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Memphis Election Day answers questions away from national spotlight

By , Daily Memphian Updated: November 08, 2022 3:52 PM CT | Published: November 08, 2022 4:00 AM CT

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Election Day in Memphis, Tennessee, doesn’t have the political drama to be found in states like Wisconsin, Georgia and other places where the results will change the national map of which party controls the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House.

You won’t find any pundits pulling up a state map or the city in national election night coverage.

Ballot Basics: Election Day Nov. 8, 2022

Tennessee doesn’t have a U.S. Senate race this year, but the two congressional districts that include parts of Memphis and Shelby County have changed since 2018 and 2020.

The predominantly Democratic 9th Congressional District where Democratic incumbent Steve Cohen of Memphis is seeking a ninth term is no longer all within Shelby County.

The Tennessee Legislature’s redistricting last year redrew the lines to take in half of Tipton County along with most of Shelby County. The district still remains predominantly Democratic.

The predominantly Republican 8th Congressional District where Republican incumbent David Kustoff of Germantown is seeking a fourth term still includes parts of the majority Democratic city as well as the Republican suburbs outside Memphis. But a majority of its territory takes in most of rural west Tennessee.

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee and Democratic challenger Dr. Jason Martin have been actively campaigning in Memphis and surrounding county.

Gov. Lee makes Collierville campaign stop, predicts ‘correction’ by voters

Lee ended his next-to-last bus tour of the state this past Saturday in the Collierville town square, where opponents of the “Right to Work” amendment to the Tennessee Constitution jockeyed for sign position with backers of Lee, who supports the amendment.

Martin will be at several Memphis polling sites Tuesday morning as he moves from west to east across the state.

Martin emerged as the Democratic nominee in a hard-fought statewide primary in August, beating Memphis City Council member JB Smiley Jr. by a narrow margin of 1,468 votes.

Smiley carried Shelby County as well as several other large urban counties.

The countywide totals in the general election race for governor will be watched closely for signs of how enthusiastic Memphis Democrats are about Martin as the party’s nominee.

Early voters’ numbers hint at Election Day turnout

Shelby County is home to the largest bases of both Democratic and Republican voters of any single county in the state.

In the 2018 November general election, Democratic nominee Karl Dean — a former Nashville mayor — carried the county in losing to Lee statewide.

But Lee campaigned hard in Shelby County starting with a contentious August primary that saw him beat U.S. Rep. Diane Black and future University of Tennessee president Randy Boyd.

He lost Shelby County to Dean by 68,330 votes that November.

The 173,699 Shelby County votes Dean got were 20% of his losing statewide total.

Political Roundup: Early voting, Cohen & Kustoff, Memphis mayor’s race

Lee’s 105,369 votes in Shelby County were 7.8% of his winning statewide total.

That compares to 10.2% of Gov. Bill Haslam’s votes coming from Shelby County in his 2010 first-term election and 22.4% of Democratic rival Mike McWherter’s votes coming from Shelby County.

Like Lee, Haslam emerged from a contentious three-way primary that saw all three front runners making frequent appearances in Shelby County.

Haslam got about 2,000 more votes than Lee did eight years later in the certified countywide results.

McWherter carried Shelby County but lost the statewide race by an almost two-to-one margin.

Gov. Bill Lee runs on Ford Megasite, other economic wins in low-key campaign

Haslam carried Shelby County in his reelection campaign in 2014 against Democratic nominee Charlie Brown, who won the nomination but got no support from the state party.

Haslam got 138 fewer votes in the county than he did four years earlier.

The last Democratic nominee to win statewide office was Gov. Phil Bredesen, who won a second term in November 2006. He beat Republican nominee Jim Bryson statewide by an even wider margin than Haslam beat McWherter in 2010.

He was the last Democratic nominee for governor to crack 200,000 votes in Shelby County.

Eight years later as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, Bredesen was about 9,000 votes short of that mark in Shelby County in his statewide loss to Republican nominee Marsha Blackburn.

Political Roundup: Early voting hits 20,000; Jason Martin campaigns in Collierville

Blackburn won the seat Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander was leaving.

Bredesen carried Shelby County with 19.3% of his losing statewide total coming out of Shelby County.

The Shelby County vote for Blackburn amounted to 7.8% of her statewide victory by 242,033 votes.


Nov 8 2022 election Bill Lee Jason Martin Steve Cohen David Kustoff

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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