NASHVILLE, TN—Heidi Campbell has served her community of Oak Hill, Tenn. for two terms as mayor and hopes to serve the constituents of District 20 (and Tennesseans at large) with a bid for the seat currently held by Republican Steve Dickerson.
She stated she’s running because the laissez-faire leadership of the Republican trifecta is putting the state on a path that doesn’t reflect the true values of Tennesseans. And when it comes to the COVID-19 outbreak, she said, that lack of leadership is putting their lives in danger.
“It is so, so unfortunate and sad. Doctors are dealing with people dying on the floor. The messaging around this has been incredibly inconsistent,” she said, adding too many have been swayed by misinformation and polarization.
She said she’s been on the phone weekly with Gov. Bill Lee and the White House for guidance and was told the town needed to decide what to do for itself. The big problem with that, Campbell said, is that small municipalities like Oak Hill don’t have the resources needed to handle the outbreak, not to mention that the virus doesn’t acknowledge city or county borders.
She’s a member of the Mayor’s Caucus and said the group wrote a letter in support of shelter in place mandates and is now pushing for a statewide mask mandate. “Had we taken bold and decisive action back in March on this, we would be back to normal,” she said.
“We have to flip this seat, and I know I have the experience,” she said. In addition to being an elected leader for the last six years, she’s written legislation and added $2 million back to city reserves, even eliminating her mayoral salary.
Though she’s a liberal mayor in a purple district, Campbell said she enjoys support from constituents no matter their party preference. When she has conversations with people about issues such as infrastructure, Medicaid expansion and education we can get actual work done, and I’ve been able to do that in my city.”
The tribalism of the GOP is “more about satisfying Washington, especially in an election year,” she said, adding that “Trump doesn’t want this [COVID-19] to be a problem for the election and the governor has been reluctant to take regulatory action to save lives.”
“I’m running because we need data-based, conscientious and compassionate leadership,” Campbell remarked.
Campbell said she’s also been talking to parents everyday who are stressed out because they’re unable to make ends meet while taking care of kids at home. “It’s taken too long for people to get through the bureaucratic process [of receiving aid] and I think that’s intentional,” she said.
And the recent end of the $600 weekly unemployment stipend and eviction moratoriums are putting many Americans in danger of financial ruin even with another stimulus package expected soon. Democratic leadership has called for a continuation of the $600 unemployment checks with Republicans proposing benefits at only about a third of that amount, arguing that Americans receiving the assistance are being incentivized to remain on the benefits rather than going to work.
Counterarguments challenge this idea, noting that the loss of healthcare, child care and other benefits through the workplace justify the higher unemployment funds and that it says more about America’s low wages than it does entitlement.
“We’re in this bizarre situation where we’re politicizing survival,” she lamented, adding that the state government’s prioritization of businesses over working Americans during the outbreak was “embarrassing but not inconsistent” with the status quo of reaping the benefits of the state’s tourism industry while not putting money back into communities of people who aren’t just visiting. “It’s not a battle between economic viability and social conscientiousness because they’re not mutually exclusive,” Campbell stated.
Campbell also said she supports Black Lives Matter and that despite a whirlwind of breaking news stories the movement “is not a thing of the moment.” It’s important during this time to empower Black leaders and listen to them, she said. She pointed to the work of Gideon’s Army in its efforts to suppress violence in communities through “violence interrupters.” The individuals are often respected people in the community who go into volatile situations to calm tensions before physical conflicts can erupt.
“It’s so much better than just sending the police,” she said.
The primary takes place Thurs., Aug. 6. You can find information on voting locations, requirements and more at www.sos.tn.gov. For more information on Heidi Campbell’s campaign, visit www.campbell20.com.