Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn won their party's nominations for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee. People went to the polls on Thursday to vote in both local and statewide elections, and in the gubernatorial race former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat, and businessman Bill Lee, a Republican, captured their party's nominations.
The elections hinge in part on support for President Trump. In the race for Senate, candidates were running to replace Republican Senator Bob Corker, who will retire at the end of his term; the election has become competitive for Democrats, despite Trump winning almost every county in the state in 2016. NPR's Jessica Taylor reported, "In Tennessee, Phil Bredesen is trying to prove that national partisan divides can be overcome in the most surprising Senate battleground of 2018."
In one of his campaign ads Bredesen said, "Look, I'm not running against Donald Trump. I'm running for a Senate seat to represent the people of Tennessee. I learned a long time ago to separate the message from the messenger.
"There's a lot of things I don't personally like about Donald Trump, but he's the president of the United States and if he has an idea, and is pushing some things that I think are good for the people of Tennessee, I'm going to be for it. It doesn't matter where it came from.
"Likewise," Bredesen adds, "if I think it's not going to be good for Tennessee, I'm going to be against it. I think that's what senators ought to do."
During the race Republican candidate Blackburn said she strongly supports Trump's agenda. Trump endorsed Blackburn, and campaigned alongside her.
66-year-old Blackburn has served in Congress since 2003, and is the first woman in the state to win a congressional seat without following a husband in the post. If elected, Blackburn would be the first woman from Tennessee to serve in the U.S. Senate. NPR's Jessica Taylor reported on Blackburn, "She has long been a loyal conservative foot soldier and ticks off in her video the ways she would stand with President Trump — repealing the Affordable Care Act, backing the president's immigration ban and his border wall and his feud with the NFL over kneeling during the national anthem."
Blackburn released a statement after winning the nomination Thursday:
"Chuck and I are so grateful for the support shown to our campaign by so many volunteers from across the state. Today is a milestone and the beginning of the general election, and I am so grateful that you are entrusting me with the Republican nomination for United States Senate. We ask for your continued support as we work to earn every single vote and win in November," the statement read."
In the election for governor, a candidate will replace Republican Governor Bill Haslam who was blocked from running for a third term due to term limits. According to The Tennessean, candidates have spent a record $51 million in the gubernatorial race. Six candidates competed for the Republican nomination, and three candidates ran against each other on the Democratic side.
Lee won the GOP nomination over Representative Diane Black, who was backed by Vice President Mike Pence, and poured millions of dollars from her own personal fortune into the campaign, according to The Washington Post.
Black sought Trump's endorsement, but did not receive it. Axios reports, "President Trump's endorsement is worth its weight in gold for Republican candidates in 2018...Four of the six who have won had Trump's blessing via endorsement — Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania, Jim Renacci in Ohio, Kevin Cramer in North Dakota and Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee."