A look at key primary legislative races in Tennessee

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A deluge of Tennessee state lawmakers are heading for the door and others face tough challengers, creating some competitive contests for the Aug. 2 primary election.

In the House, 86 of 99 seats are contested, with GOP primary battles in 33 districts and Democratic primary contests in 21 districts.

A total of 18 seats in the Senate are on the ballot.

Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers.

Here is a look at five key primary contests and a list of lawmakers not seeking re-election:

  • House District 92 (Marshall County; part of Franklin, Lincoln, and Marion counties): Republican Rep. Rick Tillis, brother of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, has drawn a primary challenge from the former state representative who had the seat before him, Billy Spivey. Tillis has spent $78,700 on the race, almost double the tab for Spivey’s campaign. Spivey has criticized Tillis’ vote for GOP Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2017 legislation to raise the gas tax for road projects while lowering several other taxes. Democrat C.S. “Scott” Coffey has not raised or spent any money.
  • House District 35 (Claiborne, Grainger counties; part of Union County): Former state Sen. Mike Williams is challenging Rep. Jerry Sexton, who helped pass a law to create a monument to the unborn and pushed to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee, one of the few bills Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has vetoed. Williams, who had been at odds with then-Senate GOP Speaker Ron Ramsey, changed his party affiliation to independent in 2007 and lost his 2008 re-election. He became mayor of Union County in 2010 and is running for House as a Republican. Sexton has spent $123,900, nine times as much as Williams, and 12 times as much as the third GOP candidate, Grainger County Commissioner James Acuff. There is no Democrat in the race.
  • House District 61 (Part of Williamson County): A slew of Republicans are lining up to try to succeed longtime Republican Rep. Charles Sargent, including attorney Gino Bulso; political blogger and online political talk radio host Rebecca Ann Burke; software company business development leader Jeff Ford; Vanderbilt University Medical Center IT consultant Robert Hullett; owner of commercial contracting business Brandon Ogles; physician Terrence A. Smith. Rebecca Purington is the Democrat in the race.
  • House District 89 (Part of Knox County): Former state Sen. Stacey Campfield is among the five Republicans battling in a primary to succeed GOP Rep. Roger Kane. Campfield drew national attention — and some backlash from fellow Republicans — for polarizing comments and controversial social issue bills. He lost in a GOP primary in 2014. In a blog post, Campfield once likened the insurance requirement under President Barack Obama’s health care law to the forced deportation of Jews during the Holocaust, drawing bipartisan condemnation. His $83,000 in spending far outpaces his primary opponents, who are former Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchison; small business owner Justin Lafferty; attorney Jesse Nelson; and physician Guy Smoak. Keifel A. Agostini and Coleen Martinez are seeking the Democratic nomination.
  • Senate District 33 (Part of Shelby County): Democratic Sen. Reggie Tate is facing a tough primary challenge from Katrina Robinson, a nurse who set up an independently owned licensed nursing program with a federal grant. Robinson has drawn endorsements from sitting Democratic Sen. Sara Kyle and Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris. Tate has faced criticism that he too often sides with Republican colleagues, and even received an odd note of support from conservative Republican Rep. Judd Matheny. Robinson has said she is the real Democrat in the race. Tate has said his work with Republicans benefits people in his district.

Lawmakers not seeking re-election


David Alexander – District 39 (Running for county mayor)

Harry Brooks – District 19 (Retiring)

Kevin Brooks – District 24 (Running for Cleveland city mayor)

Sheila Butt- District 64 (Retiring)

Jimmy Eldridge – District 73 (Running for Jackson mayor)

John Forgety- District 23 (Retiring)

Tilman Goins – District 10 (Retiring)

Marc Gravitt – District 30 (Running for register of deeds)

Beth Harwell – District 56 (Running for Governor)

Roger Kane – District 89 (Retiring)

Ron Lollar – District 99 (Deceased)

Judd Matheny – District 47 (Running for U.S. House)

Jimmy Matlock – District 21 (Running for U.S. House)

Gerald McCormick – District 26 (Retiring)

Steve McDaniel – District 72 (Retiring)

Courtney Rogers – District 45 (Retiring)

Charles Sargent – District 61 (Retiring)

Dawn White – District 37 (Running for state Senate)

Raumesh Akbari – District 91 (running for Senate)

JoAnne Favors – District 28 (retiring)

Craig Fitzhugh – District 82 (running for governor)

Brenda Gilmore – District 54 (running for Senate)

Sherry Jones – District 59 (retiring)

Joe Pitts – District 67 (retiring)

Johnnie Turner – District 85 (retiring)


Lee Harris – District 29 (running for county mayor)

Thelma Harper – District 19 (retiring)


Bill Ketron – District 13 (running for county mayor)

Latest News

More News