By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — At least 10 former state lawmakers are trying to return to the Tennessee General Assembly, while eight Democratic incumbents will be vying for four seats following this year’s redistricting process.
Just before the candidate filing deadline passed Thursday, state Rep. Gary Moore of Nashville announced on the House floor that he won’t seek re-election. He’s the 11th Democratic incumbent to announce they won’t return next year.
The GOP-led redistricting process and political trends in Tennessee are giving Republicans confidence they will expand their large majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly this year. But party leaders said they don’t want to lapse into complacency.
“They’ve fielded a lot of candidates, and I would warn everyone to take their complaints very seriously and take their opponents very seriously,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga. “Because the seats belong to the people and not to the incumbents, and I think they’ve shown before that they’ll kick us out if we don’t do the kind of work we need to do.”
Former Democratic Reps. Mark Maddox of Dresden, Jim Hackworth of Oak Ridge and Eddie Yokley of Greeneville are seeking to return to the House after losing in a Republican landslide of 2010. Former Democratic Rep. Ty Cobb of Columbia is running for the Senate.
Also looking to return are Republican Susan Lynn of Mt. Juliet, who gave up her House seat for an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2010, and Mike Williams of Maynardville, who lost his Senate re-election bid in 2008.
Williams was a Republican for most of his career in the Legislature, but shed his GOP affiliation to become an independent after years of run-ins with Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said Williams’ previous run as an independent could complicate his attempt to run as a Republican this time around.
“I anticipate that his questionable bona-fide status will be challenged and I intend to act swiftly to resolve this concerning situation,” Devaney said in an email.
Two former senators who were appointed to fill unexpired terms are also taking another run for the upper chamber: Republican Ferrell Haile of Gallatin and Democratic Steve Roller of McMinnville.
Another two Democrats who left the Legislature long ago are seeking to return. They are former Rep. Calvin Moore of West Point and former Sen. Jim Lewis of Kimball.
The state’s once-a-decade redistricting plan drew several Democrats into the same districts. Three of the primary matchups between incumbents will take place in Memphis, where Sens. Jim Kyle and Beverly Marrero will face each other, as will Reps. G.A. Hardaway and Mike Kernell and Reps. Jeanne Richardson and John Deberry.
The fourth race pitching incumbents against each other will be between Democratic Reps. Tommie Brown and Joanne Favors in Chattanooga.