After ouster by Democrats, anti-abortion lawmaker loses re-election bid as independent
Tennessee state Rep. John DeBerry, a longtime minister and lawmaker kicked out of the Democratic Party because of his conservative positions on issues such as abortion, gay rights and school choice, lost his re-election bid Tuesday.
The 13-term incumbent ran as an independent in the general election but was defeated overwhelmingly by Torrey C. Harris, a Democrat whom DeBerry had beaten by 21 points in the 2018 party primary.
The final tally Tuesday night was 15,930 votes for Harris (77 percent) and 4,675 votes (23 percent) for DeBerry.
“I think this election was decided back in April when the Democrats finagled and misused and misapplied the law to remove me from a ballot I had already qualified for.”
“I think this election was decided back in April when the Democrats finagled and misused and misapplied the law to remove me from a ballot I had already qualified for,” DeBerry, who has preached for the Coleman Avenue Church of Christ in Memphis for 20 years, told The Christian Chronicle.
“I know that my faith was tested,” the 69-year-old minister added. “My faith was the issue — my faith in God, my faith in the Scriptures, my faith God created me, my faith that a child in a mother’s womb is a human being, my faith in parents to raise their children as they see fit in the nurture and admonition of God, my faith that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Opponents relied on “lies and fraudulent information,” including putting signs with DeBerry’s picture alongside President Donald Trump and the motto “Make America Great Again” in Black neighborhoods, the African American lawmaker claimed.
“I made no statements at all in support of either candidate,” DeBerry said of the presidential race between Trump, the Republican incumbent, and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee.
Harris, 29, will be one of the first openly LGBTQ members of the Tennessee General Assembly. He characterizes himself as bisexual. He denied that anyone from his campaign was involved in placing the signs picturing Trump beside DeBerry.
“I don’t have the funds like he has, or that has been supported to him by the Republican side, to be able to do things like that,” Harris told WREG-TV in Memphis in October. “I don’t even have the energy or the time.”
After winning, Harris told The Commercial Appeal in Memphis that he was “just shocked at the amount of people who were ready to see something different.
“I think that for a long time we had a representative who really truly believed in his moral self,” Harris in an interview with the Memphis newspaper. “(Voters) truly felt that I will make some type of difference, and I’m just so thankful that our voters really truly feel that way. I’m going to do all that I possibly can just to make sure that they get what they went and voted for — they get somebody who is going to advocate for public education, for healthcare, women’s rights, for LGBT rights and for criminal justice reform.”
After 26 years in public office, DeBerry said he plans to keep preaching the Gospel, teaching and lecturing.
“I plan on being vocal. I don’t have the restraints of an oath of office to keep me from saying those things that are true, and I plan on saying them.”
“I’m going to write. I’m going to continue to do my business. I have a marketing and advertising business that I neglected because I was in the House of Representatives,” he told the Chronicle. “I’m working on podcasts and various broadcasts. I plan on staying busy.”
He has no intention, he stressed, of letting anyone silence him.
“I plan on being vocal,” he said. “I don’t have the restraints of an oath of office to keep me from saying those things that are true, and I plan on saying them.”
In other races involving members of Churches of Christ, three Christian congressmen — U.S. Reps. Lance Gooden of Texas, Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and John Rose of Tennessee, all Republicans — were re-elected.
BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].