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.
Redistricting by the Legislature’s new Republican majority has forced Democratic Reps. Tommie Brown and Joann Favors to run against one another in House District 28, anchored in Chattanooga.
They and other candidates debated at a recent event, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Favors said she doesn’t think of the race in terms of personal competition.
“I don’t consider myself running against, I consider myself running for the seat,” Favors said.
The two women took the same position on nearly all of the issues they debated. Both agreed that racial profiling exists and should be fought, that the current sales tax system is regressive, and that gun laws should be tightened but realistically, won’t be.
“It would take an act of God to get that [gun] legislation out,” Brown said. “I’m not going to introduce it, but I will vote for it.”
Neither said the redistricting at the state level was fair to African-Americans.
“We did not have any input in that,” Favors said. “I do feel that we were treated unfairly.”
Eight Democratic candidates for state House and Senate seats criticized recent education moves by the General Assembly at an education roundtable on Thursday hosted by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Hamilton County Democratic Party.
More from the Chattanooga TFP report:
The candidates rallied against what they called the privatization of public education through Republican-favored charter schools, for-profit virtual schools and voucher programs.
Rep. Tommie Brown said many Republican education efforts were aimed at spreading conservative ideals, like the recently so-called “monkey bill,” which encouraged discussing the weaknesses of scientific theories like biological evolution in classrooms. Brown said many pieces of conservative legislation originated from right-wing think tanks that drafted boilerplate bills to be used across many states.
“Let’s not see it as an isolated thing,” she said.
Many candidates criticized recent education reform efforts, like changes to teacher tenure and the new teacher evaluation model that ties teacher performance to test scores. They encouraged better teacher pay and an end to or heightened accountability for virtual school programs that make a profit.
Sandy Smith, a retiring Hamilton County teacher vying for a seat in the House of Representatives, said many reform efforts were aimed at busting unions. She said those efforts would ultimately lead to broadened achievement gaps.
State Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, said Friday that Councilman Manny Rico should immediately step down after making what she perceived to be racial remarks in a City Council meeting, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
“His comments and his behavior, I was just appalled,” Brown said. “I can’t forget that. I won’t ever forget that.”
Rico said he was expressing his freedom of speech and has no intentions of stepping down.
“Do I get in trouble for speaking the truth for what I feel?” he said Friday.
The controversy started Tuesday night during the City Council’s Legal and Legislative Committee meeting discussion about redistricting. Several council members expressed disappointment in a redistricting plan Brown and other community leaders supported.
Rico abruptly told the audience he felt there were racial overtones in the community group’s presentation. He said he is sick, tired and resentful of racial suggestions and comments.
As a Hispanic, Rico said he has worked hard to earn what he owns.
“White people have been more fair to me than anyone else,” he said. “White people have bent over backward to make right what’s wrong.”
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
Gov. Bill Haslam has a misstatement in commenting Wednesday on the new voter photo ID law. Here’s the way WPLN reported on his remarks:
Governor Bill Haslam says some officials who’ve been criticizing Tennessee’s new voter ID requirement may not fully understand them. The governor’s comments come in the same week Illinois Senator Dick Durbin – a Democrat – questioned the new law.
The state is preparing to send letters to voters who may not have a proper photo ID, but Haslam says there’s been no talk of trying to track who gets turned away from the polls under the new law.
“Folks in the media will do a great job of letting us know about that, but seriously, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Remember, any government issued ID, even if it’s an expired driver’s license, any sort of government issued ID at all, with a photo on it, works.” Student IDs – even from a state institution – are one exception.
Actually, it’s NOT “any sort of government-issued ID at all with a photo on it.” According to state election officials, it must be a photo ID issued by the state or federal government – not, for example, those issued by city or county governments to their employees.
The Division of Elections has put together a slide show of sorts on basic provisions of the new law as part of its developing voter education campaign.
Click on this link to see it: .Sample_Photo_ID_Presentation.pdf
Down in Chattanooga, the TFP reports that Rep. Tommie Brown and some other Democrats are urging that county election commissions start issuing voter ID cards with pictures on them. That idea was initially proposed during legislative debate by Democrats and rejected.
A county election commission ID, of course, would not be issued by the state or federal government and would not work – as pointed out in the TFP story.
“Even if we made a photo ID, we’re not on the list [of approved IDs],” said Chris Clem, the election commission’s attorney. “It wouldn’t be valid.”
Brown, 77, flashed her photoless license, which she said she couldn’t use to vote. Tennessee allows those 60 and older to opt not to keep photos on their licenses.
Brown said she asked at least two state offices whether her photo ID from the legislature would work and has received different opinions.
“You’re going to tell me that on election night I might be able to run but not to vote for myself?” she said