Tennessee State Sen. Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) endorsed Howard Jones Jr. as her successor to the 19th State Senatorial District in Nashville, a seat she has held for 27 years, over longtime rival State Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville).
The Tennessee Tribune reported the endorsement of Jones, a pastor and educator.
“A few months ago, I announced it was time for me to pass the baton to the next generation of leaders,” said Harper. “Today, I am honored to lend my full support and endorsement to Howard Jones as your next State Senator for the 19th District.
“I support Jones because I know he will listen, be honest and work tirelessly with the community to continue to move the 19th District forward. I trust him to be our voice and to do what is right for the men, women and children that he represents.”
Jones said, “I’m honored to have earned the support of Hon. Senator Thelma Harper. She has a been a trailblazer in Tennessee for more than 30 years. Throughout the years, I have proudly worked with the Hon. Senator Harper on a variety of issues to improve our community. I have the utmost respect for her tireless work on behalf of the people in the Senatorial 19th District.”
“Endorsements in local races don’t always make a big difference,” Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill noted.
“But most endorsers don’t have the iconic status in this district that Thelma Harper brings to bear. With a large undecided voter in that district, the Harper endorsement it may be a game changer,” Gill added.
On July 21, a Tennessee Tribune/Tennessee Star poll indicated the race to fill the seat remains wide open. The Triton Polling survey was conducted over four days (July 13-16) and polled 419 likely Democratic Party primary voters. It has a margin of error of 4.7 percent.
According to the survey, State Rep. Gilmore leads Jones 37.5-12.5 percent with a whopping 46 percent still undecided at this point. Two other candidates, Sandra Moore and George Thomas are supported by 1.4 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively.
Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill noted that while the poll is good news for Gilmore from the standpoint of being in the lead, “the fact that only 37.5 percent of voters support her despite having better name recognition edge and the advantage of currently representing a significant part of the district in the State House indicates that there is a big opportunity for Jones to close the gap by improving his name recognition and informing voters about his credentials.”
NewsChannel 5’s Vicki Yates recently moderated a debate among most of the candidates. Democrats Jones, Gilmore, Moore, Thomas and independent candidate Rueben Dockery attended. Independent candidate Christina “Chris” Callaway was not in attendance.
Harper was the first black woman elected as a state senator in Tennessee, NewsChannel 5 said.
One topic every candidate agreed with, the need for more affordable housing. The candidates also discussed and mostly agreed on the need for quality healthcare and education.