The 1994 United States Senate election in Tennessee was held on November 8, 1994. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Jim Sasser ran for re-election to a fourth term, but was defeated by Republican nominee Bill Frist.
There were two unforeseen events that negated this scenario. One was the large scale of discontent that the American people seemed to have toward the first two years of the Clinton administration, especially the proposal for a national health-care system largely put together and advocated by Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The other was the somewhat unexpected nomination of Nashvilleheart transplant surgeon Bill Frist for the seat by the Republicans.
Frist was a political unknown and a total novice (who never voted until he was 36) at campaigning, but was from one of Nashville's most prominent and wealthiest medical families, which gave him name recognition (in the Nashville area, at least), and resources adequate to match the campaign war chest built up by a typical three-term incumbent, a challenge most "insurgent" candidates find to be impossible. A further factor working to Frist's advantage was a simultaneous Republican campaign by actor and attorney Fred Thompson for the other Tennessee Senate seat, which came open when Al Gore had resigned to become Vice President of the United States. To an extent, Frist was able to bask in the reflected glory of this formidable stage presence, and additionally developed some campaigning skills, which were almost totally absent in the early stages of his campaign. Another factor in Frist's favor was that Sasser was never seen as possessing much charisma of his own. During the campaign Nashville radio stations were derisive towards Sasser to the point of stating that he could only win "a Kermit The Frog lookalike contest." In one of the largest upsets in a night of political upsets in the November 1994 U.S. general elections, Frist defeated the 16 years older incumbent Sasser by approximately 14 percentage points.