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U.S. Senate seat, state House slots, local offices at stake in Thursday's election

If you didn't vote early, precinct polls will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Click here to follow election night results as they come in. 

Knoxville area voters face a grab-bag ballot Thursday that includes competitive U.S. Senate races, state House races and candidates to hold several county-level offices.

Republican and Democratic candidates are squaring off to represent their party in the Nov. 3 race for U.S. Senate from Tennessee.

There are several lively primary races for state House seats. And locally, voters will pick county commissioners in several contested races to serve four-year terms.

Early turnout proved strong from late July through Aug. 1 -- almost 38,000 in-person ballots cast plus at least 9,000 absentees mailed in. Strong response was driven in part by people choosing to send in absentee ballots amid coronavirus concerns.

But as the in-person count shows, many Knox Countians weren't reluctant to go to a station themselves to cast a vote. Statewide, the Secretary of State's Office found voting this summer compared with a similar primary-general in 2016 was up sharply.

Click here for a sample Republican ballot.

Click here for a sample Democratic ballot.

Click here for a sample general county ballot only.

Because so many people have mailed in ballots this election, the absentee hand-count could go late into the night Thursday, according to Chris Davis, Knox County elections administrator.

It remains to be seen what turnout at the county's dozens of precincts will look like Thursday. Polls are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Early returns usually are released by 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m.

Here are some key, competitive races in play:

U.S. Senate primary:

Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi are the most visible Republicans vying to represent their party for a U.S. Senate seat from Tennessee. James Mackler is the leading Democrat.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Maryville, is retiring at the end of his term.

In a heavily Republican state, Hagerty, former U.S. ambassador to Japan and former Tennessee economic development commissioner, and Sethi, a trauma surgeon, are waging a heated race to be the GOP candidate. Each has declared their close alliance with President Trump and his policies. Each has accused the other of misdeeds or lacking the strongest conservative credentials.

RELATED: Tennessee elections 2020: Democratic candidates for U. S. Senate

Sethi and Mackler have previously appeared on WBIR's "Inside Tennessee" program to talk about their campaigns. Hagerty has been invited but hasn't come on.

TV campaign ads for both GOP candidates have been heavy and increasingly negative on Knoxville area stations.

Tennessee House:

Several local House primaries are competitive this year.

In the 15th District, which covers East Knoxville and part of South Knoxville, Democrat Rick Staples is fighting to retain his seat and faces two opponents, former Knox County Commissioner Sam McKenzie and Matthew Park.

State election finance officials began looking earlier this year into Staples' use of campaign money for personal expenses including meals and a Ford vehicle warranty. Staples pledged in June to pay back some $11,000 in questionable expenditures.

Second quarter spending reports filed with the state in early July show Staples had spent about $4,800 compared with $5,400 for McKenzie and and $16,000 for Park.

The latest, pre-primary reports filed in late July and early August show Staples spent an additional $17,250 while McKenzie spent $2,900 and Park spent $6,485.

In the 16th District, which covers parts of Powell and North Knoxville, political veterans Patti Bounds and Michele Carringer are seeking to replace Bill Dunn, who is retiring. Bounds has served on the Knox County school board and Carringer has served on Knox County Commission.

Second quarter spending reports filed with the state in early July show Bounds spent about $9,580 compared with $6,900 for Carringer. 

The latest, pre-primary reports filed in late July show Bounds spent an additional $2,302 and Carringer spent an additional $38,464 in July.

In the 18th District, which covers West Knoxville, Eddie Mannis is vying for the GOP nomination along with Gina Oster. Republican lawmaker Martin Daniel is retiring.

Mannis, a businessman, ran for Knoxville mayor last year and lost to Indya Kincannon. Oster is on the Board of Equalization and the Knox County Sheriff's Merit System Council.

Second quarter spending reports filed with the state in early July show Mannis spent $14,180 while Oster spent about $4,230.

The latest, pre-primary reports filed in late July show Mannis spent $36,200 during the month while Oster spent $13,161.

Also, for Tennessee Senate District 6, Sam Brown and Jane George are on the ballot vying to be the Democratic candidate in November.

Second quarter spending reports filed with the state in early July show Brown spent $3,673 and George spent $3,716.

The latest pre-primary reports filed in late July show Brown spent $2,847 and George spent $2,959.

Local races to watch

There are several contested Knox County Commission races on Thursday's ballot.

Commissioners serve four-year terms. They are limited, generally speaking, to two consecutive terms.

In District 1, which covers East Knoxville, Democrat Dasha Lundy is competing against Independent Reginald Jackson after incumbent Evelyn Gill was ousted in the March primary.

Dasha Lundy and Reginald Jackson, candidates for Knox County Commission District 1, talk about their candidacies.

In District 2, which includes North Knoxville, Democrat Courtney Durrett is competing against Republican Grant Rosenberg for Carringer's old seat.

Grant Rosenberg and Courtney Durrett are running for county commission for the District 2 seat.

In District 4, which includes the West Hills and Rocky Hill areas, Democrat Todd Frommeyer is running against Republican Kyle Ward. Commissioner Hugh Nystrom is not seeking reelection.

In District 5, which covers far west Knox County, Democrat Kimberly Peterson is challenging incumbent John Schoonmaker.

Some other commissioners have no opponent as they seek a second term.

In the Public Defender's Office race, Republican Eric Lutton faces Independent Sherif Guindi.

In the Knox County Law Director's Office race, Republican David Buuck faces Independent Jackson Fenner.

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