Gov. Bill Lee

Gov. Bill Lee

Republican incumbent Gov. Bill Lee has defeated Democratic challenger Jason Martin and will serve a second term.

“The people have spoken clearly," Lee told supporters in Franklin on election night less than an hour after polls closed. "We are expecting to win by a large margin. Our ideas have resonated with people from one end of the state to another.”

“I decided to run again because we have a lot more work to do," Lee continued. “We have the leading economy of all states in America and we've done so with the lowest tax rate in America.”

Meanwhile, Martin's supporters gathered at event space Saint Elle in Wedgewood-Houston, where the first-time Democratic candidate conceded the race at around 9:30 p.m. In his 20-month campaign, the doctor visited all 95 of Tennessee's counties, though he didn't get the chance to debate.

Lee refused to debate Martin in the run-up to the election, recently telling the Chattanooga Times Free Press he was instead working “really hard to stay focused on being the governor.” Even so, he recently issued statements condemning the Pediatric Transgender Clinic at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and encouraging Tennesseans to vote yes on Amendment 1, which passed on Election Day.

Martin says the lack of debate was unfair to Tennesseans, though he did characterize an election night phone call with Lee as “kind a graceful."

Martin said in his concession speech that it’s important to have a “peaceful resolution of elections.” The Democrat also said he feels “like a million bucks” and that his campaign did all it could, saying Tennessee isn’t a red state, but rather a "nonvoting state."

“Don’t be discouraged," Martin told his supporters. "We’re going to keep going.”

Priorities during Lee’s first term in office included supporting charter schools, establishing a private school voucher program in Nashville and Memphis, limiting gun control and further restricting abortion rights. 

Some of Martin’s campaign platforms included accessible health care and Medicaid expansion, reproductive rights, decriminalization of small drug offenses, gun control and LGBTQ rights.

A Democrat has not won a statewide election in Tennessee since Gov. Phil Bredesen won a second term in 2006.