Controversial former GOP lawmaker fails in comeback bid

Friday, August 3, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 31

NASHVILLE (AP) — A former Tennessee lawmaker known for being skewered on late-night comedy shows has failed in his bid to return to the state legislature.

Stacey Campfield finished third in a GOP primary for House District 89 in the Knoxville area, one of 86 contested state legislative races in Tennessee on Thursday. Justin Lafferty, a small business owner and stay-at-home dad, won the nomination to replace state Rep. Roger Kane, who chose not to seek re-election.

During his time in office, Campfield was a magnet for controversy. He once likened the insurance requirement under President Barack Obama's health care law to the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. As a freshman lawmaker in 2005, he tried to join the Legislative Black Caucus. When he was refused, he said the Ku Klux Klan was more inclusive.

Republicans have supermajorities in both the House and the Senate, making it unlikely Democrats will gain control in the November elections.

Elsewhere across the state, former Big 10 basketball star Kirk Haston won the Republican nomination in House District 72 in western Tennessee. Haston played at Indiana under former coach Bob Knight, who endorsed Haston in a direct mail piece. Haston defeated Henderson County Mayor Dan Hughes by less than 200 votes.

Sen. Reginald Tate, an embattled state lawmaker from Memphis, has lost his primary race to Katrina Robinson, a nurse who set up an independently-owned licensing program with a federal grant.

Tate was recently censured by the Shelby County Democratic Party for comments he made about fellow Democrats. The three-term senator had faced criticism that he too often sided with Republican colleagues and had taken too many out-of-state trips at taxpayer expense.

Incumbent Tim Wirgau, who represents a district in Henry, Benton and Stewart counties, lost to the Republican primary to Bruce Griffey.

In eastern Tennessee, former state Sen. Mike Williams failed in his bid to return to the legislature. Williams lost to Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton, best known for helping pass a law to create a monument to the unborn and for pushing legislation to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed that bill.

In Nashville, surgeon Brent Moody defeated attorney Joseph Williams for the Republican nomination in House District 56. Moody hopes to replace Beth Harwell, the speaker of the House.

Harwell did not run for re-election so she could run for governor. She finished fourth in the Republican primary.


Beam reported from Frankfort, Kentucky.