June 3, 2016 - 2016 Election Outlook

U.S. House

District 1 – Phil Roe

  • Faces republican primary opponent & democratic general opponent
  • Seat considered safe

District 2 – Jimmy Duncan

  • Faces Democrat Stuart Starr
  • Seat definitely safe unless everyone loses their minds

District 3 – Chuck Fleischmann

  • Faces 2 primary challengers, including Allan Levene a British-born man running for Congress in GA too!
  • Has raised more than $800,000 in campaign funding
  • District is solidly republican and looks safe for Fleischmann

District 4 – Scott DesJarlais

  • Rated as one of the top five congressional races in the country by Politico
  • DesJarlais will face Rep. Grant Starrett of Murfressboro
  • Starrett, a 27-year-old attorney, has raised nearly a million dollar, but much has come from out of state and out of the 4th district
  • DesJarlais won his 2014 race by 38 votes against state senator Jim Tracy

District 5 – Jim Cooper

  • Faces three Republican challengers
  • District is safely democratic. Cooper won the 2014 election with 62% of the vote

District 6 – Diane Black

  • Black is widely seen as a potential contender for Governor in 2018
  • A tea-party style conservative, Black will square off with former state Rep. Joe Carr in August
  • Carr is also widely known for his uber conservative views and lost a US Senate race in 2014 against Lamar Alexander by just 3% points.
  • This race mirrors the presidential election with Trump – Carr is the “outsider” candidate trying to move the race as far to the right as possible. His whole campaign strategy rests on painting Black as the establishment candidate.
  • Black may be vulnerable as people may pursue an anti-incumbent attitude and in the heavily Republican district; Trump voters will side with Carr. However, Black has more than enough money to self-finance her campaign and plenty of influence and friends in the state.

District 7 – Marsha Blackburn

  • Faces token democratic and independent opposition.
  • Name has been floated as a VP for Trump though it is highly doubtful that she will be the pick.

District 8 – Open Seat (Steven Fincher)

  • There’s a horse race in District 8 – there’s 13 Republicans running for the seat vacated by Rep. Steven Fincher.
  • This seat is considered heavily republican, so whoever makes it through the primary process will stand a good chance to make it to Washington.
  • Early contenders include:
    • George Flinn – a multi-millionaire doctor and radio station owner, is mostly self-funding his campaign
    • Brian Kelsey – current state senator who has risen through the ranks fairly quickly, is very conservative and is able to raise money (nearly half a million in the first quarter of 2016 alone)
    • Mark Luttrell – the Shelby County mayor; entered the race late but has emerged as an early favorite in the poll s
    • David Kustoff – a former U.S. Attorney; has raised nearly $320,000 — almost all of it from individual contributions.

District 9 – Steve Cohen

  • Faces three other democratic challengers, but won his last election with 75% of the vote.

State Senate

The lineup of contests in the Senate guarantees that Republicans will continue to hold at least 23 seats after the November elections — enough to still be considered a “super majority,” which is more than two-thirds the total seats. They hold 13 of the seats that are not up for election this year and 10 where no Democrat is running this year. Currently, Republicans hold a 28-5 advantage in the Senate.

District 2 – Doug Overbey

  • Faces tea-party style challenger who is painting Overbey as an establishment candidate that’s too liberal for Tennessee
  • Overbey is vice-chairman of Senate Revenue Committee and would be in line to assume the Vice Chairmanship of the full FWM committee when and if Sen. Randy McNally is elected speaker/Lt. Gov.
  • Will be a race to watch

District 4 – Open Seat (Ron Ramsey)

  • Rep. Jon Lundberg is considered the early favorite to replace Ramsey. Lundberg has been in the House since 2011.
  • Former Rep. Tony Shipley is seeking the seat, again as an anti-establishment, tea party candidate

District 6 – Becky Massey – unopposed

District 8 – Frank Niceley – unopposed

District 10 – Todd Gardenhire

  • A controversial figure at the legislature, Gardenhire faces three Democratic challengers.
  • His district was held for four decades by democrats and he has served just one term as Senator.
  • Democratic Party have named the 10th District as their primary battleground.

District 12 – Ken Yager – unopposed

District 14 – Jim Tracy

  • Faces two republican challengers, both of who have run for – and lost – various other elected positions in the past.
  • Tracy, if he wins the primary, will face Democrat Gayle Jordan in the general.
  • District is safe republican so whoever wins primary will probably prevail over the Democratic challenger and Tracy, with his influential post as Transportation Chairman and solid reputation, should easily prevail.

District 16 – Janice Bowling

  • Faces Republican challenger, Michael Wilcher, who is currently a County Commissioner in Warren County. Wilcher is a vocal critic of his own county government and of the state GOP.
  • Bowling, who is seeking her second term as Senator, has become a vocal supporter of expanded municipal broadband access in rural Tennessee. This position has put her at odds with some GOP leadership and also with the telecommunications industry, generally, which is usually a large contributor to political campaigns.
  • Whomever prevails in the primary will also face the winner of the district’s Democratic primary in the general

District 18 – Farrell Haile – unopposed

District 20 – Steven Dickerson

  • Faces opposition from Ron McDow in the primaries. McDow is a republican committee representative in the 20th district and a delegate for Trump in the 2016 Republican National Convention.
  • McDow will probably try to run right of Dickerson, which won’t be hard, but the 20th district is not a strong Republican haven and Dickerson will have the best chance of hanging on to the seat in the general election against opponent Erin Coleman.

