Chattanooga activist Jean-Marie Lawrence announced she’s running as a Democrat for Tennessee state House District 26.
She will be challenging David Jones in the August primary to take on Republican incumbent Gerald McCormick in the general election.
“I chose to run because I find it discouraging to see so many of our government leaders disconnected from the people they serve,” she said in a prepared statement.
As a person with a disability, Lawrence understands many of the same struggles constituents face, also according to a news release.
“I consider these struggles an asset to my campaign,” she said. “The moment I’m no longer struggling, I’ve lost that connection to who I am, where I come from, and the people I serve.”
Lawrence moved to Chattanooga in 2004 and received both her bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public administration from The University of Tennessee Chattanooga.
Although this is her first time running for office, she is no stranger to leadership and public service.
Lawrence is an alumnus of Omega Phi Alpha National Service Sorority and has previously held leadership positions while serving on the Mayor’s Council on Disabilities and the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee Board of Directors.
In addition, Lawrence currently serves on the Transportation Planning Organization’s Human Services Transportation Committee and the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, and she is Co-Chair of the Chattanooga Democratic Socialists of America.
Education, employment, and healthcare will all be a main focus in Lawrence’s campaign, according to the news release.
Growing up the daughter of a special education teacher taught Lawrence a respect for education, educators, and students. In addition, her own disability has provided a unique lens.
“Not only did my mother teach, but she also advocated for me in school and helped teach me to advocate for myself,” she said. “I was so lucky to have a strong foundation at home and at school. It’s essential that state legislatures ensure our schools have the tools they need for every student to succeed.”
Lawrence is familiar with employment and healthcare struggles, she also said.
Her position at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga is the first full-time job she has been able to secure.
She said it was difficult to find an employer or would see past her disability and see her as an asset.
Relying on Tenncare for her healthcare needs has given Lawrence an appreciation for the struggles of others, including many working-class Tennesseans who can’t afford health insurance.
Part of her campaign will include a commitment to creating employment discrimination legislation, a living wage, and Medicaid expansion.
Lawrence will be hosting her launch party on April 24 at Mexiville on Market Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.