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VOL. 36 | NO. 30 | Friday, July 27, 2012




Voters to decide key primary contests in Tennessee

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Months of bruising primary campaigns seemed to be taking their toll on voter morale on Election Day.

At the polls on Thursday, many voters expressed frustration with negative campaigns and what they viewed as the self-interested actions of politicians.

East of Nashville, U.S. Rep. Diane Black faced Lou Ann Zelenik in a rematch of two years ago in the 6th Congressional District Republican primary.

"I just think they're all crooked - I'm sorry," said Eleanor Searles, an 87-year-old Hendersonville voter.

Searles said she didn't like all the negative campaigning, but she voted for Black because she was familiar with her.

In Gallatin, Kenneth Beasley, a 69-year-old truck dispatcher, expressed similar frustration, but took the opposite tack, voting for Zelenik.

"I vote for anybody who's not in office," he said. "It's the sorriest Congress that we've had since I can remember."

In the Chattanooga area, U.S. Reps. Chuck Fleischmann faced Weston Wamp, the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, and Scottie Mayfield, an executive with the dairy company that bears his family name.

At the Lupton City precinct in Chattanooga, Rebecca Bell, a 68-year-old retired manager at Big Lots, said Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's endorsement of Fleischmann was "the only reason" she cast a ballot for the congressman.

Chip Saltsman, Fleischmann's chief of staff, managed Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign.

"I trust Huckabee," she said. "The rest was all mudslinging. I wish they would concentrate on the positives."

Edwinea Murray, a Fleischmann supporter and retired Tennessee Valley Authority worker who lives in Hixson, said she was disgusted by the tone of the Mayfield and Wamp's campaigns.

"They were slamming their opponents in the commercials more than anything," she said. "I think a lot of that is unnecessary."

At a voting precinct in Hixson, Chattanooga retiree Ted Steed, a 78-year-old Democrat, said he thinks the country is "messed up" because House Republicans - including Fleischmann - have blocked Obama's agenda and "only care about special interests."

"I think they all should be replaced," Steed said. He voted for Maynardville physician Mary Headrick in the 3rd District Democratic primary, saying, "She seems as good as anybody."

Both races have spent large amounts of outside money in the form of independent expenditures.

Super political action committees funded and controlled by Zelenik's former chief fundraiser, Andrew Miller, have spent nearly $233,000 to oppose Black. That's about $55,000 more than Zelenik has raised from outside sources for her own campaign, though she also has contributed $215,000 of her own money.

Meanwhile, a group called Citizens For a Working America has spent $165,000 on television ads opposing Mayfield, according to disclosures with the Federal Ele ction Commission.

The Mayfield campaign alleges that Fleischmann aides have had a role in directing that independent expenditure.

"Why would an out-of-state PAC that has no ties to Tennessee only get involved in one congressional race in the entire country," said Tommy Hopper, a top Mayfield strategist.

Fleischmann, at a campaign event at a retirement home outside Chattanooga earlier this week, denied any involvement in controlling the outside expenditure.

"We didn't know that any third party was getting involved in the race, and we don't control those things," he said. "Our ads have a good strong, positive message, and we're just focusing on the issues."

Every state House seat and half of the Senate seats are also up in this election year with newly drawn district lines. Three Republican state senators and 21 GOP House members have contested primaries. Redistricting has pitted Democratic incumbents against each other in one state Senate and thre e state House districts.

The Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate is set to be chosen among seven little-known candidates.

Actress Park Overall said the campaign has been an eye-opening experience for a political neophyte.

"Why everyone is so careful with what they say is annoying. I don't know if you can tell the truth anymore," said Overall, who starred in the popular television series "Empty Nest" in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Incumbent Sen. Bob Corker has a large fundraising and name recognition advantage over his GOP opponents.

Election Day was predicted to see heat indexes of 100-109 degrees from the Mississippi River eastward through the Nashville metro area, where school board candidate Gracie Porter was handing out bottles of water to voters who stopped by her table outside a polling place.

"It's hot, hot, hot," Porter said.

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