Early voting will begin on July 16 for both the state primaries and the Davidson County general election on Aug.5. Out & About Newspaper has been tracking the candidates and their positions, and is making the following endorsements at this time.

For Davidson County Juvenile Court Clerk, our nod goes to David Smith. In addition to running a strong campaign in a very crowded Democratic field earlier this year, Smith has gone to great lengths since to meet the community and lay out his plans to continue modernizing and streamlining the clerk’s office.

His opponent, outgoing Metro Council member Eric Crafton, has been a polarizing figure during his tenure on the council, including his efforts to enact “English only” laws and by his ardent opposition to expanding Metro’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

It’s worth noting that Crafton, should he be elected to the clerk’s position, would be responsible for enforcing the ordinance. Can the community be guaranteed that he would work to protect GLBT employees, or would Metro’s taxpayers be struck with the legal bills resulting from defending the office against lawsuits?

Consider this: The Metro Human Relations Commission was cleared earlier this year by Metro’s lawyers to begin gathering statistics on private-sector discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and to provide education programming in that regard. In June, Crafton and five other council members wrote a letter to the commission urging that body not to use its authority to document discrimination in the private sector.

Crafton is certain to say that he’d adhere to legal precedent, and binding policy, if elected. We don’t think it’s worth the gamble, especially not with a qualified, viable alternative in Smith as a much better option.

In the Democratic primary race for House District 58, we support Steven TurnerWhile Rep. Mary Pruitt has compiled a strong record over her years at the state Capitol, Turner’s argument that it’s time for new, more progressive representation has merit.

He also has been tireless in his efforts to get out into both the GLBT and general communities and listen to residents’ and businesses’ concerns. This will be vital in the coming months and years as this urban district continues to grow and diversity.

The Tennessee Senate District 21 Democratic primary has gotten a lot of attention in recent months as challenger Jeff Yarbro has mounted the most credible challenge in years to entrenched incumbent Doug Henry.

From education to state budget issues to community concerns, Yarbro has making his opinions known to just about any group or organization that will give him the opportunity to speak. Like Turner, he reaches out to the entire community in his district, including a lot of constituent outreach at Nashville Pride, recent Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce events and more.

Yarbro has already shown his willingness to listen to all of his constituents, and we think he should be given the chance to represent District 31 in the state Senate.

We also support U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper's retention in the 5th District. Cooper, who has primary opponents and could face a stronger-than-expected challenge from a Republican this fall. Cooper has angered some constituents with his foot-dragging on health care and other issues, but is almost always responsive to constituent concerns, and does a good job with the day-to-day requests his office receives from area residents who need help with various government agencies and processes.

Early voting will end on July 31. For a complete schedule and list of polling places, click here. General voting for the state primaries and country general is Aug. 5.

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For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:

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