Another Election Day is in the books. Here are six takeaways on how Tuesday could affect Tennessee.
Ripple effects for establishment Republicans
Although Republicans have held a grip on the legislature, the governor's office and the state's congressional delegation for several years, moderate or establishment Republicans, like Gov. Bill Haslam, have provided guidance for the direction of the state. Tuesday's election is something of a rebuke of those leaders. Many in the state groused after Haslam renounced Donald Trump but the real estate mogul's expected ascension to the White House could send shockwaves through more mainstream Republicans in Tennessee. It's unclear what that might mean for the party or leadership roles at the statehouse, but the vote is at least an indicator of an already red state moving further right.
Corker in line for cabinet spot?
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was reportedly a leading candidate to become Trump's vice president before the former Chattanooga mayor bowed out of consideration. But Corker has expressed interest in possibly joining a Trump administration as either U.S. Secretary of State or U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Either would be a massive elevation in profile for the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and fit with Corker's contention that he's always favored policy over politics. It would also open up his Senate seat, set for election again in 2018, and a mad dash among Republicans to fill the spot. Any shifting among that GOP group would likely have reverberations in the possible pool of gubernatorial contenders for 2018 as well.
Effect on federal policy in Tennessee?
With Trump expected to become the next president of the United States, that would give Republicans control of both congressional chambers and the White House. While the GOP's slim lead Senate likely means more gridlock in Washington, D.C., the overall power shift will certainly have a trickle down effect across the country. For example, outgoing Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said months ago the state should wait to act on any massive health care overhaul until this election. He's advocated for block grants from the federal government given to states with few strings as the best approach to health care reform. The block grant proposal was included in Trump's discussion of how he'd change health care during one of the presidential debates this fall.
As expected, Republicans retain legislative stronghold
The Tennessee Republican Party remains squarely in control of the statehouse, keeping its 28-5 advantage in the Senate and picking up one seat for a 74-25 edge in the House. That includes taking two rural districts away from Tennessee Democrats, defending Rep. Eddie Smith's seat in Knoxville and sending Sen. Steve Dickerson back to the capitol in commanding fashion. With little room for expansion at the state level, the GOP was ready and able to protect its incumbents. Whether the dynamics change this session for the House — where there are several newcomers joining an already fractured caucus — and Senate, which will be under the leadership of someone new for the first time in a decade, remains to be seen.
Democrats salvage some hope with upset
The silver lining, if there was one, for Democrats was the defeat of incumbent Rep. Steve McManus, R-Cordova. Dwayne Thompson beat McManus in a rematch of the 2014 election. In that race, Thompson lost by nearly 3,900 votes. But in Tuesday’s election, the Democrat got the best of McManus, defeating him by less than 400 votes. The loss was the lone setback in an otherwise flawless night for Republicans in the legislature and provides Democrats with the slightest bit of momentum in a legislative arena that seems to offer few victories.
Does this mean Harwell remains speaker?
In theory, a double-digit win for Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, could show that she still has enough clout to lead House Republicans. But that's actually a slimmer margin of victory than the last time she faced Nashville Democrat Chris Moth, and comes after she spent more than $160,000 in October on television advertising. Harwell faces Rep. Jimmy Matlock in the race, an East Tennessee tire store ownerwho told The Tennessean earlier this year he had commitments from enough caucus members to win the race. But a pledge of support weeks ahead of an actual election doesn't necessarily translate into a win, and may not include some of the newly elected GOP House members. Republicans will nominate their next speaker during a Nov. 17 meeting.