GOP gains majority in House, state races

Stephen Fincher, Republican representative-elect for Tenn. 8th district, announces his win to a gathering of supporters at the Holiday Inn in Jackson. | Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Daniel Callicott

This November, a red flood swept the nation, making history in its wake. Republicans dominated the gubernatorial, Senate and U.S. House of Representatives races in Tennessee and across the United States on Nov. 2.

“We saw a Republican tsunami. It started on the East Coast and was particularly strong in the South and Midwest,” said Dr. Sean Evans, associate professor and department chair of political science. “Once the wave hit the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast, it tended to dissipate.”

He said the Republican gains across the board were astounding. Republicans captured 7 of 9 congressional seats in Tennessee, which means the GOP now holds the most seats it has ever had in the Volunteer State. Additionally, Tennessee Republicans dominated in the State House race and gained more than 10 seats for the party.

“Now, the Republicans own Tennessee politics lock, stock and barrel,” Evans said.

He also said Republicans made their gains in rural and suburban areas,  and the last strongholds for Democrats in Tennessee are in densely populated metro areas. Nationwide, GOP candidates fared well and secured 60 additional U.S. House seats, with three more expected to go red.

“This is the largest gain since World War II for any party in a midterm election,” Evans said.

Currently, Republicans hold 239 seats in the U.S. House, compared to 186 Democrat seats. In the Senate, however, Democrats maintained a majority of 52 to 46 after Republicans gained six seats.

Evans said Republicans could have won more seats, but Tea Party candidates were too radical for voters in swing states. The shift in balance of political power in the U.S. House is significant because it will make the passing of controversial bills difficult.

He said the outcome of the Tennessee gubernatorial race was no surprise and echoed the trends across America.  Political analysts correctly predicted the outcome of the Tennessee gubernatorial race months ago.

Former Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam won the Tennessee gubernatorial race by a landslide, taking 65 percent of the vote.

“The result is what experts expected. Tennessee is a Republican-leaning state and it is a Republican year,” Evans said.

Democrat Mike McWherter received 33 percent of the vote. So why was Haslam so successful? Evans said not only the state’s political mood but also inexperience of McWherter may have played a role.

“Haslam has run and won campaigns before; however, this was Mike McWherter’s first run for office,” Evans said.

Republicans faired well in other local races. In the 8th Congressional District, Republican Stephen Fincher defeated Democrat Roy Herron with a margin of 59 percent to 39 percent. Fincher and Herron recently participated in the 2010 Congressional Forum at Union.

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