By BAILEY BASHAM
American flags were waving in the air throughout the room as calls came in — U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn won the Senate seat in Tennessee.
Blackburn ran against Democrat and former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. Early polls showed a competitive race with results at the time of this posting coming in at 55 percent, Blackburn with 78 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press.
Results were announced after a performance from the live band, whose front man is State Sen. Jack Johnson. As numbers came in, cheers swelled across the room, many of its occupants clad in bright red.
For Tennessee GOP spokesman Gillum Ferguson, the results come as no surprise — Tennessee, which is more Republican than the nation overall, is the 8th-most-Republican state in the country, according to FiveThirtyEight. Ferguson said the GOP in the state has seen a lot of enthusiasm for Blackburn, and he expected that enthusiasm to be represented at the polls.
“People who were sort of asleep at the wheel had to wake up and be like, ‘Oh wait, here’s what’s at stake.’ The people who were energized were even more wondering what they could do to help,” he said.
Ferguson also said that unlike many in politics, he sees Blackburn as someone who does more than just talk the talk — she walks the walk, too.
“I think she is the right person for the job at the right time, and I think it’s important that we have more female leaders. I think she’s been a strong leader. She’s not somebody that just talks the talk. There is a lot of substance to what she can do. She is incredibly respected as a legislator because she has done so much to help state representatives and senators and even county commissioners. She’s not just looking out for the big guys. She is a team player, and she realizes that’s how to build relationships.”
One supporter, Heather Josten, attended the election party decked out in Blackburn memorabilia. With a pro-Blackburn hat in the style of the popular “Make America Great Again” hats and several “Vote Marsha” stickers on her shirt, Josten said she and her family came to support Blackburn because Blackburn supports them.
“I have a son who is going into law enforcement, and he was in the military too, so it really hits home for me because I’m the mom who really has to worry every day if her kid is going to get shot,” she said. “It’s very frightening. If you’ve never had an immediate family member in the military or law enforcement, I don’t think people understand the fear, but there is also pride. I say to my son, ‘You will never do anything that makes me more proud and more terrified at the same time.’”