NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the Democratic presidential primary in Tennessee, a state that woke up on Super Tuesday to mass tornado damage across Nashville and other parts of the state.
Biden beat out Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. President Donald Trump easily secured the Republican nomination.
Biden had a strong showing in Shelby County, and also won the primary in Arkansas.
The overnight tornadoes resulted in at least 24 dead and shredded more than 140 buildings, including polling places. As a result, some polling sites were moved while others stayed open late to accommodate the voters trying to cast a ballot amid the debris and destruction.
Some polling locations in Davidson County were still open after Biden was declared the winner. A judge had ordered five polling locations to remain open until 10 p.m. after the Tennessee Democratic Party successfully sued top election officials earlier in the day. Four Democratic presidential campaigns were also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
At least two dozen people were killed by the twisters, which shredded dozens of buildings. One of the tornadoes caused severe damage across downtown Nashville.
“Of course we want people to exercise caution in areas like downtown Nashville where there’s damage in the streets and that sort of thing,” Lee said at a news conference earlier Tuesday. “But we also want folks to exercise their rights and get out there and vote. It’s a very important day for that.”
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said alternate sites were arranged for 15 polling places out of the 169 precincts in Nashville’s combined city-county area.
The disaster has complicated voting in a presidential race reshaped by Joe Biden’s blowout South Carolina win and exits by Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg. Democratic presidential campaigns have continued to make their Super Tuesday case in Tennessee through TV ads and appearances.
The former vice president deployed his wife, Jill Biden, to Tennessee on Sunday for a meet-and-greet in Memphis and a fundraiser in Nashville, then she toured a Nashville middle school Monday morning.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane Sanders, spent Wednesday making multiple stops in Nashville. Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent actress Ashley Judd to make stops for her in Nashville on Monday. Judd’s scheduled appearances on Tuesday were canceled due to the tornadoes.
And billionaire Mike Bloomberg made three stops Friday in Tennessee, speaking in Memphis, Clarksville and Johnson City. The former New York City mayor has made four trips to Tennessee as a candidate — more than any of his rivals — and has hired the most staffers throughout the state. His multimillion-dollar ad campaign in Tennessee has been the easiest to spot on local TV airwaves.
Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, held a rally Saturday in Nashville, only to see a dismal outcome in South Carolina and drop out of the presidential race Sunday. Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator, held a Nashville event Friday, then left the contest Monday.
Tennessee’s 73 delegates also could prove vital for candidates needing to show momentum in the rapidly thinning race. Just seven other states will have more delegates than Tennessee on Super Tuesday.
In a state where a Republican holds every major elected office, including seven of the nine congressional seats, the Democratic primary voting base has a history of being more moderate than that of other states.
Even though Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Tom Steyer recently dropped out of contention, they’ll still see their share of votes: More than 169,400 Democratic primary votes in Tennessee were already cast ahead of Tuesday through early and absentee ballots. Early voting began Feb. 12.