Nov 1, 2022 - Politics

How Tennessee Democrats have fared in governor races

Data: Tennessee Secretary of State; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Tennessee Secretary of State; Chart: Axios Visuals

In the 16 years since Gov. Phil Bredesen won re-election with 69% of the vote, Tennessee Democrats have failed to seriously compete in a gubernatorial race.

Why it matters: While border states like North Carolina and Georgia have morphed into the nation's preeminent battlegrounds, Tennessee has grown more conservative.

  • Jason Martin, a Middle Tennessee doctor running for governor, is trying to turn things around for Democrats.

By the numbers: Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean won 39% of the vote four years ago, the high watermark for state Democrats in the post-Bredesen era.

Flashback: Prior to Dean, political unknown Charlie Brown won 23% in 2014. Mike McWherter mustered 33% in 2010. Bill Haslam, a Republican, won both of those elections.

Zoom out: Incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Lee is seen as the heavy favorite with early voting for the Nov. 8 election already underway.

  • Lee has declined to debate Martin and has led an uneventful re-election campaign devoid of rallies or stump speeches. His ads tout Tennessee's low taxes and emphasis on educating for skilled trades.

What he's saying: Martin has called the race "absolutely winnable," per the Nashville Scene. He has been critical of Lee's approach to a wide range of policies, including abortion and charter schools.

  • A campaign spokesperson tells Axios in an emailed statement that Martin has "built a policy prescription for prosperity that benefits ALL Tennesseans."

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