The decision to remove long-serving House member State Rep. John DeBerry, Jr. from the 2020 Democratic primary ballot is not reflective of the vision or bylaws of the Tennessee Democratic Party.
As has been reported, the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Democratic Party (TNDP) voted Wednesday 41 to 18 to remove Representative DeBerry after serving House District 90 for 26 years.
According to “Our Vision” of the TNDP, of the 11 bullet points describing how Tennessee Democrats are fighting for A BETTER FUTURE for you and your family, the last two declare:
The protection of every Tennessean from discrimination or injustice for any reason or at any time on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
We will have your back no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you live.
Apparently, that is unless one doesn’t toe the party line.
DeBerry spoke inspirationally from the House floor in April 2019 on that very topic during an honoring of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Tennessee Star reported.
At the time, DeBerry was coming under fire from his Democrat and Black Caucus colleagues for his votes on a fetal heartbeat bill and the Education Savings Account legislation.
DeBerry declared during his speech, “Nobody has the right to tell me how to think, has the right to tell me how to live, has the right to give me my morals, my ethics and my principles.”
He pointed out, reflecting on the sacrifice of Dr. King, “If that’s what exists right now in the state of Tennessee and America, then that man died for nothing.”
TNDP bylaws for the State Executive Committee layout a singular cause that a candidate for any office can be challenged against appearing on the ballot as a Democrat: failing to vote in at least three of the immediate prior five Democratic primaries.
The bylaws also allow for that provision to be overridden.
The same executive committee that removed DeBerry from the ballot, as well as the county party or the party chair, has the right to waive the prohibition against a candidate appearing on a ballot as a Democrat “for good cause and when justice so requires.”
Seemingly, holding office as a Democrat for 26 years is not good cause.
In this Democratic primary – DeBerry’s thirteenth – he has only been opposed five times.
The August 2020 primary, DeBerry was set to have three primary opponents for House District 90, the most he has ever faced.
One of those opponents, Torrey C. Harris, ran against DeBerry in the 2018 Democratic primary as well, which DeBerry won with just over 60 percent of the vote.
On his website, Harris bills himself as a “Progressive Challenger,” who moved to Memphis in 2011 by way of a corporate relocation.
Presumably taking a shot at DeBerry, Harris is quoted next to his picture, “We can’t afford to keep allowing someone who thinks so little of those he represents to represent a District that does not believe the same way.”
Lifelong Memphian Anya Parker in a YouTube announcement about her candidacy for the House seat included a banner “It’s Time for a Change.”
Catrina Smith ran for election to the Memphis City Council District 7, taking fifth in a nine-person race in the October 2019 general election, according to Ballotpedia.
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