By Ashley Benkarski
The Democratic Party is sticking with its leadership in the face of another top-ticket defeat by Republicans last year.
Members of the Executive Committee voted Sat., Jan. 12 at the Local 572 building to re-elect incumbent Mary Mancini to a third term as chairwoman. She received 48 votes, with Holly McCall earning 16 and last-minute challenger M. LaTroy Alexandria-Williams receiving two votes. Christopher Hale, who had put in his bid for the position in recent weeks, dropped out of the race before the vote.
Although the party has not seen many significant gains in the Tennessee legislature in a decade, Mancini is optimistic about the party’s ability to again gain ground in what was once a fairly bipartisan state. To do that, the party needs to act quickly. “There are no off years,” Mancini said. “We have to start organizing, organizing, organizing … right now.” She added that the Democratic share of voters is on the rise while their Republican counterparts are seeing a decline.
The party has long been suffering losses in many urban areas as well as rural ones, and that’s something the party will have to focus on going forward if there’s any chance of making it out of the superminority in the state legislature. Davidson and Shelby counties are the only parts of the state to vote consistently Democrat.
That means outreach to underserved communities. “Not everybody has the same entry point into politics or into voting for Democrats,” Mancini said. “So we, as Democratic Party leaders, have to run out into the community and say, ‘we’re listening to you, we hear your concerns,’ and our candidates need to do that also.”
Deborah Reed, elected Tipton County’s party chair, said her organization has already made progress. “We have really established and re-organized the chair and built it up from a very small group of people to a functioning, well-attended organization.”
She’s hopeful that her ruby-red district can swing blue eventually. “I’m optimistic that we will, but it’s gonna take awhile,” she said. “We’ve just got to continue to build, continue to educate, continue to show up at other events other than political so they know that we’re here, we’re involved, and we want them involved.”
Reed said her organization is supporting Eric Coleman in a special election for Tennessee State Senate District 32, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary. He’ll be competing in the general election against four Republican challengers, which takes place March 12.