Republicans seized another Democratic seat in the state House of Representatives Tuesday in the special election to succeed Rep. Curt Cobb.
Trucking company owner Pat Marsh beat Cobb's brother, Ty, by a vote of 4,931 to 3,663 in House District 62, which includes Bedford and parts of Lincoln and Rutherford counties. It gives Republicans a 51-48 advantage in the House and makes it that much harder for Tennessee's beleaguered Democrats to return to power in the high-stakes 2010 elections. Democrats lost the legislature to Republicans in the '08 elections for the first time since the Civil War.
Democrats poured everything they had into this campaign to hold this seat, attacking Marsh with mailers and a TV ad. Many observers described the election as a bellwether for 2010, a strong indication of just how much Barack Obama's unpopularity here might hurt Democrats in state races.
A UPS delivery man with a folksy style and a winning name, Cobb ran for the seat after his brother, Curt, resigned to take a higher paying county government job. He talked like a conservative, even taking the Right to Life endorsement, and state GOP chair Chris Devaney couldn't resist needling Democrats for running a candidate with Republican views.
“Democrats tipped their hand in this election and demonstrated that their strategy to get their candidates elected is to have them run as Republicans,” Devaney said. “It seems that Democrats know they have to run as Republicans because the American people are rejecting policies being pushed by liberal Democrats at the local, state and federal levels.”
The loss is an embarrassment for state Democratic Party chair Chip Forrester, who won his job a year ago by boasting of his skills as a grassroots organizer. Forrester conceded before the voting that this low-turnout election, which emphasized the importance of identifying voters and getting them to the polls, would put his abilities to the test.
For Republicans, the victory boosts fund-raising, helps candidate recruitment and builds momentum for 2010, when legislative elections will determine which party wins the right to try to redraw the state's political districts for the next decade.