While every office in Sumner County in which a partisan election has been held is currently controlled by Republicans, Democrats are making a run at several seats during the 2022 election cycle.
On the August 4 combination ballot that includes the general election for county offices and a primary for state and federal offices, Democrats are vying for eight of the four dozen total seats electors will be voting on.
For the county-level general elections, four Democrats are opposing Republicans from the May 3 primary in Sumner County commission districts 5, 8, 13 and 23.
In county commission district 5, Republican nominee Darrell Rogers who bested the two-term incumbent is running against Democrat nominee LaToya Holcomb.
In district 8, Republican nominee and the incumbent Baker Ring is running against Democrat nominee Deborah Alston.
In district 13 Republican nominee Terri Boyt, who beat her primary opponent with 60 percent of the vote, faces off against Democrat nominee Brenda Dotson, who beat her Democrat primary opponent with more than 63 percent of the vote.
In district 23, Republican nominee Tim Jones, who bested his incumbent opponent with nearly 67 percent of the vote, will face the unopposed Democrat-primary nominee Jason Baggett.
Due to HB9072 / SB909 that passed in the Third Extraordinary Session of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly held in October 2021 that became Public Chapter No. 1 upon being signed into law by the governor, at the request of the party’s executive committee, a county election commission would conduct partisan primaries for school board for the first time during the 2022 election cycle.
Two declared Democrats are running against Republicans in Sumner County school board races in districts 3 and 9.
In school board district 3, the Republican primary winner Allen Lancaster, who beat incumbent Alice Bachman, will face off against the unopposed Democratic primary winner Hilary Nimmo Lounder.
In Sumner County school board district 9, the unopposed Republican primary winner Patricia Brown is running against the unopposed Democratic primary winner Roxie Kelsey.
The two will be challenged by write-in candidate Joshua Graham, who was initially gerrymandered out of the district at the request of the incumbent, The Tennessee Star reported, and then, with the passage of the partisan school board elections legislation, was disqualified from the May 3 Republican party primary.
In Sumner County’s school board district 11, the incumbent David Wilkerson initially completed the required appointment of political treasurer form indicating that his party affiliation is Democratic, but then crossed it out and wrote Independent.
Of the three State House district seats appearing on the party primary portion of the August 4 ballot, only one has a Democrat candidate.
In State House District 44, the five-term current Republican Majority Leader William Lamberth is running unopposed in the August Republican primary, but will face off against the Democrat primary candidate Kesa Fowler in November.
In State House District 45, two-term Republican incumbent and House Majority Whip Johnny Garrett is running unopposed in the primary and will have no Democratic opponent on the November ballot.
The newly established House District 35, which covered Claiborne, Grainger, and part of Union counties until the 2020 redistricting that put Republican Representatives Jerry Sexton and Rick Eldridge in the same House District 10, now covers the portion of southeastern Sumner County and Trousdale County previously represented by Republican Terri Lynn Weaver as part of District 40.
In House District 35, there are three Republican candidates in the August 4 primary, but no Democratic candidates qualified for the upcoming primary election.
At the federal level, there are two Democratic primary candidates running for U.S. House District 6, one of whom will face off in November against the incumbent Republican candidate John Rose, who is unopposed in the August primary.
Over the past eight years of Republican control over the Sumner County board of commissioners, two tax increases of 24 percent and 17 percent were implemented under the cover of the five-year property reappraisal process in 2014 and 2019 while some lobbied for and received pay raises for themselves.
The Sumner County commission Republican majority also disregarded a 2011 resolution that committed Sumner County to being debt-free by 2023 and, instead, is now over $400 million in debt. Meanwhile, they approved the taking of private property by eminent domain, were reluctant to pass a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution, and, ignoring citizens’ pleas, approved a 1,115-unit housing development plan and taxpayer funding of the dilapidated Comer Barn that was under control of the original owners, the Rogers Group, the largest privately-owned construction aggregate company in the U.S., The Star reported.
However, several points indicate that Democrats may still be fighting an uphill battle in Sumner County.
During the May 3 partisan primary, of the total 17,839 votes cast, the election commission reports that just 769 or 4 percent went to the Democratic candidates.
In 2020, the results show Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won Sumner County with a little over 68 percent of the vote.
The Tennessee Democratic Party has a candidate for the state executive committeeman position but not one for the committeewoman, and the vast majority of the seats up for election in Sumner County have no Democratic candidate who qualified for the May 3 or August 4 ballot. In contrast, both the committeeman and committeewoman state executive committee positions of the Tennessee Republican Party are filled and the incumbents are running for re-election.
However, as a result of the Sumner County redistricting plan in 2020, which changed the county commission structure from 12 districts with two commissioners representing citizens from each district to 24 individual districts and the school board redistricting, some seats may be more competitive for Democrats.
Since the 2020 redistricting, maps reveal that more than 60 percent of the Sumner County commission districts wholly or largely lie within the city limits of Gallatin, Goodlettsville, Hendersonville, Millersville, Portland, or White House, where there tends to be a higher concentration of Democratic voters.
Additionally, the Sumner County Democratic Party (SCDP) has become more engaged and seen its Political Action Campaign contributions increase in the current election cycle.
According to the Sumner County Election Commission website, the SCDP PAC did not even file a campaign financial disclosure during the 2018 election cycle, and in 2020 its largest expenditures were for Biden/Harris promotional materials like yard signs, stickers, buttons and hats.
In 2022, though, the SCDP contributed $2,500 to each of the county-level Democratic candidates in the May 3 primaries, including the two that opposed each other in the county commission district 13 race.
Its other expenditures were related to office rent, utilities, auto insurance, and T-shirts.
The majority of the contributions to the SCDP PAC are small dollar amounts made through Act Blue in addition to some larger contributions by well-known attorney Charles Bone.
Each of the Democratic candidates running in Sumner County elections has a link on their website for the purpose of contributing to their campaigns which redirects the prospective contributor to Act Blue, the fundraising platform for Democratic candidates as well as progressive organizations and nonprofits.
Over the past few years, elected members of the Democratic party have embraced and enacted policies of defunding the police, open borders and sanctuary cities among others, and documented in its 2020 party platform that it supports abortion including directing federal funding to Planned Parenthood, requiring that federal health plans provide coverage for gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy, opposing voter ID laws while supporting automatic voter registration and universal vote-from-home and vote-by-mail options, matching political contributions to campaigns of federal candidates, making Washington D.C. the 51st state, and student loan forgiveness.
Elected positions in Sumner County were controlled by Democrats until 2000 when John Isbell, the Republican party nominee for Sumner County mayor, was the first of two candidates to run as a Republican. When he lost his 2000 run for assessor of property, Isbell ran again two years later for county commission and won a second bid for assessor of property in 2004, a position he held until 2022 when he successfully ran in the Republican primary for Sumner County mayor.
At recent political events held in Sumner County, Representative Lamberth encouraged Republicans to support his party’s candidates as he pointed out, in light of the number of Democrat candidates running, the relatively short time period it took for Republicans to completely dominate Sumner County elected offices that began with just two Republican candidates.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Star News Network, where she covers stories for The Tennessee Star.
Photo “Jason Baggett (First from Right)” by Jason Baggett. Photo “LaToya Holcomb (Second from Right)” by LaToya Holcomb. Photo “Deborah Alston (Third from Right)” by Deborah Alston. Photo “Roxie Kelsey (Fourth from Right)” by Roxie Kelsey. Photo “Brenda Dotson (Fifth from Right)” by Brenda Dotson. Background Photo “Sumner County Courthouse” by Ichabod. CC BY-SA 3.0.