Republicans maintain control in Tennessee Legislature

November 4, 2020 GMT
Rob Gagliano, left, and Patricia Miller vote at Mountain Creek Church of Christ on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. (C.B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Rob Gagliano, left, and Patricia Miller vote at Mountain Creek Church of Christ on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. (C.B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republicans will maintain their supermajority control of Tennessee’s General Assembly after Tuesday’s election as Democrats failed to make big gains in their attempt to expand their influence over the state.

As of Wednesday, Republicans had more than two-thirds control of both the House and Senate, with just one legislative race in western Tennessee still too early to call.

However, while many GOP lawmakers saw comfortable wins, a couple of incumbents were unseated.

Torrey Harris defeated longtime state Rep. John DeBerry Jr. in the race for a seat in the Tennessee Legislature representing a Memphis district.

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DeBerry ran as an independent candidate after the Tennessee Democratic Party removed him in April from the ballot for the August primary election. DeBerry had represented House District 90 since 1994 as a Democrat.

Yet DeBerry was accused of voting against his caucus’s position and of receiving donations from organizations and individuals who typically support only Republican candidates.

DeBerry, an ordained minister who is Black, has said he’s always maintained an anti-abortion position, noting in April that he’s “never tried to hide” his stance.

He voted in support of a bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, joining fellow Democratic Reps. John Mark Windle of Livingston and Joe Towns of Memphis in doing so. He also attracted Democratic ire after he voted with the GOP-dominated House on advancing a school voucher law that is currently blocked in court.

Harris, who is also Black, won the district primary on the Democratic side over two other candidates, Catrina Smith and Anya Parker. Harris works in human resources and has served on the boards of several community organizations.

Harris identifies as bisexual and will become one of the first two openly LGBTQ Tennessee lawmakers. The other will be Republican businessman Eddie Mannis, who is gay, and who won the race to replace GOP Rep. Martin Daniel in the Knoxville area.

Meanwhile, the only seat Democrats have gained after Tuesday’s election was in the Nashville area, with Heidi Campbell defeating two-term Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson.

Dickerson is a moderate Republican who voted against the school voucher law and was notably absent when the Senate advanced a wide-sweeping anti-abortion law earlier this year.

“While it was painful to lose a valued member like Steve Dickerson, his district has been trending away from Republicans for many years,” said Senate Speaker Randy McNally in a statement, noting the region had been won by high-profile Democrats in previous years.

“It is a credit to him and his dedication to the people of Nashville that he was able to hold the district as long as he did,” McNally said.

Buoyed by record-breaking early and absentee voting during a pandemic, Tennessee saw more than 3 million voters cast ballots in the presidential race. That easily topped turnouts of more than 2.5 million Tennesseans in the 2016 general election and 2.6 million in the 2008 November election.

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Associated Press writer Adrian Sainz contributed to this report from Memphis, Tennessee.

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Find AP’s full election coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2020.