Republican Bill Lee will be the next governor of Tennessee.
The Middle-Tennessee businessman who campaigned as a political outsider jumped to an early lead in the polls, and was declared the winner by NBC News and several other media organizations within a half hour of the polls closing.
Lee took to the stage to talk to his supporters, where he began with an "Amen" and a thank you."
"I'm humbled. I'm honored. Couldn't be more grateful," he said. "You placed your trust in us to lead this great state of Tennessee."
He said he and his wife made the decision to enter the race because they had a vision of what this state could be and wanted to share it. He said that was why he was committed to running a positive campaign from beginning to end.
He congratulated Dean on a "race well run."
"There will always be disagreements," he said. "But we can all agree that we all care about the future of the State of Tennessee."
He then took a moment to speak directly to those that didn't vote for him.
"I care about you, your family. I will do everything I can to make [you] proud that I am your governor," he said.
Even as Lee made his victory speech, campaign staffer at the Dean headquarters told supporters not to lose hope.
“Nobody should be giving a victory speech right now,” Courtney Wheeler, Dean’s campaign manager. She pointed out that Davidson and Shelby county results had not yet been counted.
Term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is finishing out his eighth year of office.
Dean said the results didn't turn the way he wanted.
"I'm too old to cry, and it hurts too much to laugh," Dean said.
He said he supports Lee and encourages all to do the same.
Meet the candidates
Lee, a Republican seeking office for the first time, triumphed over U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin; state House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville; and Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd in the party's August primary.
He has framed his lack of political experience as an asset, focusing on his time running the Lee Company, a Franklin-based HVAC, plumbing and electrical business. Lee has stressed the need for more vocational training in the state, starting at the high school level.
Lee, who polls show is leading the race, will watch the returns on election night with his supporters at an event space called The Factory in Franklin.
"It's been such a long journey and its so inspiring, such a privilege to be able to do this and I'm looking forward to the opportunity and the privilege to serve," Lee said.
Dean, like Bredesen, has run as a centrist Democrat touting his moderate, pro-business policies and willingness to work with Republicans. Dean served as the 68th mayor of Nashville between 2007 to 2015 and beat out House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
He'll be watching the returns with his supporters in Nashville, and despite what the polls say, is hoping for an upset.
"I've got to go to every county in the state and meet a lot of wonderful people and learn a lot of important things and so it's been a great process but a long process," Dean said.
Dean has made Medicaid expansion a central component of his platform, calling for the Republican-controlled legislature to take up the issue in order to extend health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Tennesseans.
Lee's campaign said he intends to address rising health care costs in the state as a 'fundamental issue,' saying Tennesseans deserve access to health care they can afford instead of depending on federal programs.
Both candidates sat down on Inside Tennessee to talk in detail about themselves and their leadership priorities for the state. You can those watch those interviews below:
You can get full race results here.