In the special election held for the Tennessee State Senate District 17 on December 19th, Democrats came within striking distance of an upset victory. Democratic up an comer Mary Alice Carfi, a local attorney, came up just 308 votes short to Republican establishment candidate and state Representative Mark Pody. Carfi ran a largely grass roots campaign, drawing on her strong roots in the community to bring out the vote, while Pody drew his support from the powerful Tennessee Republican party machine. What makes this close election even more astounding is this is a district that just over a year ago was dominated by President Trump when he gained over 70% of the vote.
The 17th District seat had been held by Tea Party sweetheart Mae Beavers. However, with Beavers entry into the Governors race last summer she decided to step down from the state senate in order to continue raising campaign funds throughout the 2018 legislative session. Beaver’s popularity in the area, combined with her extremist right wing views on many issues, made most think a Democratic candidate could not be competitive in the district. However, the wave of Democratic wins and close elections across the south appears to also be spreading to Tennessee. This should make for an interesting election in 2018 with the Democrats fielding well funded, serious candidates in both the Governors race and the US Senate race.