Davidson County legislative races feature one competitive seat

Senate District 20 viewed as a tossup

(Photo: Mario Tamo/Getty Images)
(Photo: Mario Tamo/Getty Images)

Part Two of the Tennessee Lookout’s series analyzing third quarter fundraising disclosures for Tennessee General Assembly candidates focuses on Davidson County state house and senate races.

With one exception, Sen. Steve Dickerson in District 20, all of  Nashville and Davidson County’s representatives are Democratic and most are running without opposition. Dickerson is also in the only race considered competitive, against Oak Hill Mayor Heidi Campbell.

  • To identify your house and senate district, click this link. Fill in your information on the right-hand side of the page under “Find My Legislator” in order to make use of the tool.
  • The CNalysis rating found below the title of every section is meant to be used as a guide; it is not authoritative. These ratings are created by CNalysis, the only elections forecasting group in the whole country to handicap state legislative elections.
  • The tables below each section contain the financial information reported by each campaign through the end of September, also known as Quarter 3. The incumbent in each race, if there is one, is marked with an asterisk in the table.

State House District 50 (W. Davidson County):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

For the first time since his initial election in 2012, incumbent Democrat Bo Mitchell is unopposed in the general election. Mitchell has advocated for expanding Medicaid and decreasing statewide testing in schools.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Bo Mitchell* $6,210.28 $7,640.16 $10,396.14 $3,454.30

 

State House District 51 (Downtown, Inglewood, Old Hickory):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Bill Beck is unopposed in the general election. In the General Assembly, Beck has focused on government transparency, universal pre-K, and tax relief for senior citizens.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Bill Beck* $20,646.55 $8,175.00 $8,745.53 $20,076.02

 

State House District 52 (E. Davidson County, centering on BNA):

CNalysis rating: Safe Democratic

Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart is being challenged by law student and former military police officer Donna Tees in his bid for reelection. Tees is campaigning on increasing state support for veterans, reducing taxes, and increasing teacher pay. Stewart, a labor attorney, has spent his time in the legislature focused on expanding Medicaid and creating ‘red flag’ gun laws.

Rep. Mike Stewart, chair, Democratic House Caucus (Official picture: Tennessee General Assembly)
Rep. Mike Stewart, chair, Democratic House Caucus (Official picture: Tennessee General Assembly)

This quarter, Stweart loaned his campaign $56,000 and spent more than $80,000 on consulting and campaign salaries. Nearly $5,000 of the amount Tees raised this quarter came from either Republican politicians or industry PACs.

This particular district is unlikely to be competitive. In 2012, the last time Stewart faced a general election opponent, he beat Independent candidate Daniel Lewis 76% to 24%.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Mike Stewart* $22,982.26 $84,070.00 $102,887.03 $4,165.23
Donna Tees $1,998.07 $17,484.20 $7,116.03 $12,366.24

 

State House District 53 (Radnor, Brookview Estates, Wrencoe):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Jason Powell is unopposed in the general election. Presently, Powell is advocating for legal changes to the absentee ballot process in order to make requesting a ballot easier on voters.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Jason Powell* $39,559.55 $5,950.00 $7,465.94 $38,043.61

 

State House District 54 (Bellshire, Bordeaux, Buena Vista Estates):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent and small business owner Vincent Dixie is running for reelection without opposition. Dixie has made Medicaid expansion and increased funding for public schools a priority while in the General Assembly.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Vincent Dixie* $33,220.72 $9,750.00 $39,245.99 $3,724.73

 

State House District 55 (West Meade, Richland, Charlotte Park):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent John Ray Clemmons is unopposed in the general election.  As a representative, Clemmons has fought for Medicaid expansion and a decrease in privatization of state contracts.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
John Ray Clemmons* $51,457.38 $5,300.00 $8,680.00 $48,077.38

 

State House District 56 (Brentwood, S. Davidson County):

CNalysis rating: Safe Democratic

Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

Incumbent and real estate investor Bob Freeman is being challenged by entrepreneurial consultant Diane Canada. She is campaigning on shrinking the size of government, ending the public restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and reducing the number of veteran suicides. Freeman, on the other hand, is prioritizing building a more-educated workforce and investing in regional infrastructure projects.

Diane Canada (Photo: Vote Diane Canada Facebook)
Diane Canada (Photo: Vote Diane Canada Facebook)

Canada raised about $4,600 directly from either Republican politicians or industry PACs; that total is in addition to the $5,000 loan she gave to her campaign this quarter. Freeman raised nearly $23,000 from Democratic committees and industry PACs.

