The 2012 General Election was historic on a number of levels, the most notable being that the nation’s first African-American President was re-elected. Tennessee moved opposite of the nation’s popular vote and elected a super majority to both the state house and senate. Tennesseans did mirror the national trend of rural areas and counties supporting the Republican nominee for President, and urban areas supporting the Democratic nominee.
In Tennessee, the outcome of Republican-led redistricting combined with the low popularity of President Obama enabled Republicans to increase their numbers in the state house from 65 to 70 (of 99) and in the state senate from 20 to 26 (of 32). This super majority will render Democrats powerless in procedurally stopping or advancing any measures against the will of the Republicans.
Tennessee’s Congressional delegation remained unchanged. Senator Bob Corker (R) easily won re-election as did Representatives Roe, Duncan, Fleischmann, Cooper, Black, Blackburn, Fincher and Cohen. Representative DesJarlais won a challenge from State Senator Eric Stewart after a hard fought and often negative campaign.
There are several expectations regarding how the election’s outcome may affect various University interests and activities. Our federal research priorities and focus areas of interest should remain largely unchanged. What will likely change is the funding levels for any number of these areas. As budget discussions move forward during both the Lame Duck Session and into the new Congress next year, various program funding levels are expected to decline as a result of budget negotiations. The Obama Administration will likely continue to advance a national energy policy and agenda with major emphasis on research and production of various forms of alternative energy. This focus should help minimize adverse impacts to UT’s ongoing research interest in these areas, but funding reductions should be expected. Other areas such as agricultural and forestry research, weather services and modeling, and health and medical research are but a few programs that may be targeted for reductions.
At the state level, there will be 22 first-time House members and 6 first-time Senators. This presents both a challenge and opportunity to the higher education community. It will be critical to educate these new members on a host of issues and funding matters facing the University. Active advocacy by alumni, students, faculty, and staff will become increasingly important. In the Senate, Committees will likely reduce the representation of Democrats from 3 to 2 members. In the House, Speaker Harwell will be considering a new Chair and Vice Chair for the House Education Committee given the primary defeat of Richard Montgomery and election of Joey Hensley to the Senate.