Update 9:30 p.m.
Beth Harwell, Diane Black and Bill Lee have all conceded the race for governor to Bill Lee. Harwell and Black spoke to their campaign parties around 9 p.m. Central, and a spokesman for Lee says Boyd has called to admit defeat.
In a statement, Gov. Bill Haslam congratulated Lee and commended his "strong faith and character,"
"He has long been a supporter of Tennessee’s business-friendly environment, and he is committed to the education and development of the state’s workforce," Haslam wrote.
Lee's supporters say they were pleasantly surprised by his solid lead.
"A couple weeks ago, it didn't seem that way at all," Casey Chilson told WPLN at Lee's campaign party in Franklin. "I think, if anything, some of the mudslinging got attention on him, and then people got to see the man that he is and the character that he has. And now look at him."
Diane Black and Beth Harwell came in third and fourth place, at 23 and 15 percent respectively.
Lee will face off former Nashville mayor Karl Dean in November, who held a gaping lead statewide over Craig Fitzhugh: 78 percent to 17 percent, as of 9:30. Fitzhugh is expected to see a slight boost after Shelby County posts its results.
Mixed Results For Incumbents In County Mayor Races
Several Middle Tennessee county mayors are being chosen today. In Wilson County, incumbent Randall Hutto has a strong early lead over challenger Mae Beavers, a former state lawmaker.
With only partial results in, the race appears closer in Maury County. Entrepreneur Andy Ogels is leading the current mayor, Charlie Norman, by fewer than 200 votes. And in Rutherford County, longtime state senator Bill Ketron has nearly two-thirds of the vote with some precincts yet to report.
Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh appears poised to remain in that post in Rutherford. He’d been appointed earlier this year and was leading by a 2-to-1 margin as precinct results were still being posted at 8:15 p.m.
Possible Runoff For Nashville's Vice Mayor
With only early votes cast, there’s no decisive winner in the race for vice mayor of Nashville. If the pattern holds up as today’s votes are tallied, that could mean a runoff.
Councilwoman Sheri Weiner, who is now in the role of acting vice mayor, led early voting with 46 percent, compared to Councilman Jim Shulman at 42 percent.
Local musician Matthew DelRossi has grabbed 12 percent — enough thus far to keep Weiner and Shulman from reaching the majority threshold to claim the win outright.
Lee Takes Early Voting Lead In Davidson County
More Nashvillians also voted early for Lee than any other Republican candidate, according to preliminary results from the Davidson County Election Commission.
Lee took 38.4 percent of the early vote in Davidson County. Beth Harwell came in second place, with 26.8 percent of the early vote. Randy Boyd and Diane Black trailed behind with less than 20 percent of the vote apiece.
Meanwhile, former Nashville mayor Karl Dean won big in the city during early voting, with 87.3 percent to Craig Fitzhugh's 11.3 percent.
We'll have more results as they come in.
Polls Staying Busy
Secretary of State Tre Hargett says his office is closely monitoring voting as Tennesseans head to the polls for state primaries and local elections. But its bigger concern is the security of election websites where results will be posted later today.
Hargett says state monitors are on the lookout for the possibility of tampering, especially after a cyber attack in May crashed a Knox County election results site.
"What we would be most concerned about are people who would seek to sow discord and try to get people to believe that our election systems are not secure," he says.
Hargett says he's also encouraging Tennesseans get to the polls. Early voting turnout was up over previous elections, and he says the turnout today so far seems steady.
Of all the races on the ballot, the governor's race is particularly contested, and it's partially responsible for the rise in early voting turnout for both parties in the state.
In Mt. Juliet, Jack Bailey said today he made a point of coming to vote for the successor to Gov. Bill Haslam. The 28-year-old software engineer says Republican Diane Black and Democrat Karl Dean may lead in name recognition, but he thinks the race feels wide open.
“I think it’s really vital to come out and vote this year, even in primaries. A lot of people think there’s some foregone conclusions about who’s getting elected in the primaries, but I’m going to make sure my chance is heard," he said.
To reach her Mt. Juliet polling place today, 75-year-old retired teacher Constance Pryor Eskesen was limping and leaning heavily on a cane.
“I don’t move with great ease," she told WPLN. "But right now, I knew if I just had to carry a piece of my leg, I needed to get here today.”
Moderate turnout at Rutland Elem. in Mt Juliet (closing in on 300 ppl at noon). Several strong supporters of Corlew for Congressional D6 — as voters here consider him a neighbor. pic.twitter.com/hs7TIOG8np
— Tony Gonzalez (@TGonzalez) August 2, 2018
At the polls in Franklin. pic.twitter.com/J8xrGcuQ0b
— Chas Sisk (@chassisk) August 2, 2018
Starting the day talking to voters in Murfreesboro. pic.twitter.com/j3KeqjXJLy
— Blake Farmer (@flakebarmer) August 2, 2018
Turnout Surges During Early Voting
Already more than 600,000 Tennesseans cast their ballots during the early voting period. Turnout was up 11 percent compared to 2014, with the bigger surge coming from Democratic voters.
Robert Holmes, a retired physicist in Brentwood, says that he always votes, but he believes more attractive options on the Democratic ballot have been a factor.
"In the past, oftentimes, there were no candidates on the Democratic side," he said. "So it's very good to see some choice there, and I think that’s hopefully bringing out voters."
The biggest Democratic race is for the gubernatorial nomination. It features former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh.
Vicky McCleary of Lebanon has a disability and was looking for candidates she thought would represent her needs.
"I want somebody who's going to be there and take care of us," she said. "I need someone who will stand up for me and fight for my rights."
Among the Republicans, the candidates vying for the office of governor include Congressman Diane Black, House Speaker Beth Harwell and businessmen Randy Boyd and Bill Lee.
Billy Goodman, also of Lebanon, says he was looking for candidates with experience and a record of responsible spending.
"I want candidates that are conservative fiscally, and don't go spending my money without paying attention to it."