The Tennessee legislature may not have seen the last of Memphian John DeBerry. The longtime state representative from state House District 30, whose bona fides as a Democrat were formally denied by the state Democratic executive committee in April, thus disqualifying him as a candidate in the party primary, has now been enabled to run for reelection as an independent.
The state Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a House amendment to a vaguely related Senate measure on the tenure of General Assembly members, the effect of which was to reopen the opportunity for DeBerry to file to run for his office as an independent on the November election ballot.
As stated, the amendment “[a]uthorizes an incumbent member of the General Assembly who has filed a petition for reelection to file a new petition as a candidate for another political party no less than 90 days before a primary or general election if the incumbent is disqualified from candidacy by the current affiliated party’s executive committee.”
DeBerry expressed gratitude at the outcome and indicated he would indeed take advantage of the opportunity to run again for the seat he has held for 13 two-year terms. “There are some nice new people running, but I think the people of my district know me well, and I want to continue to serve them,” he said.
Three candidates — Torrey Harris, Anya Parker, and Catrina Smith — will vie on the August primary ballot for the Democratic nomination and the right to oppose DeBerry in November.
DeBerry, who had always previously been elected as a Democrat, had filed to run in the party primary but was disallowed by a majority of the party’s state executive committee in response to complaints from Democratic activists regarding what they saw as DeBerry’s over-cozy relationship with legislative Republicans and his habit of voting for GOP-sponsored initiatives.
Among other matters, DeBerry has consistently voted for anti-abortion measures in the legislature, has supported private-school vouchers, has received significant financial support from Republican sources, and, in general, has been regarded by the complaining activists as being as a sort of GOP fellow traveler. DeBerry has always contended that he merely represents the interests of his district and votes his conscience.
The vote in the Senate Thursday was 29-1, with the only nay vote coming from state Senator Jeff Yarbro of Nashville, the Democrats’ Senate leader. Yarbro contended that the bill amounted to “enacting a protection for incumbents” and was backward-looking in its import. Other Democrats approved the measure — including state Senator Raumesh Akbari of Memphis, who as a member of the party executive committee had voted in DeBerry’s favor back in April.