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VOL. 40 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 4, 2016

GOP wins 2 Dem seats in Tennessee House, keeps Durham seat

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Republicans on Tuesday won two seats previously held by Democrats in the Tennessee House and held on to another formerly held by expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham.

Republican Michael Curcio easily defeated Democrat Dustin Evans to win the District 69 seat vacated by Democratic Rep. David Shepard of Dickson. And Republican Paul Sherrell defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Kevin Dunlap of Sparta by 7 percentage points.

Former Army Col. Sam Whitson of Franklin defeated Democrat Holly McCall in District 65 race by 42 percentage points to keep the former Durham seat in the GOP column.

Whitson had defeated Durham in the August primary following a state attorney general's report detailing allegations that Durham had had improper sexual contact with at least 22 women during his four years in office.

The House voted in September to formally oust Durham from the chamber to prevent him from completing his term and qualifying for a state pension. It was just the second time a sitting member had been ousted from the House since Reconstruction.

Democratic Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville resigned on the eve of the special session after being convicted in a federal tax fraud trial. His appointed successor, Rick Staples, had no Republican opponent in the general election.

Meanwhile, Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell defeated Democratic opponent Chris Moth by 16 percentage points. And Republican state Sen. Steve Dickerson won his race against challenger Erin McCall. Both Nashville Republicans campaigned heavily to hold on to their seats amid heavy support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the city.

Donna Tucker, a receptionist at a Nashville flooring company, said she voted for Harwell because she knows her and taught her children in preschool.

"We are very lucky that a woman of her substance would serve us," Tucker said.

Tucker dismissed Democrats' allegations that Harwell didn't act quickly or forcefully enough when first confronted with sexual harassment allegations against Durham.

"I would have a hard time believing Beth Harwell did anything inappropriate," she said. "I'd have a hard time believing she took the easy way out on anything."

In Knoxville, Republican Rep. Eddie Smith defeated his predecessor, Democrat Gloria Johnson, by 154 votes.

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