By ADRIAN SAINZ , Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Voters were deciding Thursday which Republican and Democratic candidates will vie for a Tennessee House seat left empty by a rookie lawmaker who resigned amid a sexual harassment investigation.
Polls close at 7 p.m. in the primary elections for House District 95 in suburban Memphis, which includes the cities of Collierville and Germantown.
Seven Republicans are fighting for their party's nomination in the special election to represent the solidly GOP House district. One candidate is running in the Democratic primary, challenged only by write-in votes. Primary winners will face two Independent candidates in the June 15 general election.
They are aiming to replace Mark Lovell, who stepped down in February after allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with a woman at a legislative event. Lovell, president of a fair and carnival company, issued a statement through a public relations firm denying any wrongdoing. But he also apologized for what a spokeswoman called "any actions that may have been misconstrued as harassment."
A House ethics panel later found he violated the Legislature's sexual harassment policy before resigning. The investigative memo did not detail the specific allegations against Lovell.
Lovell held the seat for about a month before he stepped down. He defeated Republican incumbent Curry Todd, who was arrested days before the November vote on charges of stealing Lovell's yard signs. Todd was caught on video taking a sign.
Todd, who was bailed out on the eve of the election by Lovell, was charged with theft of property. He is scheduled to appear in court on May 9.
Early voting was slow for the primaries. Election officials said only 5 percent of about 51,000 eligible voters cast ballots during early voting.
Republican candidates in the primary are Joseph Aaron Crone, Gail Williams Horner, Curtis D. Loynachan, Missy Marshall, Billy Patton, Frank Uhlhorn and Kevin Vaughan.
Julie Byrd Ashworth is unopposed in the Democratic primary.