Tennessee State Capitol

The Tennessee State Capitol on May 18, 2014. Robert Schnaible / Creative Commons

Nov. 8 is Election Day and early voting will begin on Oct. 19.

While midterm and local elections may not be the most glamorous, they are still important. Only about 40% of eligible voters participate in midterm elections, putting the United States far behind other developed countries.

There are a few major races happening this fall, including Tennessee governor, state legislature and representatives to the U.S. House. Tennessee voters will also be weighing in on four amendments to the state Constitution.

Governor

Democrat Dr. Jason Martin is challenging incumbent Bill Lee for his seat as governor of Tennessee. Martin, a physician and businessman, is running on a platform centered on healthcare reform. He has also outlined his vision for other hot-button issues in the state, including cannabis and abortion.

Gov. Bill Lee was elected in 2018 and is seeking reelection. Gov. Lee oversaw Tennessee through several major events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Recently, he has made the news for refusing to debate with his Democratic opponent ahead of the elections.

State House of Representatives

The House is the lower chamber of the Tennessee General Assembly. All ninety-nine seats within it are up for election this year. State representatives serve two-year terms, and the House has been controlled by a Republican majority since 2008.

The state underwent controversial redistricting in 2020, which impacted approximately 2.5 million addresses. The easiest way to find your district is through the General Assembly’s FindMyLegislator site.

While states typically redraw their congressional districts every ten years to reflect population shifts measured by the census, the 2020 changes attracted heavy criticism and even a lawsuit. State Republicans targeted multiple Democratic seats, including those in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville.

Some candidates, such as Nashville Democrat Odessa Kelly, have accused the changes of alienating Black voters.Many of the redrawn boundaries split predominantly Black, Democrat-voting areas and combined them with more right-leaning communities.

State Senate

Odd-numbered Tennessee Senate seats are up for election this year. The Senate is the upper chamber of the General Assembly, and it has been controlled by a Republican majority since 2004. Senator posts are up for election in District 5 and District 7, while District 6 will hold elections in 2024.

In August, District 5 incumbent Randy McNally beat challenger Earle Segrest in the Republican primary. McNally, who also serves as Lieutenant Governor, has been the state senator for the district since 1987. He will not face a Democratic opponent this election.

In District 7, incumbent Richard Briggs will stand for reelection after defeating opponent Kent Morrell in the August Republican primaries. Briggs has been serving in this post since 2015. He will face a Democratic opponent, Bryan Langan. Langan, a UT graduate, is campaigning on a platform focused on infrastructure and the environment.

U.S. House of Representatives

Tennessee’s nine seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election. Knoxville is within the 2nd congressional district, which covers a large section of East Tennessee up to the Kentucky border. Incumbent Republican Rep. Tim Burchett, is being challenged by Democratic opponent Mark Harmon.

Burchett, who previously served as mayor of Knox County, serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Transportation & Infrastructure committees. He has sponsored 21 bills during his tenure, which have included reforms for military families’ benefits and incentivizing companies to engage in carbon capture.

Harmon, a professor in the School of Journalism & Electronic Media and former Knox County commissioner, is basing his platform on four core focuses: minimum wage, affordable higher education, healthcare reform and abortion rights.

Constitutional amendments

Tennessee voters will be weighing-in on four proposed amendments to the state constitution. These amendments have to do with formally codifying or eliminating obsolete language within the document.

Proposition 1 has gotten the most amount of attention in the press. Proposition 1 would formally enshrine “right-to-work” in the Tennessee constitution, which would bar employers from requiring union membership as a requirement for employment. This move is widely supported by state Republicans, including Gov. Lee, and is condemned by state Democrats and union officials.

The other three proposals have gotten less attention and mainly have to do with fine-tuning language within the Constitution.

Proposition 2 would add a formal procedure for instating a temporary acting governor in the event of an emergency.

Proposition 3 would expressly ban unpaid servitude as a punishment for crime.

Proposition 4 removes an obsolete and unlawful provision that bans religious authorities from running for elected office.

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