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Blackburn beats Bredesen in Senate race

Robert Houk • Nov 6, 2018 at 11:16 PM

Republican Congressman Marsha Blackburn defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen Tuesday in a closely watched race to become the first woman to represent Tennessee in the U.S. Senate. Both Republicans and Democrats had predicted the outcome of the race to be much closer.

State election officials said unofficial results showed Blackburn with 1,125,861 votes to 857,965 for her Democratic opponent. That included 28,488 votes for Blackburn in Washington County, 13,944  in Carter County and 4,655 cast in Unicoi County.

At the same time, Bredesen collected 16,221 votes in Washington County, 4,546 votes in Carter County and 1,553 in Unicoi County. The former governor carried only two of Tennessee’s 95 counties.

“You have sent a message that it is time to take Tennessee conservative values to Washington and keep our state and our country moving forward,” Blackburn said in a prepared statement late Tuesday. “I am so incredibly grateful to each of you for doing your part, standing with me, staying strong and turning out the vote. It is such an honor to be the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. I am going to work as hard for you as you have worked for me.”

Local partisans waited and watched as the returns for the Senate race and other midterm elections trickled in throughout the night. Republicans gathered at a party organized by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st District, at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City.

“These have been midterm elections like no other,” Roe said. “I’ve never seen $50 million in outside money spent on a Senate race in Tennessee.”

Democrats met at Jack’s Grill in Johnson City to watch the election results. Kate Craig, a leader in the Washington County Democratic Party, said she was “holding her fingers tight” for some good news in the Senate race. Even though that news did not come, Craig said Bredesen’s campaign had given Democrats some hope in Tennessee.

“It’s been a long time since a U.S. Senate seat was in play in Tennessee,” Craig said.

Blackburn — who appeared with President Trump at a campaign rally in Chattanooga on Sunday — made one final appearance in the region Monday, stumping in Jonesborough with other Republicans who also proved to be victorious at the polls on Tuesday — Roe and Gov.-elect Bill Lee.

The congresswoman told reporters she believed voters have responded “beautifully” to her message. She linked herself closely to the policies of President Trump, who had also campaigned for her in Johnson City on Oct. 1. 

“It’s what they agree with, more constitutional judges, less taxation, removing regulation, securing the southern border and making certain we protect our sovereignty. They want somebody to defend the Second Amendment,” Blackburn said.

The latest federal campaign financial disclosures show Bredesen’s campaign spent $11.7 million since the race began, with outside groups spending about $13 million to help him. Meanwhile, Blackburn’s campaign spent about $9 million, with outside groups contributing $17.6 million to support her bid.

Bredesen closed out the race by campaigning on what he called his “moderate record” as governor. The two-term governor told supporters Monday it has been “an interesting campaign,” and noted he had “tried to be respectful” during the long race.

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