(CN) — As Tennessee elected its first female U.S. senator, voters in Alabama added anti-abortion language to the state constitution, and in Louisiana, voters struck down a judicial rule formed during the Jim Crow era.
Election Day in the Deep South began with early morning storms rolling up through Alabama into Tennessee. The National Weather Service reported that three tornadoes touched down before voters headed to the polls.
Republican Marsha Blackburn won the contentious race for U.S. Senate in Tennessee, running on a promise to help confirm “constitutional, constructionist judges.” She defeated former Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.
The Associated Press called the election for Blackburn at 9:06 p.m. local time, dashing Democrats’ hope that the blue wave might erode the Republican stronghold in Tennessee.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the AP had Blackburn leading Bredesen by 54.7 percent to 43.9.
Blackburn will fill the seat Republican Sen. Bob Corker set into play when he declined to seek re-election. The former congresswoman from western Tennessee took to the stage Tuesday night to thank her supporters.
“(Tennesseans) want leaders who are going to tackle the big problems,” Blackburn said. “And they want leaders who are going to be there to work with the president and keep this nation on the path to prosperity that we are on today.”
As Blackburn concluded, a musician lay down a banjo roll and the band struck up “Rocky Top,” one of Tennessee’s 10 official state songs.
Blackburn ran on a platform promising to support President Trump’s agenda, in a state where more than 60 percent of voters backed him in 2016.
Trump visited the Volunteer State twice to stump for Blackburn, most recently at a Sunday evening rally in Chattanooga.
For much of the campaign, polls showed Bredesen in a statistical tie, but later polls showed Blackburn pulling away.
The governor’s mansion, left open by retiring Gov. Bill Haslam, will be filled by Republican businessman Bill Lee, whose race was called by the AP less than 45 minutes after polls closed in the state.
Voting at the Maryville Municipal Building was steady Tuesday morning, but a power outage of a handicapped-accessible electronic voting machine caused the other three machines at the precinct to go down.
“Oh my. It’s all I can say, is oh my,” said Susan Hughes, Blount County’s administrator of elections. “We had a bad unit here that when you plug it in with all the other ones, all the other ones went black.”
The machines at the polling place to the south of Knoxville went down about 8:30 a.m. and electronic voting recommenced about 10:15 a.m. when the other three machines were fixed.
Some voters made their choices on paper ballots and others decided to come back and vote.
At the Maryville Municipal Building, Vivian Kempfer voted for Republican candidates Lee and Blackburn.
“I like him; he’s a dairy farmer,” Kempfer said of Lee. “So he knows the heartaches, people trying to make a living. I think he’s really educated too.”
Kempfer did not like the idea of the caravan of immigrants walking north through Mexico, in search of political asylum there or in the United States. “They’re coming for a purpose,” she said, “and it’s not to help the American people.”