Freeman first won election to this seat in 2018, after it was vacated by House Speaker Beth Harwell. He beat Republican Brent Moody 51% to 49%. This year’s race is not expected to be as close due to a mixture of Canada’s comparatively poor fundraising and the district’s leftward shift.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Diane Canada $1,424.40 $24,437.07 $17,139.89 $8,721.58
Bob Freeman* $237,894.72 $66,214.58 $25,316.50 $278,792.80

 

State House District 58 (Berry Hill, E. & W. Nashville):

State Rep. Harold Love (D-Nashville) (Official photo)
State Rep. Harold Love (D-Nashville) (Official photo)

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Harold Love Jr. is unopposed in the general election.  Love is the pastor of Lee Chapel A.M.E church and serves as the Assistant Minority Leader for the House of Representatives.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Harold Love Jr.* $13,828.24 $5,000.00 $0.00 $18,828.24

 

State House District 59 (Bakertown, Kimbro, Cherry Hills):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Jason Potts is unopposed in the general election. As such, he will still represent District 59 come January. Potts has prioritized expanding Medicaid and increasing local autonomy in infrastructure projects.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Jason Potts* $383.63 $0.00 $316.92 $66.71

 

State House District 60 (Donelson, Hermitage, Couchville):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent and small business owner Darren Jernigan is running for reelection without opposition. As such, he will still represent District 60 come January. He continues to advocate for expanding Medicaid and increasing the minimum wage.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Darren Jernigan* $59,123.63 $11,925.00 $18,545.95 $52,502.68

 

State Senate District 18 (Sumner, Trousdale and far E. Davidson Counties):

CNalysis rating: Safe Republican

Incumbent and pharmacist Ferrell Haile is running for reelection without major party opposition, but Independent candidate John A. Gentry filed to challenge him. Gentry is running a very interesting campaign that is hyper-focused on increasing awareness of the right of remonstrance; he has also spoken in favor of increasing oversight of the judicial branch. Haile serves as the President Pro Tempore of the Tennessee State Senate; during his time in the legislature, he supported increased restrictions on abortion and voted in favor of Governor Lee’s contreversial school voucher program.

Haile collected several donations from his Republican colleagues and a few elected officials in Sumner County. He gave $1,000 to his Democratic-turned-Independent colleague Rep. John DeBerry, I-Memphis,  and more than $30,000 to various GOP groups working to elect Republicans to the General Assembly. Gentry contributed most of the money his campaign raised this cycle himself.

The last time Haile had an opponent was in 2012, when he beat Democratic candidate Maria Brewer 69% to 31%.  Haile did not have a challenger during the 2016 cycle.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
John A. Gentry $123.11 $1,553.28 $901.44 $774.95
Ferrell Haile* $338,056.77 $30,925.00 $46,251.03 $322,730.74

 

State Senate District 20 (N., SW., E., & W. Outskirts of Davidson):

CNalysis rating: Tossup

Incumbent and anesthesiologist Steven Dickerson is being challenged by Oak Hill Mayor Heidi Campbell. Campbell has built her campaign around criminal justice reform, strengthening gun safety laws, and increasing infrastructure funding. Dickerson, the Chair of the State & Local Government committee, is focused on supporting school voucher programs and deregulating the economy. Last year, he was sued by the State of Tennessee and the U.S. Justice Department for defrauding Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare by issuing unnecessary medical tests.

Heidi Campbell. (Photo: Submitted)
Heidi Campbell, Democratic nominee for State Senate 20. (Photo: Submitted)

Campbell raised over $52,000 from Democratic politicians and committees this quarter, and most of the rest of her haul came from small-dollar contributions. Dickerson collected more than $41,000 directly from Republican politicians and industry PACs. The largest donor to his campaign, however, was the Senate Republican Caucus with a massive $100,000 contribution.

Campbell earned the endorsement of a bevy of local and state Democratic politicians and committees in addition to a few labor unions and interest groups. She carries the endorsement of both the Communication Workers of America and United Auto Workers as well as Moms Demand Action, a gun safety organization. Dickerson boasts the endorsement of the state’s largest teachers union, the Tennessee Education Association; an endorsement by the Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBTQ rights organization was rescinded.

State Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
State Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

In 2016, Dickerson beat Democratic candidate Erin Coleman 56% to 44% to win reelection. However, Hillary Clinton won this district at the same time and it has only trended leftward in the intervening years. A point in his favor is the fact that Campbell just came out of an expensive and contentious primary. Dickerson received negative pushback after an independent expenditure group Aird a television ad targeting Campbell and criticizing Gideon’s Army, a local community organization focused on crime reduction and rebuilding from the March tornado.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Heidi Campbell $41,159.08 $179,663.95 $118,227.34 $102,595.69
Steven Dickerson* $177,292.67 $203,400.00 $110,924.99 $269,767.68

 

Editor’s note: None of these rankings constitute endorsements.