Tennessee House District 30 candidate Esther Helton, center, speaks with Justin Young, right, and Ruth Braly at an election returns party at 2503 Station Grill on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Updated at 11:05 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

The Republican red wall held firm in Hamilton County's state House and Senate districts.

Republicans swept four state House races, though first-time candidate Lemon C. Williams Jr. lost solidly in traditionally Democratic District 28. Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Bo Watson handily won re-election to a fourth term in the Tennessee Senate's 11th District.

The Tennessee Democratic Party proudly fielded candidates in all five House districts, but only Joda Thongnopnua in District 30 did much in the way of public campaigning.

Thongnopnua, who operates a nonprofit policy analysis organization, lost to Republican nominee Esther Helton, a long-time nurse and member of the East Ridge City Council. She will replace Marc Gravitt, who was elected Hamilton County Register of Deeds.

Tuesday night, Helton thanked her friends and supporters and said, "My main priority will be District 30, Hamilton County and Tennessee, in that order. What matters to the people of District 30 matters to me."

She told the Times Free Press that Thongnopnua called to congratulate her and offer his support.

"He is a very kind, bright young man, and I look forward to the possibility of being able to do things together to benefit the community," Helton said.

Thongnopnua rallied his supporters and urged them to stay involved in the community.

"We're seeing momentum in the toughest places to build it. We have built something real," he said. "What I'm going to challenge you to do tonight is not go home and feel sorry for ourselves. Get involved in the organizations that are making our community stronger."

District 30 was one of three open seats in the Hamilton County delegation this year.

Republican Robin Smith, who does political consulting and is a former Hamilton County and Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman, overwhelmed Democrat Jean Marie Lawrence in House District 26. She will fill the seat left open when veteran GOP lawmaker Gerald McCormick resigned to take a job in Nashville.

Democrats sued to keep Smith off the ballot, saying Republicans shouldn't have been allowed to reopen qualifying, but lost at every turn. The case is now on appeal.

Meanwhile, Lawrence won the primary over David Jones, even though she had moved out of the district and didn't campaign for the seat.

In a statement, Smith thanked her supporters for their confidence and added, "Serving as District 26 Representative is a humbling honor, and I will work hard each day to be your voice in Tennessee's future. There's work to do in making our great state even greater, and I look forward to get started in Nashville."

Lawrence could not be reached by phone for comment.

In District 28, Williams faced Democratic political veteran Yusuf Hakeem for the right to replace Rep. JoAnne Favors, who did not seek re-election.

Hakeem, a former Chattanooga City Council member and a member of the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, took more than 75 percent of the vote.

"I feel blessed that the voters showed confidence in me to move forward and represent them in the Legislature," Hakeem said." It is my intent to take those interests and concerns they have shared with me, such as health care, education and housing, and try to move them forward from a policy perspective with the assistance of our local representatives and other representatives from across the state."

Williams said having a competitive race in District 28 was a good way to get more ideas aired.

"I'm proud of what we accomplished. It was a fantastic race," Williams said. He congratulated Hakeem and praised the civil exchange of ideas for improving the district.

"We proved that District 28 is not Washington, D.C., and that's a win for everybody," Williams said.

Incumbent Republicans Patsy Hazlewood, in District 27, and Mike Carter, in District 29, trounced their Democratic opponents Randy Price and Tammy Magouirk, respectively.

Staff writer Mark Pace contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at or 423-757-6416.