Tenn. Primary Action Largely on the GOP Side

By John McArdle, CQ-Roll Call

Tennessee voters are headed to the polls today after an especially active primary season for Congressional races in the Volunteer State.

Of the five districts to keep a close eye on tonight, only two are expected to be competitive come November, and both are Democratic districts that Republicans have hopes of picking up during a GOP-friendly cycle. The winners of the other three primaries should cruise to victory in the general election.

3rd district Republican primary

This is a Republican stronghold that came open this cycle when eight-term Rep. Zach Wamp (R) decided to run for governor. Eleven Republicans are vying for the nomination, but the contest has come down to a two-way race between former state GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith and attorney Chuck Fleischmann. There’s no love lost between Smith and Fleischmann, and the contest hasn’t lacked for negative attacks. The race has also seen big-name Republicans lend their endorsements. Several GOP Congressional leaders, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), are backing Smith. This week, she also earned the backing of former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Fleischmann’s biggest endorsement came from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who also appeared in a commercial for his campaign.

Fleischmann’s deep pockets have given him the financial edge in the contest. As of mid-June, he had outspent Smith with the help of about $600,000 from his own pocket. But the support that Smith has received from the anti-tax Club for Growth has likely made up the spending gap.

The group, which endorsed Smith in February, dropped a substantial television buy in the district last week supporting Smith and hitting Fleischmann.

The winner of the primary is all but certain to replace Wamp in a district that voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by 25 points in the 2008 presidential race.

To read more, visit: http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docid=news-000003718551

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