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Bill Lee, Karl Dean win primary spots for Tennessee governor's race

Bill Lee and Karl Dean

Businessman Bill Lee won the Tennessee GOP primary for governor, topping three competitors in a $45 million race.

The contest to succeed popular term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Haslam attracted four leading Republicans: U.S. Rep. Diane Black, former state economic development chief Randy Boyd, businessman Bill Lee, and state House Speaker Beth Harwell. Together, they've put some $40.2 million of their own money into the race and have spent a record $45.7 million total.

”Today is a victory for Tennesseans who want an outsider, for people who want Tennessee not only to be an even better place to live for six and a half million people, but for Tennessee to lead the nation," Lee said. "Tonight, we celebrate, but tomorrow we get back to work. We’re going to finish this campaign the way we started it: 95 Counties in 95 Days. Thank you for believing in us. See you soon!”

With the spending spree, the candidates have fought over who's more loyal to the president and his tough-on-immigration priorities.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam issued a statement after the gubernatorial primary results were released.

"Congratulations to Bill Lee on winning the Republican nomination for Tennessee governor," Haslam said. "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."

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean secured the Democratic primary spot in the contest for governor.

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.


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