PHOTO: Bill Lee celebrates his victory in the Tennessee Governor race in Franklin on Tuesday. / Photo by Alexander Willis
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
Republican Bill Lee will become the next Governor of Tennessee after defeating his Democratic opponent, Karl Dean, by more than 30,000 votes in Williamson County Tuesday night.
Unofficial final results show Lee received a total of 68,147 votes from Williamson County voters, compared to Dean’s 34,618.
Statewide, Lee won with a total of 1,331,871 votes or 59.64 percent. Dean received 859,494 votes or 38.48 percent.
Held at the Factory in Franklin, Lee’s election night viewing party saw musician Michael Smith, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip, hundreds of friends and roughly 2,000 supporters showing support, and ultimately, celebrating his victory.
“We have some major challenges, but I believe, that if we can embrace the opportunities ahead of us in the coming months and years, Tennessee can be the place that other states look to,” Lee said after his victory. “Tennessee can not only be a place that leads in this region, but Tennessee can be a place that leads in America.”
Lee began his post-victory speech by thanking his opponent, praising Dean’s commitment to Tennessee as well as his engagement in positive public discourse during previously held debates between the two candidates.
“We debated differences, and there will always be disagreements,” Lee said. “But no matter who you voted for, there’s one thing we can agree on – that we care deeply about the future of the state of Tennessee.”
While there was no shortage of supporters in the audience, many in the crowd were close personal friends of Lee and his family, all praising his genuineness and transparency.
“Lee has been a friend of ours for a long time,” said Leighann Taylor, who said she’s known Lee for 21 years. “He’s the real deal. How you see him up there, is how you see him at church, in the aisles just getting coffee… he is that same person, and I love that about him.”
Rebecca Harmon, who said she’s also been friends with Lee’s family for years, also praised Lee for his strong faith, as well as his genuine nature.
“He is exactly [how] you see him,” Harmon said. “He’s not a phony, he tells it from his heart. He’s a god-fearing man.”
Noah Bell, who knows Lee through his mother’s church group, called Lee a “solid, positive guy,” saying he conducted himself well during his campaign.
“He’s a godly man, and you can tell that,” Bell said. “He wasn’t just a guy coming out saying [he’s] a godly man, but [he’s] going to throw out all these attacks on people and stand up for things that aren’t godly – which is a very common thing throughout politics right now.”
During his victory speech in Franklin, Lee talked about instituting education reform to better serve children and teens in Tennessee, improving criminal reform for better rehabilitation efforts, and making health insurance affordable to all Tennesseans.
“We also need a criminal justice system that not only punishes crime justly, but as I’ve worked in criminal justice, nonprofits for many years, we need a system,” Lee said. “We need a system that give offenders the skills and resources so they can reenter society, and not just reenter prison.”
Lee also called for an end to the opioid epidemic in Tennessee which he said is “ravishing” certain communities in the state.
Visiting 95 counties in 95 days, Lee put forth a strong campaign, coming up as an underdog in the primaries due to his political inexperience, but soon became the favorite to win.
The unofficial results show Lee receiving 64.50 percent of the vote, with Dean receiving 32.77 percent. Lee will swear in as Tennessee’s new governor on January 1, 2019.
“Government is never going to solve the problems,” Lee said. “But when we unleash the unique problem-solving capabilities of Tennesseans, our communities, when they have the tools, support and freedom to address their own problems… we know that they will flourish,” Lee said. “If we can do that, I believe that Tennessee can go from good to great, and I believe that Tennessee can lead the nation.”