August 13, 2019
By: Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Democrats gathered for fellowship and a potluck meal Monday evening at the DCHS cafeteria with an eye on the 2020 elections.
Tennessee House of Representatives Democratic Leader Karen Camper of Memphis and US Senate candidate James Mackler addressed the party faithful.
Camper, who has served in the Tennessee General Assembly for 11 years, was elected on December 17, 2018 to be the Leader of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus, the first African-American leader of a party caucus in the Tennessee General Assembly’s history.
Speaking with WJLE before her speech, Camper said the state should do more in the area of health care and in the battle against the spread of opioids. She also talked about jobs, educational vouchers, and the outlook for the 2020 elections.
“I think we really need to take care of our health care system because we have been hit horribly particularly in the rural areas. Its awful. Tennessee has seen the second-most number of hospital closures in the country behind Texas. It is the number 1 issue. If you look at the states that decided to expand (Medicaid), they’re not closing like that so I do feel there is a direct link,” said Camper.
“Opioids is also a big problem in this state and we have got to put some money behind turning the tide on that,” Camper continued.
“The other big thing facing us now is these education vouchers that could conceivably have a horrible impact on public schools. It may start in Memphis and Davidson County but it can go on to other areas so we need to do something about that,” she said.
The notion of taking public funding and putting it in private schools, better known as vouchers or Gov. Bill Lee’s education savings account, started as a statewide concept but the legislation which was adopted into law is only for Davidson and Knox Counties.
Camper said she believes vouchers would especially have a negative impact on rural areas.
The Memphis Democrat added that the state also needs to focus on the creation of more sustainable jobs so families can better support their families.
As for the 2020 campaign, Representative Camper said she is optimistic about Democrats’ chances in the elections.
“In my listening tour across the state I am encouraging people. When I got to the General Assembly, there were 67 democrats. Over the past 10 years there has been some gerrymandering to get us where we are but it doesn’t mean democrats are not out there and don’t want to have a voice. We have to make sure we have candidates out there who have a message that resonates with people like right here in DeKalb County to say I am going to get out and vote. I am excited about the possibilities. I think 2020 is a great time for us and I am ready to lead the charge,” said Camper.
U.S. Senate candidate James Mackler, a Nashville attorney and Iraq War veteran, was the first Tennessee Democrat to announce plans to run in 2018 for the state’s U.S. Senate seat held by then Republican Senator Bob Corker but he later dropped out when former Governor Phil Bredesen got in the race. Bredesen won the nomination but lost to Republican Marsha Blackburn.
Mackler is now in the race to succeed US Senator Lamar Alexander who is not running for re-election in 2020. Former Governor Bredesen has now endorsed Mackler for this office.
The Nashville Democrat, speaking with WJLE, said there are plenty of issues to run on in this campaign.
“Unfortunately our neighbors all across the state are really hurting. Tennessee has become the epicenter of the worst effects of the Trump administration’s policies. We have a trade war that is hurting our economy more than any other state. We have an opioid epidemic that is going unchecked and ravaging our communities and we have had more rural hospitals close than just about any other state in the nation. Those were all issues in 2018 and now voters can see it. The people they elected to tackle those difficult problems either can’t or won’t fix them. We need to have people in Washington who believe in servant leadership which is what my campaign is all about. As I have traveled the state I have found that Tennesseans really respond to my track record of service and sacrifice as an outsider, a veteran, and a man of faith. I joined the Army after 9/11 because I felt called to serve. I felt like our country was in a time of crisis. I feel the same way now and I am stepping up to serve again,” said Mackler.