Photo: Sanford Myers/The Tennessean
The district has been solidly Democratic, re-electing Douglas Henry 11 consecutive times since 1970. The 88-year-old senator was the legislature's most senior leader, a self-described conservative Democrat known as much for his colorful character — gnawing on unlit cigars during committee hearings — as for his championing of conservative Democratic causes. Henry announced his retirement earlier this year to care for his wife, Lolly.
Mancini and Yarbro both ran an aggressive but respectful campaign that highlighted their difference in style rather than substance. Both support an expansion of Medicaid and speaking up for working-class residents in a Republican-dominated legislature.Read more
Make it two labor endorsements for Democratic state Senate Candidate Jeff Yarbro this week.
And it's really more than that.
Yarbro, who's running against Mary Mancini in the District 21 primary, announced this morning that he's received the endorsement of the Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council, and all of its 17 affiliated unions, as he did when he first ran in 2010.
“We are proud to support Jeff because he understands that our members go to work when our state economy is growing,” says the council's president, Anthony Nicholson, in the announcement. “Working construction means waking up before dawn, putting on your boots, and joining your crew to make things work. That’s what Jeff is about.”Read more
By: Bobby Allyn
March 13, 2014
A Nashville union representing thousands of workers endorsed Jeff Yarbro on Wednesday in one of the most highly anticipated state Senate races.
The Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council, representing 17 trade councils including roofers, carpenters and cement masons, threw their support behind Yarbro, who is vying for Senate District 21. The seat will be vacated by Sen. Douglas Henry, who plans to retire after more than four decades in office.Read more
Jeff Yarbro and Mary Mancini are both running against The Daily Show.
Not against its gleefully sardonic host Jon Stewart, who is held up as a patron saint for chronically depressed Tennessee Democrats. Rather, they're running against the fact that his show, and that of his cohort Stephen Colbert, has looked toward Tennessee with increasing frequency for tales of political absurdity.
As the Democratic primary in Senate District 21 begins in earnest with the new year, Yarbro and Mancini have each name-checked the late-night Comedy Central shows in messages to supporters and in interviews with reporters. Such references have become shorthand for criticism of Tennessee's Republican-controlled legislature, not that either candidate has veiled their disapproval of the menace they say they'll work to stop.
Since the start of this year's legislative session, dispatches from the Yarbro campaign have directed attention toward the failures of the state government, and started cataloguing the Colbert bait coming from the legislature.
"Our government can't and shouldn't try to solve everyone's problems for them," said Yarbro in one email to supporters. "But too often, our state government is making things worse."
In that message, he highlighted Tennessee's refusal to expand Medicaid, its status as one of five states without a minimum-wage law, and its low level of support for public schools compared to other states. In another, he lamented the legislature's first week in session, featuring "one bad idea after another." Among those bad ideas: a bill prohibiting the state from cooperating in implementing or administering Obamacare and the defeat of legislation that would have let college students use university IDs to vote.
"The legislature right now is failing to represent Tennessee, or do what's in the state's best interest," Yarbro said in an interview with the Scene this week.
He says big majorities of Tennesseans support things like investing in pre-K and expanding Medicaid, but the supermajority isn't listening.
"Too often the legislature is listening almost exclusively to the extremists on the right," he says.
Less than six months after Metro Councilman Jason Holleman and attorney Jeff Yarbro lined up in May for the race of next year — of the decade, nay, the century! — local liberal activist Mary Mancini announced she was joining the Democratic primary race to replace longtime state Sen. Doug Henry in District 21. Now, little more than a month later, Holleman has announced he's getting out.
So what does this mean? Well, that's easy. We give you ... Mary Mancini vs. Jeff Yarbro: The Hottest Race of 2014.
In other words, it's not yet clear.
At first blush — not to suggest that campaign punditry is shallow — Holleman's exit would seem to complicate matters for Mancini. As a clear alternative to two white male attorneys from Sylvan Park — whose policy positions are about as close to each other as their homes — Mancini seemed positioned to benefit from a three-way race. Her record of activism, and days as a record-shop owner, give her instant credibility with a set of local liberals. Their support, combined with the votes of Democrats either unable or unwilling to decide between Holleman and Yarbro (whether for social or political reasons) and topped off with some won-over undecideds, might have meant victory for Mancini.