District 22 – Mark Green

  • Green intends to run for Governor in 2018 and is already causing a stir within the party. The Wilson County Republican Party cancelled their Lincoln Day dinner after Green, Diane Black and Joe Carr could not agree on who would be allowed to speak at the event.
  • But first, Green must beat republican Lori Smith and then Democratic challenger David Cutting in the general election

District 24 – John Stevens – unopposed

District 26 – Dolores Gresham

  • Facing the Bob Shutt, mayor of Savannah, TN who is making some waves in challenging the Education committee chairman.
  • If Sen. Gresham can survive the primary, she will be guaranteed another four-year term in Nashville

District 28 – Joey Hensley

  • Hensley faces an Independent challenger in Joey Norman.

District 30 – Sara Kyle

  • Expected to be an all-out blood bath of longtime rivals.
  • Sara Kyle won a special appointment over former Sen. Beverly Marrero to the District 30 seat when her husband, Jim Kyle, was appointed to the judicial bench.
  • Kyle is now being challenged by Beverly Marrero who served from 2009 – 2012 in the Senate until redistricting pitted her against Jim Kyle who won the 2012 election.

District 32 – Mark Norris - unopposed

State House

In the House, a flood of Democratic candidate filings has created at least the theoretical possibility of that party gaining a majority in November. Democrats have filed qualifying petitions in at least 41 House seats now held by Republicans. Coupled with the 17 seats now held by Democrats where no Republican has qualified, that means Democrats — if they won every contest and lost none of the seats where Republicans are running in seats now held by Democrats — could conceivably have 58 seats in the House. 

Republicans, of course, scoff at such a notion with considerable justification. The way House district lines are drawn, only a handful of districts are rated as competitive between the parties; the rest are aligned to assure that voters are either strongly inclined toward one party or the other and since Republicans drew the lines, most are GOP oriented and Democrats challenging Republicans are extreme underdogs.

Environment Committee:


  • David Byrd (R – Waynesboro)
  • David Hawk (R – Greenville)
  • Ron Lollar (R – Barlett)
  •  Steve McDaniel (R – Parker Crossroads)
  • Art Swann (R – Maryville)

Primary Only:

District 79 - Curtis Halford (R – Dyer)

  • Running against Daniel Williams of Huntington, a retired U.S. Post Office employee. Race was already becoming contentious before the legislative session ended, which Halford reporting to TMA that there was already some mudslinging going on.

District 80 - Johnny Shaw (D – Boliver)

  • Running against Ernest Brooks, a councilman in Jackson. Brooks is running a campaign targeted at more community involvement and directing a lot of criticism towards Shaw for only reaching out to constituents at election time.
  • Would be a shame to lose Shaw who is a moderate Democrat and willing to listen to and consider alternative points of view.   

 Primary & General:

District 74 - Jay Reedy (R – Erin)

  • Primary Opponent: Barry Cotton is attacking Reedy on a host of issues, including his support of fossil fuel energy. Reedy has been a huge supporter of ours, even after we supported his opponent, John Tidwell, in the 2014 elections.
  • General Opponent: Andy Porch, a small business owner, is running an active campaign of his own. Given the fact that West Tennessee has generally been a democratic stronghold and that the seat was held by a democrat up until 2014, this could be a close race for Reedy.

General Only:

District 2 - Bud Hulsey (R – Kingsport)

  • Husley is in his first term of the legislature after defeating Tony Shipley in 2014.
  • Husley is facing Democratic challenger, J.S. Moore, who doesn’t seem to have a very organized campaign. Look for Hulsey to return to Nashville in January.

District 36 – Dennis Powers (R – Jacksboro)

  • Bob Fannon, Vice Mayor of LaFollette is seeking the seat that Powers has held since 2010.
  • This race has been identified by the TN Republican Caucus as a Top 3 race due to Campbell County’s unpredictable electorate and Fannon’s position within local government.
  • Powers is highly-respected in Nashville among his colleagues in the House, lobbyists and staff. And it just may take all of their support to return him to the Capitol in 2017.

District 41 – John Mark Windle (D – Livingston)

  • One of our only friends left on the democratic side of the aisle. John Mark has been in office since 1994. During the 2012 election, he was challenged by a republican and beat him handily winning 66% of the vote.
  • Republican Ed Butler is looking to reverse that trend and has already been active trying to raise money. He is running as a Christian conservative and may have a chance to oust the incumbent.

District 62 – Pat Marsh (R – Shelbyville)

  • Sharon Kay Edwards, a blogger for the Huffington Post and part of the TN Democratic Party’s push to run more women for legislative positions.
  • Marsh has held the seat since 2009 and this is the first time in three election cycles that he has been challenged. With his fundraising ability and stellar reputation, look for Marsh to hold onto his seat.

