On June 22, Davidson County Chancellor Russell Perkins ruled that a petition for six charter amendments backed by 4 Good Government was invalid and blocked the amendments from appearing on the July 27 ballot. Perkins ruled that the petition included two proposed election dates, but local law requires that petitioners specify a single election date. Perkins also ruled that the amendment to revert a property tax increase would unconstitutionally transfer the power to enact property taxes from the local government to voters. Jim Roberts, leader of 4 Good Government, said that the Davidson County Elections Commission may appeal the court’s decision.
Had the petition been ruled valid, voters would have voted on six amendments to the city charter on July 27. One would have reverted the city’s property tax rates to what they were before a 34% increase in 2020 and would have required voter approval of any future increase of more than 3%. The other five amendments would have:
reduced the number of signatures required to recall an elected official and prevented recalled officials from running for their previous office;
ended lifetime benefits for elected officials;
banned legislative alteration of voter-initiated charter amendments;
required the city council to seek citizen approval before transferring high-value park or greenway real estate to private owners; and
brought sports stadiums and facilities under the control of the city if their respective teams left Nashville or didn’t play at home for two years.
This is not the first time that 4 Good Government has tried to repeal last year’s tax increase. The group collected the required number of signatures for a similar petition in August 2020, but it was struck down in court on November 3, 2020.
4 Good Government started their petition targeting a 2021 election date in February and collected the required 12,142 signatures in April. The Davidson County Election Commission verified the petition in May.
Election officials have scheduled a special election for the District 29 seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives on Sept. 14, 2021. The seat became vacant after Mike Carter (R) died on May 15. The primary is on July 27, and the filing deadline is on June 17.
Tennessee state Representative Mike Carter (R) died from pancreatic cancer on May 15, 2021.
Carter first won election to the 29th District on Nov. 6, 2012. He was subsequently re-elected four times, most recently in 2020.
Governor Bill Lee (R) said in a post on Twitter, “I will miss Mike Carter who was a leader, friend and brother in Christ. Maria and I pray for the Carter family and we give thanks for his life.”
Tennessee uses special elections to fill vacancies in the legislature when 12 months or more remain in an unfilled term. However, the legislative body in the county where the vacancy occurred may also appoint an interim officeholder until the special election is held.
This is the sixth vacancy in 2021 caused by the death of a serving legislator. So far this year, there have been 48 vacancies in 28 state legislatures. Twenty-nine (29) of those vacancies have been filled.
On May 4, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to send a constitutional amendment to provide a process, along with a line of succession, for an acting governor when the governor is unable to perform the office’s powers and duties.
The ballot measure would allow the governor to provide a written, signed declaration saying that he or she is unable to perform the powers and duties of the office. The speaker of the Senate, who also serves as the Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee, would serve as acting governor. If the office of the speaker of the Senate is vacant, the speaker of the House would be next in line to assume the office. The acting governor would perform the duties of the office until the governor provides a written, signed declaration saying he or she is able to perform the office’s powers and duties again. The ballot measure would also allow a majority of executive department officials to determine that the governor is unable to perform his or her powers and duties, putting an acting governor in power until the governor provides a written, signed declaration saying he or she is able to perform the office’s powers and duties.
The Tennessee State Legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot for gubernatorial general elections. The Tennessee Constitution requires the legislature to approve a constitutional amendment during two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. However, the constitution provides for two different vote requirements depending on the session. During the first legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a simple majority (50%+1) vote in each legislative chamber. During the second legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber. In the state Senate, that amounts to 17 votes during the first session and 22 votes during the second session, assuming no vacancies. In the state House, that amounts to 50 votes during the first session and 66 votes during the second session.
During the 2019 legislative session, Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R) introduced the constitutional amendment into the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 154 (SJR 154) on February 5, 2019. On April 18, 2019, the state Senate approved SJR 154, in a vote of 32-0, with one senator not voting. On May 2, 2019, the state House approved SJR 154, with 92 members supporting the amendment, two members opposing the amendment, and two members not voting.
The amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 10 (SJR 10) during the 2021 legislative session on January 12, 2021. The Senate passed SJR 10 on March 4, 2021, in a vote of 32-0, with one not voting. The House approved an amended version of SJR 10 on May 3, 2021, in a vote of 91-0. On May 4, the Senate concurred with the amendments in a vote of 29-0.
The amendment is one of three set to appear on the 2022 statewide ballot. Tennessee voters will also be deciding a right to work amendment and an amendment that would remove language that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishment.
Tennessee voters last decided on a constitutional amendment in 2014. Tennessee voters approved 100% of the 11 statewide ballot measures appearing on ballots between 1995 and 2014.
On April 29, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership as a condition for employment. This type of policy is known as right-to-work. Tennessee enacted a right-to-work statute in 1947.
Sen. Brian Kelsey (R), the sponsor of the amendment, said, “The Tennessee right-to-work law states that workers cannot be hired or fired, or in any way discriminated against based on whether or not they are a member of a union. I think that this right is an important enough civil right that it belongs in our state constitution.”
