Brace yourselves. This year is a brief calm before the next political storm.
And what a storm it should be.
The November 2022 ballot will include a race for governor in Tennessee. It will also feature closely watched campaigns for control of Congress.
And dear voters, next year will also bring us contested races for county mayor, sheriff and district attorney general. And we shouldn’t forget that races for the County Commission, courthouse offices and state judgeships will also be on the ballot.
Working With The Numbers
This year’s lull between elections includes the start of essential work on reapportionment.
The state General Assembly is slated to get numbers in the coming months from the 2020 U.S. Census. Those numbers are used by state officials to realign legislative districts in Congress and in the General Assembly.
Census data also will be used to redraw County Commission districts, school board representation and voting precincts.
(Note to Washington County election officials: This may be the time to look at reducing the county’s extraordinary number of voting precincts, which now stands at 35.)
Redrawing representation maps is known to be intensely political. This is when partisanship and gerrymandering usually go hand-in-hand.
With the congressional midterms coming up in 2022, redistricting will be a crucial issue in states that are deeply divided between red and blue voters.
Drawing The Lines
While that is not so much an issue in Tennessee, which has a Republican supermajority in the General Assembly, drawing new legislative district lines could nonetheless draw blood in Nashville.
Most of the population increase in Tennessee has occurred in the middle of the state. Growth has shifted everything to the west, which means local state House and Senate districts shouldn’t change a great deal.
Even so, municipal leaders in Northeast Tennessee fear an undercount could have a negative impact on state and federal funding coming to the region. Residents who did not complete a census form could prove costly to our region.
Local governments say they stand to lose more than $1,350 annually for each person who has not been counted.
That could mean one or two fewer city bus routes in Johnson City, fewer free lunches prepared for needy Washington County students and fewer federal tax dollars to help rural residents obtain clean and reliable drinking water.
History Made In Midterms
The congressional midterms in 2022 will create some drama for the White House. The party of first-term presidents usually take it on the chin in midterm (as in “middle of the term”) elections.
Midterms can completely reshape the political landscape. That was the case in 1994 when the midterm elections changed the very foundation of Tennessee politics.
Tennesseans haven’t elected a Democrat to represent them in the U.S. Senate since 1990. That was when Al Gore Jr. won re-election.
Gore would resign from the Senate two years later to become vice president.
Gov. Ned McWherter, a Democrat, appointed his longtime political ally and deputy governor, Harlan Matthews, to serve in the U.S. Senate until the next statewide election. Thus the 1994 midterms saw both of Tennessee’s seats in the Senate on the ballot.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Jim Sasser, a Democratic veteran on Capitol Hill, lost that year to Republican newcomer Bill Frist, who would later become majority leader of the Senate.
Actor turned Republican nominee Fred Thompson also had no trouble in beating Democratic challenger Jim Cooper, a veteran congressman, for Gore’s old seat.
The last Democrat to win a race for a statewide office in Tennessee was former Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2006. Bredesen, who served two terms as governor, was crushed by Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018