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.”