Democrat Karl Dean, Republican Bill Lee to face off for governor in November

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee has decided. Businessman Bill Lee and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean will face off in the race for Tennessee’s next governor.

Lee topped U.S. Rep. Diane Black, ex-state economic development commissioner Randy Boyd and state House Speaker Beth Harwell in a race that cost more than $45 million. Much of that money came from the candidates themselves.

The candidates painted themselves as the most devoted to President Donald Trump and his tough-on-immigration priorities. They questioned each other’s allegiance to the president and his policies.

Lee called himself the race’s only conservative outsider and focused heavily on his Christian beliefs.

He ran ads saying attacking him isn’t what a leader does and some people will say or do anything to get elected.

Lee heads his family’s mechanical contracting, facilities and home services firm.

Current governor, Republican Bill Haslam, released a statement on Bill Lee’s primary victory.

Congratulations to Bill Lee on winning the Republican nomination for Tennessee governor. Bill is a man of strong faith and character, and I know he will lead Tennessee in the right direction. He has long been a supporter of Tennessee’s business-friendly environment, and he is committed to the education and development of the state’s workforce. Bill has demonstrated that he will put the needs of Tennesseans at the forefront of any decision he makes as governor of our great state.

Dean defeated state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh on Thursday in a race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

Dean had a huge advantage in campaign cash, outspending Fitzhugh $4.4 million to $984,800. The race was mostly cordial.

Dean has run as a moderate who says he’ll work across the aisle.

Democrats have a tough path to statewide success in Tennessee, where they need to attract moderate Republicans and independents in a state that favored President Donald Trump by 26 percentage points in 2016.

Dean even quoted Ronald Reagan in a Democratic debate.

Tennesseans will decide on the state’s next governor on Nov. 6