This year is shaping up to be a tumultuous year in American politics, but when the O&AN editors, publisher, and staff got down to it, the decisions weren’t that hard. At the end of the day, this year Tennessee voters in the LGBT community aren’t left with many choices.
With the (hopefully temporary) extinction of the moderate, or socially liberal, Republican in the Tennessee political landscape, only Democrats made the grade when it came down to support for the LGBT community, as well as other social issues with which we and our allies are most concerned: social justice, racism, women’s rights, immigration, health care, education, etc.
With so many candidates around state to consider this year, for statewide and national office, we have restricted ourselves to commenting on candidates facing opposition, except in a couple of cases where candidates have warranted mention, despite being unopposed.
President of the United States – Hillary Clinton
Post convention, Hillary Clinton is the candidate worth considering, for voters who are concerned about the future of civil rights and social justice in America. Her opponent has promised—and we are well aware that he has promised nearly everything to nearly anyone who will listen, with price tags attached right up front—to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn marriage equality and other, similar rulings.
While that may be just another empty promise from the man who once sold “degrees” through a “university” or “program,” a scheme currently under investigation for, or confirmed to have committed, fraud in a number of states, take the threat seriously. Yes, the Supreme Court can act against precedent. And the next president might get to replace four of the Supremes.
People argue over how the feel about Clinton, whether they trust her, whether she should have… At the end of the day, if you can ask those questions and not look over your shoulder at Donald Trump and recognize the very real danger he poses not only to America, but to every minority citizen, every LGBTQ person, individually, then there is nothing to be said that will change your mind.
Through the scandals, most of which have shown themselves to be nothing more than Republican- or media-created smear jobs against a woman too many Americans have loved to hate since 1992, Clinton has borne herself with stubborn dignity, grit, determination, and intelligence.
She has learned politics in the fire of a long public life, so don’t be shocked when she acts like a studied politician. She is one. Only she’s smarter, more thoughtful, and more graceful than most of the men we admire for their political acumen. And sometimes being a politician means not racing headlong into a revolution for which there is no clear vision: it means compromising to get the most you can realistically expect for those who need it most, at the least political expense to the same.
So, has she always been the most strident ally to the LGBT community? No, when being an LGBT ally was quicksand for Southern Democrats, both Clintons played it safe. But she’s always worked to get what she could for us when she thought she could get it for us. And when the political tide began to shift in our favor she was ahead of the curve in fighting our fights, compared to many others who had a lot to lose.
To some this will sound cynical. In reality it’s the practice of a kind of politics that has been largely forgotten—not the politics of revolution, full of promises but no room for give and take, and not the politics of rage, which has only agreement and enemies, but the practical politics it takes to make things happen bit by bit. It’s been missing for too long and Washington, and Clinton can herald its return. And with it the return to a saner political climate.
U.S. House of Representatives
5th Congressional District – Jim Cooper
This is hardly a race at all, as Stacy Ries Snyder (R) attempts to unseat incumbent Jim Cooper (D). Cooper has diligently served the people of his district during his life in public office, and a vote for his opponent is a vote against all good sense. When it comes to listening to and serving his constituents, Cooper is one of the most attentive legislators in Washington.
Our print editor, James Grady, personally knew one person who, because of an emergency, needed to leave the country almost overnight. She had no passport and the visa to visit the country where her teenage son was hospitalized required consular approval. Due to the intervention of Cooper’s office—on a weekend—she was on a plane the following day. Such effort reflects the kind of man Cooper has shown himself to be—a true representative, and servant, of the people.
It’s important to note that Cooper hasn’t always voted favorably on LGBT issues: in fact, he voted to define marriage as one-man-one-woman in 2006 and for an amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004. However, in 2009 he co-sponsored hate crime legislation, and in 2010 voted to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And while he didn’t sign the amicus brief against the Defense of Marriage Act in 2012 when that went to the Supreme Court, he did state around that time quite publicly that he did believe that civil marriage should be available to same-sex couples.
In short, Cooper’s public conversion to ally status began, and was completed, long before even Barack Obama announced the completion of his “evolution” on the issue. And since then Cooper hasn’t given us real reason to doubt his commitment.
