Memo to West Tennessee: Get a clue

Hank Hayes • Aug 12, 2017 at 4:00 PM

A recent headline in the online version of the Memphis Commercial Appeal read “Will West Tennessee decide the gubernatorial race?”

My first thought was, “That’s laughable.”

There’s a problem with that headline because Memphis and Shelby County lean left. President Donald Trump lost to Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton in Shelby County by nearly 100,000 votes in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office.

In contrast, Trump just about had double the votes Clinton got in Knox County in 2016, while in Sullivan County, Trump got more than 46,000 votes to Clinton’s 12,500.

So the real battle should be among the multiple campaigns — some with deep pockets — in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary. The deciding voters will be in Republican East Tennessee or maybe rural Tennessee as a whole.

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh are the only announced Democrat candidates for governor. I haven’t seen either of them here yet in a public appearance. When Democrat candidates don’t come here and compete, that tells me they probably aren’t going to win. GOP hopefuls Randy Boyd, Bill Lee, Beth Harwell, Mae Beavers and Diane Black have been here and will probably come back multiple times.

Also, you should realize there’s going to be an epic fight between two longtime political operatives and former chairmen of the Tennessee Republican Party. One is Chris Devaney, who’s working for Lee’s campaign. The other is Chip Saltsman, who’s been hired by Boyd’s campaign.

As I pointed out in a previous opinion piece, an Associated Press analysis of the 2016 state elections discovered about 61 percent of Tennesseans in each district voted Republican compared to about 38 percent for Democrats. That led to Republican super majorities in both the state Senate and House.

I doubt if those numbers will move a lot going into 2018. If anything, I think the state will move farther to the right.

Hank Hayes covers business and politics for the Times-News. You can reach him at: hhayes@timesnews.net.