Rep. Eddie Smith and former Rep. Gloria Johnson

Republican Eddie Smith has scored two narrow wins in the past four years for the 13th District state House seat over Democrat Gloria Johnson, and the two of them are ready to tee it up again this year. Meanwhile, rumors are swirling that Smith is also considering another race – a 2019 run for mayor of Knoxville.

Smith, a former minister of music who books religious concerts, said he’s concentrating on this year’s race, but acknowledged that he isn’t slamming the door on the notion of a try for the mayor’s office.

“I am running for re-election to the state House in 2018 to serve in the 111th General Assembly, and I am humbled by the fact this district has elected me twice to serve. As far as any future plans, I have not made a decision; however, I am grateful that so many people have asked me to run for mayor, and honored by their encouragement, but I’m focused on the upcoming session, and representing (in the) House.

“I don’t have a timetable. The race isn’t until 2019, which is still a long way away. Those decisions may come later on down the road, but I’m focused on the upcoming session, serving the constituents of Knoxville/Knox County, and running for re-election this fall.”

Johnson, who represented the 13th District from 2012-2014, has not yet announced her candidacy, but confirmed that she’ll be running again this year. A retired special education teacher, she is working now as a consultant for the Coalition for Healthcare, organizing round tables and press conferences.

“I help people tell their stories about healthcare, reaching out and getting those stories told,” she said.

Smith beat Johnson by 151 votes in 2016 and by 182 in 2014.

The 13th District, which used to be controlled by Democrats, has been majority-Republican since the GOP took over the Legislature and the redistricting process in 2010. The 10 percent Republican edge is narrower than most in Knox County, however, and is softened further by the presence of a good many mainstream Republicans who are not “married” to party line votes, as evidenced by the close contests.

Smith is heavily supported by groups interested in education reform (i.e. school vouchers and charters). Teachers, labor and former students support Johnson. She is not impressed by the Republican-dominated Legislature’s performance during Smith’s four years in Nashville.

“It’s 2018 and we still aren’t fully funding public education, but we’re taking public tax dollars and trying to privatize education,” Johnson said. “We’ve got thousands in Knox County who don’t have insurance because we haven’t expanded Medicaid, and we still have done nothing about wages. Tennessee is still one of the top states in people on minimum wage – these issues are what our Legislature should be working on.”

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Written by Betty Bean