Nashville Rep. Clemmons takes over House Democratic Caucus

By: - November 27, 2022 5:49 pm
Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, called on Gov. Bill Lee on Wednesday to take executive action to freeze laws on open gun carry and guns in car trunks.(Photo: John Partipilo)

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, (Photo: John Partipilo)

After one term as chair of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Vincent Dixie of Nashville is out and Nashville Rep. John Ray Clemmons is in after being elected chair on Sunday by a 11-10 vote. 

“Moving forward I have the opportunity to build upon the things my predecessors did in the caucus,” Clemmons said following the caucus meeting. “Both (outgoing Rep.) Mike Stewart and Vincent did great things and I can build upon the foundation they laid to move us forward and grow the caucus.”

Stewart served as caucus chair from 2014-2020.

“We’ve got to modernize the way the caucus operates, which stems from our communications down to fundraising and candidate recruitment,” said Clemmons. “A big focus of mine will be holding my colleagues accountable. Unfortunately, a lot of my colleagues come to Nashville and go home and aren’t held accountable for their ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes.” 

Clemmons said the Democratic Caucus has “a void to fill” and that Democratic lawmakers need to do a “better job of communicating our message and telling the people of Tennessee what our colleagues across the aisle are doing.”

Dixie and Clemmons competed for the top caucus role in 2020 in a three-way race that also included Rep. Bo Mitchell. Dixie previously served as caucus treasurer, a role in which he won the confidence of members by restoring the group’s finances to order following a $130,000 discrepancy. 

Outgoing Democratic House Caucus Chair Vincent Dixie (Photo: John Partipilo)
Outgoing Democratic House Caucus Chair Vincent Dixie (Photo: John Partipilo)

During his term, Dixie sparred with Republican leaders, accusing Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton and other GOP lawmakers of racism and bias. In August 2021, he called for an investigation into the Department of Children’s Services after the Tennessee Lookout broke the news that children in state custody were being forced to sleep on the floors of state office buildings and in June, said he would propose legislation in the upcoming legislative session to create a state handgun registry.

Memphis Rep. Karen Camper was reelected House Minority in an unopposed race. Other roles are filled by Rep. Harold Love of Nashville as Assistant House Minority Leader, Nashville Rep. Bill Beck as House Floor Leader, Rep. Jason Powell as Minority Whip, Knoxville Rep. Gloria Johnson as Caucus Treasurer, newly elected Rep. Ronnie Glynn of Clarksville as Secretary and veteran Memphis Rep. Larry Miller as Leader Pro Tempore.

The Republican House Caucus held elections at Paris Landing State Park earlier in November, reelecting Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby as caucus chair and Portland Rep. William Lamberth as House Majority Leader.

Democrats remain in the superminority in the Tennessee General Assembly and picked up no seats in the November election.

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Holly McCall
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. She has served as political analyst for WZTV Fox 17 and provided communications consulting for political campaigns at all levels, from city council to presidential. 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.