Updated Thursday at 6:45 a.m.
It looked like it was going to be close — but by 10 p.m., former economic commissioner Bill Hagerty was a double-digit winner over physician Manny Sethi in the Republican Senate primary.
The two sides had saturated the airwaves with ads attacking each other in the race’s final days. Hagerty was hit over his ties to moderate Republicans, including longtime friend and Utah Senator Mitt Romney.
But Rutherford County voter Gail Phebus said President Trump’s endorsement of Hagerty played a big role in her decision to vote for him.
“I think he is definitely for the American people, and I think he wants to do the right thing. It’s just that if Trump trusts him, then I trust him,” she said.
Trump called Hagerty last night to congratulate him on his win, the Tennessean reported.
And in Hagerty’s victory speech at his campaign headquarters in Gallatin, he started turning his sights to the November presidential election.
“It’s not just my election year to become United State senator. We have to send Donald Trump back to the White House for four more years,” the former ambassador to Japan told the crowd.
In a Republican stronghold state like Tennessee, the GOP candidates for Senate have tended to win by a large margin. Still, Hagerty will face a Memphis activist, Marquita Bradshaw. She beat out two Nashville-based candidates, Robin Kimbrough Hayes and James Mackler.
Read on for updates from Election Day.
Absentee Ballots Tip Election In Senate District 20
One of the most important races for Democrats in the state legislature was decided late overnight, and only once Davidson County had counted its mail-in ballots.
Oak Hill Mayor Heidi Campbell defeated Kimi Abernathy by fewer than 800 votes in a state Senate race in West Nashville. Absentee ballots made the difference, as Campbell had trailed earlier in the night.
She will take on Republican state Sen. Steve Dickerson. Democrats are already hitting the moderate Republican for being the co-founder of a pain management chain that has been accused of defrauding taxpayers. Dickerson himself has not been implicated in the scheme.
— Chas Sisk and Tony Gonzalez
Marquita Bradshaw pulls ahead in Democratic Senate primary
The Associated Press has called Marquita Bradshaw the winner of the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
Bradshaw holds a seven point lead over Robin Kimbrough Hayes and an even wider lead over James Mackler, who had secured endorsements from key Democratic leaders.
Bradshaw is a Memphis native known for her community organizing on environmental justice. Bradshaw told WPLN News said she wants people realize that the economy, health and the environment are all interconnected.
— Emily Siner
State Rep. David Byrd maintains steady lead in District 71 race
Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, will hold onto his seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He’s received about 61% of the vote so far, and his closest challenger is nearly 40 percentage points behind.
A Democratic lawmaker called for Byrd’s expulsion from the legislature earlier this year, after three women accused him of sexually assaulting them when he was their teacher and basketball coach at Wayne County High School in the 1980s. Republican leadership in the Tennessee House voted down the resolution.
Byrd has declined to comment on the allegations.
— Samantha Max
Cooper wins Democratic nomination for 5th Congressional District
The Associated Press has called the 5th Congressional District primary for Rep. Jim Cooper. The Democratic incumbent is leading Keeda Haynes by nearly 20 points, as of 8:30 p.m.
Cooper has served in Congress for 15 terms. This year marked the first time in several election cycles when he had any serious competitors. Although this is just the primary, it’s safe to say Cooper will retain his seat: No Republicans ran in the primary for this district.
— Emily Siner
Hagerty wins GOP nomination to replace Sen. Lamar Alexander
The Associated Press has called Bill Hagerty the winner of the Republican U.S. Senate race in Tennessee.
The former ambassador to Japan was endorsed by President Trump and other top Republicans in the state, such as soon-to-be senior Sen. Marsha Blackburn.
As of 8:15 p.m., Hagerty was leading Manny Sethi by about 49,500 votes.
Sethi has run an outsider and pledged his support to the president if elected. But that doesn’t seem to have been enough to grab the nomination.
— Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Early returns: Hagerty leads Senate Republicans, Democrats in dead heat
Republican Bill Hagerty has a 20-point lead over Manny Sethi in the GOP primary to replace U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Those numbers are as of 7:30 p.m. Most of the big counties in the state have yet to report early voting numbers.
However, in Hamilton County, Hagerty was leading Sethi by 1%.
Hagerty has been running with the blessing of President Trump and other top Republicans in the state. Meanwhile, Sethi has positioned himself as the outsider, and has received the endorsements of U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
Meanwhile, the Democratic primary shows environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw ahead of Iraq War veteran James Mackler. Mackler has raised and spent more money in the race.
— Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Polls have closed in Tennessee
The official closing time for the polls in Tennessee is 7 p.m. Central. But if you’re still in line, don’t worry. Under Tennessee law, you can still vote.
Most counties won’t post precinct-level results until the last ballot has been cast. But we could get a sense of the race based on early voting and absentee balloting. Though with so many voting by mail in this year’s election, even those could be delayed.
So, don’t expect a quick resolution to the races.
