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Gov. Lee running unopposed in GOP primary, Democratic field more crowded


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nearly four years ago, Bill Lee startled political insiders when the first-time political candidate survived a bruising and crowded $45 million GOP primary for Tennessee governor.

He cruised to win the top elected state seat a few months later.

Now, the Republican businessman is enjoying a drastically different race for reelection, with much more breathing room. Despite criticisms from within his own political party, Democrats, and advocates from multiple sides of the political spectrum, Lee faces no challengers in the August GOP primary.

The state Republican Party booted two lesser-known opponents off the ballot.

Three Democrats are running in the primary to replace Gov. Lee in hopes that the national political landscape could open some inroads for voters to consider a switch.

It won’t be an easy ask in Tennessee, which has elected only Republicans statewide for more than 15 years.

Jason Martin, a critical care physician from Nashville, announced his bid for governor as a lead critic of Lee’s COVID-19 pandemic approach.

JB Smiley, a Black city councilman and attorney in Memphis, is vying for the nomination as well.

The Democratic field rounds out with Carnita Atwater, a former nurse and community leader in Memphis.