Which Races to Watch as the Returns Come In

It's election day, time to clean out the campaign notebook of everything with an expiration date.

• The Haslam campaign seemed to take a page from Coach Johnny Majors' playbook in recent weeks. Get a lead, go into a flex defense, and sit on it. Bill Haslam's carpet-bombing ads have featured an all-out attack on Zach Wamp. Instead of trying to increase his lead, Haslam has been trying to stall Wamp at 25 percent. Wamp's negative ads against Haslam slowed Haslam's momentum during most of July and benefited Ron Ramsey, the only candidate to gain voters outside the margin of error between polls.

A lot of pundits see a likely scenario where Wamp and Ramsey group together in the high 20s or low 30s and Haslam wins with a plurality. That is, if it is like one of the many victories Majors recorded in his career. And not one of those where he had the lead and gave it away in the fourth quarter.

• You may be wondering about Wamp's latest ad, describing where his heart is. It is an overtly religious expression of his "God-centered" worldview. It earned a place on an MSNBC Top Ten list nationally of outrageous commercials.

But Wamp's base is the evangelical Christian vote. He is a devout Baptist who is a wonder to behold when he's in a pulpit—as squeamish as it might make some of us to watch. You can expect a huge turnout of the evangelical vote in today's election, especially in vote-rich Shelby County. East Tennessee may be historically Republican, but Shelby County's brand of Republicanism has produced Ed McAteer, Adrian Rogers, and Richard Land, national religious leaders who have led a politically robust evangelical movement. Wamp spent Sunday morning at the largest Baptist church in Shelby County.

• Most of the time, independents are wasting their time entering local elections. The exception this year, and a possible upset, is independent Don Daugherty running against incumbent Democratic County Commissioner Amy Broyles in the 2nd District. Considering the hysterical attacks on Daugherty on local blogs and by media columnists, it sounds like a lot of people are worried about the race.

Far more Republicans are voting in the district, presumably because of the hot gubernatorial primary that features Knoxville's Mayor Haslam. The thing to look for tonight is whether they also voted against Democrat Broyles and for Daugherty, or whether they just voted in the governor's race and skipped the rest of the ballot. Daugherty, a former chair of the county Democratic Party, has had support from an Anybody But Amy coalition, ranging from Democratic District Attorney Randy Nichols to Republican newspaper publisher Steve Hunley.

Broyles supporters have accused Daugherty of not living in the district, doing an attack mailer on Broyles' travel and spending, and for not running in the Democratic primary. It's about the only County Commission race to watch tonight.

• In South Knoxville, incumbent school board member Robert Bratton is being challenged by Pam Trainor. Bratton has had a restraining order keeping him out of South Doyle to settle a harassment charge by a female janitor, but it didn't keep the Knox County teachers political action committee (KC-PACE) from endorsing him for re-election. Go figure.

• Steve Hall, who did two terms on City Council, is mature, smart, and not given to media stunts. In short, he is not Stacey Campfield, the man he seeks to replace in the state House. His opponent, Gary Loe, on the other hand, is an empty suit. Loe has gotten a lot of contributions from people who don't like Campfield. Fair enough. But Hall isn't Campfield.

• Campfield devoutly hoped he would draw more than one opponent in his bid for Tim Burchett's state senate seat. He did: Steve Hill, a former school board member who has raised the most money, and Ron Leadbetter, who ran against Campfield in a House race two years ago. It is likely Hill and Leadbetter will split the anti-Campfield vote and put the controversial Campfield in the state Senate. Both gentlemen were aware of this scenario before the race, but ran anyway. Go figure.