NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Incumbent Bob Corker on Thursday defeated four challengers to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
The former Chattanooga mayor faced a much easier time in his re-election bid than he did when he ran in 2006. Then he had a tough primary against two former congressmen and narrowly defeated former Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. in the even more bruising general election campaign.
With 0.2 percent of precincts reporting, Corker had 47,292 votes, or 85 percent, compared with 2,754 for his nearest challenger Zach Poskevich, or 5 percent.
Seven little-known Democrats were vying for the nomination to face Corker in the general election.
In the most recent financial disclosures, Corker had more than $6 million remaining, while no other challenger had more than $19,000.
Tennessee voters also decided more than 60 legislative primaries and settled some local school issues in Thursday’s voting.
The toughest primary contests for the U.S. House were waged in the districts of freshman Reps. Diane Black and Chuck Fleischmann.
In the 3rd District in East Tennessee, Fleischmann faced Weston Wamp, the son of former Rep. Zach Wamp, and Scottie Mayfield, an executive with the dairy company that bears his family name.
With less than 1 percent of precincts reporting, Fleischmann had 3,063 votes, or 43 percent and his two challengers were neck and neck. Wamp had 6,819 votes, or 28 percent, and Mayfield was at 6,743, or 28 percent.
Edwinea Murray, a retired Tennessee Valley Authority worker who lives in Hixson, said she voted for Fleischmann because she was disgusted by the tone of rival campaigns.
“They were slamming their opponents in the commercials more than anything,” she said. “I think a lot of that is unnecessary.”
Also in Hixon, stay-at-home mom Donna Chapul, 44, said she voted for Mayfield.
“I like the fact that Scottie grew a business,” she said, borrowing a popular Mayfield campaign talking point. “He’s a household name. What better can you get?”
Chattanooga entrepreneur Nick Macco, 26, said he voted for Wamp despite considering his father’s 16 years in Congress “a negative influence.”
But ultimately, Macco said, Wamp ran the most “solutions-oriented” campaign, citing the 25-year-old’s emphasis on reforming entitlements for “the debt-paying generation.”
“Also, the negative campaigning back and forth toward the end between Mayfield and Fleischmann was nauseating,” he said.
In the 6th District east of Nashville, Black faced Lou Ann Zelenik in a rematch of a tight race of two years ago.
With 1 percent of precincts reporting, Black had 5,030 votes, or 64 percent , compared with 2,790 for Zelenik, or 36 percent.
The campaign featured a heavy rotation of negative TV ads that appeared to wear on voters, many of whom expressed frustration with the tone of the campaigns and what they viewed as the self-interested actions of politicians.
Cheryln Rader, a 63-year-old self-described “Bible-thumping, gun-toting” conservative from Millersville, said she was so disgusted by the negative ads of both Zelnick and Black that she refused to vote for either.
“I’ve been getting so much trash on my TV, in my mail,” she said. “I didn’t like the mud-slinging, I don’t like it at all. Tell the truth about yourself, tell the truth about your opponent.”
Both races saw an influx of large amounts of outside money in the form of independent expenditures, leading to cries of foul play by their targets.
Committees funded and controlled by Zelenik’s former chief fundraiser, Andrew Miller, spent nearly $233,000 to oppose Black. That’s about $55,000 more than Zelenik herself reported raising for her campaign from outside sources, though she also contributed $215,000 of her own money.
Meanwhile, a group called Citizens for a Working America spent $165,000 on television ads opposing Mayfield, according to disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.
Republican Reps. Jimmy Duncan and Stephen Fincher defeated primary challengers. Reps. Steve Cohen, a Democrat, and Scott DesJarlais, a Republican, far outpaced their primary challengers in fundraising and organization.
Republican U.S. Reps. Phil Roe and Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper had no primary opposition.