The beginning of a Chattanooga Times-Free Press article: Tommie Brown reminds people that when Moses went up the mountain, he was older than 80.
Brown, a Democrat who’s been serving House District 28 in the Tennessee General Assembly for 20 years, is 78.
Her Aug. 2 Democratic primary opponent, JoAnne Favors, is 69. She served for eight years in House District 29 before the Republican-dominated Legislature this year drew both women into the 28th District.
Brown is a trailblazer for minority rights in Chattanooga battling what she sees as a public perception that she’s too old to represent the city effectively. She says she feels like she’s up against leaders of her own local party, whose ideals she says she’s fought for her whole life.
“The two of us should be able to run a race that would make everyone stop and think ‘This is how it should be done,'” Brown said Wednesday. “But I’m just baffled.”
Favors, who, while widowed with four children, became the first black woman elected to the Hamilton County Commission, acknowledges Brown’s influence in Chattanooga.
But Favors says she has to run. People begged her to, saying that the county needs her, she said.
Area Democrats are watching, most publicly saying little, knowing that at least one of their two highest-profile leaders will be staying home come January. The winner of the Aug. 2 primary will face Republican Johnny Horne in the November general election.
“Whoever wins and whoever loses, I think Democrats lose a significant voice in Nashville,” said former county Democratic Party Chairman Stuart James.
State Rep. Joanne Favors says she was “stunned” to learn that state Rep. Tony Shipley had been legislatively honored for “heroic actions” in helping a man suffering a seizure at a Nashville hotel.
Favors, D-Chattanooga, a nurse by profession, said she was one of the first to rush to the aid of the man at a downtown Nashville hotel after “I heard the sound of an airway obstruction” and turned to see a man “obviously having a generalized seizure.”
Favors said she had a bystander call 911 while she helped turn the man on his side to facilitate breathing and checked to see that there was no obstruction in his mouth. Shipley came up later, she said, and “stood around.”
“I didn’t do it expecting any recognition,” she said, adding that the Nashville Fire Department paramedics who arrived quickly on the scene deserved any credit for saving the man’s life.
Shipley, R-Kingsport, seemed taken aback when told that Favors said he did little, if anything, to help the stricken man.
“My goodness,” he said. “That’s not correct.”
Shipley, a retired Air Force veteran who has paramedic training, said he administered a “jaw thrust,” a maneuver to assure that a person’s throat is clear for breathing, and was otherwise actively engaged.
“I was working with the guy on the floor. She was there, talking to people,” he said. “I think she left before I did.”
The resolution, HJR644, was sponsored by Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, and approved 98-0 on Thursday. The Legislature’s website shows Favors among those voting for it.
“Be it resolved,” the resolution says, “that we honor and commend Representative Tony Shipley for his outstanding demonstration of skill, courage, resourcefulness, and presence of mind, as we join with the citizens of Tennessee in expressing our admiration and appreciation for his heroic actions in saving the life of another.”
The preamble section of the resolution says, “at a time when many health care professionals are afraid to assist in similar situations due to fear of lawsuits, Representative Shipley cast aside all concerns over personal reprisal and quickly maneuvered his way through the panicked crowd; and … with great presence of mind, Tony Shipley kept the young man’s airway open until the seizure was over and the Nashville Fire Department had arrived.”
The Feb. 1 incident was initially reported by the Tennessean, which quoted Max Carter, a vice president of Franklin-based Passport Health Communications Inc., as crediting Shipley with saving the 34-year-old Passport employee. Carter said he and two other Passport employees caught their co-worker as he fell, but they were uncertain what else to do until Shipley arrived.
“As a result of Representative Shipley’s quick action what could have been a truly horrible situation was averted,” Carter wrote in an email that also hailed the lawmaker for disregarding the fear of lawsuits.
The number of black Hamilton County Democrats in the state House will drop from two to one during 2012 redistricting by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, GOP leaders have confirmed to the Times Free Press. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said plans call for combining the majority-black 28th Legislative District held by Rep. Tommie Brown with a large portion of the 29th Legislative District represented by Rep. JoAnne Favors. Both are black Democrats.
“I don’t think the numbers would allow us to make two Democratic districts,” McCormick said. “We’ve got to expand Tommie Brown’s district, and we cannot expand it into the suburbs because it would become less of a [black] majority.”
Brown’s district is currently 50.3 percent black while Favors’ district is 39.7 percent, according to information provided by the Public Mapping Project, a nonpartisan website aimed at bringing more transparency to redistricting.
Because Hamilton County’s population failed to keep up with growth elsewhere in the state, the number of House districts is going from 51/2 to five.
McCormick said the 28th District’s status as a majority-black district must be maintained under federal Voting Rights Act guidelines aimed at preserving minority voting strength.
Upset Democrats, however, are threatening to march into court, saying if the plan holds it would force Brown and Favors to run against each other if they both seek re-election.
“If they put Tommie Brown and JoAnne Favors together, we’re going to sue,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner warned. “They’re trying to disenfranchise minorities down there
The Chattanooga TFP reports that the city’s black leaders — including ministers, county commissioners and Board of Education members – have joined with state Rep. JoAnne Favors in criticizing a Hamilton County school board member for what they say are racist comments about poor children in inner-city schools. Favors, D-Chattanooga, is calling for school board member Rhonda Thurman to resign and formally apologize for a statement published in Sunday’s Chattanooga Times Free Press.
In the story, Thurman said inner-city schools get too much attention and money without much payoff. Her District 1 is in North Hamilton County, including Soddy-Daisy and Sale Creek
“I don’t think suburban students have been treated fairly,” she said in the story. “Poor people learn. Slaves learned to read. I don’t know why poor people can’t learn to read and write. I have a lot of poor people in my family, but they are still expected to learn.”
Reaction to the comments was swift and loud, according to Favors. She said she has heard from people all over the state about what Thurman said. The Democratic lawmaker said Thurman’s comments were “disheartening” and showed that she is an ineffective board member.
“Many citizens in this community find it quite alarming that freshman school board members and some county commissioners are so heavily influenced by the least educated among them,” Favors said Wednesday during a news conference at the school system’s central office. “They must remember that an empty wagon makes the most noise.”
The school board’s two black members, George Ricks and Jeffrey Wilson, attended the news conference along with Warren Mackey and Gregory Beck, the two black Hamilton County commissioners.
Reached for comment after Favors’ news conference, Thurman refused to speak to the Times Free Press.
“They can read what I have to say somewhere else,” she said by telephone.
She told other media she won’t step down and that she said nothing wrong.