PHOTO: Gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee stands on stage in Liberty Hall at Franklin’s Factory during his primary victory party on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. / Photo by Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
President Donald Trump tweeted his endorsement of Williamson County businessman and Lee Company chairman Bill Lee on Friday morning, after Lee took the Republican nomination for governor on Thursday night.
Democrat Karl Dean, former mayor of Nashville, won most of the Democratic vote.
With 78 percent of the early vote to Rep. Craig Fitzhugh’s 17 percent, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean won the Democratic primary vote handily.
Williamson County businessman Bill Lee took 37 percent of the vote, beating out Republican challengers Randy Boyd (26 percent), Diane Black (22 percent) and Beth Harwell (15 percent).
On Thursday night all three conceded to Lee, who was considered an underdog when he began the race 15 months ago.
Congratulations to Bill Lee of Tennessee on his big primary win for Governor last night. He ran a great campaign and now will finish off the job in November. Bill has my total and enthusiastic Endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2018
After Lee’s victory was assured, “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played as Lee came out on stage at The Factory at Franklin with members of his family, shaking hands and pointing out into the crowd victoriously.
Shouts of “God Bless you,” erupted from the crowd as Lee thanked his wife, children and God for their support during the race.
“I’m a man who is not a politician, but I do have a vision for Tennessee,” he said.
Refusing to say anything against his opponents, Lee said “We didn’t go down that road, and I’m not going to start now.”
He credited current Gov. Bill Haslam for his leadership, saying Tennesseans should be “proud,” but said, “We can’t get comfortable, and we can’t settle, and we can’t stop reaching for more, mentioning recidivism rates and the opioid crisis.
After Lee spoke, U.S. Senate Republican nominee Marsha Blackburn spoke briefly in his support.
Karl Dean spoke from Nashville, where his wife, Anne Davis and daughter, Caroline, joined him on stage. He made note of his opponent, longtime Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, who he said ran a “very gentlemanly campaign.”
Good jobs and affordable healthcare, Dean said, are what drives his campaign, noting parts of the state outside of Nashville that were not doing so well economically.
“We can invest in Tennessee, we can invest in Memphis,” he said. “We should as a state say that the poverty level in Memphis is just unacceptable to us,” just like in parts of the Upper Cumberland and in east Tennessee. “I think we can do the same things we did here in Nashville all over the state.”
Dean said healthcare, education, and economic vitality are not Republican or Democrat issues, “they’re Tennessee issues, and we have got to look after our families.”