Karl Dean

NASHVILLE, TN — Today Democratic Tennesseans have two qualified candidates to choose from but Karl Dean continues to show that his commitment to diversity and inclusion is not just a campaign talking point but an action plan. 

Let’s take a look at the issues: 

Criminal Justice Reform

Karl Dean was the elected public defender in Davidson County for more than a decade.  He worked on numerous cases and helped restore the rights of offenders who needed an opportunity to get ahead. He has said during many public occasions that what he learned in the public defender’s office directly shaped his work as mayor to resolve the school to prison pipeline.  Karl Dean’s public education background was shaped by this experience.  

While the state legislature was passing bills like H.B. 1877, which is now codified as Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-24-105, allowing for the revocation of driver’s license for failing to pay court costs and legal fees, then Mayor Karl Dean’s procurement programs enabled the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership (JUMP) to reinstate hundreds of driver’s licenses. Unfortunately, the impact of the actions of many in the State Legislature has resulted in 146,000 driver’s license being revoked for failing to pay court costs. 

Karl Dean brings personal experience to criminal justice reform. His work as a public defender provides a unique perspective to the office that will translate to an appointment of a commissioner of corrections that focuses more on reformation issues like educational  programs, workforce development, and reinstatement of driver’s license. This is critical to the work of criminal justice reform among many other issues.

Commitment to Diversity

It is one thing for a candidate to say that they support diverse hiring practices, but Karl Dean has done it.  As governor, he has said that he is committed to ensuring that the appointments of boards and commissions are diverse geographically, gender, racially, and experience.  His experience shows that he will do it. 

Dean has continuously shown he believes Tennessee is for everyone.  He has worked to advance policy to make that a reality, and he has fought back against the forces of discrimination in ways that all leaders in our state should emulate.

When Karl was mayor of Nashville, he established a Procurement Nondiscrimination Program run by a new Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance. The program included a goal of 20 percent participation from disadvantaged businesses in large government contracts and capital projects. This goal was met by greatly increasing the number of certified small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses registered to participate in government procurement and creating opportunities for disadvantaged subcontractors to network with larger companies.

The number of certified businesses registered with the city increased, in part, by removing barriers to participation. Working with the Metro Council, Mayor Dean’s administration lowered bonding requirements and small business eligibility requirements through legislative action.

When the city undertook the construction of its largest capital project to date, a new downtown convention center, Mayor Dean used the project as an opportunity to create a workforce development training program. Through a partnership with a local nonprofit organizations, unemployed and underemployed Tennesseans were offered training and job placement with an emphasis on minorities and women.

Mayor Dean also created the city’s first job grant incentive program for small businesses. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees that added 10 or more full-time employees in good-paying jobs were eligible for a grant of $500 per job added or $750 if a veteran was hired.

As Governor, Karl will put the same emphasis on supporting the growth of small and disadvantaged businesses across the state. He will level the playing field for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) by setting goals for small and disadvantaged business participation in government procurement. He has committed to  ensuring proper resources are provided for outreach and education to increase the number of businesses getting certified and will include small businesses in economic development incentive programs. 

Karl’s support of equality and women is not just a professional priority or position, it is a personal one as well. You can see it within his family, and you can see it in his workplace where most advisors around him are women.

The senior positions on Dean’s campaign staff are solely filled with women and minorities. The campaign’s communications director is an African American woman and political director an African American man. 

Who has the best shot against the Republicans in November?

That question will be up to the voters to decide. But based on the political climate of Tennessee, either candidate will have to win over Independents and persuade some Republicans to have any chance of winning the general election in November. 

Recent polling shows Mayor Dean leading the two Republican frontrunners and 60% favorability with Independents. Recent polling shows Karl Dean outpacing his primary opponent but now leading the Republicans. Additionally, Karl Dean is building a grassroots network of donors and volunteers. He has gained the support of over 7,500 contributors to his campaign, thousands of volunteers across the state who have knocked and called over 150,000 voters.  

Karl Dean has spent time and focus to understand and listen to the issues in every community.  He has heard that while some parts of the state are thriving, there are portions of Tennessee have felt left behind or forgotten in our urban and rural cities.  It is time we invest in those communities. And, Karl Dean has the experience to do it.