I met John DeBerry as a child visiting my cousin who was one of his fellow legislators. I remember him being very nice to me. When I became older, Representative DeBerry remembered me when I would come visit him on Advancing Equality Day for Tennessee Equality Project, Tennessee's leading LGBTQ advocacy organization. He was still respectful, but he was very firm in his beliefs against marriage equality or any LGBTQ rights or protections. We have had several long conversations in his office about LGBTQ and other minority rights. I can assure you of one thing about this man: John DeBerry is no Democrat.
He has been on the wrong side of the party for a long time. In his office, there are displays from the NRA showing his love of guns. He’s been on the record multiple times supporting bills that would deny women their constitutional rights, spoken positively about dangerous gay conversion 'therapy,' voted for Glen Casada’s speakership, and - perhaps most telling - donated to Belle Meade Republican and Former Speaker Beth Harwell on her failed Gubernatorial campaign. If it were just one rogue vote or one questionable policy, it would be one thing. But time has proven him to be out of alignment with the party.
Make no bones about it, I do not believe the vote from the TNDP will defer Rep. Deberry from running for this seat. He’s running in Memphis where I’m sure children are taught in their spelling books how to spell his name with proper capitalization. He is still very popular in his district, part of a powerful family, and has a lot of friends. A write-in candidacy is assuredly coming and that is fine and dandy. But now he has to run without the backing of a party. While DeBerry may be popular, Memphis is a blue district. They voted 60% to 38% for Hillary Clinton and similar margins for Barack Obama. John DeBerry knows he has to run as a Democrat in Memphis if he wants to be sure he keeps his seat. I will be working hard to make sure he doesn't.
Yes, there are democrats who are conservative or moderate serving in the house, one being my dear friend John Mark Windle. I grew up in rural Tennessee and was raised by conservative Democrats. We’re a big tent party where we disagree on issues, but we usually come to some sort of consensus. We know we can count on Representative Windle when we need him on most big issues, notably calling out Glen Casada’s regime for trying to buy his vote for school vouchers. We can’t count on DeBerry to carry our lunch, let alone a bill.
He was using the Democratic Party out of necessity and voting with the Republicans on most any major issue that came up. Then he started giving them money. The check he cut Beth Harwell was the biggest donation he's ever made to any politician except himself.
He stepped out on the Democratic Party. Today, the committee demanded a divorce. DeBerry still could run for this seat, but he has no business calling himself a Democrat to do so.
Eric A. Patton is a seventh generation Tennessean and has lived in Nashville since 2010. A long-time LGBTQ activist and Progressive Democrat, he serves on the Human Rights Campaign’s National Board of Governors and is a member of Belmont United Methodist Church. He’s on Instagram and Twitter at @eapatton_tn, Facebook at @eapattontn, and you can email him at [email protected]