Gloria Johnson will seek state House seat she lost to Rep. Eddie Smith in 2014
NASHVILLE — Former state Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat, plans a rematch this year with Rep. Eddie Smith, the Republican who defeated her by 182 votes out of 13,278 votes cast in their 2014 race.
Johnson announced her candidacy Tuesday for Knoxville’s sprawling the 13th House District seat, which she held for one two-year term. She worked for 25 years as a special-education teacher in the Knox County school system until retiring from Holston Middle School last April when she became Tennessee field director of Organizing for Action, the national nonprofit group working to advance President BarackObama’s agenda.
She made it clear she’s running on traditional Democratic themes of health care and education.
Johnson said she will work to win approval of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan, which would extend health coverage to 280,000 uninsured working Tennesseans. It has been blocked for two years by Republican opposition. Johnson participated in a rally for Insure Tennessee when the Legislature opened its 2016 session last month.
“Today, 280,000 Tennesseans woke up again without access to health insurance. Almost 1 million Tennessee students woke up again as special interests try to cut funding from public education. More than 3 million Tennessee women woke up again knowing they will continue to earn about 20 cents less per dollar than a man makes,” she said in a media release.
“Day after day, Tennesseans are waking up just like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, knowing that their futures will not change because the Republican-led Legislature is focusing this day just like they did the last, on the wrong priorities for Tennessee,” she said. “Our neighbors deserve a representative who will wake up every single day, committed with dogged determination to stand up and fight for Tennessee’s working families who deserve better.”
Smith, an events production director, is chairman of the Knox County legislative delegation and is running for re-election.
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes, who served with Johnson in the Legislature, greeted Johnson’s announcement with scorn.
“Typically in Knoxville, when we talk about the words ‘failure’ and ‘ineffective,’ we’re talking about (football coach) Derek Dooley’s time at UT. But Democrats today decided to trot out their own version in the form of Gloria Johnson.
“Johnson quickly garnered a reputation in Nashville for fighting tooth-and-nail against Gov. Haslam’s vision of reform and opportunity. In doing so, she became one the most divisive and ineffective members of the General Assembly — and our community suffered. Voters rightly sent her home in 2014.”
The 13th House District includes much of North Knoxville, Sequoyah Hills, Bearden and South Knox County.