State Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, has been in office for 26 years, 12 of those as a committee chairman and all of them as a Democrat.
But that could quickly change.
The Tennessee Democratic Party voted 41-18 on Wednesday to take DeBerry off the August 2020 primary ballot because of his support for school vouchers and his opposition to abortion. Those stances have made DeBerry an outlier within his own party.
Brandon Thomas represents Rutherford County in the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee. He voted for removal.
“Maybe this was a thing in ’94, in ’95, in ’96, but this is 2020,” Thomas said in a teleconference meeting the party held to discuss the matter. “And this is a fundamentally different Democratic Party and we need to realize that.”
Thomas said that, although DeBerry represents a district, his actions have statewide implications.
But DeBerry’s track record has barely changed throughout the years, Memphis Sen. Raumesh Akbari told the executive committee. She offered testimony against booting him off the ballot.
“We have some policy issues that many of us don’t agree with him on,” Akbari said. “But again, he’s always been consistent in holding these positions. Nothing about this has been new.”
Akbari said his positions have been supported by some Democrats in the party.
“I think we need to think about what we are doing when we say that our tent is so narrow that we are not making room for the more conservative Democrats,” Akbari said, “because they do have a place.”
The senator also pointed out that there have been other Democrats in the statehouse who have voted like DeBerry, but have not been removed.
DeBerry now has the opportunity to appeal the decision. In a statement he thanked his supporters and pushed back on the state party.
“The Tennessee Democratic Party has decided that a 26-year Representative that spent 12 years as a committee chairman, conducted himself with integrity, served the party well, sponsored meaningful legislation and built bridges across the aisle to get bills passed is no longer a Democrat,” DeBerry said. “And so, I’m not.”