Elaine Davis and Janet Testerman are Set to Face Off for Tennessee House District 18, Knox County’s Only Contested Republican Primary

With one-term Representative Eddie Mannis deciding not to run for another term, Tennessee House District 18 is the only one of Knox County’s seven State House districts that will have a contested Republican primary on the August 4 ballot.

Elaine Davis, Former Knox County Commissioner and former Vice Chair of the Knox County Republican Party will face off against Knoxville City Council member-at-large Janet Testerman in the district that lies mainly in West Knoxville and is now considered to be slightly more conservative after the recent redistricting that picked up a small portion of South Knox.

Davis, who picked up a petition on February 8 and returned it on February 22, according to Knox County records, originally thought she would be running against the incumbent Mannis.

After Mannis made the public announcement on in early April that he would not be seeking re-election, records show Testerman picked up her petition from the election commission that same day. The sixth signature to appear on Testerman’s petition was that of Eddie Mannis, which was stamped by the election commission as being returned the following day.

Based upon publicly available records and the endorsements that the candidates have received, there seems to be a stark contrast in the candidates’ positions on issues key to the Republican Party platform.

Davis has been endorsed by Tennessee Right to Life Political Action Committee, which is the political action arm of Tennessee Right to Life. The organization’s goal is to  inform their membership of the candidates most likely to be leaders on pro-life matters and uses surveys and interviews for candidates without a voting record.

As a council member, Testerman joined the rest of Knoxville’s city council in a February 2020 unanimous decision to allow Planned Parenthood to double the size of the abortion-provider’s facility through a near $2 million expansion, WATE reported.

The council also subsequently voted unanimously to deny Tennessee Right to Life Education Fund, Inc. their appeal of a Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision to approve a variance to the minimum parking setback of the Planned Parenthood abortion facility.

The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) endorsed Davis and graded both candidates on their record relative to only Second Amendment issues.

The AQ grade Davis received from NRA indicates that she is a pro-gun candidate based on her responses to the NRA-PVF candidate questionnaire that doesn’t have a voting record on Second Amendment issues.

Meanwhile, NRA-PVF gave Testerman a grade of F, which is defined as a “true enemy of gun owners’ rights. A consistent anti-gun candidate who always opposes gun owners’ rights and/or actively leads anti-gun legislative efforts, or sponsors anti-gun legislation.”

Testerman was, indeed, a sponsor of a City of Knoxville Resolution No. R-71-2020 in March 2020 that opposed the Constitutional carry bill being considered in the state legislature.

Davis also reportedly received financial support during the second quarter from the Tennessee Firearms Association Legislative Action Committee (TFALAC), the state’s only no-compromise gun organization.

Davis scored 20 out of a potential 23 on the TFA 2022 legislative survey, whereas Testerman did not complete the TFA survey.

In December 2020, Testerman voted with the majority of the city council in favor of Resolution No. R-353-2020 that authorized the creation of “The Sports Authority of the County of Knox and the City of Knoxville, Tennessee.” The move was the first step toward a taxpayer-funded stadium for the Tennessee Smokies minor league baseball team owned by multi-millionaire Randy Boyd, The Tennessee Star reported.

At the same meeting, Testerman joined for a unanimous vote from the council on a resolution to acknowledge and apologize for past actions hurting African Americans and to address equity restoration. The resolution requests the creation of an African American Equity Restoration Task Force and for a financial commitment of $100 million over a ten-year period.

The winner of the House District 18 Republican primary will face off against the Democrat candidate, University of Tennessee Professor Gregory Kaplan, who is running unopposed on the Knox County August 4 Democratic primary ballot.

Kaplan was motivated to run, according to a press release posted by Knox Dems, after the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation that prohibits the state’s higher education institutions from conducting mandatory training of divisive concepts to students or employees.

The selection of Mannis through the 2020 Republican primary process was filled with controversy that started with a challenge to his Republican bona fides, The Star reported, on the grounds that Mannis had made financial contributions to Democrat candidates, including Karl Dean who opposed Republican Bill Lee in the state’s 2018 gubernatorial election. Mannis also voted on the Democratic primary ballot in the March 2020 presidential preference primary, which means he did not cast a vote for Donald Trump.

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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Star News Network, where she covers stories for The Tennessee Star.
Photo “Janet Testerman” by City of Knoxville. Photo “Elaine Davis” by Elaine Davis for State Representative. Background Photo “Knox County Courthouse” by Brian Stansberry. CC BY 3.0.


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3 Thoughts to “Elaine Davis and Janet Testerman are Set to Face Off for Tennessee House District 18, Knox County’s Only Contested Republican Primary”

  1. Dr Ken

    We have been receiving multiple postal mailers from Testerman’s campaign. All are very negative character attacks which say more about her than it does about her primary opponent Elaine Davis.

  2. Dean - Knoxville

    I can’t wait to vote against Testerman.

  3. Randy

    Clarification, State Senate District 7 Representing all of Knox is also contested. A grass roots Conservative Republican Kent Morrell is challenging incumbent “Moderate” Republican Republican Richard Briggs. I use the term moderate but truthfully he might just as well put a D by his name based on his voting record. Senator/Lt Governor Randy McNally representing portions of Knox also has a challenger, although I doubt there is any real threat to him loosing that seat. All but one of the six Republican State Executive Have multiple candidates as well. I can only assume that the headline ran out of room to include the clarifying statement “Knox County State House” races