PHOTO: Williamson County Democratic Party Chair Holly McCall speaks at a voter rally during the 2018 midterm campaigns / Photo by Alexander Willis
BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
In what has turned out to be a record-breaking turnout at the polls for both Williamson County and the country at large, Williamson County Democrats failed to pick up any seats in the senate, house, or their local state counterparts. Despite this, the numbers show huge strides made by Democratic candidates when compared to the 2014 midterm elections.
Chair of the Williamson County Democratic Party, Holly McCall, said the percentage gains by Democratic candidates were significant, and that like anything else, will take time to grow to their full potential.
“I could sit around and mope, and I think it’s okay for people to feel sad and bad for a couple days, but that’s progress,” McCall said. “Rome was not built in a day, and we’ve got a very active Democratic party that’s committed to continuing to work hard and be involved in the community.”
Looking at the percentage of the total votes Democratic candidates received paints a clearer picture of the party’s progress.
The race for U.S. Senate between Republican Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen saw Blackburn win with a nearly 20,000 vote lead. Bredesen received 40.4 percent of the total vote. While still a significant difference, the Democratic candidate running for U.S. Senate in 2014, Gordon Ball, received only 21.2 percent of the total vote.
In the race for congress representing Tennessee’s 7th District, Mark Green was victorious against his opponent Justin Kanew with a more than 30,000 vote lead, with Kanew receiving 34 percent of the total vote. Again, looking at the 2014 midterms, the Democrat running for the same seat, Daniel Cramer, received only 23 percent of the total vote.
And finally, now Governor-elect Bill Lee received nearly twice as many votes as his opponent Karl Dean, with Dean receiving 32.8 percent of the total vote. In 2014, the Democratic candidate for Governor, Charles Brown, received only 13.1 percent of the total vote.
McCall didn’t think there were any major mistakes that led to Democrats not gaining any ground in Williamson County. She said that the party as a whole needs to focus on better defining their values and what they stand for.
“I don’t think that our local candidates made any mistakes, [but] I would say the state [Democratic] Party, even the national party, obviously [has] an image problem,” McCall said. “Those of us who are in the trenches daily know that we stand for people having affordable and accessible health care, the ability for everybody to get a good education, solid infrastructure, and things that should affect everyone’s daily lives – but that’s not translating into votes. So that’s something that Democrats across the country need to look at.”
Another point of concern McCall noted, and something heavily criticized by Kanew during his campaign, was the growth of hyper-partisanship among voters.
“In Williamson County and the state, I would say it is obvious that people are in their partisan corners,” McCall said. “When somebody like Phil Bredesen, who won all 95 counties 12 years ago, won three this year, people just seemed locked into being whether they’re Republican or Democrat.”
Kanew said he didn’t believe there was much else he could have done to change the outcome of his congressional race, but did regret not being able to debate his opponent. Green had decided to send State Senator Jack Johnson as a proxy to the debate, but later canceled after a dispute over the debate’s format.
“I think [Green] made a calculation that the “R” was enough, and he appears to have been right, but I think it would have been nice for the people to hear from us on a stage together, talking about the issues that our country faces,” Kanew said. “Maybe I could have pushed harder on that. I feel like we left it all on the field, I don’t know that there’s a lot more that we could have done.”
Moving forward, McCall said the Williamson County Democratic Party has already begun recruiting and training candidates for the 2020, and even the 2022 elections.
“I think one of the issues with the Democratic Party has been waiting until the last minute to recruit, and we’ve already started training and recruiting people, and we’ll continue that into 2019,” McCall said. “I think between our community outreach and the hard skills we’re teaching candidates… that’s going to be our focus for the next two years.”