Democrats, fraught governor’s race largely to thank for 30 percent voter turnout in Williamson County

Democrats, fraught governor’s race largely to thank for 30 percent voter turnout in Williamson County

PHOTO: Republican nominee for governor Bill Lee celebrates clinching the nomination at the Factory in Franklin on Thursday, August 2, 2018./Brooke Wanser


In an election fraught with tensions and close races, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee and Brandon Ogles in District 61 emerged as frontrunners for the November general election on Thursday night.

Election results from the state primary and county general election have yet to be certified; county Administrator of Elections Chad Gray says they will be made official at least by Aug. 20, but the commission has yet to set a date.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers to see how Williamson County turned out to the polls.

By the numbers

Registered voters in Williamson County: 148,984
Ballots cast: 44,123
Early votes: 20,582
Election day votes: 23,140
Democratic ballots cast: 11,713
Republican ballots cast: 32,292

About 30 percent of Williamson County residents cast ballots in this year’s state primary and county general election.

Compared with the early voting period in 2014’s state primary and county general, there was a nearly 78 percent increase in the number of ballots cast.

Only Davidson and Henderson counties saw a larger percent increase.

A large portion of that can be attributed to contested races and the increased number of Democrats on the ballot

In 2014, there was one Democratic candidate in Williamson County; this year, there were 19.

Gray said 2014 was a bit of a slow year, so he wasn’t surprised about the high early voting numbers.

“People have really enjoyed and have taken advantage of early voting over the last eight to 10 years,” he said.

The new Columbia State Community College location received some of the highest traffic, with 1,542 votes.

“It’s not the highest turnout in an August election, for sure, but I thought it was more than maybe some had anticipated,” Gray added, noting the 36 percent turnout in the 1994 primary election.

The 1994 election included a gubernatorial race in which Democrat Phil Bredesen, then the mayor of Nashville, later lost to Republican Don Sundquist. In the Senate race later that November, Democrat Ben Sasser was defeated by political unknown and Republican Bill Frist, one of the largest upsets in state history.

Taking the high road pays off

In District 61, Republican nominee Brandon Ogles took 35 percent of the vote over Gino Bulso’s 25 percent. At the Franklin City Club for a celebration party, he cited his desire to not engage in public attacks as one reason for the victory.

“I think the positive messaging and the way we ran the campaign went off,” he told the Home Page. “I think you see that in the governor’s race as well with Bill Lee.”

Lee, a man who has largely focused on his faith in God and positive messaging, has eschewed speaking out against opponents.

“Bill said he’s not going to go down that road, it’s not what leaders do,” campaign manager Chris Burger said.

Many pointed out Lee’s lack of retaliation against Randy Boyd and Diane Black’s attack ad offensive put him out ahead of the duo, though polls early on put both Black and Boyd ahead of Lee.

At a Fairview town hall two days before the election, Lee said he was a “deeply conservative man,” in spite of his opponent’s mailers and television ads to the contrary.

“I do think that what we’re watching play out in this governor’s race is everything that’s wrong with politics,” he told the Fairview crowd.

Democratic outlook

With over a third of the ballots cast in the Democratic primary, a little bit of blue is beginning to seep into ruby red Williamson County.

Though no Democrats won seats in the county commission general election, candidates in several races contributed to the high voter turnout, like Rebecca Purington’s 3,416 votes in the District 61 Democratic primary.

Republican Brandon Ogles took 500 more votes in that race, albeit in a race that garnered over 11,000 votes.

So what does this election say about future elections for Williamson County Democrats?

“I’m really proud of our 12 county commission candidates,” said Holly McCall, the chair of the Williamson County Democrats. “They raised the level of political conversation and gave an option to voters concerned about the county commission’s actions – as evidenced by the enormous increase in Democratic voters.”

Justin Kanew, a Democrat in College Grove running for Tennessee’s District 7 against Republican Sen. Mark Green, received 7,800 votes to Green’s 26,000 in the county.

Kanew said the fight has only begun.

“A lot of people put their hearts and souls into this race, and I’m thrilled and deeply appreciative to see it seems to be paying off- but we didn’t get into this race to win a primary,” he said via text message. “Mark Green represents more of the extremism and division that I believe is bad for our district, and our country. The work has only just begun.”

About The Author

Brooke Wanser is the associate editor for the Franklin Home Page, and can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @BWanser_writes or @FranklinHomepg.

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