Nineteen votes. That narrowest of margins gave victory in the District 22 Senate race to incumbent Rosalind Kurita, who spent election day campaigning at wards across Montgomery County and the rest of the district that continues to support her. District 22 includes Montgomery, Houston and Cheatham counties. Sen. Kurita was unable to be reached prior to posting the election result.
Kurita defeated challenger Atty. Tim Barnes by 19 votes, a true “horse race” as elections go, with each candidate taking turns at the lead post until the final count gave victory to Kurita. Barnes has said that due to the closeness of the race, he will request a recount.
Voter turnout, including both early voting and the actual Thursday primary, was 11.86%. A total of 5238 Montgomery County voters cast ballots in the two-week early voting period, while another 4486 voted in the August 7 primary.
According to the Montgomery County Election Commission website (10 p.m. 8/7/08), Montgomery County voters favored Barnes 52.02% to 47.96% or 3369 to 3106. District wide, the numbers were Kurita 4477 (50.1%) to Barnes 4458 (49.89%).
At the Riverview Inn in downtown Clarksville, Barnes and his supporters waited for two and a half hours as the tally trickled in, first with a victory in Houston County. As the numbers were crunched in Montgomery County, though, the range between the two candidates was at most a one percentage point difference. Kurita ahead by 64. Barnes ahead by 110. Kurita trailing by 20 votes. Barnes ahead by 10. A true horse race between veteran campaigner and the new kid on the political block.
As the final numbers trickled in, victory was momentarily declared in the Barnes stronghold, but moments later a re-check of the numbers brought defeat by the slimmest of margins: 19 votes. A collective exhale sent the air from the room and the initial euphoria of victory died.
Challenger Tim Barnes, a local attorney, ran a challenging campaign that came to a head earlier this week when a series of controversial oversized postcard ads began arriving at the homes of local voters. The ads challenged Barnes’ legal practice and said he worked on behalf of criminals (drunk drivers, domestic abusers) via his representation of the defendents in such cases. Thirty-eight local attorneys came to his defense (and the defense of a Constitution that guarantees fair and equal treatment under the law), citing Barnes work as an adoption attorney and the rights of all people to a legal defense.
In other races, 7th district incumbent Rep. Marsha Blackburn won an easy victory over opponent Tom Leatherwood, 1880 to 330, while incumbent John Tanner, 8th district representative, retained his seat with a 1590-5 vote.
When elections are this close it reminds you how much even a single vote does make a difference.