State House Democrats will meet Wednesday to elect new leaders from their dwindling ranks and begin trying to come back from November’s devastating losses.
In the most closely watched contest, Nashville’s Gary Odom faces two challengers to win a third term as Democratic leader. Also running are House Finance chairman Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley and John DeBerry of Memphis, who would become the first black Democratic leader.
“Tennessee lost some excellent public servants in the November election,” Fitzhugh said in announcing his candidacy, naming the 12 Democratic incumbents who were tossed out of office in the elections.
“It is imperative that we regroup, learn from the election and move forward with a vision for the future,” he added.
DeBerry was chairman of the House Children and Family Affairs Committee in the last legislature. In a City Paper interview, he called on Democrats to find new ways to articulate what they stand for.
“As Democrats, we’ve got some bitter pills to swallow, as my dad used to say. We ran these campaigns without a message,” DeBerry said. “And if there was a message, nobody understood it. And if they understood it, they didn’t like it. Nobody took anything from us. We lost it. We didn’t just lose. We got stomped.”
In addition to the 12 incumbents who were defeated, Democrats lost two open seats in the House in November, giving Republicans a 64-34 majority.