A Different Political Landscape for Tennessee's High Court Elections

TN_SupremeCourtEarly voting begins Friday in Tennessee’s Supreme Court retention elections, with Election Day set for Aug. 7. The court race is portrayed in The Knoxville News Sentinel as occurring in a state political landscape dramatically different than when the last retention election occurred, in 2006.

This year Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is leading a campaign to oust three Democrat-appointed justices from the Supreme Court,  at a time when Republicans lead the executive branch and  have “supermajority” control of the legislature. Eight years ago, the governor was a Democrat, and Democrats enjoyed a slight majority in both chambers of the legislature.

In 2006, the trio of justices standing for retention did little campaigning, raised no money and each received a retention vote of about 75 percent. This year, the targeted justices are campaigning to defend their seats, and their effort could raise and spend $1 million.

The article recaps the contest, the justices’ qualifications, and the themes laid out by their critics. An earlier report in a blog of the News Sentinel gives details about a TV ad launched by a group coordinating their campaigns and about a mailer distributed by a group critical of the justices.

At a campaign stop in Jackson, one of the targeted justices, Sharon Lee, said, “We’re fighting to preserve fair and impartial courts in Tennessee and to keep politics out of the courtroom,” according to WBBJ-TV. 

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