Rep. Brenda Gilmore Announces Senate Bid, Nudging Sen. Thelma Harper To Retire

Apr 18, 2017

A prominent Nashville Democrat has announced she will run for the state senate. But so far, it's unclear whether that means she'll have to challenge the current occupant. 

These are two well-known African American leaders — Rep. Brenda Gilmore and Sen. Thelma Harper, who is 76 and was first elected to the legislature in 1990. Gilmore says she's not trying to shove anyone into retirement.

"I appreciate the work that she's done," Gilmore says. "The last time she ran for the position, she said that would be her last time. But she would have to speak for herself. I will just say that I am all the way in."

Sen. Harper declined to be interviewed through a spokesperson. But she issued a statement, saying it's no secret that she's considering retirement, but that she won't make her final decision until after the General Assembly finishes its business for the year.

"It will ultimately be up to the people of Nashville who they believe will best represent them in the state senate," Harper's statement said.

In recent years, Harper has been criticized by fellow Democrats for siding with Republicans on partisan issues. In February, she voted to advance legislation meant as payback for states that have limited official travel to Tennessee because of anti-LGBT laws.

Harper easily held on to her seat in 2014 despite attracting a primary challenge from the Tennessee Democratic Party's former spokesman.