Tennessee polls close for GOP House race, Democratic gubernatorial primary

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Polls closed Thursday night in a Tennessee primary that will decide a nine-way Republican battle in a reconfigured Nashville congressional district that the GOP hopes to flip. Democrats will choose a candidate for governor in what could be a historic attempt to topple the GOP incumbent.

Two of three Democratic candidates for governor would be the state’s first black Democratic candidate for that office; the third is a doctor running for political office for the first time, spurred by Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s hands-off response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee is running unopposed and would have a strong advantage in a general election in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 2006.

Redrawn congressional districts helped place Tennessee among the states where Republicans hope to flip a seat in a push to regain control of the U.S. House, providing the main drama in Tennessee’s primary. Tennessee held its only statewide election on Thursday.

Nashville’s 5th Congressional District drew heavy interest from Republicans after GOP state lawmakers carved Democratic-leaning Nashville into three districts, favoring their party in every seat. The longtime 5th District incumbent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, decided to retire, saying there was “no way” he could win re-election under the new redistricting maps. The new district favored Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Joe Biden by 12 percentage points in 2020.

In the other two districts in the Nashville area, the Republican incumbents have no primary opponents. The new maps weight their districts in their favor.

In the 5th, state Sen. Heidi Campbell is unopposed in her Democratic primary and will take on the Republican winner in November. Two Democrats are facing off in the new 6th District, which includes more of Nashville, where Republican U.S. Rep. John Rose has a huge fundraising advantage.

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