State Representative Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), the longest serving Republican in the Tennessee House of Representatives, announced on Thursday that he will not seek re-election in 2020.
The news comes two days after a primary challenger by way of a former teacher and Knox County School Board member officially entered the race.
Dunn was elected as State Representative for House District 16 in 1994, serving since the 99th Tennessee General Assembly, and was elected to the largely ceremonious position of Speaker Pro Tempore for the 111th General Assembly.
As The Tennessee Star reported, Dunn was elected to the post with 77 votes, including five from Democrats, against Democrat Bo Mitchell from Nashville.
Dunn was the House sponsor of first-year Governor Bill Lee’s “Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program” legislation, as HB 0939.
The bill was opposed by groups such as the state affiliate of the national teachers’ union, Tennessee Education Association (TEA), as well as the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA).
Another bill sponsored by Dunn that drew the ire of the TEA was from 2017, as The Star reported, which sought to allow teachers to direct their payroll deductions for membership in any professional employee organization, not just limited to the TEA.
Early in this year’s legislative session during National School Choice Week, The Star reported Dunn was awarded the 2019 Champions of Choice Award by Tennessee Federation for Children for being a leader in education and strong advocate for students.
At the time, Dunn said he appreciated the award, but said he should be recognized more for a hard trier because he hadn’t succeeded yet.
“There’s a certain amount of sadness that for 24 years, I’ve been pushing and pushing, knowing that it would be a benefit,” said Dunn during his acceptance speech.
Dunn, a member of Tennessee Right to Life and whose wife is employed by the organization, opposed the Heartbeat Bill abortion ban legislation, HB 0077. He did, however, support the “Human Life Protection Act,” which would ban abortions in the state 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows states to prohibit abortion.
In a statement released by the House GOP Caucus, Dunn said that with the passage of the Education Savings Account legislation and one of the most pro-life measures in the country, “I decided it was the right time to conclude my public service on a high note.”
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.