West, is the only open seat in friendly Democratic territory. This race is between two locally well known councilmen who know their way around politics and campaigns. This seat should lean D as Obama won the district; but Gotto is a strong candidate running a strong campaign in a Republican year, so he has a solid chance of beating the odds and picking up a Democratic leaning seat.
TN-64: Sheila Butt R v. Ty Cobb D (i)
Ty Cobb unseated a Republican incumbent in 2008 by a hefty margin to regain a traditionally Democratic seat, as one of the few highlights for Democrats on election night for that cycle. Now he faces a far weaker opponent on paper, but a much worse economic (GM’s Spring Hill plant is in this district) and political environment, despite this Cobb should be capable of holding his seat.
Tn-65: Billy Spivey v. Eddie Bass (i)
TN-66: Josh Evans R (i) v. Billy Carneal D
Evans won this long-held Democratic seat in 2008 after a hard-fought race where the Democratic incumbent suffered a heart-attack and was taken out of action late in the campaign. Evans is not the strongest candidate Republicans could ask for, and faces a tough opponent in the Mayor of Springfield, Billy Carneal; but at the end of the day he has to be slightly favored as the incumbent.
TN-67: Neil Revlett R v. Joe Pitts D (i)
TN-69: Wayne White R v. David Shepard D (i)
TN-75: Tim Wirgau R v. Butch Borchert D (i)
Butch Borchert is in his 4th term serving this rural mainly West Tennessee based district. He faces an extremely strong and competent opponent in Republican Tim Wirgau, who nearly beat Borchert in 2008. Borchert is another aging Democrat who faces questions about his ability to serve another term. Wirgau has the geographic base (Henry Co.) to finish off Borchert this cycle due to the probably lower turn-out in his base counties (Benton, Stewart).
TN-76: Andrew Holt R v. Mark Maddox D (i)
Mark Maddox is noted only because he hails from Weakley County, the home county of Roy Herron and Ned McWherter. He faces a novice political neophyte in Andrew Holt, who in a normal cycle would be a token opponent; but in this cycle, where long-term incumbents are facing a backlash and the top of the ticket is a disaster, an upset here would be a huge deal. If Maddox was to be beaten, the Democrats statewide in the House will have likely lost upwards of 10 seats.
TN-77: Bill Sanderson R v. Judy Barker D (i)
Judy Barker won a hard-fought and extremely close race in an open seat against Bill Sanderson in 2008. Barker is arguably the hardest campaigner in Tennessee and won’t go down without a fight. She has voted her district and has an extremely solid support throughout Republican and Democratic circles in the district. If the “say and do anything” to get elected Bill Sanderson was to win on election night, it will be due to the R next to his name swaying low information voters, not because the district’s voters thought he was the better candidate.
TN-79: Curtis Halford R (i) v. Joe Shepard D
This traditionally Democratic district has been Republican since 2002, and was recently won in a close race by Republican Curtis Halford in 2008. Had Joe Shepard run in 2008 he would have certainly won, as he served as Gibson County Sheriff for 20 years and just finished as County Mayor in 2010. Gibson County accounts for roughly 4/5 of the district’s population, so Shepard has a clear advantage. However, now he faces a moderate incumbent who is fairly acceptable to a voter of any stripe, but is a very weak campaigner on the ground. The southern portions of Gibson are booming with affluent suburbanites leaving Jackson for the public schools of the exurb of Medina, while the Carroll County part of the district has a fairly strong Republican inclination. These factors play well for Halford, but if Shepard can win a big enough margin outside of Medina and Carroll County he is the best chance for a Democratic pick-up of the cycle.
TN-80: Mark Johnstone R v. Johnny Shaw D (i)
This horribly drawn district was drawn to create a rural African-American majority district. It has been represented by Johnny Shaw since 2000, a conservative African American Democrat who represents a district encompassing most of the city of Jackson/half of Madison County, and portions of Hardeman County. This district has changed dramatically since 2002, as its northern Madison County portion has become suburbanized with white affluent professionals. Many of these voters are not keen on Democrats, and even less on African American Democrats after the election of President Obama. Johnny Shaw is conservative enough that he should win such a district one last time until redistricting, but if the AA vote doesn’t turn out, then his “say anything to get elected” opponent, Mark Johnstone, has a solid shot of eking out the narrowest of wins.
TN-81: Jim Hardin R v. Jimmy Naifeh D (i) Former Democratic Speaker of the House
Speaker Naifeh has faced tough races in the past (2002, 2004), as half of his district (Tipton Co.) is trending Republican via suburban growth fueled by migration increases out of Memphis. However, in the past he has been able to leverage his possession of the Speakership and deep roots to Tipton County to blunt Republican challengers in his home county, while leveraging Haywood County’s minority-majority base of Democratic voters as a reserve to bolster his election night results. Jim Hardin though is posed to upset the former Speaker, as Naifeh no longer has the Speakership, nor can he count on AA turnout in his district to bolster his numbers. While Naifeh remains slightly favored, his destiny is tied to his GOTV operations.
