The war of words is heating up between former State Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) and Murfreesboro businessman Shane Reeves in their battle for the GOP nomination for the 14th District State Senate seat vacated by former State Senator Jim Tracy(R-Shelbyville) late last year. Thus far however, there is no sign that the fiery rhetoric is translating to turnout in early voting.
Early voting began on January 5 and runs through January 20, 2018. Primary Election day is January 25th with the primary winner advancing to the March 13, 2018 Special General Election.
The first week of early voting (with the January 12 snow and ice storm closing polling locations early) have only produced 1,432 total votes in the Republican primary election in the five counties involved: Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore and Rutherford. Only 190 votes have been cast in the Democratic Primary, where Gayle Jordan is the sole candidate.
The icy conditions on January 12 have raised increased concerns among both political camps that similar conditions on Election Day mean locking in votes during the early voting period is even more crucial. In 2011, State Senator Kerry Roberts won a Special Election to fill the vacancy created after then-State Senator Diane Black was elected to Congress. That primary race, which included Robertson and Sumner County, took place on January 20, 2011 and an ice storm late in the day severely impacted Election Day turnout.
In a six person GOP Primary battle, Roberts won with 2,331 votes, with William Slater (1,709) and Bryan Bondurant (1,572) relatively close on his heels. Only 6,056 total votes were cast in that GOP Primary.
Roberts went on to win the general election in March of that year.
Election analysts say that unless there is a dramatic increase in voter participation next week, the total early vote may be around 3500, and bad weather on January 25th could produce an election total below the 6,056 that voted in the Sumner/Robertson primary in 2011.
State Senator Kerry Roberts had advice for both campaigns based on the low turnout, his experience with a similar special election and the narrow margin of victory that State Senator Mark Pody just recorded in his election.
“I think voters are increasingly tired of what they hear as political bickering,” Roberts noted.
“I think the candidate that provides a credible, clear and strong message of what they are for rather than just criticizing their opponent has the best chance to turn out voters. And, as we just saw in Virginia where a State House race was a tie, with the eventual Republican winner being drawn by random selection and keeping the Virginia State House in Republican hands by that one seat, every single vote really matters,” Roberts concluded.
Editors Note: Both the Shane Reeves for State Senate Campaign and the Joe Carr for State Senate Campaign are Tennessee Star advertisers.