State Rep. Frank Niceley rode his fund-raising strength and name recognition to victory Thursday in Tennessee's newly renumbered 8th Senatorial District GOP primary.
The Strawberry Plains Republican defeated Hawkins County Republican Cynthia Bundren Jackson, Jefferson County Republican Hobart Rice and Union County Commissioner Jeff Brantley.
According to unofficial returns, Niceley received 7,020 votes compared to Jackson's 5,430 votes, Brantley's 1,816 votes and Rice's 1,483 votes.
There is no Democratic candidate on the November general election ballot, which means Niceley will replace retiring state Sen. Mike Faulk, who only served one four-year term.
"I had a good record," Niceley said of his House service. "We cut the tax on food, and we cut the Hall Income Tax, and people like people who cut taxes."
In his pre-primary campaign finance filing with the state, Nicely reported more than $20,000 of the $31,650 he raised came from PAC contributions. He spent more than $46,000 during the period, with much of that money going to direct mail, radio spots and newspaper advertising.
Leading up to the primary, both Jackson and Rice claimed Niceley had misled voters with his claim of having an "A plus" rating with the National Rifle Association.
The NRA sent out an "election alert" direct mail piece to its members noting that Niceley's NRA rating was actually a "C."
NRA's Political Victory Fund defines a "C" rating as: "Not necessarily a passing grade. A candidate with a mixed record or positions on gun-related issues, who may oppose some pro-gun positions or support some restrictive legislation."
Niceley insisted the NRA's primary tactics will cost the pro-gun organization "several members" in the next General Assembly.
"People can't believe they would lower my grade 10 days before the election and not tell me about it, and then tell people I was lying about my grade," Niceley said. "They didn't tell me they lowered it. I had A plus for four years. ... The NRA is going to have to change their lobbyist. They've got a sorry lobbyist."
In that direct mail piece, the NRA accused Niceley of derailing the so-called "Safe Commute" bill.
In contrast, Jackson had received a "B" rating and Rice got an "AQ" rating. The NRA's Political Victory Fund defines a "B" rating as: "A generally pro-gun candidate. However, a 'B' candidate may have opposed some pro-gun reform or supported some restrictive legislation in the past."
A "AQ" rating is defined as: "A pro-gun candidate whose rating is based solely on the candidate's responses to the NRA-PVF candidate questionnaire and who does not have a voting record on Second Amendment issues."
Rice, a Tennessee Republican Party state executive committee member, also took issue with Jackson's relationship with former state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens, a Rogersville Democrat.
Niceley is a farmer and developer who chaired the House Agriculture Committee.
The 8th Senate District covers six Northeast Tennessee counties including Hawkins and Hancock.