TN-82: Johnny Edwards R v. Craig Fitzhugh D (i)
Craig Fitzhugh represents one of the strongest Democratic districts in rural West Tennessee – in normal years. Unfortunately, half his district is Crockett County, home of TN-8 Republican nominee, Stephen Fincher, where traditional Democrats will overwhelmingly support Fincher. Fitzhugh has to win a large margin out of Lauderdale County (his home county), hope to win his portion of Dyer County, and then rest his hopes on Fincher not carrying Edwards to a huge victory in Crockett. Fitzhugh is favored as the incumbent, but an upset is very possible under the right conditions.
TN-93: Tim Cook R v. Mike Kernell D (i)
Kernell should never be in trouble in his Democratic leaning Memphis district, but he is always on the radar for the fluke upset. Why? The simple answer that while he is competent and a nice guy, he often comes across as “a weird dude in a suit who just emerged from a nap in a dumpster”. In other words his appearance and communication skills are sometimes lacking. The right Republican in the right year could upset Kernell, and this looks like a year where the stars could finally align for just such an upset. With that said, Kernell will most likely win because of the lean of his district, but his “uniqueness” is a persistent marketing problem.
Best Case Scenario: 53R-45D-1I (-3D)
Worst Case: 63R-36D (-12D, -1I)
TN-7: Stacey Campfield R v. Randy Walker D
Stacey Campfield is extremely well known for his radical and far-right wing antics in the State House since winning office in 2004. He is a completely polarizing figure who has somehow managed to defeat repeated better funded Republican primary challengers due to his persistent ability to work the ground game. Now he is posed to move up to the Senate, but faces one last opponent in Democrat Randy Walker. Campfield is favored due to the strong Republican lean of this Knox County district, but the possibility that this larger electorate might prefer a one-term Democrat over the extremely controversial Campfield cannot be ruled out.
TN-13: Bill Ketron R (i) v. Debbie Mathews D
TN-15: Gary Steakley R v. Charlotte Burks D (i)
TN-17: Mae Beavers R (i) R v. George McDonald D
Mae Beavers is another polarizing figure in Republican politics, and has burned some bridges over local issues within her Senate District. Democrat George McDonald has raised significant funds and worked the ground game sufficiently to stand an outside chance of winning the race by exploiting voter discontent over Beaver’s habit of putting ideological purity over the needs of the district. Beavers as the incumbent is favored, but this seat poses the best chance of a Democrat knocking an incumbent Senator.
TN-21: Steven Dickerson R v. Douglas Henry D (i)
One of the last Democratic warhorses of the State Senate faces a serious challenge in keeping his affluent Nashville Senate District. None the less, Henry has to be favored to win one last term despite his advanced age.
TN-25: Jim Summerville R v. Doug Jackson D (i)
TN-27: Don McCleary R v. Lowe Finney D (i)
In 2006, party-switching Republican Don McLeary lost this Jackson centered State Senate seat to Lowe Finney in an extremely close and hard fought race. Now in 2010, after be humiliating in a Republican Primary for County Mayor of Madison County (Jackson) in 2007, the severely “brand damaged” McLeary has re-emerged to attempt to retake his old seat. Lowe Finney though has strong ties to the Republican leaning professional class in the affluent sections of North Jackson, cutting into the natural Republican base McLeary has to lock up in order to overcome the more Democratic leaning counties of the district (Gibson and Carroll). Internal polling released by Finney on October 25 showed him winning 51-44, which syncs up the with the massive and almost exclusively negative media campaign McLeary has waged up until Election Day – a sure sign of a trailing campaign. Finney is favored as the well-liked incumbent, while McLeary’s hopes hinge on the R next to his name carrying him across the line with low-information voters.
TN-29: Robert Hill R v. Ophelia Ford D (i)
Ophelia Ford apparently suffers from severe personal/health problems, which keeps her from showing up to vote in the Legislature very much over the last several years. These problems aren’t stopping her from seeking re-election as the entitled member of the crumbling Ford family political machine that used to dominate much of the Memphis vote. She won a controversial special election and recount in 2005 to replace her brother John Ford after his conviction for bribery; an election in which she lost on Election Day, but won after enough votes were found via the recount to squeak out a win. Ford is favored, but she is facing an African-American Republican, Robert Hill, who has a solid argument that he would better serve the district by just showing up to work in Nashville on a regular basis.
Best Case Scenario: 18R-15D (+1D)
Worst Case Scenario: 20R-13D (-1D)