Open Senate race on tap for Election Day in Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee voters will decide an open race for U.S. Senate on Election Day after setting an early and absentee voting record amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A list of when polls open in each county is available on sos.tn.gov. All polls close at 7 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.

Tennessee officials say a record of nearly 2.3 million voters have already cast their early or absentee ballots ahead of the election, making up just more than half of the state’s registered voters. More than 2.5 million Tennesseans voted in the 2016 general election, including nearly 1.7 million early and absentee votes.

This year’s absentee totals will grow, since those ballots are allowed to come in to local election commissions via mail by Election Day’s close of polls. Officials are urging voters to drop off ballots inside the one post office designated in each county by 3 p.m. on Election Day so that county election officials have time to pick up ballots. Postage is required. Nashville, for one, will pick up the ballots at 5 p.m., giving some extra time.

With the presidential race in focus, the contest to replace retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander pits President Donald Trump’s endorsed GOP candidate, Bill Hagerty, against Democrat Marquita Bradshaw, Tennessee’s first Black woman nominated for statewide office by either major party.

Hagerty is a Nashville businessman and was the U.S. ambassador to Japan under Trump. Bradshaw is an environmental justice and labor issues activist and community organizer from Memphis.

Republicans have held both Senate seats in Tennessee since 1994.

In the only open congressional race, Republican Diana Harshbarger and Democrat Blair Walsingham are vying to replace retiring Republican Rep. Phil Roe in northeastern Tennessee. A win by either would put a woman in Tennessee’s nine-member U.S. House delegation, which currently includes only men. The 1st Congressional District has been represented by Republicans since the Civil War.

All 99 state House seats and about half of the 33 Senate seats are on the ballot, with Republicans expressing confidence that their supermajorities are not in jeopardy.

Still, Republicans have had to spend to defend several incumbents and open seats they currently hold.

Sen. Steve Dickerson and his GOP allies have spent heavily to try to keep him in a Nashville-centered seat that is expected to vote against Trump. Dickerson, a Nashville physician and the Senate’s most moderate Republican, faces Democrat Heidi Campbell, the former mayor of Oak Hill.

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