District 76 – Andy Holt (R – Dresden)

  • Angela Callis is a State Executive committee member of the Democratic Party and stands no chance against outspoken, highly conservative, hardworking Andy Holt.

District 81 – Debra Moody (R – Covington)

  • Running against Deborah Reed, a retired college administrator, who is also a part of the Democratic Party’s more women push.
  • In 2012, when Moody faced another democratic challenger, she walloped him – winning the election with a 30% point margin.

District 93 - G.A. Hardaway (D – Memphis)

  • Facing Independent candidate William King in the General. Looks to have a good shot at winning.

Open Seat:

District 94

  • Jamie Jenkins was appointed by the Fayette County Commission in January after former Rep. Leigh Wilburn stepped down unexpectedly a month prior. It was later “revealed” by Lt. Gov. Ramsey that she was having an affair with the scandal-plagued Jeremy Durham. 
  • There are three candidates vying for the Republican nomination:
    • Rusty Coffman is a voluntarily self-funded candidate, according to his campaign literature, Coffman is running on a platform to bring back conservative Christian values to the state of Tennessee.
    • Thomas Cooper is an Advanced Practice Nurse by profession, Cooper is running strong on healthcare issues and opposing Obamacare.
    • Ron G ant is being backed by the TN Republican Party and has received endorsements from Speaker Beth Harwell and several other local elected officials. According to his website, he is a conservative Republican and small business owner who supports the Second Amendment and the right to life and is an avid proponent of small government and local control of public schools.
  • Two others are battling it out for the Democratic primary:
    • Daniel Harris who does not appear to be running an active campaign.
    • Ci vil Miller-Watkins is a mother of eight and is running on a platform of strengthening education, making college more affordable, job creation and effective government. 

March 13, 2014 - Anti-Fracking Bill Dies

Yesterday during the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee's final meeting of 2014, Sen. Lowe Finney's anti-fracking bill died for the year when the sponsor placed it into the General Subcommittee.

TOGA's initial suspicions about a caption bill were confirmed early yesterday morning when an amendment to the bill came to light. The new proposal would have called for a moratorium on "fracturing on state property for one year" immediately following the passage of the bill.

This prohibition would have exempted fracturing for "research purposes" and pre-existing permits, but the moratorium would have applied to large swaths of state land with severed mineral rights and existing drilling contracts. Initial estimates showed that at least 100,000 acres would have been compromised.

After a busy morning of securing the necessary committee votes to kill the proposal, TOGA was able to negotiate a deal with Sen. Finney to place the bill in the General Subcommittee prior to moving the amendment and without an actual vote on the bill.

The Senate Energy Committee also took up and passed the bill to correct conflict of interest provisions on the Water Quality, Oil and Gas Board. Next week, the bill will progress to the Senate Calendar Committee and will be heard by the full House on Thursday.

The closing of the Senate Energy Committee means that the rest of the year will be monitoring for sneaky amendments and maneuvers in other committees and on the floor, but the committee's closing generally represents a wind down for threats to oil and gas in Tennessee.

March 10, 2014 - Ban Fracking Bill on Notice

A measure to outlaw fracking in Tennessee (SB2064/HB2124) will be heard during the last meeting of the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, March 12th. Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) is sponsoring the bill, but it seemingly has yet to gain a foothold, even with the environmental groups. As of now, there has been no vocal movement of support by any of the usual suspects. 

The large sections of Tennessee's legal code that are opened up still leave open the possibility that it's a caption bill. If so, Sen. Finney would attach an amendment revealing his true intentions. However, according to committee rules, substantive amendments must be placed on hold for one week so that legislators have a chance to consider the language. Since this is the committee's last scheduled meeting, Sen. Finney could run into procedural trouble with a caption bill.

In late February, several TOGA Board Members made the trip to Nashville to lobby against Sen. Finney's bill and made quite an impact! In our meetings with individual legislators, the majority in both the Senate and House were very dismissive of such a drastic action to such a necessary process. TOGA expects that the bill will be defeated but are working diligently to make sure that the votes are there. 

The companion bill by Rep. Joe Pitts has not been scheduled in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, but it's expected the committee will meet several more weeks.

February 6, 2014 - Oil and Gas Targeted in TN Assembly 

A bill to prohibit hydraulic fracturing has been introduced in this year’s Tennessee General Assembly. Under Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) and Rep. Joe  Pitts' (D-Clarksville) legislation the Board of Water Quality, Oil and Gas would immediately begin to to promulgate rules or regulations to ban fracking and the ban would be effective by January 1, 2016.

The bill also opens up large sections of Tennessee’s legal code implying that it may be a “caption,” or placeholder, bill. If it is indeed a caption bill, TOGA will not know until the committee takes up the measure what the opponents true intentions are. Of course, this makes preparing a defensive strategy much more difficult.

TOGA will meet in depth with both sponsors as soon as possible to educate them on the state’s oil and gas industry and learn about their ultimate plans for the bill. We will keep you updated on the progress.