Governor's race grabs spotlight in Tennessee primaries

Governor's race grabs spotlight in Tennessee primaries

Republican House, Senate and gubernatorial hopefuls are gearing up for Tennessee’s primaries on Thursday, the first in a series of races this month that will help shape the critical 2018 midterms.

The primary to watch is the Republican gubernatorial race, where Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackLamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Juan Williams: The GOP's worsening problem with women How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit MORE (R) is fending off a slew of strong challengers in the race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. 

Tennessee will also hold a slew of competitive Republican House primaries on Thursday. The Senate primaries are contested both on the Democratic and Republican side, but former Governor Phil Bredesen (D) and Rep Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump’s new Syria timetable raises concern among key anti-ISIS allies Dem lawmaker invites Parkland survivor to attend State of the Union Bipartisan senators press Trump for strategy to protect Syrian Kurds MORE (R) have emerged as overwhelming favorites in their respective races to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (R).

Gubernatorial race

Diane Black, the former chairman of the House Budget Committee, has seen her lead erode in a race that has attracted millions of dollars. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE, whose endorsements have been critical in Republican primaries so far, has stayed out of the primary, but Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' Pelosi dismisses GOP criticism of Omar: 'They do not have clean hands' Pence rips Omar's 'inadequate' apology for tweets criticized as anti-Semitic MORE has come out in support of Black.

Black is facing off against businessman Randy Boyd, who has spent a whopping $21.07 million on the race. State House Speaker Beth Harwell and cattle farmer Bill Lee - who has seen a fundraising surge in recent weeks - are also contenders.

The gubernatorial primary is seen as an open race. While Black was once  the leading contender, a recent poll from JMC Analytics and Polling had Lee in first place with 26 percent, with Boyd in second at 20 percent and Black not far behind with 19 percent.

Senate race

Rep. Marsha Blackburn is set to face off against trucker Aaron Pettigrew in the Republican primary race to replace Corker.

A prominent conservative voice in the House who was first elected to the House in 2002 after serving in the state legislature, Blackburn is the overwhelming favorite, with far more name recognition. She’s received an endorsement from President Trump, with whom she has a close working relationship after serving on his transition team.

The winner of the GOP primary will likely face Bredesen who is widely expected to win the Democratic primary against two lesser known challengers, Gary Davis and John Wolfe.

The Blackburn-Bredesen race is seen as a must-win race for both Republicans and Democrats in the fall. The race is rated as a “toss-up” by The Cook Political Report even though Democrats haven’t won a Senate seat in Tennessee in nearly 30 years.

Corker has said he won’t campaign against Bredesen and offered only a lukewarm endorsement for Blackburn.

House District 2

Seven Republicans are vying to replace long-time Rep. John DuncanJohn James DuncanLamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Tennessee New Members 2019 Live coverage: Social media execs face grilling on Capitol Hill MORE Jr. (R), who is set to retire at the end of this term.

State Rep. Jimmy Matlock, who has Duncan’s endorsement in the race, and Bigfoot hunter and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett are currently seen as the top contenders.

Military pilot Ashley Nickloes is the only female in the crowded field and had the support of groups including Main Street Republicans.

The other candidates seeking the GOP nomination are Jason Emert, who previously worked as a staffer for Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderCongress must move forward on measure dealing with fentanyl GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees Key doctors group faces political risks on guns MORE; Army veteran Hank Hamblin; Navy veteran Vito Sagliano; and David Stansberry, another Army vet and minister.

House District 6

Retired judge Bob Corlew is facing John Roes, a farmer and former Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner in the Republican primary for the chance to replace Rep. Diane Black, who is running for governor.

Rose has attempted to paint Corlew as a career politician, while Corlew has also gone after his main opponent for being too close to “the swamp,” the Post Bulletin reports.

State Rep. Judd Matheny, who has been endorsed by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is also seeking to be the GOP nominee.

House District 8

GOP Rep. David KustoffDavid Frank KustoffHouse passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen 116th Congress breaks records for women, minority lawmakers Governor's race grabs spotlight in Tennessee primaries MORE, who has served only one term in the House, is facing a serious primary challenger in Dr. George Flinn, a perennial candidate who has spent upwards of $2.5 million in the race.

Trump has come out in support of Kustoff on two separate occasions. The president’s endorsement has propelled Republicans to victory in a handful of primaries, including more recently Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who defeated Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.