The Urban League of Middle Tennessee (ULMT) held a “Reclaim the Vote” candidate forum on Monday, July 11. The event was designed to allow the individuals running for offices impacting the Antioch area to present their qualifications and platforms to the residents and potential voters. In addition to the in-person attendees at the Ford Center, viewers (like the author) were able to watch and listen in on Facebook Live. You can view the entire program anytime on the ULMT Facebook page.
First up, moderator Kenya McGruder welcomed the audience and acknowledged the sponsors. Former office holder Cheryl Mayes and incumbent Fran Bush were introduced by Deborah Watts, and asked to discuss their plans if re-elected to the School Board to represent District 6. Bush was very animated about her concerns about the children, noting that although four of her five grown sons have already progressed through Metro public schools, she is deeply committed to making the experiences of other kids coming up productive. She was unapologetic about the past controversies she encountered in pushing for the return to in-person learning through the pandemic period, because she saw how deeply it affected the mental health of one of her sons, leading him to even contemplate suicide, and provide opportunities for black and brown youth to qualify for athletic scholarships. Cheryl Mayes is running this cycle, returning after serving from 2010-2014. She recapped her activity which led to improvements for the schools in and out of her district. She noted her educational accomplishments and work as in the US Congressional District 5 office with Jim Cooper, and her three children who all graduated from Antioch High School.
Next up, after a brief break, two candidates for State House of Representatives District 52 faced off. Justin Jones and Delishia Porterfield each presented their resumes, as well as their plans to hit the ground running during their First 100 Days. Delishia Porterfield currently represents District 29 on the Metro Council. Justin Jones is a divinity student at Vanderbilt, former student leader at Fisk University, and community activist who has been highly visible in many protest movements, such as the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue and police responsibility. Jones noted his work on Capitol Hill and getting into what John Lewis called “good trouble.” He noted his ability to and experience with “working across the aisle” with Republicans to get things done. Porterfield noted her activity in getting results in Metro Council to get funding for education, and quality of life issues and infrastructure. In discussing the response to Roe v Wade being overturned, Porterfield noted how she acted immediately to protect women through legislation, and Jones made the point that “If men got pregnant, we’d have drive-through abortion clinics.” Jones also noted that “we don’t want gentrification, we want development,” and Porterfield noted her job creation and business development efforts.
The Main Event involved State Senate District 19, which is wide open following the announced retirement of Brenda Gilmore. Although five Democrats qualified for the office, three were present for the forum. Jerry Maynard, Charlane Oliver and Ludye Wallace each presented their backgrounds and qualifications for office. Barry Barlow and Rossi Turner, although on the ballot, were not present for the forum. Each candidate shared their own unique set of qualifications and experiences which they said made them the best person for the position.
Maynard has been active in Nashville community affairs since 1995 and previously served on the Metro Council, and in numerous positions on boards and organizations, including faith-based groups, nonprofits, the private sector and government service to get things done to help people, including raising money for NMAAM, the NorthWest YMCA, Nashville General Hospital and other notable accomplishments, not the least of which was helping nearly 200 families transition from shelters to homes.
Oliver is nationally recognized for her work, particularly in the area of voter rights, including being the co-founder and co-executive director of The Equity Alliance, a nonprofit that works to build independent political power among the Black electorate and end voter suppression in Tennessee, a state with one of the lowest voter participation rates in the nation. Her organization led a statewide coalition that registered 91,000 Black and brown Tennesseans to vote for the 2018 midterms, increased Black voter turnout by 413 percent, scored two legal voting rights victories against the Tennessee Secretary of State, and is responsible for electing the most diverse and progressive Metro Council in the city’s history.
Wallace shared his experience as an elected official, serving for 28 years on the Nashville Metro Council, as well as heading the Nashville NAACP and working to get things done, including an accomplishment of which he is quite proud, in helping facilitate the acquisition of the Tennessee Titans through his work on the council. He gave examples of how his experience in the government and knowledge of its inner workings for almost three decades has prepared him to take the next step.
Early voting runs July 15 through July 30, and Election Day is Thursday, August 4. The ballot, 20 pages long, is the longest in Nashville history, and long lines should be expected. If you qualify, you really should request your absentee ballot as soon as possible and mail it in early. Check on persons over 60 who automatically qualify, and help them through the process; it’s easy, and remember you will need extra postage and it must be signed and sent through the US Postal Service only. You may download the request form online or call the Election Commision at 615-862-8800, Monday – Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to have one mailed to you. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is July 28, and it must be returned and received by the Election Commission, through the US mail, by Election Day, so do it early.