Williamson County businessman Bill Lee won the gubernatorial straw poll at the Robertson County Republican Party’s annual Reagan Ranch dinner on Friday.
Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) finished in second place, followed by Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd in third place and Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) in fourth place.
Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill served as master of ceremonies for the evening, which had about 200 people in attendance.
Though straw polls at official Republican Party functions are not necessarily a predictor of voting behavior in primaries, they are a good indication of the local organizational skills of the contending candidates.
The Lee campaign considered the straw poll win significant, coming as it does less than two months before the August 2 Republican primary in a county that Black represents in Congress.
Robertson County Republican Party officials announced only the order of finish of the candidates in the straw poll, not their actual vote totals.
One source who attended the event who was not affiliated with the Robertson County Republican Party or on the official program provided The Tennessee Star with they claimed was the unofficial but accurate vote tally from the gubernatorial straw poll.
Those results were:
Bill Lee: 89 votes
Diane Black: 78 votes
Randy Boyd: 41 votes
Beth Harwell: 0 votes
Total votes cast and counted: 208
Those results were notable for several reasons.
In addition to Bill Lee’s surprising victory and Diane Black’s second place finish, Randy Boyd had a weak third place showing and the failure of Beth Harwell to secure even a single straw poll ballot was quite remarkable.
Statewide public polling on the gubernatorial race has been scant.
The most recent public poll was released by The Tennessee Star back in December. That poll showed a whopping 52 percent of voters were undecided, with Diane Black in the lead with 21 percent support followed by Randy Boyd in second place with 11 percent support.
A lot has happened in the seven months since that poll has been released, and the number of undecided voters has likely declined as all four campaigns–and in particular the Boyd and Black campaigns–have advertised heavily.
The pace of that advertising–as well as direct mailings–is expected to accelerate dramatically during the next seven weeks between now and the August 2 primary.