Memphis races feature hot contests

By: - October 29, 2020 5:29 am
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The presidential race and U.S. Senate races  traditionally earn the most analysis and coverage, but all state representatives are up for reelection in Tennessee and half of the General Assembly’s state senators.

Shelby County features several hotly contested state house races. The most notable is the one between Democrat Torrey Harris and incumbent Rep. John DeBerry in District 90. DeBerry was a Democrat until his expulsion by the Tennessee Democratic Executive Committee. Bolstered by support from his Republican colleagues in the legislature, DeBerry is running as an Independent.

Other races to watch include the one in the District 97, which features Democrat Gabby Salinas against Republican John Gillespie. The two are duking it out to replace retiring Rep. Jim Coley, R-Memphis. The second House race in play pits incumbent Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, against Democratic attorney Jerri Green in District 83.

  • At this link, you will find a tool to identify which house and senate districts you live in. Fill in your information on the right-hand side of the page under “Find My Legislator” in order to make use of the tool.
  • The CNalysis rating found below the title of every section is meant to be used as a guide; it is not authoritative. These ratings are created by CNalysis, the only elections forecasting group in the whole country to handicap state legislative elections.
  • The tables below each section contain the financial information reported by each campaign through the end of September, also known as Quarter 3. Nearly every campaign in the state has filed this information, but those that have not are clearly marked. The incumbent in each race, if there is one, is marked with an asterisk in the table.

State House District 83 (White Station, Germantown, Cordova & Southwind):

CNalysis rating: Lean Republican

Incumbent and former educator Mark White is being challenged for reelection by local attorney Jerri Green, who is also a gun safety advocate with Moms Demand Action. She is campaigning on the principles of supporting public schools, enacting common sense gun legislation, and creating a universal pre-K program. Green has said that she originally got into the race because of Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher program and her increasing concerns over gun violence. Serendipitously, White, as the Chair of the House Education Committee, was instrumental in guiding  Lee’s controversial school voucher program to the House floor vote. He also voted in favor of increasing restrictions on abortion.

Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

Jerri Green (Photo: Ballotpedia)
Jerri Green (Photo: Ballotpedia)

Green raised over $11,000 directly from either Democratic politicians or PACs affiliated with the Democratic party in Tennessee. White collected more than $46,000 from either industry PACs and companies or Republican politicians and

White carries the endorsement of the Tennessee Right to Life PAC, an anti-abortion advocacy group, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Green is endorsed by the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, and the Tennessee chapter of the AFL-CIO as well as Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun safety advocacy group.

Two years ago, White beat Democratic candidate Danielle Schonbaum 57% to 43%. However, this district is expected to be extremely competitive this year for multiple reasons. Both candidates are well-funded, the district is trending away from the incumbent’s party, and the national environment is not favorable to the Republican party.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Jerri Green $49,151.93 $50,090.30 $42,371.90 $56,870.33
Mark White $63,657.41 $79,590.00 $56,242.17 $87,005.24

 

State House District 84 (Oakhaven, Capleville & Hickory Hill):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Joe Towns Jr. is unopposed in the general election.  Towns has been in the news as of late due to his campaign finance violations. He  failed to file the proper disclosure reports for several quarters, leading to a $65,000 fine. However, the state Registry of Election Finance voted to allow Towns to pay a reduced fine of $22,000 in order to appear on the ballot this year.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Joe Towns Jr.* $39,900.44 $21,951.00 $0.00 $61,851.44

 

State House District 85 (Stone Creek, Capleville & Persey):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Jesse Chism is unopposed in the general election.  During his time in the legislature, Chism has been focused on criminal justice reform and lowering violent crime rates, especially in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Jesse Chism* $2,765.02 $8,250.00 $8,969.77 $2,045.25

 

State House District 86 (Oaklawn, Downtown Memphis & White Chapel):

CNalysis rating: Safe Democratic

Longtime incumbent Barbara Cooper is being challenged for reelection by Rob White, a business consultant. White has a scant online presence but he is focusing on modernizing homeless shelters and increasing opportunities for juvenile skilled apprenticeship programs. Cooper has been emphasizing the legislative experience that she brings

Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

to her district and her vote against Gov. Bill Lee’s controversial school voucher program.

Cooper raised $5,700 from a few industry PACs and some of her Democratic colleagues in the legislature. White has filed no campaign finance disclosures report this cycle, so it is safe to say that he is not raising or spending any money on his campaign.

