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Staff Photo By C.B. Schmelter / Republican Party Senate primary winner Bill Hagerty puts on his mask to speak to supporters on Election Day Thursday at Wally's restaurant in Chattanooga.

A veteran Chattanooga political observer said recently that this fall's election could have echoes of 1974, when President Richard Nixon's resignation amid the Watergate scandal made every Republican running radioactive.

Any Democrat who could breathe, crawl or walk was elected that year, the observer said.

The scenario is not exactly the same this year, but it is similar: The thought in some circles that white men are yesterday's political garbage is ascendant.

Hints of those thoughts resounded in Tennessee's primary election Thursday when Black activist Marquita Bradshaw secured the Democratic Party's nomination for the United States Senate, upsetting Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pick James Mackler, a white Nashville attorney and former Army pilot, who finished third. She will be the Democratic Party's first Black female nominee for Senate from Tennessee.

READ MORE: Bill Hagerty, Marquita Bradshaw to compete for Tennessee U.S. Senate seat

The second-place finisher in the Democratic primary was another Black female, Nashville attorney Robin Kimbrough.

Bradshaw, nevertheless, will be an underdog to Republican primary winner Bill Hagerty, who survived a bruising campaign with Nashville trauma surgeon Manny Sethi.

Sethi, who was endorsed by this page, won Hamilton County by 693 votes. In total, he won 12 of the state's 95 counties, though he took pluralities or a majority in five of its six largest ones (Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Rutherford and Williamson). Hagerty, endorsed by President Donald Trump before he even entered the race, won with 50.76% of the total vote.

In Tennessee's U.S. House 1st District, in the northeast corner of the state, citizens will elect a woman — unconnected to her husband — for the first time in history, whether they choose a Republican or a Democrat. Republicans in the usually reliably conservative district selected pharmacist and business owner Diana Harshbarger as their nominee, beating out 15 other candidates, including three male former office-holders. Democrats chose Blair Walsingham, an Air Force veteran and small business owner, who was one of three in her race.

The only previous woman to hold the seat was Louise Reese, who was elected to fill the unexpired term of her late husband, B. Carroll Reece, in 1961.

READ MORE: Tennessee House incumbents secure party nominations

The winner will succeed U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, who is retiring after serving six terms. A Democrat has not won the seat since 1879.

Closer to home, Hamilton County Democrats will not have a white man contesting for any of the legislative offices for which they are offering candidates. Their candidates are either female (Joan Farrell in state House District 26) or black men (incumbent Yusuf Hakeem in District 28 and Joseph Udeaja in District 30 and Chattanooga assistant police chief Glenn Scruggs in Senate District 10).

Indeed, no matter which party wins the state House races in Hamilton County, the local House delegation will have only one white man, Republican Mike Carter, who is unopposed in District 29. Republican state Rep. Patsy Hazlewood is also unopposed in District 27.

For the fifth consecutive election, the Democratic Party's 3rd District U.S. House nominee also will be a woman, hospitality industry professional Meg Gorman. She will face Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who is seeking his sixth term in office.

In Hamilton County school board races, the only other county general election contests beside U.S. Senate in which races were contested, three incumbents, Rhonda Thurman in District 1, Tiffanie Robinson in District 4 and Joe Wingate in District 7, were re-elected. In the fourth seat on the ballot, District 2, Marco Perez, the former campaign treasurer for retiring Kathy Lennon, was the winner.

READ MORE: Thurman, Wingate, Perez win Hamilton County school board election

The board, bucking the trend in Thursday's election, moves from five women and four men to five men and four women. However, the board should remain ideologically the same since Perez is expected to vote as Lennon did.

One of the most gratifying trends, whether you support Republicans, Democrats, neither or both, is that primary election participation in sheer numbers was up over 2018 and way up over 2016. According to information on the Hamilton County Election Commission website, more than twice as many voters in Hamilton County cast ballots this year (58,783) as they did in 2016 (29,108), and more than 1,500 additional voters this year went to the polls than did in 2018 (57,072).

However, taken as a percentage of registered voters, only 26.5% of 222,160 registered voters went to the polls in Hamilton County this year compared to 28.9% of 196,864 registered voters in 2018.

In 2018, voters had a contested governor's race, a U.S. Senate race, races for county mayor, county commission seats, sheriff, register of deeds and school board to contend with. This year, they had only the contested Senate primaries and school board races.

Whatever way you look at it, the numbers put a lie to the hue and cry of Democrats, who have said in-person voting was unsafe during the COVID-19 virus and that the country needs to go to fraud imperiled mail-in balloting.

So, clearly interest is up. We hope, along with that interest, that voters will take the time to inform themselves on the issues and the candidates before they go back to the polls in November.

READ MORE: A look at Tennessee's Aug. 6 primary race results

 

 

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