With Holleman out, she would seem to face a steeper climb. Yarbro has been seen as the favorite to replace Henry ever since he narrowly lost to the Distinguished Gentleman in 2010. Although the district has been redrawn since then, campaign experience at the state level can't hurt. He also entered the campaign without the cumbersome political baggage Holleman carried from his public run-ins with the Dean administration (some members of which openly support Yarbro).
Published October 29, 2013 by Steve Cavendish
Metro councilwoman at-large Megan Barry was the overwhelming winner of the straw poll at Monday's Lawmakers & Groundbreakers event hosted by the Nashville Post.
A packed house of about 150 at Cabana — check out the slideshow here  — gathered to honor former councilwoman Betty Nixon and education power couple Randy Dowell and Shani Jackson Dowell. Attendees also participated in the Post's straw poll of three high-profile races: Nashville mayor, state senate district 21 and U.S. Senate.
The state and U.S. Senate races included declared candidates while the mayor's race included a range of declared, interested and possible candidates. Here are the results (by percentage of vote):Nashville Mayor
State Senate District 21
When considering the premier state legislative primary of the year — make that, next year — there’s no use denying it: We started this.
The moment longtime Democratic state Sen. Douglas Henry confirmed in May that he would not be seeking re-election to his District 21 seat in 2014, reporters from this outlet and others started filling up the voicemail inboxes of Jason Holleman and Jeff Yarbro, eager to line up the horses for a race that suddenly had a date.
Yarbro, an attorney, had challenged and very nearly defeated the forever-incumbent Henry in 2010, causing most to assume he would make another run at the seat. Holleman, a Metro Council member (and also an attorney) with an outsized profile due largely to several public political fights with Mayor Karl Dean, is term-limited as a district council member, and his political ambitions are a secret no one bothered to keep. As tends to be the case in these situations, unanswered phone calls said a lot.
Within 24 hours, each had given a reluctant confirmation of his plans to run, with talk of formal announcements to come in due time. Those still haven’t arrived, but the two young Turks nevertheless find themselves in the middle of the most buzzed-about soft opening in recent memory, a pre-primary between men who each get mentioned by local Democrats during optimistic — or is it desperate? — conversations about the future of a beat-down party in a state as red as it’s ever been.
The news that the Tennessee General Assembly’s most senior legislator will leave office next year has effectively set off what could be the premier state Democratic primary of 2014.
After a career in the legislature spanning six decades, Sen. Douglas Henry confirmed earlier this week that he will not seek reelection next year. The beloved Nashville Democrat has held his current Senate seat since 1971, and his announcement prompted tribute from members of both parties.
Confirmation of a coming vacancy in a strongly Democratic seat immediately ignited speculation about the interests of younger talent in the party. In particular, Nashville attorney Jeff Yarbro, who nearly defeated Henry in a 2010 primary challenge, and Metro Councilman Jason Holleman, who is term-limited at the courthouse and whose ambition is well known in Nashville’s political circles.
Holleman, who has called Henry a hero of his, confirmed his plans to The City Paper.
“I intend to run for the state Senate next year, because I think it’s the place where I can do the largest good,” he said, noting that he has lived in District 21 his entire life.
With the caveat that formal announcements and campaign organizations are still a ways off, Holleman said education is a top-of-mind issue for him at the state level, where policy decisions “have a tremendous impact on the classrooms in our local school system.”
“Beyond that, we’re in a time when there is a lot of discussion about the interplay between state and local government,” he said. “I think that there is a need to be sure that our local government interests are represented. And with the background in local government, both as an elected official and an attorney, I think I can contribute in a meaningful way to that discussion.”
If he were elected, Holleman would join, at least for a bit, the ranks of council members who have held seats at the state and local level simultaneously. While his first state Senate term would begin in January 2015, his final council term would end in August.
Yarbro also confirmed that he intends to run, but said he will make a formal announcement later.
“I’m looking forward to a conversation about Tennessee’s future and this Senate seat, but there’s plenty of time for the next campaign. I’ll make an announcement when the time’s right.”
He declined to comment further, saying he’d “love for this week to be about Sen. Henry,” and his “faithfulness to the state over the years and his service.”