The last time Cooper faced any general election opposition, she beat Republican candidate George Edwards 73% to 27%. This race occurred in 2016 and Cooper was uncontested in 2018.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Barbara Cooper* $6,574.42 $6,660.00 $7,049.01 $6,185.41
Rob White Did Not File

 

State House District 87 (Whitehaven, Raines & Parkway Village):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Karen Camper is unopposed in both her primary and the general election.  Camper is the Minority Leader in the Tennessee House and is a retired Chief Warrant Officer who first won office in a 2008 special election.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Karen Camper* $9,710.61 $8,500.00 $4,669.78 $13,540.83

 

State House District 88 (Downtown Memphis, Frayser & Bartlett):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Larry J. Miller, a retired fireman, is unopposed in the general election.  As such, he will still represent District 88 come January. Miller has been serving since 1994 and was last challenged in the general election in 2016 by Independent Orrden Williams, whom Miller beat by a margin of 83-17.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Larry J. Miller* $52,155.33 $1,850.00 $2,828.00 $51,177.33

 

State House District 90 (New Chelsea, Morningside Park, Annesdale Park & Mallory):

CNalysis rating: Safe Democratic?

Torrey Harris (Photo: torreyharris.com)
Torrey Harris (Photo: torreyharris.com)

This  race is interesting, to say the least. The longtime Democratic incumbent, John DeBerry, Jr., was removed from the ballot by the Tennessee Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee for casting votes in favor of several conservative bills. In his place, community activist Torrey Harris won a contentious primary to succeed him. Harris lines up with typical Democratic positions, focusing on creating workforce development programs and advocating against school voucher plans. However, due to the quick action of the Republican caucus, DeBerry was allowed to file for this race as an Independent.

Harris collected a few donations from Democratic politicians and committees, totalling around $4,200. DeBerry received roughly $1500 from PACs this quarter; the larger story, however, is the news that several Republican legislative leaders are donating to his campaign this cycle.

Rep. John DeBerry, I-Memphis (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Rep. John DeBerry, I-Memphis (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

Harris has the endorsement of several organizations including LGBTQ Victory Fund, the Tennessee chapter of the AFL-CIO and Future901, a progressive advocacy group based out of Memphis. DeBerry is carrying the endorsement and donations of several Republican legislative leaders as well as Americans for Prosperity, the political front of Charles Koch.

Seeing as this is a rather unusual situation, it would not be very helpful to look at the most recent election results for this district. In fact, this race will be an interesting test case to see if the citizens of this district care more for their party or for their incumbent. Harris is one of three gay candidates running for the legislature in 2020 and if elected, would be the first openly LGBTQ member of the body.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
John DeBerry Jr.* $175,277.29 $8,335.00 $0.00 $183,612.29
Torrey Harris $2,406.84 $33,258.62 $6,376.02 $29,289.44

 

State House District 91 (Lenox, Nonconnah, Bellevue & Parkway Village):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent London Lamar is unopposed in the general election. Lamar is  the youngest member of the Tennessee House and is the former president of the Tennessee Young Democrats.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
London Lamar* – $709.07 $2,975.00 $3,299.72 – $1,033.79

 

State House District 93 (Butyn, Bellevue & Binghamton):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent G. A. Hardaway is unopposed in the general election. Hardaway is also the Chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
G. A. Hardaway* $87,102.02 $0.00 $0.00 $87,102.02

 

State House District 95 (Collierville & Germantown):

CNalysis rating: Safe Republican

Incumbent and real estate broker Kevin Vaughan is being challenged for reelection by Lynnette Williams, a Democratic activist. She has focused her campaign on creating strong educational opportunities for all the children in her district, regardless of wealth. Williams has run in other recent elections in Shelby County, including the Democratic primary for House District 85 against Rep. Chism in 2018 and a Memphis City Council seat. Vaughan is campaigning on promises to support first responders and protect local school funding. He voted in favor of the fetal heartbeat abortion restriction bill and against Lee’s school voucher program.

Rep. Kevin Vaughan (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Rep. Kevin Vaughan (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

Vaughan raised nearly $16,000 from companies, industry PACs, and his Republican colleagues in the General Assembly. While Williams hasn’t filed her Quarter 3 financial report, she has raised only $100 so far in the campaign, according to her pre-primary financial report.

Vaughan was last challenged for reelection in 2018, when he beat Democratic candidate Sanjeev Memula 71% to

29%. He first won election to this seat in a 2017 special election where he won by a margin of 27 percentage points over Democratic attorney Julie Byrd Ashworth.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Kevin Vaughan* $99,398.37 $19,550.00 $25,314.80 $93,633.57
Lynnette Williams $100.00 $0.00 $0.00 $100.00

 

State House District 96 (Cordova & Germantown):

CNalysis rating: Safe Democratic

Incumbent Dwayne Thompson, a retired human resources professional, is being challenged for reelection by Patricia Possel, a professional photographer. She is campaigning on the issues of increasing access to vocational training and increasing restrictions on abortion. According to her campaign website, she was heavily involved in the fight to de-annex South Cordova. Thompson has spent his time in the legislature leading the approval on a traffic project to relieve congestion on Germantown Parkway at I-40. He is also working towards expanding Medicaid and said he would support a bill to create physician-prescribed cannabis.