Sen. Sara Kyle (D), who voted against the measure, said, “Right-to-work is a false slogan. The true effect of this legislation is to destroy the freedom and power of collective bargaining. Collective bargaining has lifted millions of workers out of poverty and provided families with health care and dignity in retirement. That gives big corporations the upper hand.”
The Tennessee State Legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot for gubernatorial general elections. The Tennessee Constitution requires the legislature to approve a constitutional amendment during two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. There are two different vote requirements for the first session and the second. During the first session, the legislature must approve a constitutional amendment by a simple majority (50%+1) vote in each legislative chamber. During the second legislative session, the legislature must approve a constitutional amendment by a two-thirds (66.67%) vote in each chamber. In the state Senate, that amounts to 17 votes during the first session and 22 votes during the second session, assuming no vacancies. In the state House, that amounts to 50 votes during the first session and 66 votes during the second session.
The amendment was first introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 648 (SJR 648) during the 2020 legislative session. On February 10, 2020, the state Senate passed SJR 648 in a vote of 24-5. Of the 25 Republicans in the Senate, 24 voted in favor of SJR 648, and one voted against it. All four Democrats voted against it. On June 17, 2020, the state House passed SJR 648 in a vote of 68-22. The vote was along party lines with Republicans in the majority and Democrats in the minority.
During the 2021 legislative session, the amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2). The state Senate passed the amendment on March 8, 2021, by a vote of 24-7. The vote was along party lines with one Republican joining the minority. On April 29, the state House passed the amendment in a vote of 67-24 with one present and not voting. One Republican joined the Democratic minority.
Twenty-seven states have enacted right-to-work statutes. In 2018, Missouri voters decided Proposition A, a referendum to repeal the state’s recently enacted right-to-work statute. The vote margin was 67.47% in favor of repealing the law and 32.53% in favor of upholding the law. Nine states have adopted right-to-work constitutional amendments. Virginia was the last state to vote on a right-to-work constitutional amendment in 2016. It was defeated with 53.62% opposing the measure.
The Tennessee amendment will be the first amendment certified for the ballot in the state since 2014. Tennessee voters approved 100% of the 11 statewide ballot measures appearing on ballots between 1995 and 2014.
The statewide primary for Tennessee was held on August 6, 2020. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.
Candidates ran in elections for the following offices:
Incumbent Lamar Alexander (R) did not file for re-election, leaving the seat open. Five Democrats and 15 Republican candidates competed in partisan primaries. Unofficial results show Marquita Bradshaw (D) and Bill Hagerty (R) advanced from their respective primaries.
All of Tennessee’s nine U.S. House seats are up for election this year. U.S. House District 1 incumbent Phil Roe (R) was the only representative that did not file for re-election. Three incumbents—two Democrats and one Republican—faced primary challengers. The remaining five incumbents, all Republican, did not face primary challengers. No incumbents lost their bids for re-election, according to unofficial results.
• District 1: Three Democrats and 16 Republicans competed in partisan primaries. Blair Walsingham (D) and Diana Harshbarger (R) advanced from their respective primaries.
• District 2: Incumbent Tim Burchett (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary. Renee Hoyos (D) advanced from the Democratic primary.
• District 3: Incumbent Charles J. Fleischmann (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary. Candidate Meg Gorman (D) was also unopposed in the Democratic primary.
• District 4: Incumbent Scott DesJarlais (R) defeated two challengers in the Republican primary. Christopher Hale (D) advanced from the Democratic primary.
• District 5: Incumbent Jim Cooper (D) defeated two challengers in the Democratic primary. No Republican candidates were on the ballot.
• District 6: Incumbent John Rose (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary. Candidate Christopher Finley (D) was also unopposed in the Democratic primary.
• District 7: Incumbent Mark Green (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary. Candidate Kiran Sreepada (D) was also unopposed in the Democratic primary.
• District 8: Incumbent David Kustoff (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary. Erika Stotts Pearson (D) advanced from the Democratic primary.
• District 9: Incumbent Steve Cohen (D) defeated two challengers in the Democratic primary. Charlotte Bergmann (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary.
The chamber has five Democrats and 28 Republicans. Sixteen of 33 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 17 seats.
• Fifteen incumbents filed for re-election. No incumbents lost their bids for re-election, according to unofficial results.
The chamber has 26 Democrats and 73 Republicans. All 99 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 50 seats.
• Ninety-three incumbents filed for re-election. Three incumbents—James Van Huss (R-6), Matthew Hill (R-7), and Thomas R. Tillis (R-92)—were defeated in the primary, according to unofficial results.
• The District 15 race remains too close to call.
One seat on the Tennessee Court of Appeals was up for retention election. According to unofficial results, Western Section incumbent Carma Dennis McGee won her retention election. McGee will serve the remainder of an eight-year term, which is set to expire in 2024.