— Chas Sisk
What’s on the ballot
Today is the day voters across the state select the Republican and Democratic nominees for Congress and the General Assembly. For the winners, it’ll be an 88-day sprint to Nov. 3.
In many cities and counties, it’s also the general election for local offices, such as mayor or trustee. One election you won’t see on the ballot is the presidential race. That primary took place way back on Super Tuesday, March 3, when former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump won the Democratic and Republican races, respectively.
By the end of the early voting period on Saturday, more than 578,000 Tennesseans had cast ballots in person or by mail. That’s more than double the number in 2016 (when, admittedly, there were no statewide races) and almost as many as in 2018 (when there were races for U.S. senator and governor). More absentee ballots have been arriving in the days since then, so it’s likely that turnout will wind up higher than two years ago.
Some of the races we’ll be watching include the Republican Senate race between Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi, attorney Keeda Haynes’ bid to upset 15-term Congressman Jim Cooper on the Democratic side, and the battle between Democrats Kimi Abernathy and Heidi Campbell to take on Republican state Sen. Steve Dickerson in November.
— WPLN News Staff
Some polls opened late; provisional balloting questions arise
Four Nashville polling locations opened late for Election Day, including an hourlong delay at the Cathedral of Praise in Bordeaux.
The reason: password problems, says Davidson County Election Administrator Jeff Roberts.
“We’ve got some bumps out there,” he told WPLN News. “Passwords are a challenge for folks, especially if it’s not one that you use all the time.”
He said observers didn’t note any voters leaving the line at Cathedral of Praise, where 43 people had voted partway through the day.
Poll workers are also fielding far more questions than usual about provisional ballots. Those are issued to voters when there is a question about the person’s eligibility, and counted later.
Provisional voting has been uncommon, but appears to be happening more today because of a related increase in mail-in voting. People who show up to vote out of fear that a mail-in ballot isn’t arriving in time are allowed to vote provisional. Officials will check later to make sure they aren’t counted twice. (If the mail-in ballot arrives in time, that’s the vote that will count.)
“Your vote will count one way or the other,” Roberts said.
Poll workers were given training videos and a quiz, but Robert notes that it can take them “little bit of time to get in the groove” on processing the additional paperwork for a provisional voter.
“If they have an issue that is still a little rusty, we have a phone number that they call that calls into our office here,” Roberts said.
— Tony Gonzalez
Moving along at a fairly quick clip, though. Most folks seem to be getting in and out in 15 minutes or so.
— Lexi Marshall (@alexistmarshall) August 6, 2020
Fun sticker alert!
We’re big fans of Election Day stickers, and in Davidson County, voters this year can snag a special one commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Tennessee was the 36th and decisive state in the push for women’s suffrage.
— Paula Tennyson (@PaulaTennyson) August 6, 2020
The design beat out seven others in a contest run by Metro Arts.
— Chas Sisk
Big lift expected to get all votes counted
Vote counting will be a bigger lift than normal for Nashville. As of Wednesday, the city had collected 26,761 mail-in ballots, with perhaps more than 1,500 more anticipated today.
The Davidson County Election Commission began the “very labor-intensive” process of counting those ballots at 7 a.m., said Election Administrator Jeff Roberts. That’s the soonest allowed under state law.
“Each one of those has a whole lot of handwork. You have to open up the envelope, pull the ballot out, smooth it off, so that it’ll run through the scanner,” he said.
Provisional ballots, meanwhile, won’t be opened until Friday. That starts its own process, since each demands research into whether it should be counted, based on the voter’s eligibility.
— Tony Gonzalez
Hey y’all! I’m at Paragon Mills elementary where voting is pretty slow right now. pic.twitter.com/faxxL7ckmU
— ambriehl (@ambriehlc) August 6, 2020
Poll workers wearing PPE
Social distancing, face masks, coffee stirrers to access touch screens.
In-person voting during a pandemic has certainly been an experience. But many voters who turned out at the polls say they’ve felt reasonably safe.
“Everybody in there had on masks,” said Regina Newson, who cast her ballot during early voting. “The people that were waiting on you at the door had on gloves and the little blue coveralls. They had three people in there when normally they would have between six and nine people going through registering.”
Some even think the pandemic might have brought more people to the polls.
“People have gotten to see the true side of a lot of people, even locally,” said Jeff Moss of Rutherford County. “So now is the time to come out and make it count, make some changes. And I think that’s bringing everyone out.”
Davidson County Election Administratro Jeff Roberts says social media posts have mostly been supportive of Davidson County’s health safety precautions.
“That’s a big positive there for us,” he said. “I think people understand social distancing is slowing things down a little bit, but as long as they see the line moving, they seem to be OK.”
— Chas Sisk
I’ll go on the record, too. Boom mic workout today. pic.twitter.com/B7bHrWuSbv
— Tony Gonzalez (@TGonzalez) August 6, 2020