Thompson received more than $12,050 in PAC donations this cycle in addition to donations from his Democratic colleagues in the legislature. Possel received some funding from statewide Republican groups, but raised a good bit from small-dollar donations.

Thompson first won election to this district in 2016 by unseating Republican incumbent Steve McManus in an extremely close race. He won by a larger margin in 2018, beating Republican candidate Scott McCormick 57% to 43%.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Patricia Possel $16,458.41 $14,210.00 $12,021.69 $18,646.72
Dwanye Thompson* $22,627.66 $45,652.00 $14,156.60 $54,123.06

 

State House District 97 (Bartlett, Oak Grove, Lenow & Hedgemoor):

CNalysis rating: Lean Republican

This open seat is being heavily contested by both major parties. Scientist and cancer survivor Gabby Salinas is running as the Democratic candidate and nonprofit grant coordinator John Gillespie is attempting to keep this district in the Republican column. Salinas is campaigning on expanding Medicaid, increasing teacher pay and enacting common sense gun safety reform. Gillespie is open to the idea of school vouchers and wants to cut government regulations on business.

Gabby Salinas (Photo: voteforgabby.com)
Gabby Salinas (Photo: voteforgabby.com)

Gillespie raised more than $11,000 from various PACs with an additional $5,500 coming from several Republican legislators. He also raised $1,400 from his family members. Salinas collected more than $27,000 from Democratic politicians, Democratic committees, and several labor unions.

Salinas boasts the endorsement of several local labor groups and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. Gillespie carries the endorsement of the incumbent Rep. Jim Coley and of Bartlett mayor Keith McDonald.

John Gillespie (Photo: Facebook)

The retiring Coley beat Democratic candidate Allan Creasy 55% to 45% in 2018. That same year, Salinas barely lost to incumbent Brian Kelsey 51% to 49% in Senate District 31, which covers much of the same area as this House district. This district is expected to be highly competitive due to candidate strength and fundraising ability on both sides.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
John Gillespie $29,451.16 $43,225.00 $29,245.39 $43,430.77
Gabby Salinas $44,477.53 $65,824.16 $32,356.26 $77,945.43

 

State House District 98 (Hollywood, Raleigh & Egypt):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Antonio Parkinson is unopposed in the general election. Parkinson spends his time in the legislature largely focused on economic development and job growth.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Antonio Parkinson* $10,691.96 $6,935.02 $10,666.36 $6,960.62

 

State House District 99 (Bartlett, Millington, Lakeland & NE. Shelby County):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Republican

Incumbent Tom Leatherwood is unopposed in the general election, though he was challenged in the primary for switching his school vouchers vote. Leatherwood’s reversal on school vouchers is not his only political scandal; he was previously the Shelby County Register of Deeds for a number of years, during which the county records were left in tremendous disrepair. His successor estimates that it will take years for the backlog of re-filing records and confirming archives to be finished.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Tom Leatherwood* $44,825.22 $8,211.86 $12,403.75 $40,633.33

 

State Senate District 30 (Downtown Memphis, Raleigh & White Station):

CNalysis rating: Uncontested Democratic

Incumbent Sara Kyle is unopposed for reelection.  Kyle has fought for several progressive causes in her time in the State Senate from medical marijuana legalization to criminal justice reform.  Kyle is the niece of former U.S. Rep. Bob Clement, D-Nashville and granddaughter of former Gov. Frank G. Clement.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Sara P. Kyle* $40,873.97 $5,000.00 $10,519.20 $35,354.77

 

State Senate District 32 (Tipton & E. Shelby Counties):

CNalysis rating: Safe Republican

Incumbent and construction company owner Paul Rose is being challenged for reelection by Julie Byrd Ashworth, a local attorney and former Shelby County Democratic Party Treasurer. Ashworth does not have an online campaign presence at this time, but she does have a record of advocacy for social causes. Rose is also focused on social issues like abortion restrictions. He faced a primary opponent in August over his support for Governor Lee’s school voucher plan.

Rose collected $8,500 from various PACs around the state. Ashworth has filed no campaign finance report this cycle, so it is safe to say that she is not raising or spending any money on her campaign.

Rose first won this seat in a 2019 special election by beating Democratic candidate Eric Coleman 84%-16%. Ashworth has her own electoral history; she lost to Kevin Vaughan in a 2017 special election for House district 95 by 37 percentage points.

Candidate Name Starting Balance Raised in Q3 Spent in Q3 Cash on Hand
Julie Byrd Ashworth Did Not File
Paul Rose* $129,788.53 $27,075.00 $45,321.64 $111,541.89

 

 

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Lucas Brooks
Lucas Brooks

Lucas Brooks is a second-year college student from Knoxville. He first became interested in politics after the 2016 election and maps state legislative election results on his Twitter @LucasTBrooks. In his free time, he loves to hike and cheer on the University of Tennessee Volunteers.

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