Ballotpedia also covered general local elections in the following areas:
• Shelby County
• Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
• Hamilton County School District
• Knox County School District
• Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
• Rutherford County Schools
• Shelby County Schools
• Williamson County Schools
Entering the 2020 election, Tennessee’s U.S. congressional delegation has two Republican senators, two Democratic representatives, and seven Republican representatives. The U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Only 33 out of 100 Senate seats are up for regular election and two seats are up for special election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. The U.S. House has 232 Democrats, 198 Republicans, one Libertarian, and four vacancies. All 435 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.
Tennessee has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
The primary is the 37th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next primary is on August 8 in Hawaii.
Diana Harshbarger defeated 15 other candidates in Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District’s Republican Party primary on August 6, 2020. Incumbent Rep. Phil Roe (R), first elected in 2008, is not running for re-election.
Harshbarger received 19.2% of the vote, followed by Timothy Hill with 16.8%, Rusty Crowe with 16.1%, Josh Gapp with 14.2%, and Steve Darden with 12.4%.
Harshbarger will face Blair Walsingham (D) and Steve Holder (I) in the general election. Three race-tracking outlets rate the general election as Safe/Solid Republican. In the 2016 presidential election in the district, Donald Trump (R) received 77% of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s (D) 20%.
Elections to the U.S. House will be held on November 3 and coincide with the 2020 presidential election. All 435 House districts will be up for election, and the results will determine the partisan balance of the U.S. House in the 117th Congress. As of July 2020, Democrats had a 232-198 advantage over Republicans. There was one Libertarian member, and there were four vacancies.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D) defeated Keeda Haynes and Joshua Rawlings in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District Democratic primary on August 6, 2020. With 52% of precincts reporting, Cooper received 56.6% of the vote to Haynes’ 40.8% and Rawlings’ 2.6%.
No Republican candidate filed to run for the seat, so Cooper will appear on the November 3 general election ballot unopposed. Cooper has served in the U.S. House since 2003.
Elections to the U.S. House will be held on November 3, 2020, and coincide with the 2020 presidential election. All 435 House districts will be up for election, and the results will determine the partisan balance of the U.S. House in the 117th Congress. As of July 2020, Democrats had a 232-198 advantage over Republicans. There was one Libertarian member, and there were four vacancies.
Bill Hagerty won the 15-candidate Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Tennessee. With 31% of the vote reporting, Hagerty had received 52.5% of the vote and Manny Sethi had received 37.9%. George Flinn Jr. was the only candidate with more than 3% of the vote.
Incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander (R), first elected in 2002, did not run for re-election.
Hagerty received endorsements from Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and U.S. President Donald Trump (R), whose administration he previously served in as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Sethi, an orthopedic surgeon, received endorsements from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), founder of the Senate Conservatives Fund and the former president of the Heritage Foundation.
According to pre-primary campaign finance reports, Hagerty raised $12.3 million, the second-highest total among all non-incumbent Republicans in 2020 U.S. Senate primaries at the time. He reported $2.7 million cash on hand. Sethi raised $4.6 million with $386,000 on hand. Satellite spending totaled over $4 million primarily in the form of campaign ads. Standing With Conservatives spent $110,000 on ads supporting Hagerty and $1.2 million opposing Sethi. America One spent $375,000 opposing Sethi. Conservative Outsider PAC and Protect Freedom PAC spent $1 million opposing Hagerty and $1.5 million supporting Sethi, respectively.
Hagerty will face the winner of the Democratic primary on November 3, 2020. Three race forecasters rate the general election as Safe/Solid Republican.
Republicans currently control 53 seats in the Senate. Democrats control 45. There are two Independents who caucus with the Democrats.
Thirty-five elections will take place for the U.S. Senate in November, including special elections in Arizona for the seat that John McCain (R) won in 2016 and in Georgia for the seat that Johnny Isakson (R) won in 2016.
Over 60 days after Gov. Bill Lee (R) appointed Kristi Davis to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Davis was confirmed and sworn into office. She resigned from her position on the state’s Sixth Circuit Court on July 31 and assumed office on the appellate court on August 3.
Davis fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Charles Susano, the longest-serving judge in the history of the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Lee appointed Davis on May 28, 2020, but her confirmation hearing was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Tennessee state legislature suspended its legislative session this spring effective March 19 until June 1. The legislature then adjourned on June 19.
Had the legislature voted to confirm Davis upon returning to session in June, she would have been required to stand for retention election this month. Tennessee appellate judges are mandated to stand for retention election in the next general election occurring at least 30 days after the vacancy occurs, and general judicial elections in the state take place during the non-judicial primary in August.
The Tennessee courts reported that mail-in ballots for the August election had already been distributed and that it would have cost an additional $700,000 to send out ballots including Davis’ name. Tennessee law states that nominees not confirmed by the state legislature within 60 days are automatically confirmed the following day. Tennessee Sen. Mike Bell (R) said of the decision to allow Davis to be automatically confirmed, “After talking about it and realizing that especially in these times of crunched budgets $700,000 is not an insignificant amount of money…What we decided to do would be to allow the nominee to be confirmed basically by default by us not acting.”
Judicial elections for the appellate court in Tennessee are held every two years in even-numbered years. Davis will thus stand for retention election in 2022, and her current term ends on August 31 of that year.