Lee easily wins reelection for governor

By , Daily Memphian Updated: November 09, 2022 1:54 AM CT | Published: November 08, 2022 8:09 PM CT

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee declared an early victory Tuesday, Nov. 8, long before most votes were counted.

Lee, the Republican incumbent, defeated Democrat Jason Martin, a Nashville-based physician.

Lee had 65.4% of the vote, or 1,113,620 votes, compared to Martin’s 32.5% as of 11:08 p.m., according to the Tennessee Secretary of State. He had more than a 99% chance of victory, according to FiveThirtyEight. Lee won more than 1.3 million votes in 2018.

The posts: Local voters talk Election Day

“Tonight and, evidently, all across the country, the people have spoken clearly, and we are expecting to win by a large margin,” Lee said from his Bill Lee for Governor Election Night Party in Franklin. “Our ideas have resonated with people from one end of the state to the other.”

“For those who didn’t vote for me, I take it very seriously the responsibility I have to be the governor for all of Tennessee,” Lee told the crowd gathered at the Cool Springs Hilton.

Martin has not conceded, and Lee did not answer a reporter who asked if he had talked to Martin; Martin’s spokeswoman confirmed they had not been in touch.

Lee said he would focus his second term on infrastructure and workforce development. Asked if he would be willing to add a third bridge across the Mississippi River in Memphis, he didn’t commit.

“I think what we’re open to are any ideas that will allow commerce to move through our state, and people to move through our state,” he said. “There are needs all across the state.”

Lee has been rumored as a possible candidate for higher office, and dodged a question about whether he would serve a full four-year term, saying he’s focused on the start of the annual budget process this week.

Martin, a critical care physician who has treated COVID-19 patients, decided to run for governor because of Lee’s handling of the pandemic. He campaigned on expanding health care for low-income people, increasing education funding and legalizing marijuana. He won the endorsement of the Tennessee Education Association’s political arm.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Tennessee’s abortion trigger law took effect, Martin said he would use his clemency power as governor to pardon doctors convicted of the Class C felony of criminal abortion.

Lee, who made a fortune running his family’s HVAC and home-service business, was a political newcomer in 2018, although he was well-established in Middle Tennessee’s business and nonprofit communities.

He emerged from a crowded Republican primary with a message of moderate criminal justice reform, frequently touting his work with a prison ministry. His gubernatorial record on the issue is mixed; he gave more people the right to parole, but allowed “truth in sentencing” to become law, making fewer people eligible for early release.

Election Day remains quiet in Shelby County

Often focused on education, Lee pushed through a new school funding formula, a private school voucher program and a package of literacy legislation. 

The primary achievement of his term, though, was Ford’s decision to invest billions in the manufacturing of electric SUVs at the Megasite of West Tennessee.

When he was first elected in 2018, Lee ended a pattern that had held for almost half a century.

Memphis Election Day answers questions away from national spotlight

From 1971 until Lee’s election, Tennessee voters alternated between choosing Republican and Democratic governors. Since 1979, each of those governors has won reelection, serving for eight years.

But after the election of Barack Obama in 2008, white conservatives in rural areas abandoned the Democratic Party and granted full control of the state government to Republicans in the 2010 election.

It’s been more than 40 years since a governor lost reelection. Republican Winfield Dunn (1971-1975) and Democrat Ray Blanton (1975-1979) served one term each.

Ballot Basics: Election Day Nov. 8, 2022

Lee ran a low-key campaign and had a staggering fundraising advantage.

Lee’s campaign spent more than $3.2 million in October, his latest campaign finance report shows, after spending more than $1.4 million from July through September. Almost all of that went toward TV ads, mailers, robocalls and media production. He ended with $485,765 on hand.

Martin actually raised more money than Lee in October, but not nearly enough to overcome Lee’s advantage. Martin spent $250,000 on advertising and raised $226,165 (Lee raised $172,089), ending at $225,659 on hand.


Gov. Bill Lee tennessee Nov. 8 2022 election
Ian Round

Ian Round

Ian Round is The Daily Memphian’s state government reporter based in Nashville. He came to Tennessee from Maryland, where he reported on local politics for Baltimore Brew. He earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland in December 2019.


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