Shakeup in House Democratic Caucus: Stewart declines to run again, two reps announce run

By: - November 6, 2020 5:22 pm
The House Democratic Caucus honors National Go Red Day for Women’s Health in Feb. 2019. (Photo: Facebook)

The House Democratic Caucus honors National Go Red Day for Women’s Health in Feb. 2019. (Photo: Facebook)

State Rep.Mike Stewart will not run for reelection as chair of the Democratic House Caucus and Friday, two Nashville state representatives announced they are running to lead the group. 

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, who represents West Nashville District 55, was the first out of the gate. He shared a letter with the Tennessee Lookout he had already sent to members of his caucus. Caucus.Chair.Ltr.11.6.20.Signed

A short time later, Rep. Vincent Dixie, who has represented North Nashville’s District 54 since 2018, also announced his intentions in a letter to caucus a letter

Rep. John Ray Clemmons (Photo: John Ray for Tennessee website)
Rep. John Ray Clemmons (Photo: John Ray for Tennessee website)

“We can’t continue to do the same thing every year. The status quo isn’t effective,” said Clemmons in an interview with the Tennessee Lookout. “We’ve benefited from smart leadership for years but we need to let the people of Tennessee know we are prepared to look ourselves in the mirror and let them know why we aren’t picking up seats. It’s time to approach this from a different angle.’

Stewart confirmed in a text message he will not run again. 

Dixie expressed his intent to focus on fundraising and fiscal management, a stronger communication plan and desire to boost the profiles of individual members. 

“I’m not recreating the wheel here —  just making it roll better,” wrote Dixie.

The shakeup at the caucus is indicative of continued stress within Tennessee’s Democratic organizations. 

Democrats were expected to be competitive Tuesday in flipping up to six house races but flipped none. The only new winner was Torrey Harris of Memphis, who handily won Rep. John DeBerry’s seat in District 90. 

DeBerry ran as an independent after the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee removed him from the August Democratic primary. Had DeBerry won, he was expected to caucus with Republicans.

“We as elected officials have to accept some responsibility for the failure to pick up seats. It falls on all of us, including me,” Clemmons said.

Rep. Vincent Dixie (Photo:
Rep. Vincent Dixie (Photo:

Clemmons has traveled throughout the state since his election in 2014 and has built a reputation as a fiery partisan and a strong advocate for state house candidates, often donating money as well as endorsements and shoe leather. He ran for mayor of Nashville in 2019 on a progressive platform, coming in third place behind now-Mayor John Cooper and incumbent David Briley.

Dixie has beat primary challengers in both of his races and is popular among a cadre of Nashville’s young Democratic operatives. He made news in 2019 when a former campaign staff member sued him alleging non-payment of wages. 

Stewart was elected to represent East Nashville’s District 52 in 2008. He became Democratic Caucus Chair in 2014 after Mike Turner declined to run for reelection to the legislature. 

Clemmons ran against Stewart for the position after the 2018 elections.


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J. Holly McCall
J. Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.