Electing progressive leaders for a stronger community


What’s at stake on November 6th?


 These past few weeks leading to Election Day have felt like a feeding frenzy on what we all feel to be good about our country, our state, and our city. Victims of sexual assault across the country – myself included – are still reeling from the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice who does not possess the character or temperament to be a fair and impartial judge. Closer to home, Tennessee progressives are also reeling from Phil Bredesen’s statement in support of Brett Kavanaugh. And right in our back yard, the Memphis City Council is trying to deceive Memphis voters into protecting their incumbencies and giving them more time in office through misleading ballot language. As frustrated as we are, Memphians, now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to fight for Memphis, for Tennessee, and for America. What’s at stake on November 6th? Democracy.


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Let’s start at the top of the ticket. The U.S. Senate race was said to be one of the best pickup opportunities for Senate Democrats. Then on October 5th, Phil Bredesen stated that he would support Kavanaugh’s confirmation, sending a shock wave throughout the progressive community and negatively impacting his campaign. Some call him a wolf in sheep’s clothing, while others say it was a strategic since he was behind in the polls and needed to secure crossover votes. Whatever the case, the impact on the Bredesen campaign is evident. On Oct 5th just before his statement, he was 0.5 points behind Blackburn. As of this writing today, Bredesen is 6.5 points back – a precipitous drop in the polls since his statement. Despite what you feel about Bredesen, make no mistake.  Blackburn as the Tennessee Senator in the U.S. Congress means more support for the border wall, no commonsense gun laws to protect our loved ones, and the control of a woman’s body turned over to the government rather than kept between her and her doctor. We need to keep our eye on the prize. There is no perfect candidate, but Bredesen will be a pragmatic, bipartisan leader. No one can say the same about Blackburn.


At the top of the state ticket, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean is behind in the polls and needs every Shelby County vote if we want to expand Medicaid, put women’s health decisions in the hands of the woman and her doctor, protect public education from the voucher system, fund universal pre-K programs, and provide school resource officers instead of arming our teachers – a responsibility that is far beyond what our teachers signed up for (how about we arm them with better pay, professional development time, classroom supplies?). Also, Republican Bill Lee does NOT support funding long-term transit projects. Karl Dean, however, understands the needs of the Memphis community and supports funding transportation projects. With Dean in the highest office of the state, Memphis will have a leader supportive of public transportation, and our neighbors will have dependable transportation to work and to their communities.


Now on to the Tennessee General Assembly, where there are 99 House districts (74 Republicans & 25 Democrats) and 33 Senate districts (28 Republicans and 5 Democrats). There are several contested races that could be game changers if won. We are counting on House Representatives Raumesh Akbari (Senate D29) and Dwayne Thompson (House D96) to keep those seats blue, but let’s not get complacent and keep working for every vote. Interestingly this cycle, there are some key flippable House districts currently held by Republican incumbents (except D99) that will expand the progressive voice for healthcare, education, and our economy: Gabby Salinas (Senate D31), Danielle Schonbaum (House D83), Sanjeev Memula (House D95), Allan Creasy (House D97), and Dave Cambron (House D99). Gabby Salinas (Senate D31) is in a particularly contentious battle against Republican incumbent Brian Kelsey, whose latest ad (funded by Tennessee Lt. Governor Randy McNally’s PAC) falsely accuses her of being a socialist.


Finally, at the local level, there are 3 referendums on the November ballot:

·       Referendum 1 (City of Memphis Ordinance #5676): Mayor and Memphis City Council term limits extended from two consecutive four-year terms to three consecutive four-year terms.

·       Referendum 2 (City of Memphis Ordinance #5669): repeal of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and restoration of election procedure existing prior to 2008

·       Referendum 3 (City of Memphis Ordinance #5677): Elimination of run-off elections


In a previous newsletter, I wrote about why Memphians should vote NO to the term limits referendum (see 9-6-18 blog), while former County Commissioner Steve Mulroy made the case for voting NO to repealing IRV (see 9-4-18 blog). I urge you to read the ballot language as it stands. Ultimately, the language of these referendums attempt to mislead the voter, conveniently ignoring what is currently our law. Moreover, it removes the power from the people of Memphis and places it solely in the hands of our incumbent Memphis City Council members, who are more concerned about their seats rather than the voice of the people – over 70% of Memphis voters in this case. Bottom line: vote AGAINST all three referendums.


As we finish up early voting and Election Day on November 6th, we HAVE TO WORK to the bitter end to get these folks elected. We are seeing in real time on the local, state and national scale what happens when we elect the wrong people for office. The America we love is getting uglier by the day, and many are losing faith in the political (and now judicial) system. We cannot lose hope, Memphis. There is still so much to be done and so much we need to do to get the right people in office. Just a little longer. That is all we ask. Because what’s at stake on November 6th is democracy…and the soul of our beloved Memphis…our Tennessee…our America.

Written by J. Racquel Collins



Robert Donati