Voting underway in Tennessee, lays down abortion tests, backs Trump


Voters in Tennessee will nominate a slate of midterm candidates on Thursday, including those from new congressional districts drawn to create a Republican advantage. And in the state’s most populous county, a race for prosecutor has turned into a partisan showdown over abortion rights and voting rights.

Thursday’s primaries will set the stage for the up-and-down polling races. Republican Gov. Bill Lee has no primary challenger and national Democrats have not targeted his re-election race in the conservative-leaning state; three candidates, including Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley Jr., are seeking the Democratic nomination. Early voting, which ended last week, was down 24% from the same period in 2018, when Lee won a chaotic Republican primary.

Lee and the Republican supermajority in Nashville have signed into law a sweeping conservative agenda, including trigger legislation that will ban abortion in the state after the Supreme Court overturns it. Roe vs. Wade. Lee also signed a congressional card that pushed Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) into retirement, splitting his traditionally liberal 5th congressional district.

“I couldn’t stop the General Assembly from dismembering Nashville,” Cooper said in January when the map was finalized.

Rep. Jim Cooper announces he won’t run, accusing GOP of ‘dismembering’ his Nashville district

The new 5th Congressional District extends from Nashville to encompass the dark red counties south of the city; in 2020, President Donald Trump won the new seat by double digits. Nine Republicans are vying for what is now a secure red seat in Congress, while Democratic state Sen. Heidi Campbell is unchallenged for her party’s nomination.

Trump has stayed out of the GOP primary since Morgan Ortagus, a State Department veteran of his administration, was pulled from the ballot over residency issues. Beth Harwell, a former Speaker of the State House, crossed the field and embraced the Trump brand, pointing out that the former president put her on the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“I very much respect what Donald Trump has done, but his endorsement is not what I want,” Harwell said during a June 27 debate in one of the newly added conservative counties in the district. “I want the approval of the people of the 5th congressional district.”

Support for Trump was a major theme in this debate, as it had been throughout the race. On stage with Harwell, Maury County Mayor Andy Nogles called the Biden administration “a criminal enterprise,” adding that the President and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas should be “impeached and then tried for treason”.

Stewart Parks, a real estate agent who joined the crowd in Washington on January 6, 2021, the day a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol, and was later arrested in connection with his appearance there, is went further than Ogles, embracing the false claims about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. “I’m the only candidate in this race who hasn’t called him president,” Parks said of Biden. “He is not the legal President of the United States of America.”

While Harwell collected more individual donors than his rivals, most on-air spending was concentrated on Nogles. Conservative super PACs spent nearly $1.3 million on pro-Nogles advertising, and anti-Nogles PACs tried to match it. One of them, the American conservatives PAC, has spent more than $700,000 on TV ads calling Nogles “fake” for supporting a gas tax hike.

The winner of the primary will start as frontrunner in the November general election.

In Shelby County, Thursday’s vote will determine who becomes the district attorney. Amy Weirich, a Republican nominated in 2011 and then elected to an 8-year term, faces Democrat Steven Mulroy, who criticized her handling of a voter fraud case and said he would not prioritize election cases. abortion if he got the job.

While President Biden has lifted the county by 30 points in 2020, midterm primary turnout has historically been low, which helped Weirich eight years ago. Both candidates attempted to mobilize their partisan bases and nationalize the campaign.

Weirich aired a TV ad that pairs a photo of Mulroy at a union rally at Starbucks with an unrelated clip of protesters marching to “defund the police.” Mulroy’s announcements link the holder to Trump, with footage from the January 6, 2021, uprising to dramatize the point: “Both are breaking the rules and are out of control.”

Mulroy’s campaign has garnered support from racial justice advocates in other parts of the country, including the family of George Floyd and singer John Legend. Weirich, who has been endorsed by local police and sheriff organizations, warned Mulroy would let criminals out of jail and increase the crime rate which has been rising since 2020.


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