MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – Republicans netted a clean sweep Tuesday in races for the three open U.S. House seats in Tennessee.
With all six incumbents easily winning re-election, the party breakdown among House members in Tennessee remains in the same – seven Republicans, two Democrats.
None of the wins were a surprise on Election Day. Still, Democrats had hoped to make inroads while laying a foundation for challenges in GOP-held districts in 2020.
The most contentious congressional race was in solidly Republican District 7, which covers the Nashville suburb of Williamson County, the city of Clarksville and more than a dozen rural counties in middle and west Tennessee. Republican Marsha Blackburn held the seat for 16 years before moving on to run for U.S. Senate.
Republican Mark Green, a state senator, doctor, former Army surgeon, businessman and cancer survivor, soundly defeated Democrat Justin Kanew, a film producer and former “Amazing Race” contestant.
Kanew supports Medicaid expansion and universal health care coverage. Green helped the state Legislature block Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s Medicaid expansion plan. Green dislikes the Affordable Care Act and says he supports health care savings plans for individuals rather than government-provided health insurance.
Green withdrew from consideration for U.S. Army secretary last year after facing criticism over negative remarks about Muslims, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. Green called the attacks “false and misleading” and accused Democrats and the media of orchestrating a “hit job” on his nomination.
Kanew has said Green’s comments made him too extreme for President Donald Trump’s administration and district voters, and he called out his opponent for blocking Medicaid expansion and refusing to debate him. Green criticized Kanew for running for Congress after living in the district for only about two years and pointed out Kanew has never held public office.
Chad Story, a 41-year-old Republican and Williamson County commissioner, said he admired Green for his military service and valued Green’s political experience.
“There’s a track record there that’s been nothing but positive and empowering,” said Story, a business analyst.
Green said his team feels ecstatic and privileged to win. He plans to get to work quickly. He’s planning town hall meetings with voters and discussions with Democrats in the district.
“We’re going to meet with those guys and say, ‘You know, you may or may not consider me your congressman, but I consider you my constituents,” Green said of the Democrats. “‘You’re my boss and we’re going to work together and we’re going to listen.’”
“He assured me he’ll work to bring us together, and I will do everything I can to hold him to that,” Kanew said in a tweet.
Green joins two other Republicans who will be going to Washington as members of Congress for the first time.
In northern Tennessee’s District 6, Republican farmer and businessman John Rose defeated Democrat doctor Dawn Barlow. Rose’s support of Trump’s policies on immigration and taxes made him popular in a district formerly held by Republican Diane Black, a Trump ally. Black vacated the position when she decided to run for governor, a race she lost.
In east Tennessee’s District 2, Republican Tim Burchett was victorious against Democrat Renee Hoyos. Burchett is a former Knox County mayor and state legislator who won in a district that has not seen a Democrat hold a House seat since the Civil War. Hoyos has served as executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network.
The seat in the district that includes Knoxville was left open after Republican John Duncan Jr. retired. Burchett thanked voters on social media.
Republican incumbents Phil Roe, Chuck Fleischmann, Scott DesJarlais and David Kustoff sailed to victory. As did Democrat incumbents Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen.