A takeaway from election season

Johnson City Press • Nov 8, 2018 at 8:15 AM

No real shockers popped up in Tuesday’s local election returns.

The record turnout was anticipated, based on early voting trends prior to Election Day and the glaring divide among Americans.

As expected, Republican Phil Roe handily won re-election in a congressional district that has not elected a Democrat since 1879.

Tennessee voters stayed on trend by keeping the state’s U.S. Senate representation in Republican hands, as we have not elected a Democrat since Al Gore in 1990. Roe’s House colleague Marsha Blackburn dominated all of East Tennessee and rural counties across the state in her successful bid for Senate. Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen bested her in only the state’s most populous urban counties, Davidson (Nashville) and Shelby (Memphis). The other 94 were in Blackburn’s column — most by huge margins.

Republican Bill Lee won the state’s governorship in the same fashion with even clearer support. Local Republicans kept their seats in the state Legislature with 30-point victories.

You might see Tennessee is a microcosm of the national map in that rural and smaller communities stayed red while larger urban areas came in blue. In Tennessee, red points on the map outnumbered those in blue enough to give Blackburn a nearly 11-point edge.

We suspect the state as a whole stayed so red in no small part because of President Donald Trump’s frequent visits to support Blackburn and the pointed identity tactics the GOP used against Bredesen regarding immigration and health care. While Lee’s win was almost a given, his 21-point margin of victory was boosted by the partisan energy.

At the local level, Johnson City voters sent experienced community leaders to the City Commission and Board of Education as expected. The close race between winner Paula Treece and Herb Greenlee for an unexpired term on the school board was a toss-up all along given their records of service.

Even the turnover on Unicoi’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Elizabethton’s Board of Education should have surprised no one, given the level of discord around the two panels.

So Election Night here went according to script.

We did spot one takeaway, though, from this election season: ETSU Votes has become a force. The organization’s efforts to register new voters and encourage turnout was a much-needed shot of democracy in action. We were impressed with how many students from the group attended the gubernatorial forum we conducted with our partners at the Kingsport Times News in October.

ETSU Votes’ efforts culminated Tuesday with a non-partisan “family fun” day outside the precinct at Johnson City’s South Side Elementary School. As Staff Writer Jessica Fuller’s photo on the front page of Wednesday’s edition illustrated, the event helped model the importance of voting to children, who may one day will join their parents at the polls.

Red, blue or somewhere in between — that’s something we can all celebrate from this election.

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