Serving as the Senator for Nashville’s 20th District, the last Republican in the state legislature representing Nashville, Steve Dickerson, will face off against a Republican primary opponent in August, and if successful, a Democrat challenger in the November 2020 general election.
Dickerson was first elected in 2012 and took office during the 108th Tennessee General Assembly.
With the departure of House Speaker Beth Harwell in her unsuccessful run as the 2018 Republican candidate for Governor, Dickerson is the last remaining Republican residing in Davidson County to represent the area.
Diane Michel, a Brentwood businesswoman, announced on her campaign website February 3 her candidacy for State Senate in the 2020 election.
Michel is listed with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance as a Republican candidate for the office, and her website’s campaign platform shows that she is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and for secure borders.
Having lost her Special Forces Marine brother to PTSD three years ago, Michel is in favor of multi-pronged re-entry programs for post-war veterans.
While Michel believes that human life begins at conception and opposes abortion at any gestational age, her platform includes a vision for post-birth alternatives to make it easier for women to choose life.
Michel explains that about two years ago God called her toward public service, and her platform emphasizes that God is necessary as a moral compass to guide society.
The Democrat opponent is Nashville-based independent educational consultant Kimi Abernathy.
Abernathy was one of 28 women selected to participate in the Spring 2018 class of Emerge Tennessee trainees from across the state.
The organization’s website touts that with its in-depth, six-month, 70-hour training program, it is an “essential step” for women who run as Democrats for public office in the state.
Emerge America’s national network reportedly had a 70 percent win rate in 2016 and 80 percent in 2017, where alumna appeared on the ballot.
Katrina Robinson, a Democrat who was selected for participation in the same 2018 class as Abernathy, was successfully elected to the State Senate last year to represent part of Shelby County in District 33. Robinson beat fellow Democrat in the primary, incumbent Senator Reginald Tate, who had served in the Senate since 2007.
Before the session began, as The Tennessee Star reported, Dickerson received a lot of negative attention from local and national gun-rights advocacy groups when, in an op-ed to The Tennessean, he promised to introduce a “red flag” bill in the 2019 legislative session.
Red flag laws permit a judge to issue an order to seize firearms from a lawful owner – without due process – based on a petition from police, family members or neighbors citing something as feeble as statements made by the gun owner in question.
Despite the negative feedback, Dickerson went on to sponsor SB1178, garnering just one Senate co-sponsor Memphis Democrat Sara Kyle (D-Memphis). The bill never made it out of committee.
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Tennessee named Dickerson as a defendant in a suit filed against Comprehensive Pain Specialists (CPS), of which Dickerson is a principal owner.
The suit alleges violations of the False Claims Act and the Tennessee Medicaid False Claims Act for unjust enrichment and fraud.
The former CEO of CPS, John Davis, was convicted by a jury in April of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute.
Beginning in 2011, CEO John Davis directed that CPS maximize profits through “medically unnecessary and excessive testing,” including standing orders to conduct various testing “on virtually all patients, without regard to individual patient risks or need.”
Various methods of ensuring more revenue to CPS were enacted, such that the governments allege that Medicare and TennCare were defrauded of at least $25 million by the company.
Physician-owner Dickerson is accused of knowing about each of the unlawful practices, having personally engaged in the submission of false claims, according to the DOJ news release.
On his early mid-year supplemental report filed July 15 with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, Dickerson showed a balance of $138,408.96 in his campaign account. Michel’s report of the same date shows a balance of $671, while Abernathy has no report on file.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.
Photo “Steve Dickerson” by Steve Dickerson. Photo “Diane Michel” by Diane Michel. Background Photo “Tennessee Capital” by Chris Connelly. CC BY 2.0.