House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, at left, speaking at a house party for Rep. John Gillespie, R-Memphis, center. (Photo: Twitter)
Rep. John Gillespie, R-Cordova, remains undefeated in state House District 97 after beating Democratic challenger Toniko Harris by nearly 15%.
Gillespie, a self-described moderate Republican, has a political career that includes serving as a campaign manager for former Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who held office 2010-2018.
Gillespie was first elected to the legislature in 2020 and currently serves as a member of the Education Administration Committee, Civil Justice Committee and the Finance, Ways and Means Committee, among others.
During his campaign for a second term, Gillespie used his legislative record on increasing penalties for crime and pledges to continue combating crime in Memphis to cement his win.
In the past few months, Memphis and Shelby County gained nationwide attention following a two-week span of violent crime. Shortly after a kindergarten teacher was kidnapped and subsequently murdered, a 19-year-old livestreamed his shootings of several victims, resulting in four dead.
“We’ve had a really really rough year. We’ve had a lot of tragedies,” said Gillespie, adding that his messaging gained him bipartisan support from both conservatives and moderate democrats.
Gillespie implied that Republican-controlled redistricting in District 97 also contributed to his success. Changes to the area included removing more conservative areas – such as Bartlett and parts of Cordova– and expanding into East Memphis, which “crossed over with Democrats,” and gained him support from moderate Democrats, he said.
In 2020, Gillespie was nearly defeated by Democratic challenger Gabby Salinas and won by only 1.6 percent. Tuesday night, Gillespie received 57% of the vote and Harris received 42.6% of the vote.
Harris, a lifelong Memphis resident, has a career in emergency response that includes working as an ICU nurse, a firefighter and a paramedic.
Gillespie’s endorsements include the NFIB and the Tennessee Right to Life PAC.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.