While candidates Quenston Coleman and David Testerman chose to keep their comments focused on broader issues facing voters such as education and crime, candidate and Chattanooga City Council member Andraé McGary used his time at the stump to address a looming issue pertinent to Democrats across the state—the possibility of a Republican supermajority in the General Assembly.
Calling state GOP members "silly" for allowing culturally driven items such as last year's Don't Say Gay bill, evolution bill and guns in parking lots bill to dominate conversation during the most recent legislative session, McGary did not hold back in expressing his opinion that it would be critical for Democrats to be sent to Nashville in order to prevent filibuster-proof majorities in both chambers.
"It's crucial that we don't let the Republican legislature think that we are just going to lay down and play dead," McGary said. "We're Democrats. And the last time I checked, Democrats were called asses. Well, we got news for those in Nashville—that this donkey, that this ass still kicks. Does anyone out there want to kick with me?"
McGary's comments generated brief applause. The candidate, along with Coleman and Testerman, is running for the seat vacated in February by state Sen. Andy Berke, who is currently running for Chattanooga mayor. Republicans Greg Vital and Todd Gardenhire are also competing for their party's nomination for the seat.
Berke announced his decision not to run after redistricting—a once-in-a-decade event—allowed the GOP majority to shift district lines across the state to favor members of their own party. The 10th Senate District, which once included parts of Marion County, was moved to include red-leaning portions of Hamilton and Bradley counties.
Republicans, who currently occupy 64 seats in the 99-member House, would need to pick up three additional seats to be filibuster-proof. An additional pickup of two seats in the Senate, where the GOP currently has a 20-13 advantage, would yield a supermajority.
Following the meeting, Testerman said he did not feel the need to bring up the possibility of a supermajority facing Democratic lawmakers across the state because he spoke after McGary. The candidate added that he agreed with McGary's remarks regarding controversial issues that highlighted the most recent session.
"When Andraé brought it up, it's out there," Testerman said. "And I'm not going to disagree with anything he had to say. I think it would have been one of my points, but Andraé brought it up, so I didn't see the need to go there also. It's a terrible thing that can happen—and what really upsets me about it is I feel like there's no regard for the impact of the decisions that are being made or what effect they're going to have for the future of Tennessee. They're buzz issues."
Coleman said there were more important things to discuss.
"The main reason I did not talk about it is I think there are some other issues that are more important at this point," Coleman said. "Democrats enjoyed a supermajority for many, many years, and it wasn't an issue. But now the power has shifted, and it's an issue because we got to reach out to our Republicans across the aisle."
McGary later said that if he were to succeed in the primary and be elected in November, he would not look to get involved in debates on legislation regarding issues similar to the ones he criticized during his speech—despite acknowledging they would continue to be raised.
"There's not going to be a time ever when cultural issues are not brought up," he said. "They're always going to be brought up. So you have to say enough is enough. Elected officials don't have to introduce those bills—they choose to for whatever reason. I'm saying no. I'm not going to be a part of that; it makes no sense."
The 10th District Senate primary is Aug. 2.