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Will political history be made in 2018?

Robert Houk • Dec 10, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Welcome to Election 2018. Yes, it’s already here. It arrived in late spring when Republican candidates for governor started stumping in our area.

Next year will be a busy one for politics. It’s not going to be as sexy as a presidential election year, but the stakes are just as high.

It’s midterm elections for Congress, which has historically been a nightmare for the party in the White House. We will see if President Trump can change that with his political wizardry on behalf of Republicans in battleground states. Even if U.S. Rep. Phil Roe decides to retire (which he has not hinted at this time), Tennessee’s 1st District seat will likely remain in Republican hands. Kingsport native and U.S. Army veteran Todd McKinley has already announced his own Republican bid for the seat.

Meanwhile, Democrats are hoping to make history in the 1st District. Dr. Martin Olsen, an East Tennessee State University OB-GYN professor and medical practitioner, has kicked off his bid to take a seat in Congress that has been held by Republicans since 1881.

The primaries for Congress, governor and the state General Assembly will be held Aug. 2. The general election will be held on Nov. 6, which is also when Johnson City voters will decide races for Board of Education and City Commission on the same ballot.

History could be made in other races next year. Four women have declared themselves as candidates for governor in the Republican Primary. They are Johnson City’s own Kay White, state House Speaker Beth Harwell, former state Sen. Mae Beavers and U.S. Rep. Diane Black. If one of them wins the nomination for the statewide office it will be a first for the GOP in Tennessee.

Democrats did it 40 years ago when they nominated Jane Eskind to challenge U.S. Sen. Howard Baker. Eskind, who died last year at the age of 83, lost to the popular Republican in the general election. Eskind would make history again two years later when she became the first woman to win an election for a statewide office in Tennessee — a seat on the now defunct Public Service Commission.

Last week, former Gov. Phil Bredesen launched his bid for the U.S. Senate. The Democrat decided to give the Senate a shot after Republican incumbent Bob Corker announced he would not be seeking re-election. Corker’s decision came after he dared to defy the wit and wisdom of President Trump. Doing so left Corker in the president’s doghouse, which made him a very unpopular fellow in Tennessee.

Bredesen was the last Democrat to win a statewide race in Tennessee. He carried all of this state’s 95 counties (with 68 percent of the vote) to win re-election in 2006. The world of politics has changed remarkably in the last seven years. It will be interesting to see how the wonkish Bredesen navigates this new political terrain.

The races I will be watching next year are those for county offices. We will see quite a turnover at the Washington County Courthouse. Mayor Dan Eldridge, Trustee Monty Treadway, Register of Deeds Ginger Jilton and Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn all say they will not seek re-election. I can’t recall the last time that many incumbents weren’t on a county ballot.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

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