Democrats in Hamilton County, Tennessee sound energized as they look ahead to next year’s elections, and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a potential candidate for Governor, won a straw poll at the Hamilton County Democrats' annual fundraiser .
On November 10th, they met at the Chattanooga Convention Center for their annual fundraiser. This was a few days after Democrats in other states—Virginia and New Jersey, in particular—won high-profile victories in what NPR described as a rebuke of President Trump.
Talking about those victories in other states, members of the Hamilton County Democratic Party sound optimistic. Rachel Campbell is the party’s Communications Chair.
CAMPBELL: We are fired up! We are ready to go, we have candidates in the pipelines that are just going to blow everybody’s minds. We are fired up. Virginia, they ain’t got nothing on Tennessee.
The Tennessee Democratic Party Primary is coming up in August 2018. And two candidates are seeking the party’s nomination to run for Governor. Karl Dean is a Nashville businessman, and the former Mayor of that city.
DEAN: I think the state wants a Governor who’s gonna be pragmatic, common sense, get it done, something that a mayor does, and that’s what I want to do for the state. So I’m focused on education, economic opportunity, and the healthcare issue.
Dean’s opponent is a representative in the state legislature. Tennessee House Minority Leader Representative Craig Fitzhugh has served for more than two decades.
FITZHUGH: And I just realized that with what I’ve learned in the Legislature, I can hit the ground running on day one of the first floor on the Capitol, work together with those on my party and those on the other side, and get some things done.
The highlight of the evening at the Chattanooga Convention Center was a straw poll, where local Democrats filled out ballots to show their support of either Dean or Fitzhugh.
These straw polls are annual events for Hamilton County Democrats… called the Estes Kefauver Straw Poll.
Kefauver was a native Tennessean who served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Party officials say he supported civil rights efforts in a time when it was not popular to do so.
Terry Lee is the former chair of the Hamilton County Democrats.
LEE: The straw poll has been off and on for the last 40 years. Of course, you only have a Governor’s race every four years. Sometimes we do it with the senatorial campaigns. But, since that field is not really quite set yet, we decided to do the gubernatorial.
When the straw poll ballots were tallied, Karl Dean won, with nearly 80 percent of the vote.
Voters across the state also see Dean as the front runner, according to a very recent poll conducted by Middle Tennessee State University.
In 2018, Tennessee Democrats may still feel energized by their party’s wins in Virginia and New Jersey—the ones NPR described as a rebuke of President Trump. But they may have a difficult time seeing similar victories in the Volunteer State.
New Jersey and Virginia are both states Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 election... unlike Republican-dominated Tennessee.
For WUTC, I’m Michael Edward Miller.
(Note: updated 11/17/17 to correct a factual error. Dean won the straw poll with nearly 80% of the vote, not 70%, as was originally reported.)