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August 08, 2014 9:43 AM Some Sane News From Tennessee

By Ed Kilgore

So Tennessee held its primary yesterday, and the best and (to me) most surprising outcome was that a partisan effort financed by Americans For Prosperity and the state’s right-wing Lieutenant Governor to purge the State Supreme Court failed dismally. All three Justices whose retentions were challenged for the sin of not being GOP stooges, won by very similar 57-43 margins. So in this state at least the idea of an independent judiciary survives.

The marquee race from a national point of view was obviously Joe Carr’s challenge to Lamar Alexander. Lamar! won 50/41—pretty much the same margin as Pat Roberts’ earlier this week. That’s fine for Alexander (this is likely his last term) but, as Nate Silver pointed out yesterday, it reflects a generally rising tide of “RINO-hunting” by underfunded challengers whose ability to intimidate incumbents continues to strengthen even if they don’t actually win.

The amazing news is that Rep. Steve DesJarlais (the “pro-family” hypocrite I wrote angrily about yesterday) may survive again over a well-funded challenger. The incumbent led Jim Tracy by 33 votes with all precincts reporting. Provisional ballots could change the totals, and Tracy could also demand a recount. Who knows, the bitterness over the GOP nomination in the 4th district could even give a big lift to Democratic nominee Lenda Sherrill (though TN-04 has a PVI of R+18).

Another disturbing if less surprising result was in TN-03, where wingnut Rep. Chuck Fleischmann narrowly won a rematch with Weston Wamp, in that rarest of southern primaries, one in which the challenger explicitly called for a more moderate GOP. Wamp is the son of Zach Wamp, who represented this district before an unsuccessful gubernatorial race in 2010.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen easily won renomination in Memphis-based TN-09, and will have even less trouble in November.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything of great note. Next up on the primary calendar is storm-battered Hawaii on Saturday.

UPDATE: As commenter bkmn noted, Chattanooga voters overwhelmingly overturned municipal domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples. I have a feeling there was some reciprocal dynamic between that result and Chuck Fleischmann’s victory, since he carried Hamilton County for the first time.

But in better news, the sponsor of Tennessee’s proposed “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, the regularly outrageous state senator Stacey Campfield, was trounced in his primary by better than a two-to-one margin.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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