SHOCKER: GOP’s Mark Pody Barely Avoids Upset in Narrow Victory Over Democrat in State Senate Special Election

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In a shockingly close election, Republican State Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Mary Alice Carfi in the 17th State Senate District’s special election by a mere 308 votes on Tuesday, 5,990 to 5,682, in unofficial results obtained by The Tennessee Star.

Barring a recall challenge from Carfi, Pody will take over the State Senate seat left by former State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), who resigned in August to devote full time to her campaign for governor, and be seated in the Tennessee State Senate when the Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes in January.

The surprisingly narrow margin of victory for Pody, 51 percent to 49 percent, was dramatically lower than the last time the State Senate seat was contested in 2010, when Beavers easily won by a 24 percent margin. When Beavers ran for re-election in 2014, the Democrats did not field a candidate.

The slim margin of victory for Pody was even more surprising, given that the Democratic candidate spent very little money on her campaign, focusing instead on get-out-the-vote efforts, sources tell The Star.

A county-by-county analysis of the vote total, as seen here on the tally board at Pody election headquarters on Tuesday night, shows that the race was close in all but two of the district’s six counties.

Republican Pody won Macon County by a 2-to-1 margin, took Cannon County comfortably, but narrowly won Wilson County by only 80 votes. Democratic candidate Carif narrowly won Smith, DeKalb, and Clay Counties.

County by County Vote Tally, 17th State Senate District Special Election, Dec. 19, 2017

“This narrow victory by Senator-elect Mark Pody should be a wake up call for the State Republican Party and candidates across the state heading into 2018,” conservative media analyst Steve Gill tells The Star.

“Simply having an ‘R’ next to your name isn’t enough to win, even in dark red districts. The state and local parties need to stop bickering and focus on grassroots organization and turnout; and candidates shouldn’t count on any operational or organizational help other than what they establish and deploy for themselves,” Gill adds.

State Rep. Pody told The Star late Tuesday he was pleased with the victory.

“We are very honored to have this victory tonight,” Pody texted The Star at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

“The voters had a clear choice. Now it’s time to work on the conservative values that make Tennessee great,” Pody added.

Pody, who will serve out the remainder of former State Sen. Beavers’ term and is up for re-election to a full term in November 2018, has his work cut out for him.

(from left to right) State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden, State Senator-elect Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), and State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville)

Sources tell The Star that the Democrat base was very energized, and turned out at higher rates than the Republican base, a consequence perhaps of the momentum gathered by Democrats with last week’s surprising upset of Republican Roy Moore by Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama U.S. Senate special election.

The need to develop a get-out-the-vote organization in all state contests in 2018 was emphasized by Steve Gill in his post-election analysis.

“Both parties have become too dependent on traditional media and digital ads and let infrastructure and local outreach efforts lag,” Gill tells The Star.

“Those who get aggressive and activate their voters will win, while campaigns who fail to do that will find themselves in the losers column. Mark Pody is fortunate to be celebrating a razor thin win rather than a shocking and inexplicable loss,” Gill concludes.

The Wilson County Commission will now select someone to serve out the balance of Pody’s term representing the 46th House District.


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7 Thoughts to “SHOCKER: GOP’s Mark Pody Barely Avoids Upset in Narrow Victory Over Democrat in State Senate Special Election”

  1. […] by Beavers when she decided to run for Governor. Pody, a sitting State Representative at the time, narrowly won the seat against Democrat opponent Mary Alice Carfi in a special election held in late 2017 to finish out […]

  2. Susan E Gingrich

    The fact that conservative champion Mark Pody’s special election was so close in Mae Beavers’ old Senatorial District should be a wake-up to all conservatives and republicans across the state. The minority democrats were active and energized. Republicans stayed home, not because of Mark’s candidacy, but because every level of TN government takes all taxpayers and citizens for granted. Some of the recent administration and legislature’s actions, including the tax increase and more free college education, are no different from states led by liberal tax and spend democrats. TN should be proud of its credit rating, but maybe not of the surplus due to over taxation. Many legitimately needing taxpayer help because of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and ill health, including mental illness and addiction receive no help. No, government isn’t the solution to everything, but doing nothing hasn’t been the solution either. There is also a serious lack of accountability and transparency at all levels of TN government. Voters will have a clear choice for governor. By their vote, they will be choosing either just more of the same guided by special interests or real accountability to Tennesseans, guided by conservative values and principles. I just hope they take the time to be informed about the candidates before they vote.

    1. Horatio Bunce

      Agreed. Tax and spend, common core loving, anti-2nd amendment, corporate welfare Republicans are no better than Democrats. Can’t ride Trump’s “drain the swamp” coattails when you have a super-majority that isn’t delivering and hasn’t for years on end. Just looking at the vote totals vs. registered voters in those counties in the district, only 10% of registered voters even participated in this special election.

      90% of the registered voters in the district chose “none of the above”.

    2. Stuart I. Anderson

      The super-majority is heavily influenced by the tepid conservative/centrist Republicans and their Chamber of Commerce paymasters whose goal is to dilute the Republican Party platform as much as possible. Mark Pody, Joe Carr, Mark Green, and Judd Matheny are enthusiastic conservatives interested in applying the Republican Party platform. Those who fail to show-up to support these Republicans because they are angry at those Republicans are cutting their nose to spite their face which is simply childish and self-defeating and couldn’t make the liberals happier.

      1. Horatio Bunce

        I agree with your first sentence. It is obviously diluted. Harwell is elected speaker by her own after all. The small handful of true conservatives is paying the price for being attached to the toxic haslam/harwell/sargent/norris/casada/overbey/ramsey republican brand. It is not a benefit to them. They do not need the brand-new one that repeatedly delivered Bailout Bob and Lamar! as the best TNGOP had to offer. In other words, their platform is undiscernible, except that campaigning is quite different than governing. And sorry about Sen. Green, but really disappointed he dropped the ball on constitutional carry to go job interview with Trump…and nobody carried the bill….again. Tired of the games.

  3. Stuart I. Anderson

    In the 2018 elections conservatives have a wonderful opportunity to make great strides in fulfilling their goal in making the Tennessee Republican Party as conservative as the Democratic Party is liberal. We have proven conservative candidates in race after race but they are not going to get elected by wishing and hoping and certainly not by over confidence that someone, somewhere is going to make the financial contributions, and/or the voter contact that needs to be done to win elections. Let Mark Pody’s uncomfortably close race be our wakeup call.

    Joe Carr’s January State Senate primary race in District 14 (east Rutherford, Lincoln, Moore, Marshall, and Bedford counties) is our next test. Please join me in making the financial contributions and/or volunteering for voter contact for this one. JOE CAN’T DO IT ALONE.

  4. Misty Partner

    Wake up call for the far right Tea Party nuts. If Pody keeps on trying to force his spiritual beliefs in his constituents he will lose in November 18