Tennessee primaries and #YESChattanooga, the day after

The second round of votes this election season are counted and it's time to take stock of where we stand. This morning James Grady spoke with Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, about the outcome of yesterday's elections.

O&AN: Chris, you were in Chattanooga last night. What was your sense of the mood there in the aftermath?

Sanders: There was a lot of disappointment. With determination. They gathered a lot of support and developed an energetic volunteer network committed to this, so it was a blow. But I did not see any sense of resignation. They've worked so hard, and they have a right to take a break if they wanted to, but I didn't pick up on that.

O&AN: What are the next steps for Chattanooga?

Sanders: Well we have a Ready for Marriage Day One session planned for the 16th in Chattanooga, and we already have over a hundred RSVPs. I anticipate that session takes a double focus, as we will also take the opportunity to discuss our next steps there.

O&AN: Did TEP have a contingency plan for this, or is it regrouping time?

Sanders: We think there may be other legal options to explore. We'll look at that in terms of the ordinance itself, as well as in terms of other options. But we're really going to try to listen and see where the community wants to go. They've gathered all this energy, and we want to help them channel that in positive directions, the directions they want to go. I think a lot of moving forward now is growing the movement so we can stand against things like this in the future, and move a proactive agenda.

O&AN: Let's look quickly at some races across the state. What do you think these elections tells us?

Sanders: Well, we can look at the governors’ race. Obviously the governor was going to run away with it. But the Democrats seem to still have a problem running recognizable names for the top ticket. I was honestly a little surprised John McKamey didn't do better. He was fully committed to our issues, and the fact that the candidate who worked the state - on an obviously limited budget - couldn't come out on top says a lot about where democrats are in the state.

O&AN: What about the state senate?

Sanders: Two great candidates were contending on the senate Democrat ticket. With Yarbro and Mancini* the Nashville area will be well represented.

O&AN: Of course the most infamous state senate race is Campfield's. Where does this leave us? A lot of people think that this will make little difference.

Sanders: Campfield was big. I saw someone on Facebook say that there's no difference between Briggs and Campfield. Yes Briggs is very conservative [but] I can't give credence to anyone who says he's no different than Campfield. It just isn't true. Campfield actively sought opportunities to act against our community's interests. Dr. Briggs was on the Knox County Commission* when it voted for nondiscrimination, and Dr. Briggs voted in favor of the nondiscrimination ordinance. That's a huge difference! Now the focus shifts to what's the difference between Briggs and Cheri Siler, the democrat. Siler is someone who has actively reached out to our community.

O&AN: Just to wrap up, are there other races of note?

Sanders: Well overall I think that there are some bright points. Senator Alexander won the Republican primary for his seat. Alexander will never be our champion, but Carr, the Tea Party challenger, seemed eager to act against our community. When it comes to the school board elections, by and large every candidate, those who won and those who lost, felt strongly about bullying and discrimination so I think we still stand strong on those issues.

O&AN: One last topic - the "Retain" vote for the courts. Any thoughts you can share?

Sanders: Though the movement not to retain the Supreme Court justices failed, the Lieutenant Governor may have sent a message to the courts, that there will be continued efforts by some legislative leaders to gain full control of the courts. I don't think it's over.


With local elections now behind us, we enter the season of the general election for state and national offices and statewide ballot issues. Combined with the wait for the 6th Circuit ruling on marriage equality, it's shaping up to be an exciting and turbulent political scene in the coming months.




* An earlier version of this story misquoted statements made by Mr. Sanders. The phrase "Yarbro and Harper" should be "Yarbro and Mancini." As well, "Knoxville Council" should be "Knox County Commission." O&AN regrets the error.

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