Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Gets New Democrat Challenger as 2022 Race Inches Closer

JB Smiley Jr. and Gov. Bill Lee


On Wednesday, Memphis City Council member JB Smiley, Jr. announced he is running for Tennessee Governor. Smiley, a Democrat, held an event at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis and posted a video on social media debuting his announcement. 

“I decided to run for Governor because right now there are too many shots fired, not enough shots given, and too few shots for our young people to reach their full potential,” Smiley says in his first campaign video in reference to gun violence, the COVID-19 pandmeic, and education. 

According to the City of Memphis’ website, Smiley was born and raised in Memphis, went to law school at the University of Arkansas and was elected to the Memphis City Council in 2019. As a member of the Memphis City Council, Smiley is the Chair of the Public Works, Solid Waste and General Services Committee and the Vice Chair for the MLGW Committee. He also serves as the Council liaison for the Urban Art Commission.

Smiley joins other Democrats hoping to unseat Bill Lee as well. Other Democratic candidates in the race include Nashville-area doctor Jason Martin, Memphis community leader Carnita Atwater, and an ordained minister from Greenville, Casey Nicholson. 

Only one Republican challenger has emerged with the goal of unseating Lee. Curtis Carney, owner of the Nashville-based Off The Wagon Tours, announced he was running for Tennessee Governor back in August. 

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, up for reelection in 2022, has received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. 

In a statement through his Save America PAC, Trump said, “Governor Bill Lee is an outsider who led the Great State of Tennessee through difficult times, without compromising his Conservative Values. Tennesseans enjoy more freedom than ever before. He fully supports Law Enforcement, Strong Borders, the Second Amendment, our Military and our Vets. Re-electing Bill Lee means putting America first. Bill has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

Republicans have held the Tennessee gubernatorial seat since 2012 and expect to hold it in the foreseeable future. The GOP also controls both Tennessee U.S. Senate seats, the majority of the congressional districts, and a supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Tennesseans will vote on November 8, 2022 to elect the next Governor of Tennessee.

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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “JB Smiley Jr.” by JB Smiley Jr. and photo “Bill Lee” by Office of the Governor.


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5 Thoughts to “Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Gets New Democrat Challenger as 2022 Race Inches Closer”

  1. William C Johnson

    you to chicken shit to post what I wrote about smiley so that is infringing against my constiitutional right to freedom of speech,,This is a red state , we tennesseeans are tired of the far left ,smiley for governor, lol, not going to happen

  2. Tim Price

    I still feel that the Tennessee Governor’s office will remain in Republican hands. Democrats are way too far left and Tennesseans want none of that.

    Smiley has demonstrated his commitment to leftist ideology by the way the Memphis City Council has voted.

    I do suspect that if Democrat Smiley is not elected, there will be the typical liberal cries of Racist and Bigot!

  3. Wolf Woman

    Bill Lee may be a good businessman but he’s not a good politician who looks out for the “people” in his state but curries favors for his own agenda. He’s divided the Republican Party and provided an open door for Democrats to walk through. Shame on him.

  4. Kevin

    So as I read this story, all I can think of are the words of the O’Jays, “they smile(y) in your face…the back stabbers”

    In all of the “accomplishments” of Mr. Smiley, no where do I read anything about any meaningful local changes that have fixed anything! Maybe he thinks that chalk outlines on the tarmac is urban art? Maybe “solid waste” are the lives lost because of failed schools?

    This guy sounds like a typical smooth-talking, Democrat huckster, you know the type that has been preying on the black community for years! All he cares about is to elevate himself off of the backs of the working man! Memphis and Tennessee needs true leaders! Memphis had a leader, a man of character and integrity representing them, and they threw him away. His name was and still is John DeBerry!

  5. John

    Thank you Mr. Lee…..thank you for doing such a crappy that job that you have ensured this Democrat’s victory. Now all we need is for all the jobs to leave Nashville and our transformation to Detroit 2.0 will be complete.