Tennessee Republicans basked in the glow of yet another historic night of state-level election dominance Tuesday evening.
The GOP now enjoys a two-thirds supermajority status in both the House and Senate.
Practically speaking, should Democrats choose for whatever reason to boycott the next two years of legislative decision making in Nashville, the Tennessee General Assembly could continue conducting business with little more formal observance than marking the minority party members absent during roll call.
Tennessee Democrats Tuesday relinquished their last procedurally substantive political playing card, such as it was, which involved fleeing the chamber en masse to thwart a quorum should unfolding legislative events become intolerable to them.
Last session, the GOP held a 20-13 majority in the state Senate and controlled the House 64-34-1.
Republicans are poised, once all the votes are officially tallied, to gain six seats in the House and six in the Senate.
The Tennessee GOP has been in ascendancy for a number of legislative cycles now. The 2012 election is something of a capstone to a grassroots-fueled conservative political comeback set off in the early 2000s by popular resistance to a state income tax.
“After decades of Democrat Party rule in Tennessee, Republicans have won the war of ideas across this state’s Grand Divisions and changed the political culture,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said in a statement Tuesday night.
The number of Republican Senate votes arrayed before Ramsey will grow to 26 in 2013. Democrats will occupy only seven seats in the 33-member chamber.
“The Tennessee Democrat Party has abandoned any pretense of supporting traditional values or conservative fiscal policy. As Democrat leaders have lined up with the pro-abortion, tax-and-spend liberals in Washington, D.C., their voters have responded to our message of lower taxes, balanced budgets and economic growth,” added the Blountville Republican. “The historical majorities we achieved tonight are a culmination of years of hard work and responsible governance. Republicans have many successes under our belt, but there is still much left to do.”
House Speaker Beth Harwell, who will preside over the most lopsided partisan margin since 1969, promised to “govern with humility” over the next two years.
“We achieved what we never achieved before, which was a supermajority in the Tennessee legislature, both in the House and the Senate,” said the Nashville Republican. “I think that’s largely attributed to the fact that over the last two years as a majority we’ve governed the state well; lower taxes, limited government, that’s obviously what the people wanted.”
Republican House candidates prevailed in more than twice as many contested races as the Democrats.
Nevertheless, Democrats were in no hurry to claim defeat.
Tweeted House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who decisively won his own re-election contest: “Looks like TN House Dems keep all incumbents, win 2 open seats & pick off a Republican. A good night for us, the tide turns!” This morning he reiterated it was “A good night for #TNHouseDems overall.”
Soon-to-be-stepping-down Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said surrender isn’t in the playbook. “Not only did the American people re-elect Barack Obama as President, but Tennesseans also sent some real fighters to the state legislature,” said Forrester.
In the closely watched District 5, Rep. David B. Hawk, R-Greeneville, swept to a comfortable victory over Democrat Eddie Yokley, 58 percent to 42 percent. In Anderson County District 33, incumbent Republican John Ragan fended off a challenge from Democrat Jim Hackworth, 51 to 49 percent.
Republican Barry Doss, a former Lawrence County commissioner, handily defeated Democrat Calvin Moore, 51 to 45 percent, to take House District 70 in Lawrence and Giles counties. Independent John C. Johnson garnered 4 percent.
But the night wasn’t universally cheery for Republicans.
Democrats held onto the south Nashville seat being vacated by Rep. Janis Sontany. In District 53, Jason Powell bested Republican Ben Claybaker, 55 percent to 45 percent. Powell directs a student health coalition and is a real estate broker.
Democratic candidate and Metro Council member Darren Jernigan squeaked ahead of Rep. Jim Gotto, R-Hermitage, by 192 votes, 51 to 49 percent, in House District 60.
And in another tight race, Democrats held onto the seat of retiring Rep. Gary Moore, of Joelton. Bo Mitchell, a Metro Council member, led Republican Charles Williamson by 147 votes, or 50.32 percent to 49.68 percent, in District 50.
Unofficial Tennessee state Senate results in contested races were as follows:
Todd Gardenhire R 36,540 (61.64%)
Andrae’ McGary R 30,740 (30.36%)
Janice Bowling (R) 38,147 (63.64%)
Jim Lewis (D) 21,796 (36.36%)
Ferrell Haile (R) 49,442 (69.25%)
Maria A. Brewer (D) 21,953 (30.75%)
Steven Dickerson (R) 46,230 (54.08%)
Phillip L. North Democratic 39,250 (45.92%)
Mark E. Green (R) 31,868 (53.11%)
Tim Barnes (D) 28,141 (46.89%)
John Stevens (R) 38,656 (56.47%)
Brad Thompson (D) 29,799 (43.53%)
Dolores Gresham (R) 42,965 (60.45%)
Meryl Rice (D) 28,112 (39.55%)
Joey Hensley (R) 37,351 (55.16%)
Tyler “Ty” Cobb (D) 30,364 (44.84%)