Republican nominee for House District 53 Dia Hart (Photo: LInkedIn) and Democratic Rep. Jason Powell (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Though Tennessee House District 53 was freshly recarved in Tennessee’s most recent controversial redistricting plan, incumbent Democratic Rep. Jason Powell’s representation in the area is nothing new.
With a slightly new geographic area, he stands in contrast to his challenger Dia Hart, a Black conservative who has spent considerably less time as a politician. This is her first campaign while Powell will be headed into his sixth term in the district should he win. Powell entered the third quarter of campaign spending with close to $110,000 in his coffers while Hart’s campaign disclosures in the second quarter (third quarter disclosures were not yet filed for her campaign) included a single contribution for $1,600.
District 53 includes some of the more diverse areas in Nashville — it comprises several of the neighborhoods along Nolensville Pike as well as pieces of Antioch and Berry Hill. Twenty-two percent of the people who live in the district are Hispanic, according to the 2020 Census, which is about double the average for Metro Nashville as a whole.
The district also includes the Nashville Zoo (Powell called the zoo a hub of the district and possibly its most important landmark), the 100 Oaks Mall and several high-density apartments and multicultural neighborhoods and food options from seemingly every corner of the world.
Powell and Hart ran unopposed in their primaries: Powell brought in about three times the number of votes Hart did, though voter turnout was considerably low considering the size of the district. (Only about 5,000 people voted out of around 70,000 living there, though it hardly matters if you’re running unopposed.) Powell’s most formidable competitor was his first in 2012, where he squeaked out a win over an incumbent Republican — he has either run unopposed or won handily in every other race since then.
Like many now living in growing Nashville, Hart is a transplant. She’s worked in various industries doing project management, IT and social services related work. She’s originally from Chicago and now lives in Lenox Village in South Nashville. Powell grew up in and near District 53 and works as the director of business development at Freeman Webb Companies.
While District 53 has long had a Democrat in the seat, Powell recognizes that progressives have limited power in the Tennessee General Assembly.
“I think we always kind of have a tough fight,” Powell said. “But we won’t give up.”
Hart said she’s looking to bring more open communication to the legislature, but that she stands by and would uphold the conversative principles already dominant there. She posed a commitment to ending human trafficking and creating more equitable education through legislation.
“When you look at companies that come here to do business, we need to continue that and also be sure that we’re fiscally responsible — I’m an advocate of accountability no matter which party,” Hart said.
She said the events of the past few years compelled her to run for election because of issues with “education, patient rights and election integrity.”
“One of the things that is core to anything is just listening to other people on issues, on solutions to an issue,” Hart said. “I wouldn’t just represent the conservative people, but everybody who wants a good life, things that are at the core of everybody. I think we’re all parallel in so many ways.”
Powell said he’s found ways to be effective and work across the aisle in the GOP-controlled state. He’s been a proponent of passenger rail and said he wants to continue working to make Tennessee attractive to businesses by implementing laws that make new technology businesses more likely to come here.
“I still have my work to do and things that I want to contribute to the State of Tennessee,” Powell said. “It’s important that we continue to have a strong minority presence and in this general assembly that we have leaders of the caucus that are going to fight for issues that are important. The majority of Tennesseeans believe in things like medicaid expansion, but that gets overlooked in this general assembly. There are a lot of things we can work together on.”
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