Incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander secured the Republican nomination Thursday by a 9.1 percent margin. He defeated tea party-backed State Sen. Joe Carr. Alexander was the last incumbent senator to face a primary challenge in the 2014 midterm elections. He won the contest by the smallest margin of his political career and failed to secure a majority of the vote.
The victory bears similarity to the primary results of Kansas, where incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts also secured renomination by a closer than expected 7.3 percent margin. Publicly available polling in July predicted Roberts winning the primary by over 20 points.
Gov. Bill Haslam easily secured renomination for governor and incumbents in the first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth districts also easily won their renomination contests.
Other primaries around the state proved to be much closer. In Tennessee’s third Congressional District Republican primary, Rep. Fleischmann narrowly beat out challenger Weston Wamp, son of former Rep. Zach Wamp who previously represented the third district. The election was exceedingly close with Rep. Fleischmann securing the nomination by a margin of less than two percent.
In Tennessee’s fourth Congressional District Republican primary, the results remain too close to call as of reporting, and a recount appears likely. At the end of election night, incumbent Rep. DesJarlais trailed challenger Jim Tracy by two votes out of more than 77,000 cast.
DesJarlais became a target in 2012 after court documents revealed he had had affairs with four women, including one who was a patient. A tape was later leaked where DesJarlais suggested the aforementioned woman get an abortion. DesJarlais’ first wife alleged the Congressman had engaged in “violent and threatening behavior.” After these revelations, a second patient came forward claiming she also had an affair with DesJarlais and the two had used illegal drugs.
The results follow a greater narrative of incumbent Republican senators facing competitive primary challenges back home. Incumbents Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) won renomination by the lowest margins in their careers.