Democrats choose Mary Mancini as new state party chair

Mary Mancini is next up to lead Tennessee’s beleaguered Democrats after party leaders gave the progressive activist from Nashville a unified show of support in electing her new chair of the state party, reports The Tennessean.

Mancini, who last summer lost her Democratic bid in the Senate District 21 Democratic primary, collected 61 votes Saturday from the state party’s Executive Committee, easily defeating Lenda Sherrell of Monteagle, who finished with nine votes.

“Now, it’s time to get to work,” Mancini said. “Together, we must work to elect Democrats. We must rebuild and re-energize the base. We have to strengthen our county parties and we have to lay the groundwork for the next several election cycles.

“We have to define what it means to be a Democrat. We can no longer allow Republicans to define who we are.”

Mancini replaces Roy Herron, a former state senator who declined to run again after two years on the job. Her decisive win marks a departure from close and divisive Democratic chair races in recent years.

Mancini beat out Sherrell, a retired CPA who lost her challenge to embattled Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in November. Former state Rep. Gloria Johnson and attorney Terry Adams, both from Knoxville, had previously eyed the chairmanship, but both dropped out of the race leading up to Saturday’s vote.

Note: In the vice-chairman contest, Chris Anderson, a Chattanooga city councilman, lost a 37-33 vote to former state Rep. John Litz of Morristown, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

Gail Jones Carson was elected party secretary; Wade Munday treasurer

See also Nashville Scene’s Pith. An excerpt:

After her swearing in, Mancini praised Johnson, Adams, and Sherrell for the tone of the race.

“I also want to thank Terry Adams and Gloria Johnson and Lenda Sherrell for really helping to make this campaign one that I was very proud to be a part of,” Mancini said. “Throughout the months, the vetting process, regional meetings, the parties and the receptions, we spent quality time together and communicated with one another and with you, the executive committee, with a level of camaraderie and unity that I have faith will continue well into the future.”

That’s true. The chair’s race this time around lacked the public infighting and media leaks that have characterized recent contests to lead the troubled party. That may be due to the crop of candidates as well as the party’s new approach, a more controlled, methodical selection process by comparison.

Going forward, Mancini named goals familiar to party observers in recent years — to recruit more candidates, raise more money, and be more competitive in races up and down the ballot. She added that the party needed to “ensure that we have an impact in redistricting in 2020.”

“We have to define what it means to be a Democrat,” she said. “We can no longer allow Republicans to define who we are.”

Mancini’s victory Saturday revealed a consensus that has been apparently lacking inside the party for years. For Tennessee Democrats, that’s a start. And for Tennessee Democrats, that’s a lot.