State Senate 20th Senatorial District
Erin Coleman (D) has shown herself to be a consistent ally to the LGBT community, as well as a leader with a solid set of policy positions. She is also the strongest opportunity to pick up a State Senate seat for Democrats. Incumbent Steve Dickerson (R) has a mixed record on LGBT issues, but Coleman’s challenge would establish a more liberal candidate to represent Davidson County’s voter base. Further, the scandal surrounding Republican misappropriation of public funds to assist their colleagues’ (specifically Dickerson’s) reelection attempts shines a harsh light on how the system remains rigged in favor of the supermajority party.
State House 50th Representative District
We endorse Bo Mitchell (D) for this seat.
State House 53rd Representative District
Jason Powell (D) should continue to serve his district in the state legislature. Challenger Davette Blalock (R), a Metro councilperson, would shift the House even further to the right, which must be avoided at all costs.
State House 54th Representative District
We endorse Brenda Gilmore (D), who faces an independent challenger.
State House 55th Representative District
Though running unopposed, John Ray Clemmons (D) was recently recognized as a key ally by the Nashville Pride committee. Thank him by checking the box next to his name on election day!
State House 56th Representative District
We recommend voting for Chris Moth (D) to send incumbent Beth Harwell (R) a hard message. She has fought tooth and claw against LGBT rights, has been an outspoken opponent of immigrant rights, and has done her best as speaker to push the State House further to the right.
State House 60th Representative District
Darren Jernigan (D) has shown his metal fighting on the side of LGBT issues, and we believe he will continue to serve all his constituents fairly and with care in his next term.
Notable Tennessee Races for State Office:
State House 13th Representative District
Gloria Johnson (D) is again running against Knoxville incumbent Eddie Smith (R), who has voted for anti-LGBT measures in committee and on the floor. We encourage voters to oust Smith by voting for Johnson!
State House 34th Representative District
We endorse Laura Bohling (D) in her race against Tim Rudd (R), who narrowly won a four-way Republican primary that drew only a sixth as many voters as the 2012 race.
State House 49th Representative District
Brandon Thomas (D) has run a strong campaign on issues from diversity to healthcare reform, while the Republicans viciously bloodied each other in their primaries. Thomas is not only an outspoken advocate for these issues and many more, including trans rights, which he fought to expand while in student government at MTSU. Thomas is an openly LGBT candidate for office in Rutherford County, Tennessee, and has been an active leader in the local TEP chapter. We heartily endorse Thomas against incumbent Mike Sparks.
State House 57th Representative District
Trisha Farmer (D) has openly courted LGBT support in her bid to oust incumbent Susan ‘I-Hate-The-LGBTs-More-Than-Thou’ Lynn in this Wilson County battle royale. Lynn as you may recall is behind some of the most vicious anti-LGBT legislation to hit the floor in Tennessee since the anti-marriage amendment. Susan Lynn has been unrepentant in her war against the LGBT community and we’d do well to rally behind Trisha Farmer to send Lynn back to the private sector for good.
State House 63rd Representative District
Before there was a train of acolytes parroting Donald Trump calling for the expulsion of Syrian refugees and the use of a religious test to admit Muslims to this country, there was Glen Casada. Casada’s virulent anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, anti-liberal, anti-women antics know almost no bounds. He’s even suggested putting immigrants in trains and ship them off to camps. ICE camps, but surely Herr Casada can’t be so tone deaf or ignorant as to be unaware of how problematic that call would be.
Luckily this year Casada has a serious Democratic challenger in Courtenay Rogers, a mother, a veteran, a business owner and a community advocate. Most of that should sound good even in conservative ears. And even if Rogers wasn’t courting LGBT support, she’d do more for LGBT citizens and other minorities than almost anyone in the House just by NOT BEING Glen Casada. Vote Rogers!
State House 65th Representative District
We endorse Holly McCall (D). This Williamson County race represents a notable opportunity, as incumbent Representative Jeremy Durham, who was embroiled in a nasty controversy involving accusations of sexual assault and who was investigated and denounced by the Republican legislature for his actions, was unseated in a primary challenge.