Last summer I predicted that the Republican supermajority in the state House of Representatives would redistrict Gloria Johnson to Mars.
It really wasn’t that bold a prediction, considering the way they mess with her every chance they get – most recently by assigning her a tiny cubbyhole instead of an office and refusing to move her to a standard-sized space large enough to accommodate her, an admirative assistant and any constituents who come calling – you know; same deal everybody else gets.
Before that, the previous Speaker stuck it to her by failing to allow her to speak on the House floor, a courtesy automatically extended to members other than Johnson who signal that they want to be recognized.
If you noticed that I went out of my way to avoid calling them her colleagues, you would be correct. They pretty much hate her guts. And I wouldn’t put much past this bunch – did they ever find out who peed in Rick Tillis’s chair? And he was one of their own, or used to be, before he ticked them off. (Story here)
But I digress. My point is that I was wrong when I predicted they’d redistrict Johnson to Mars. They simply abolished her seat.
It’s not a done deal quite yet, pending final approval. Johnson’s house on the edge of North Hills will be in majority/minority District 15, now represented by Sam McKenzie. This seat has always been majority/minority, as they say in Nashville, and there was probably a lot of knee-slapping in the closed-door redistricting sessions over the prospect of pitting Knox County’s two Democrats – one White, one Black – against each other.
But that’s just speculation, since the legislature has never passed a sunshine law that applied to themselves. And actually, they’re doing this same thing – pitting White Democrats against Black Democrats, or throwing multiple Dems into the same district, all across the state.
All in the name of conservatism, of course.
Meanwhile, the district formerly represented by Johnson, District 13 (which traditionally has been home to labor-friendly Democrats) has wandered off to Middle Tennessee, and in its place, 60 percent of her former constituents will get something called District 90, which will stretch out westward along the Kingston Pike corridor. Sequoyah Hills, a former Republican ward that has turned blue during Johnson’s tenure will be ceded over to Eddie Mannis, closest thing to a moderate that the local GOP has (assuming he survives a primary challenge that is sure to come – he’s not popular with the MAGA crowd).
Contrary to the Republican dream scenario, Johnson has said repeatedly that she will not run against McKenzie because she respects him and believes that the 15th District should have an African American representative. I’m not sure why they don’t believe her.
All she has to do is move about five blocks west and she’ll be in the 90th District, which doesn’t have an incumbent and where she has many supporters.
But she’s got one immediate concern: She’s been diagnosed with myopathy, a degenerative muscular disease that makes it so hard for her to get around that she has been prescribed a scooter. She will also require an ADA-compliant office, not a cubbyhole.
Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.