Dems, GOP Find Success in Tennessee Elections

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee voters elected Democrat Phil Bredesen as their next governor Tuesday, but around the country, Republicans did most of the winning.

In Congress, Republicans kept control of the House of Representatives and regained control of the Senate.

University of Tennessee political science professor Dr. Bill Lyons said these midterm elections were important, because of President George W. Bush’s personal involvement in campaigning for Republican candidates.

“You usually don’t have a president in the middle of his term of office, putting his reputation on the line as much as President Bush did by his heavy campaigning,” Lyons said. “Republicans did much better than the party of the president generally does in midterm elections. It could really be interpreted as a vote of confidence in the leadership and direction of the president.”

In Tennessee politics, Lyons said it’s become common for a governor to serve two terms of office, facing only token opposition after his first term.

“After Lamar Alexander served eight years as governor from the late 1970s to the early 1980s,” Lyons said, “Democrat Ned McWherter was elected to two terms, followed by Republican Don Sundquist. We don’t know if Bredesen will make it through eight years, but all the factors lead to a de facto eight-year term.”

Lyons said after the first term of office, potential opponents of the incumbent often decide to wait another four years until the seat is vacant.

Voters approved a measure Tuesday changing the state constitution to allow lotteries in Tennessee. Lyons said momentum for a lottery has been building for years.

“Polls have consistently showed that two-thirds of Tennesseans like the idea of a lottery,” Lyons said. “Churches recently took on the issue and voiced their opposition to a lottery, but the measure got the needed votes fairly comfortably. There’s no doubt in my mind the General Assembly will see this as a strong message to go ahead and implement a lottery.”

Supporters of a lottery say proceeds from the program will fund college scholarships and infrastructure improvements to K-12 schools in Tennessee.