NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Key nominations are at stake in Tennessee for open races for governor and U.S. Senate as early voting kicks off Friday.

Early voting runs through July 28 for the Aug. 2 election, which includes contests for the U.S. House and the Republican-led General Assembly. Secretary of State Tre Hargett expects at least half of people who vote to cast their ballots early.

Here's a look at some of the key contests:


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Four GOP front-runners and two leading Democrats are vying to succeed popular Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who is hitting term limits.

The top Republicans are former state economic development Commissioner Randy Boyd of Knoxville, U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, state House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and businessman Bill Lee of Franklin.

Boyd founded a company that makes invisible fences and other pet products, and helped Haslam create a free state community college program. Black, a registered nurse, is a longtime lawmaker and former House Budget Committee chairwoman who helped with President Donald Trump's tax law. Harwell, a former college professor, has touted her work on conservative state budgeting since being elected speaker in 2011. Lee is a cattle farmer and chairman of a mechanical contracting, facilities and home services company.

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The Republicans' focus on conservative credentials and loyalty to Trump, including tough talk on immigration, has incited in-fighting about who's not as conservative as they claim.

Each of the four Republican candidates has added millions of dollars in personal wealth to their campaigns, amounting to a record-setting total of about $33 million.

Two main Democrats are vying for their party's nomination: former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. Both have backgrounds as attorneys. Fitzhugh also is CEO of a local bank.

Dean has outspent Fitzhugh so far, $3.1 million to $624,700, and polls have shown Dean is better known among voters.

Dean is portraying himself as a moderate who says he will work with both parties in the Republican-led General Assembly. Fitzhugh points to his long record of legislative work, including bipartisan efforts, and support from progressives.

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Both want another crack at trying to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, an idea Haslam proposed and lawmakers have previously rejected.


In a key matchup for control of the U.S. Senate, Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen have been campaigning like they are running against each other for months already.

But first, they have to win their parties' nominations, which shouldn't be a tall task against nominal opposition.

In the GOP primary, Blackburn faces Murfreesboro truck driver Aaron L. Pettigrew, who hasn't raised any money.

Bredesen has two Democratic primary opponents: Gary Davis, a perennial candidate from Nashville who hasn't reported raising any money since giving his campaign $25 in 2006; and John Wolfe, a Chattanooga attorney who hasn't reported raising any money for his bid.

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Blackburn, from Brentwood, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2002. Before that, she was a state senator and executive director of the state's Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission. She has billed herself as a "hardcore, card-carrying Tennessee conservative" who would fight for President Trump's agenda in the Senate.

Bredesen served as Tennessee's governor from 2003 to 2011 after a stint as Nashville's mayor. He is running as an independent thinker who says he will work with President Trump when his ideas make sense for Tennessee and oppose the president when they don't.

Both are looking ahead to a November matchup to replace Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who is retiring.


Three House districts are losing Republican incumbents and the party primaries will decide the top two candidates for the open seats in November.

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In District 2, where Knoxville Republican John Duncan Jr. is retiring, the Republican front-runners include Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and state Rep. Jimmy Matlock of Lenoir City. Three Democrats are vying for that party's nomination in the traditionally GOP district.

Diane Black's gubernatorial campaign clears District 6 for a new House member. Retired judge Bob Corlew of Mount Juliet and Cookeville farmer John Rose lead in fundraising, with state Rep. Judd Matheny also in the race. Dr. Dawn Barlow of Rickman and United Methodist minister Merrilee Wineinger of Hendersonville lead in fundraising on the Democrat side. Barlow is an anti-abortion Democrat.

Marsha Blackburn's candidacy for U.S. Senate to replace Bob Corker frees up District 7. State Sen. Mark Green of Ashland City, who withdrew as President Donald Trump's nominee for Army secretary earlier this year amid criticism of his comments about gay and transgender people, is the lone GOP candidate in the solidly Republican district. Justin Kanew, a film writer-producer and former "Amazing Race" contestant from College Grove, and U.S. Army Green Beret Matt Reel of Primm Springs are the Democratic hopefuls.

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Barring major upsets, Republican incumbents Phil Roe (District 1), Chuck Fleischmann (District 3), Scott DesJarlais (District 4), and David Kustoff (District 8) appear safe. So do Democrats Jim Cooper (District 5) and Steve Cohen (District 9).


Some new faces will be in the mix in the primary election for the General Assembly, where Republicans hold supermajorities. All 99 seats in the House and 18 of the 33 Senate seats are on the ballot.

Eighteen Republican and seven Democratic incumbents in the House won't be running again. They include Republican Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and Democratic Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who are both running for governor.

The exodus has been less in the Senate. Democratic Sens. Lee Harris and Thelma Harper, and Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro aren't seeking re-election.

Two more senators may not be back: GOP Majority Leader Mark Norris has been awaiting confirmation as a federal judge for months, and Republican Sen. Mark Green would be gone if he wins a bid for U.S. House.

Additionally, three other Republican senators left before the last legislative session began in January.


State Sen. Lee Harris, a Democrat, takes on Trustee Davis Lenoir, a Republican, in the general election for mayor in the state's largest county, which includes Memphis.

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