Today is primary day in Tennessee. (Why you would stage an election on a Thursday instead of a Tuesday is beyond me. I can see moving election day to the weekend but can’t understand why a different mid-week work day is preferable.)

The big race tonight is the GOP primary for governor, but congressional retirements have created heated primary battles in a few districts.

Governor – The big race today is clearly the Republican primary for governor. The only recent polling I can find for the race is a Mason-Dixon poll showing Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam with a substantial lead. The poll found Haslam at 36 percent, Rep. Zach Wamp at 25 percent, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey at 20 percent.

This race might as well be called “Republicans say the darndest things.” Wamp flirted with the idea of Tennessee seceding from the union, and Ramsey questioned whether Islam is even a religion. The hands-down winner, however, are the many highly entertaining ads from extreme long-shot Republican candidate Basil

3rd District – Wamp’s retirement from this extremely red district has drawn several Republican hopefuls. The top contenders are Robin Smith and Chuck Fleischman. Fleischman has been endorsed by Mike Huckabee, but Smith has the backing of the Club for Growth.

6th District – Democrat Bart Gordon’s retirement makes this an appealing pickup opportunity for Republicans. Diane Lynn Black, Jim Tracy, and Lou Ann Zelenik are three well-financed Republicans fighting for the nomination. On the Democratic side, Brett Carter and Benjamin T. Leming are the only two with even modest fundraising numbers, but both are dwarfed by Republican totals.

8th District – Like in the 6th, the retirement of a Democratic congressmen, in this case, John Tanner, has created a pickup opportunity for Republicans, and another hot primary. Well-financed by traditional standards, Steve Fincher is the establishment favorite in the race, but Fischer needs to beat George Flinn, who has spent heavily from his own fortune, and Ronald Kirkland. The race has turned nasty, with a lot of money available to run negative ads. Democrat Roy Herron should win his primary easily tonight.

9th District – Democrat Steve Cohen has held this very Democratic and predominantly African-American district for two terms. This time out, he is being challenged by Willie Herenton, who recently stepped down as Mayor of Memphis, who’s main stated reason for why Cohen should be thrown out of office and replaced by himself seems to be that Cohen is white. Cohen can proudly point to his overt support from the Congressional Black Caucus and there is little chance Cohen will lose tonight.