While the rest of the country re-elected Barack Obama on Tuesday, in the parallel universe of Tennessee politics we went the opposite direction. The political situation in the Volunteer State was not merely one where Mitt Romney carried the State, but won 92 of 95 counties and beat Barack Obama here by over 20 percentage points. Only Davidson, Hardeman, Haywood, and Shelby counties held out for the President. Romney even managed to improve on John McCain’s 2008 result here by two more counties (Jackson and Houston) and three percentage points. The presidential result wasn’t entirely surprising, but the scale of the defeat for the Tennessee Democratic Party in Tuesday’s legislative elections was generational in scope.
After all the votes have been counted-including at least one Democratic hold (the seat of retiring Rep. Harry Tindell of Knoxville, won by Knox County Democratic Party Chairwoman Gloria Johnson who defeated Gary Loe by 91 votes)-Republicans have gained 6 seats in the Tennessee House of Representatives and 6 Senate seats. Statewide, only one incumbent Republican-Rep. Jim Gotto of Nashville-lost. The final numbers mean that Republicans will now have so many seats that under the rules, they can pass legislation instantly without debate, without discussion, and without Democrats. Every Democrat in the Tennessee General Assembly could never show up for any vote in the 108th General Assembly and the GOP members would still have a quorum to do business and carry on.
The new Republican Senators are Todd Gardenhire (Chattanooga), Janice Bowling (Tullahoma), Steve Dickerson (Nashville), John Stevens (Huntington), and outgoing Rep. Joey Hensley (Hohenwald). Outgoing Rep. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) will replace retiring Senator Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill) in Senate District 8.
Republicans who gained seats from Democrats in the Tennessee House were Dawn White (Rutherford County), William Lamberth (Sumner County), Jeremy Durham (Williamson County), Billy Spivey (Lewisburg), Debra Moody (Tipton County, in the seat formerly held by Democratic House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh of Covington during the ancien regime), and Roger Kane (Knox County).
It is uncertain at this point what the Democratic Leadership picture will look like in the next General Assembly, since Democrats will be completely insignificant for the first time in Tennessee history. Democrats could keep Leader Craig Fitzhugh in the House, or could replace him with their Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory) so that members of the Majority can enjoy live entertainment on the House floor while doing their work. It is unknown whether Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) will remain in that post, or if Democrats will choose someone else from their slim pickings in the Upper Chamber.