Republican Bill Lee took 36 percent of the vote, 20,300 votes, in his primary in Washington, Carter, Unicoi, Johnson and Sullivan counties, besting five other challengers. Lee’s proportion was similar statewide, with unofficial results from the Secretary of State showing him with 37 percent at the end of the night.
But most counties in the area differed from the state totals on second place, with Congressman Diane Black following Lee by 10 points, with 14,936 votes, compared to her third-place finish overall. Randy Boyd rounded out the top three of the candidates considered to be serious contenders for the nomination, taking 21 percent, 11,963 votes, in Northeast Tennessee and 26 percent in the state.
All three Republican candidates frequently visited this corner of the state during their campaigns, especially in the last month, and their political television advertisements saturated the airwaves.
Boyd and Black, once considered to be the most likely candidates for the governor’s job, fought amongst each other in those ads and at appearances, each trying to portray themselves as the most like President Donald Trump and the farthest removed from politics, despite one being a Congressman and the other previously serving in current Gov. Bill Haslam’s cabinet.
Vice President Mike Pence openly endorsed Black, and Trump himself, though not endorsing her, kept her close and praised her at several events in the state.
Karl Dean, chosen to represent the Democratic Party in the governor’s race in November, was the top pick of Democrats in the northeast end of the state, as well.
With fewer votes than the Republicans in the solidly conservative corner, Dean handily topped Craig Fitzhugh, a West Tennessee legislator, and Mezianne Vale Payne, a nurse from Gainesboro.
Dean’s 75 percent of the total, 6,181 votes, was slightly below his 79 percent take statewide. Fitzhugh’s 17 percent, 1,422 votes, was even with his total proportion for the state. Payne with 602 votes across the five counties, was a few points above her percentage of the total primary votes.