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Tennessee Election Results
Blackburn wins Tennessee Senate race, keeping seat for GOP
November 7, 2018
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn won a grueling, expensive contest Tuesday to become the first female U.S. senator from Tennessee, keeping a key midterm seat under GOP control.
The congresswoman defeated Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen by closely aligning her bid with President Donald Trump, who drummed up support for her during three visits to the state that he won by 26 percentage points, including a rally alongside Vice President Mike Pence in Chattanooga two days before the election.
Blackburn calls herself congressman, not congresswoman.
Her win represents a rightward shift from the GOP senator she will replace, Bob Corker, who fell in line with Tennessee’s historical preference for more-centrist senators and at times was a vocal critic of Trump.
First elected to the House in 2002, Blackburn aligned with the tea party movement and regularly appeared on Fox News.
She opened her campaign by dubbing herself a “hardcore, card-carrying Tennessee conservative.” Before that, she made a name for herself as a state lawmaker who helped lead the revolt against a proposed Tennessee income tax in the early 2000s.
Pop superstar Taylor Swift even broke her political silence for the Tennessee contest when she went on Instagram to endorse Bredesen and encourage people to vote.
“I just really want those young people to know how important it is to the future of our country that you not get discouraged, that you stay engaged and you never, ever, ever give up,” Bredesen said Tuesday night.
Blackburn took aim at Bredesen for donating to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and receiving campaign checks from high-profile Democrats. Although Bredesen largely kept his distance from other well-known Democrats, Blackburn had no qualms bringing Trump and fellow national Republicans to Tennessee.
She welcomed in Pence three times. The president’s son Eric Trump, and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina also came along for separate campaign events.
Voters like Cody Wheeler in the Nashville suburbs were skeptical about Bredesen’s promise to independents and Republicans that he wouldn’t toe the party line in Washington.
“I had a hard time believing his campaign,” said Wheeler, a 30-year-old Blackburn voter from Williamson County. “With Marsha, you knew what you were going to get.”
Corker, the outgoing senator, had backed Blackburn but refused to campaign against Bredesen, whom he considers a friend. Corker briefly heard out pleas from some peers last winter that he reconsider retirement, prompting a Blackburn spokeswoman to say anyone who thinks she can’t win the general election is a “plain sexist pig.”
Afterward though, she managed to consolidate support across the GOP’s various political circles, including from former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, who briefly opposed her in the primary and called for Corker to run again upon dropping out of the race.
On Tuesday night, she was happy to claim a piece of Tennessee history for women in the Senate.
“And just imagine this: It is a conservative woman to boot,” she said to loud applause.
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