Bill Lee elected Tennessee’s governor, defeats former Nashville mayor Karl Dean


Republican businessman and political newcomer Bill Lee will become Tennessee’s next governor, replacing outgoing GOP Gov. Bill Haslam.

Lee won Tuesday’s election against former Nashville Mayor and Democrat Karl Dean.

“I’m humbled. I’m honored, and I couldn’t be more grateful,” Lee said in his victory speech. 

Lee is chairman of a Franklin mechanical contracting, facilities and home services company. His positive campaigning and religious faith became defining characteristics of his election bid, although he’s faced criticism for not providing specific details on key policy positions.

PHOTOS: Bill Lee elected Tennessee’s next governor

“I give you my word that I want to be the governor and I will be the governor of every Tennessean. From the bottom of my heart, I care about you and your family. I’ll do everything I can to make those who didn’t vote for me be proud of me.”

He added, “I promise you, I will wake up every day thinking about how I can live and lead every day that makes things better for every Tennessean.”

Lee has promised to work to fix the state’s health care system, saying it may take 15 to 20 years. Unlike Dean, the Republican said he would ultimately lobby the Tennessee Legislature to vote against Medicaid expansion, should lawmakers ever get close to doing so.

MORE: Complete Election Day results
Lee also says he supports school choice, a position his opponents say will result in school vouchers.

“I’ll be pursuing education reforms that give kids a bright future,” he said. 

In his concession speech, opponent Karl Dean said, “I wish Bill Lee all the success in the world, and I will support him as governor. We fought the good fight. Tennessee’s best days are still to come.” 

*The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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