Tennessee primary winner will be heavily favored in redesigned seat

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The primary to watch in Tennessee on Thursday is taking place in a district of Republican mappers revised to favor their party and entice a veteran House Democrat to retire.

Nine Republicans are on the ballot in the 5th Central District, where 16 Rep. terms. jim cooper (D) declined to seek re-election after the Republican legislature split populous Davidson County (Nashville) into three districts instead of keeping the entire county.

The changes transformed the 5th from a Democratic stronghold, President Joe Biden, won by 24 percentage points in the 2020 election, into a Republican-friendly constituency that Donald Trump would have won by 11 points – making it more likely that unlikely that a conservative Republican will succeed Cooper, a moderate Democratic leader.

The Republican primary may be a three-way race between Beth Harwell, a former State House speaker and Tennessee Republican Party chair who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018; Andy Ogles, mayor of Maury County (Columbia) south of Nashville; and Kurt Winstead, an attorney who is a retired brigadier general in the Tennessee National Guard.

Harwell’s supporters included the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessee Bankers Association, Republican women’s groups, the Susan B. Anthony anti-abortion list, and Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R), which represents Tennessee’s 1st District.

Ogles said he was “the most conservative mayor in Tennessee” and called for the removal of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Winstead highlighted his military background and described himself as a conservative “outsider” taking on two “career politicians”.

Screenshot of a Beth Harwell campaign ad

All three were well funded and partially self-funded their campaigns. They all also emphasized opposition to illegal immigration and support for more border security measures, although this is still becoming a corner issue.

A Harwell ad linked Ogles to, among other entities, “amnesty-loving RINOs” — or Republicans in name only — after benefiting from a major independent spending campaign that included Americans’ super PAC for the prosperity. The libertarian-conservative advocacy group supports changes to immigration laws and is part of a coalition with the pro-Harwell Chamber of Commerce that advocates for a bipartisan solution to improve immigration and border security policies.

The lone Democratic candidate is State Senator Heidi Campbell, who underscored her support for abortion rights before and after Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed anti-abortion constitutional amendment this week. Campbell said he had raised $329,000 through July 15.

Tennessee’s second most competitive district is the 7th, which absorbed Democrats from the 5th district but would still have backed Trump by 15 points in the 2020 election. The Nov. 8 matchup is between the two-term representative. green mark (R) and Odessa Kelly (D), a community activist supported by progressive groups. Before the redistricting, Kelly campaigned to unseat Cooper in the Democratic primary.

After the votes in Tennessee, the next primaries will take place on Tuesday in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin. There is also a special House election in Minnesota that day to complete the term of the late Republican Jim Hagedorn.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in washington at [email protected]

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